The bassoon, due to
the nature of its construction and playing condition, can
have many intonation problems. Sharpness is the most common
problem; however, from middle c up to the f immediately above it
has a tendency to be flat.
To change the overall pitch
of the instrument, change the bocal. Bocals range from 0 to 4
in length with 0 being the shortest and 4 being the longest. 2
is the standard length bocal.
Sharpness -- Causes and Solutions:
1. Biting, even jaws, excessive tension in lips, smiling --
all poor embouchure formations. Review the correct embouchure
and emphasize lowering the jaw, relaxing the lips and throat muscles
(form the vowel "oh"),
and lower the back of the tongue as if having your throat examined.
2. Reed that is too hard --
soften the reed or try another one. Hard reeds often cause the
embouchure problems listed in #1.
3. Bocal that is too short --
use a longer one (larger number). Pulling out the bocal or the
joints DOES NOT WORK. You cannot pull them out far enough to
make a difference in the pitch. Also, pulling the joints loose
creates breaks in the bore which can cause response problems.
4. Tension in the face
and head muscles (raised eyebrows, for example) or shoulders, and
twisting the body to the side. Each of these things can
cause the pitch to go sharp even if the embouchure is correct. Face
straight ahead and work on relaxing the tense muscles.
Flatness -- Causes and Solutions:
1. Embouchure too loose or slack, lower lip rolled out, air in cheeks
or between lips and teeth. Review the correct embouchure
and emphasize keeping the lower lip parallel to the teeth and directly
under the reed while keeping air out of the cheeks and lips. Shaping
the vowel "ay" or "ee" in
the throat can also raise the pitch.
2. Weak air stream --
3. Reed that is too soft --
harden the reed or try another one.
4. Bocal that is too long --
use a shorter one (smaller number).
Some notes may require
alternate fingerings or the use of additional keys to improve intonation.