3.12 Bassoon Ergonomics

For reed instruments, the quality of the reed itself is highly significant in terms of the strain placed on lip muscles and other muscles in the cheeks and back, as well as the muscles for breathing and others in the rest of the body.

The bassoon is an instrument that weighs down both the right and left hands. It also has an adjustable support for the right hand.

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Illustration 3.12.1. Illustration text: the right wrist adopts a neutral position, and bending is avoided by holding out the elbow.

Try to maintain a feeling of holding a round object like an orange in the hand to attain a good hand position.

To avoid considerable bending in the wrist, hold the elbow slightly outwards without it becoming tense. The left hand also grips around the instrument, resulting in strain on this hand.

The right thumb has several different positions to handle the different keys, which can involve increased strain on the joints in the thumb. See the following illustrations, in which a basic position of rest is created with the thumb adopting a slight curve in its joints.

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Illustration 3.12.2. The thumb adopts a position in which its middle joint is stretched due to the placement of the keys.
Illustration 3.12.3. The thumb adopts a more comfortable bend in its middle joint.

A balance hanger fixed to the middle of the bassoon can lessen the weight considerably.

It is easier to balance the instrument when standing. When sitting, a leather cup can be used to distribute the weight, with the cup itself around the lowest part of the instrument (the boot); a strap extends from this, upon which the player can sit. A spike can also function well as a way to support the weight, although this often results in a negative effect on the musical performance. Most Western bassoonists use a supporting strap around the neck, with varying designs and customisations resulting in varying levels of constriction around the neck and shoulders. Many players find a double shoulder strap to be a more advantageous solution for weight distribution than a single strap around the neck.

In order to avoid problems in the joints of the jaw, try to play with a slight gap between the teeth.