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My 11 year old son wants to take up the tenor bassoon (also called a "tenoroon"). He's done a lot of research and watching YouTube, etc. I am trying to find the best one for him.

Will he be limiting himself by learning on a tenor or should I encourage him to play a bassoon first? If he learns on a beginner's G tenor bassoon, will it make it easier or harder for him to learn the more mature F tenor bassoon later on?

  • I don't have any direct experience, but the Wikipedia page on the tenoroon has some information that speaks to your questions. Near the bottom it describes the differences, and in particular it says, "normal sized bassoon would be far too large for anyone under about the age of 10", and, "professionals prefer the F instrument as it feels and responds more like a bassoon while the smaller G instrument is used more for children". – Todd Wilcox Nov 5 '15 at 18:29
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I don't know anything about the tenoroon, but I would like to share my son's experience playing bassoon when he was in fifth grade, hoping it will be helpful information for you and your son.

My son was 10 1/2 when he started bassoon in school in September of fifth grade. We didn't know whether he would want to stick with that instrument, and bassoons are expensive! So I rented a bassoon from our local music shop.

My son has always been taller than average, but I think his hand size is about average.

He had a rough start, but not because of his height. After a couple of months, I made an appointment with a bassoonist who happened to be the owner of the shop we were renting from. He checked out my son's set-up. (The school band teacher's main instrument was flute, and it turned out she didn't know a lot about bassoon.) He pointed out the need for a thumb rest, and gave us one, which he said he would incorporate into the rental kit. Also, he recommended a harness (instead of the simple strap the bassoon came with), and a seat strap with a cup to hold the bottom of the bassoon. These three accessories helped immeasurably, and then things started to take off.

Size was never an issue.

Will your son be doing lessons at school? Will he have a private teacher?

Oh, there was one other thing the bassoonist we consulted suggested we buy, that also helped -- a humidity-controlled reed case.

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The important thing to keep in mind is, that scaled down bassoons are transposing instruments, so they sound differently than they are notated. This means, that for ensemble play a different edition of sheet music is required.

I participate in an annual bassoon workshop with groups in all ages in Germany link to page, German only and there are many children choosing a sort of "children bassoon": the keys are adjusted to smaller hands, a few are not present at all (but can be supplemented later) and part of the wood is replaced by an acrylic tube, to save some weight, see manufacturer page. The advantage of this approach is, that it already sounds as notated, which I consider as an advantage to learn intonation. Also it is considered more cool (by children), since the low pitch is a substantial part of the bassoons personality.

My teacher says, that boys like this less than girls, because it does not look exactly like the real thing, but a tenoroon will be more different in any case.

Another option I tried for some minutes, is Fagonello, a one-part children variant more reminding to bassoon precursors, also sounding in original pitch.

In any case the fingering is very similar to the standard bassoon for all alternatives, and embouchure even more so, so any alternative will provide a good foundation for a future bassoonist.

My recommendation is: try the instruments in real (if possible, with the teacher). Sound, touch and feel are important than a high-gloss specification, because your son needs to have fun to devote many hours to playing.

  • Sounds intriguing! The weight of the bassoon was an issue for my son; it was tricky to get the set-up comfortable for him. Once we did, then he started to make real progress. – aparente001 Nov 8 '15 at 4:42
  • Weight is an issue. As a teenager, I played the baritone sax; it was heavy. The worst part was carrying it to and from school. When I bought my own instrument, I went for the smaller, lighter tenor. Now that I am old, I sometimes think that I should have bought an alto. – badjohn Nov 4 '17 at 11:26
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The teachers in my region recently started encouraging children to start with a tenoroon or other smaller versions of the bassoon instead of going for the real thing from the get go. A bassoon is very big and expensive while a tenoroon is playable even by smaller children and much more affordable. He will probably be more comfortable starting with a smaller instrument.

The techniquie is essentially the same for both. If your son has already done research and is enthusiastic about picking up a tenoroon then I don't think you should try to convince him otherwise. Playing either of them will make switching to the other easier so that shouldn't be a big issue.

**edit I just looked this up out of curiosity. The fingerings for tenoroon and bassoon seem to be identical for the lower register. In the higher register however they differ.

You should encourage him to think about the future though. The tenoroon seems really more like a beginners instrument and it's basically never seen in a somewhat advanced orchestra. If he wants to play in some sort of band in the future it will probably be good if he switches over to a bassoon at some point in time but as long as he is enthusiastic I wouldn't try to stop or even influence him in any other way. The most important thing for a child when picking up an instrument is having fun after all.

As others have mentioned you should talk to a bassoon teacher before if you want any more information. He should have experience with children wanting to play and he can probably give you plenty of useful information.

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My take on this, amateur basson and contrabassoon player.

Start by asking the teacher. The basson is a very quirky instrument, with lots of specials, and is not recommended to be learned without instruction. If going on your own, you will most likely learn habits that you need to later unlearn.

Some teachers like to use smaller bassoons for smaller children, the tenoroon is one example. But I have never met any older students staying on that instrument, every one seems to graduate to the normal bassoon size. There are probably reasons for this that I am unaware of.

So, my strong suggestion is to start by talking to the intended teacher. I also strongly recommend selecting a teacher that actually plays the bassoon fairly competently. It is a quite different instrument from all the others in my experience, and instruction will be different in several respects from most other wind instruments.

/Gunnar

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