HISTORY: Sometime before 1636 the one-piece instrument the curtall was changed into a separately jointed instrument in France, come be known as the bassoon. It was called the French bassoon in England and Germany. For the rest of the century the name curtall and the different variations on the name from other countries outside of France were kept to denote the difference between the old and new instruments. The larger contrabassoon was created to be the lowest member of the family.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: The bassoon is a double reed wind instrument with a conical bore. The bassoon is also the bass instrument of the wind section and belongs to the oboe family. The double reed is set onto a curved metal tube called the crook or the bocal.
SOUND PROPERTIES: The pitch of the bassoon can be altered by adjusting the position of the bocal in its receiver. By pulling the bocal out you can lengthen the instrument which will lower the pitch slightly or by pushing it in you can shorten the instrument which will raise the pitch slightly. The bassoon rivals the oboe by the virtue of how well the instrument can produce attacks and staccato passages but the tone of the is less nasal. The bassoon, like the oboe, performs lyric melodies excellently. The unique sound of the bassoon makes it ideal to be used for comical or grotesque effects.
RANGE: The range of the bassoon has four unique tonal sections. The lowest, being of a sonorous dark and vibrant quality, includes B-flat below the bass clef staff to the first line G of the bass clef staff. The next section is of a subdued sweet and very expressive tones starting from the first space A of the bass clef staff to the D above middle C. Next is a tonal section that is somewhat thin, but intense starting from fifth line E of the tenor clef staff to B-flat. Finally there is the tonal section that is thin and many times has a pinched tone starting at the A above the tenor clef staff to a high E-flat. Notice that the bassoon is usually written in the bass clef and tenor clef staffs.