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Bassoon


Bassoon, bass double-reed woodwind instrument. It has about 2.4 m (8 ft) of conical-bore wood tubing in a narrow U shape, in four sections, or joints. The slightly flared bell joint is set into the bass, or long, joint, which is set in turn—like the tenor, or wing, joint—into the double, or butt, joint. The bassoon normally has eight finger holes (usually controlled by keys) and ten or more additional key-controlled holes. The reed is placed in a curved metal tube, or crook, set into the tenor joint. Developed around 1650 from the similar curtal (which was bored into a single wood block), the bassoon has a range of about three and a half octaves upwards from the third B-flat below middle C. First introduced into the orchestra late in the 17th century, predominantly to support the lower strings, in the classical period composers such as Joseph Hayden and Mozart helped to give it an independent position as the bass instrument of the wind section. In the 19th century technology further refined the instrument: German makers added keys and repositioned the holes, evolving the bassoon in common use today.

The contrabassoon or double bassoon sounds one octave lower than the bassoon. Its plangent growl was used to great effect by Beethoven in his symphonies, and in the gloomy prison scene of Fidelio.


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