Electric Bassoon Power

Subject: Electric Amplified Bassoon Setup

Dear Mr. Eubanks,

I’m sure you’ve gotten this question many times since the release of the second Bassoon Brothers CD, but exactly what kind of setup did you use to produce the electric amplified bassoon effects? I’m really interested in exploring what more can be done with the unique and ultimately verstile instrument (not to mention the laughs it brings when hearing excepts blaring through an amp). Most importantly, I’m interested in trying some to arrange other rock tunes for the bassoon quartet utilizing the instrument.

Thank you.

Michael Harris
Student, Truman State University
Kirksville, Missouri

Dear Michael,

So you probably noticed the slowed down Rite of Spring. But did you hear Bolero backwards? The Tansman Sonatina lick was forwards and backwards too. I think it’s great that you want to pursue the electric bassoon sound. I have been using the same pickup since the 1960’s. One of my college professors played recitals on clarinet that was amplified. He wrote pieces using multiphonics, synthesizer, tape delays, ring modulators, etc. His name is Bill Smith, and he recorded some with Brubeck. What he and I use is a Vox pickup and looks like an ancient hearing aid. In those days these pickups were used on sax, trumpet and whatever. The same pickup. It requires a hole in the bocal. Mine is on the back just above the cork. A ring is soldered on and the pickup fits into this ring with a rubber washer. This pickup is no longer made, but I’m sure there are still some around. I always play through a wah-wah pedal. The one on the CD is a Morley that has a distortion unit built in. For the recording an additional effect was used to shift between the “vocal” part and the “guitar” part. This was accomplished with computer software, but all guitar effect pedals will work with my set up. I hope that you are aware of Michael Rabinowitz and Paul Hanson’s work. Paul’s pickup is not like mine. A modern version, but lacks the funkiness of mine. I don’t know what these new types are, but I’ll check it out for you. I’ve met them both but don’t how to contact them. What you don’t want is the contact mike type pickup made by Barcus Berry and others. This type picks up way to much key noise and are very prone to feedback. My professional career started out as a rock musician in the Seattle area. So I played on some of the same stages as Hendrix. I played sax, sang and played keyboard. In the years past I have sat in with many bands with my Fender amp and wah-wah bassoon. The electric bassoon really can fit into the standard rock band. Paul Hanson has made some amazing in roads with his work in this area in the last few years. But he is the most amazing jazz bassoonist I have ever heard. But he never sounds like a bassoon, oh well. Rabinowitz is no slouch either and his wah-wah bassoon cracks me up. There was a group of bassoonists in Florida who played with the New World Symphony maybe ten years ago? I saw a video of them ALL playing with pickups doing some heavy rock stuff. We have not tried that. I encourage you to go for it. It’s quite an unusual and ballsy sound. Finally, if you are not aware of Ray Pizzi you should check him out. He makes some great sounds. Have you ever listened carefully to the Cantina Band in the original Star Wars and what about Predator 2? Ray does some weird sounds in Hollywood movies using delays and reverb. Ray is writing pieces for jazz bassoon and bassoon quartets, etc. Henry Mancini wrote a concerto for Jazz Bassoon and Orchestra for Ray. I love this guy. He wrote Ode to a Toad. I hope this gives you some ideas to work with. Let me know if you need more info.

Best regards,

Mark Eubanks