LISTEN Audio Instructions
Need ideas for easy and fun at-home music learning? Here's our daily Classical Kids Music Lesson.
Let's learn about the biggest member of the woodwind family, the bassoon.
Target age range: K-6
1. The bassoon is the biggest instrument in the woodwind family, so that means it makes the lowest sounds. Like the other woodwinds, the body of the instrument is basically a long tube. The tube is so long it folds over so the player can sit and play it. Look for the "U" shape at the bottom – that's where it folds. The bell is at the top of the instrument.
2. Listen to the bassoon and piano play this sonata by Camille Saint-Saëns. How would you describe the sound?
LISTEN Sonata for Bassoon and Piano in G Major, Op. 168 I. Allegro moderato
Lawrence Perkins, bassoon; Michael Hancock, piano
3. The bassoon uses a double reed, which is two thin pieces of cane bound together with thread. The picture to the right shows you a bassoon double reed from the front and from the side. Bassoon players usually make their own reeds.
4. Here is another piece for bassoon. It's one of Four Short Sketches for the Bassoon, by Gordon Jacob. This is the third sketch (or short piece) called L'apres-midi d'un dinosaur, which means "afternoon with a dinosaur." As you listen, think about why the composer gave this sketch this title. Does it sound like a dinosaur to you?
5. There is a very famous piece featuring the bassoon called The Sorcerer's Apprentice, by the composer Paul Dukas. There is a cartoon version of this piece featuring Mickey Mouse, from the Walt Disney movie Fantasia. In the video below, the bassoon section of the Minnesota Orchestra explains the story behind The Sorcerer's Apprentice and then plays a little bit of the piece. The player on the far right is playing a contrabassoon, which is even bigger and lower than the regular bassoon.
6. The bassoon is sometimes called the "comedian of the orchestra" because it can play mischievous or even silly sounding melodies. But it can also play beautiful, singing melodies, like this arrangement of prelude by the composer Claude Debussy.
7. In this famous opera aria, the bassoon plays a kind of a duet with the singer.
8. What are three things you learned about the bassoon? Which piece of music was your favorite, and why?
Have a question or suggestion? Contact Katie Condon, music education specialist.