How to Really Test a Bocal

  • Blind tests with another bassoonist playing.
  • In the hall evaluation.
  • On your instrument… I play it; you play it.
  • In the microphone evaluation.
  • Actual performance evaluation how it feels.
  • Colleagues “opinion.”
  • On trial new and used.
  • New bassoons: a bocal return policy?


U-Tubes and Tuning

  • Leaks are GREEN!u-tube-cropped
  • Seldom visited tuning point
  • Gasket thickness modifications
  • Bracket sealing leak problem
  • Swap or replacement
  • Modifications
  • New designs & materials
  • Shallow or deep?
  • Drain



 u-tube-with-drain-sm u-tube-comparison-sm

What are the simplest repairs and adjustments you can do yourself?

  • Whisper key pad replacement.
  • Low E bridge key adjustment.
  • Lubricate pivots (to eliminate noise) and rods.
  • Check for leaks: pressure tests/water tests.
  • Maintenance: clean the bassoon of debris!
  • Clean the tone holes:
    • Swab with wet Q-Tips.
    • Scrub with cleaning brush.
  • Clean and recondition the pads.
  • Regulate pad height (shims or sandpaper).
  • Tuning and voicing?

Pressure Testing


Mag Machine

– A great investment: the Mag Machine.

– Indoor (poster) mounting tape.


Water bubble test

– Water bath bubble test.

– The old method: smoke.





What is Tuning and Voicing?
Pitch Centered at Equal Tempered

  • Goals:
    • Pitch centers at equal temperament.
    • Achieve linear balance of pitch, resonance, and tone color.
    • Balanced resonance and tone color across octaves.
    • Quick response.
  • Bottom up approach.
  • All leaks have been eliminated?
  • Tuned at the factory: +/-  2 cents?
  • Methods
    • Pad height adjustments or tone holes adjustments?
    • Tuning tape… Friend or foe?
    • Undercutting tone holes.
    • Tone color adjustments with tone hole flaring.
  • Resonance reservoir tuning (Alan Fox).
  • Bore adjustments and u-tube/gasket adjustments.

Tuning & Voicing Tools

Riffler filesriffler-763

Reamers and drillstaper-pin-reamers

Undercutting tools



undercutting-tools undercut-tone-hole-sm

Tuning Points?u-tube-gaps-gasket

  • Bell bore diameter problem
  • Bell tenon gap
  • Long joint tenon gap problem
  • Wing joint tenon gap
  • U-tube design (shallow/deep)
  • U-tube material*
  • Gasket thickness and choke
  • Bocal gap (good or bad?)


Sneaky Leaks that NEED Tiny Tweaks


  • Dry rot! C# trill, Ab tone area, bottom of boot bore unlined
  • Uneven or rounded pad seat/crown
  • Posts
  • Pad seat cuts into wood
  • Porous wood
  • Screw holes
  • Wood insert cuts for D and G ring keys
  • Wood cracks anywhere
  • Wood tone holes
  • Metal bands
  • Long joint screws that penetrate into the bore
  • Inexpensive/old bassoon partial metal tone hole inserts D and B ring keys


  • Cracked bocal seam


  • C# tone hole through wood to cut
  • C# under liner to tenon end
  • Liner separation and leaks to and from vents and tone holes


  • Action rod holes
  • U-tube bracket over wood
  • U-tube gasket crack
  • “Across the bore” A and Bb tone holes
  • Wing tenon well to C# trill
  • Wood cracks around wing and bass well
  • Under and around metal band and neckstrap connection
  • Sloppy rods (loose keywork)

Solutions and Products

  • Soak in linseed oil?
  • Underwater bubble test
  • Door-Ease stick lubricant (wax)
  • PC Petrifier wood hardener
  • Shellac
  • Super Glue

Choke Points and Rods


 tuning-choke-points tuning-rods


Biofeedback for Blowing




Developments in the 20th and 21st Centuries

  • Heckel #4360
  • Heckel “World” Bassoon
  • Pezzi Model
  • Frederick Moritz Model
  • Cucuriano System
  • Weisberg Flickless
  • Wolf’s new directions



From the Metropolitan Museum collection: Heckel #7372 “The OMG Model”


The Bassoforte?

The Ideal Bassoon

  • Does not leak
  • Tuned and voiced
  • Fits the player’s hand!
  • Easy to play (too easy?)
  • Projects well
  • Is flexible, not stiff
  • Tone color pleases you
  • Blends with bassoon section
  • Best instrument for 1st or 2nd bassoon
  • Doesn’t take 25 years to break in
  • Sounds good on recordings
  • Stays in adjustment


  • “Lost” Jaw (circle)
  • chinless-bassoonistOverbite — open jaw
    • Lower lip back
  • Flat-neutral– slightly closed jaw
    • Smile (corners up)
    • Grimace (corners flat)
    • Frown (corners down)
  • Overbite — slightly closed jaw
  • Under-bite (upside-down)
  • Fixed
  • Semi-fixed
  • Flexible
  • Fish lips (rolled out)




8 B’s for 3 ppp’s

by Mark Eubanks

Can you sing softly, playing a controlled pianissimo with good pitch and resonance in the tone? This is one of the greatest challenges in bassoon playing.