Three Beginner Lessons in One Week


Getting Acquainted

Ms. Jensen introduces Umberto Chavero and Miranda Ferran who are switching to bassoon from clarinet. In their first bassoon lesson, they address air modeling, posture, embouchure formation, and tonguing on the reed, allowing them to concentrate on these skills before adding the challenge of holding the bassoon.

Tonguing Two Notes on the Reed

Ms. Jensen coaches Miranda and Umberto on supporting the air and articulating legato on the reed. Playing on just the reed allows for air, embouchure and tonguing to be addressed without the complication of holding the bassoon or fingering notes.

Playing on the Bocal

Umberto and Miranda are led through using embouchure, air and articulation using just the reed and bocal. They make discoveries about embouchure formation as well as tongue placement in terms of how those components affect pitch and smoothness of articulation. Playing on just the reed and bocal allows for air, embouchure and tonguing to be addressed without the complication of holding the bassoon or fingering notes.

First Notes on the Bassoon

At the end of their first bassoon lesson, after doing air modeling, articulating on the reed, and on the reed and bocal, Umberto and Miranda are introduced to playing C2 on the bassoon. Some of the common challenges arise such as not fully covering the holes, using an embouchure that is too tight, and using too little air. With some coaching, both students are able to play C.


Practicing Articulation

Ms. Jensen reminds Miranda and Umberto that when they are practicing articulating with just the reed and bocal, they need to angle the bocal so the reed enters the mouth the same way it will when it is attached to the bassoon. She also suggests that “just two taste buds” should touch the reed when tonguing in order to keep the articulation light and connected. This review of air use, embouchure and articulating with just the reed and bocal reinforces good habits in those areas, before adding the challenges of holding the bassoon and fingering notes.

Instrument Positioning

Ms. Jensen reminds beginning students of how important the seat strap position is in affecting posture. Adjusting the strap by pulling it to the left makes the reed higher, and allows you to sit taller. Dropping the strap to the right lowers it if it is too high and causing you to strain your neck upwards. Constant reminders of these aspects of bassoon playing will ensure quicker skill development as students develop good habits.

Posture, Hand Position, Air and Reed Adjustments

Ms. Jensen reviews using a natural hand position on bassoon, and keeping the fingers light. She reminds Miranda to use more air and to move the air across the room to get a bigger sound. They discuss the process of coordinating the breath with forming the embouchure and putting the tongue on the reed, then releasing the tongue and air at the same time. When Umberto’s C’s are squeaking, Ms. Jensen opens the reed by pinching the first wire side to side which makes response easier for Umberto.

Slurring from C to D and Ending Beautifully

Ms. Jensen addresses keeping the third finger close to the bassoon and curved while slurring from C2 to D2. As they work on that, the issue of ending notes beautifully presents itself, and they address slowing down the air and firming the embouchure slightly right at the end of the note to create a taper. This concept might seem advanced for beginning students, but drawing their attention to such refinements at an early stage heightens their musical sensitivity, and directs their bassoon technique to develop with musical purpose.

Slurring C, D and E

Ms. Jensen reminds Umberto and Miranda to keep their fingers curved and close to the instrument. They accomplish that, but need reminders about tone and pitch control. Miranda is able to figure out how to play more in tune.


Review of Fundamentals

Ms. Jensen begins the lesson by playing for Umberto and Miranda so they can hear a professional bassoon sound. She mentions that we have not been using sheet music so that we could work on fundamentals and establish excellent skills. Ms. Jensen discusses relaxing the abdominal muscles before and during inhalation, and breathing into the rib cage to get more air and to be able to support the air. They review sitting to the right side of the chair so that the thigh can help support the weight of the bassoon.

Beautiful Beginnings and Endings

Ms. Jensen works with Miranda on note beginnings and endings. Drawing students’ attention to these details early in their study heightens their awareness of musical gesture and nuance.

Relaxed Hands

Ms. Jensen and Miranda remind Umberto to keep his fingers curved and close to the holes. They also reminded him of a good posture and seat strap adjustment for efficient playing.

Fingers Close to Keys

Ms. Jensen works with beginning students Umberto and Miranda on keeping curved, relaxed fingers that stay close to the holes. Ms. Jensen asks Umberto to play alone and calls upon Miranda to observe and comment on Umberto’s finger technique, thus providing individual attention to one student, while challenging the other to process the same information. This video illustrates how easily even the most eager and sincere students can slip into inefficient habits not reminded and drilled consistently in the beginning stages.

Introducing the Right Hand

After review of producing a good sound on the left-hand notes, Ms. Jensen shows Miranda and Umberto how to position the right hand to play B2. Briefly visiting a new technique at the end of a lesson plants the seed for grasping the concept in the next lesson.