Bassoon. - Bassoonists and oboe players have one big thing in common: they learn to make their own reeds. Bassoons and oboes both use double reeds, almost always hand-made by the players themselves.
Bassoons are long tubes with a conical bore, like an oboe or English horn, but bigger and lower. The long tube that forms the bassoon is doubled back on itself so the player can play it easily. The bassoon is made in several joints, with a distinctive curved tube or bocal extending outward with the reed on the end.
Early bassoons were called dulcians or curtals. The main differences between these instruments and the modern bassoon is that they were carved from a single piece of wood, and they didn't have keys. They had holes which the player covered with his/her fingers. It was in France in the 17th century that builders learned to make bassoons in separate joints.
The bassoon is very versatile. Expressive like the oboe, but with its own distinctive sound, it can play both very low and very high. Composers often write solo parts for it, and some of these are funny, because the bassoon can do comic solos very well. But it can also play high-tension parts like the anguished opening solo in Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. The most important concerto for the bassoon is Mozart's, though Vivaldi and Carl Maria von Weber and other composers have written bassoon concertos as well.
The contrabassoon can play lower than any other instrument in the orchestra. It is not used very often, but when it is, its distinctive tone is very noticeable. Ravel, Debussy, and Alban Berg are among the composers whose scores occasionally call for contrabassoon.