Today we will learn about the saxophone, bassoon, and contra-bassoon. They each add richness and their own sense of style to the Woodwind Family, which they belong.If you missed Part 1 of the Introduction to the Woodwind Family and It’s Instruments, you might want to check that out first and come back. There you will learn about the Woodwind Family as a whole as well as the flute, piccolo, oboe, and clarinet.
The saxophone is basically a combination of the clarinet and the oboe. It was invented in 1846 by Adolphe Sax. It has a single reed and a mouthpiece that is similar to the clarinet; however, its body is made out of brass and it has a flared bell at the end.
The saxophone was originally used in military marching bands, but they joined the orchestra soon after they were invented.
I have found an extremely cool video of the National Saxophone Choir of Great Britain performing one of the most popular pieces of music with a saxophone solo. It usually only lasts about one minute and is usually supported by a traditional orchestra or symphonic band. This Saxophone Choir consists of probably all of the types of saxophones available. I have never seen the largest one before! Check out this amazing version of Ravel’s Bolero!
The bassoon is another double-reed instrument (like the oboe that we learned about in Part 1), but the bassoon is almost 8 feet long and made out of wood. It is also bent into a narrow U-shape.
Since it is about 8 feet long, do you think that it plays high notes or low notes? If you said, “Low,” then you are correct. It makes deep, rich tones.
Listen and watch as a Bassoon Quartet performs Paul Duka’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. This is something you do not hear often either. Usually there is only one bassoon (and rarely two) in an orchestra or symphonic band and this piece of music is usually supported by a whole orchestra or band.
They play a variety of percussion instruments and a small recorder/flute. The bassoon is difficult to play and these are very talented young women. Here is “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice“. I would listen to the whole piece of music, because it gets quite entertaining. If you like Disney Princesses, you might want to also check out the bassoon quartet’s “Disney Dance Party”.
As large as the bassoon is, it’s not the largest instrument in the Woodwind Family. The contra-bassoon is the largest. It also has a double-reed and is 16 feet of wooden tubing with a metal bell at the end. If it was uncoiled, it would be almost as tall as a two-story house.
Watch and listen to this contra-bassoon solo with piano accompaniment of Mikhail Glinka’s “A Life for the Tsar”.
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