The history of both the oboe and basson
can be traced back to an instrument called the shawm . This instrument
was quite popular in the Medieval Period. There were four sizes of shawms;
soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. The bass shawm was over six feet in length
and was very awkward to play, particularly when marching with the instrument.
It was partly due to the awkwardness of the bass shawm that the Renaissance
predecessor of the bassoon, the dulcian, developed. The dulcian had the
total length of the bass shawm, but in half the space, as there was a
u-shaped bottom connecting the two separate lengths of tubing.
In the Baroque period both the oboe and
basson became sectionalized and each had one key. During the classical
period the main alteration to the instruments were the addition of more
keys with the oboe normally having five keys and the bassoon having six.
It was during the 19th century that the
instruments developed into what we know today. The oboes main changes
were done by Theobald Boehm while the bassoon was improved by Karl Almenräder
and Wilhelm Heckel. The main bassoon used today is known as the German
System instrument. A French System instrument also developed in the 19th
century and is still played in France as well as parts of Canada and South
Other double reed instruments include the
english horn, contrabassoon, crumhorn, rackett, and heckelphone.
For further reading on the history of the
bassoon, consult the following sources:
Waterhouse, William. "Bassoon."
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley
Sadie and John Tyrrell. 29 vols. New York: Grove's Dictionaries, 2001.
Langwill, Lyndesay G. The Bassoon and
Contrabassoon. New York: W. W. Norton, 1965.
Joppig, Gunther. The Oboe and Bassoon,
translated by Alfred Clayton. Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1988.
Lipori, Daniel G. A Researcher's Guide
to the Bassoon. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002.
Double Reed Journal Free to members
of the International Double Reed Society
and available in many college libraries.
University is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
© 2004 Central Washington University