Login

Bassoon: History & Facts

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Bel Canto: Definition, Style & Technique

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 History
  • 1:10 Facts
  • 2:06 Music
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

While not as famous as a clarinet or a tuba, the bassoon has had the greatest amount of sheer staying power in the modern orchestra, becoming important during the Renaissance and remaining relevant throughout the past centuries.

History

The bassoon is a woodwind instrument that uses a double-reed to make sound. The instrument is four feet long, housing a tube that, if straightened, would reach eight feet, making it one of the most easily-recognized instruments in the modern orchestra. The bassoon evolved out of an earlier Renaissance instrument known as a dulcian, which itself had been around since the 1500s. However, the bassoon did not come into its own as an instrument separate from the dulcian family until members of the Hotteterre family began to tweak with designs to create the bassoon as it is known today.

The original dulcian had two keys and eight finger holes, and was constructed of one solid piece of wood. But today it has 17 keys and multiple pieces of wood used in the assembly. Following the tweaks of the Hotteterres, the bassoon had even further demands placed upon it. Some of these remain unresolved, leading to not only a desire for some intrepid individuals to rework the instrument to make it easier to play, but also speak to the difficulty involved with playing the instrument in the first place.

Facts

There are many important and/or unusual facts concerning the bassoon. Some of the more surprising facts that deserve special mention will be discussed.

  • The instrument is so large that it requires some way of holding it beyond both hands of the musician. When used in a marching band, this support is a strap over the shoulder of the musician. When used while seated, a spike is sometimes used to support the weight of the instrument.
  • An early name for the bassoon in Italian, the fagotto, was given due to the instrument's resemblance of a fasces, the bundle of sticks that represented the power of the ancient Roman state.
  • The reeds used to play a bassoon are more than 2 inches long and an inch wide, making them bigger than the reeds of other instruments.
  • Unlike many other instruments, which may have only a few valves or pistons, the bassoon requires the use of every finger, including thumbs, to be played properly.

Music

While the earliest designs for the bassoon appeared during the Renaissance as an outgrowth of the dulcian, the most famous pieces for the bassoon begin slightly later. Also, it's important to note that these pieces are those that exemplify the abilities of the bassoon. Obviously, the instrument was a crucial part in many orchestras, and thus played a smaller role in other works.

During the Baroque period, Vivaldi wrote almost 40 pieces for the bassoon. Additionally, Jan Dismas Zelenka wrote a number of sonatas for the instrument.

In the Classical period, Johann Christian Bach wrote two concertos for the bassoon, while Mozart also contributed his genius to the instrument, although only one of the latter's work survives today. Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 features a long section complete with prominent use of the bassoon.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support