A new straight shaper design

I’ve been using a straight shaper for about two years that I had made for me to my specifications. Due to some unfortunate circumstances the original design was lost, but I have had Chip Owen at Fox measure the cane and re-create the shaper for me. The measurements match my original design specs perfectly, so I am confident this will be an accurate re-creation of this one original.

The shape itself is a unique blade contour. The first 15mm of the blade are similar to a Rieger 1A shape, but the blade stays much fuller through the throat and tube area, with a flare at the end of the tube. I typically place the 2nd wire 40mm from the fold and the 1st wire 32mm from the fold. I usually trim 2mm off of the end of the tube, but it can be left full length, allowing for an even greater bevel.

We’re taking orders for this shaper now at Midwest Musical Imports. I will have some pieces of gouged and shaped Gonzalez cane in this shape at the IDRS conference in New York in a few weeks.


On Amplifiers

When bassoonists first explore the world of amplified playing there are some basic concepts that are taken for granted in the guitar world that translate to the bassoon, but are a bit unclear to the uninitiated. There are new things that happen to your sound when you amplify, especially when using a direct pickup like mine or even the Telex, that you have to consider when developing a sound that you like. (more…)

Little-Jake saxophone user spotted in the wild

Joel Woolf purchased a Little-Jake from Forrestsmusic and has been using it with his band since last August. Always cool to see someone really getting some good mileage out of the Little-Jake. He’s apparently a big effects user with his saxophone. Don’t worry, I’m assured that he bought a second neck so he didn’t drill into the original neck on his Mark VI.


K1X Rumberger Telex Pickup Fitting To Your Instrument at Howarth of London

It’s a bit more expensive than mine, but might provide some different sound opportunities. Looks like the mounting interface is similar to the Telex, but in reverse (the O-Ring is on the pickup not the adapter). Not quite as secure for bassoon use I suppose, although it’s probably fine for clarinet. There are a few other things like this out there, marketed to Klezmer or related clarinet players. Looks good though, a bit bulky. XLR though? Phantom power? For a piezo pickup that’s kinda weird.

Howarth of London

Sound production at Howarth of London is expanding even further with our ability to provide audio solutions for your woodwind instruments in a variety of different forms.

We are able to supply and fit pick-ups to your instrument, enabling you to amplify your sound in environments where musicians would normally find it difficult to be heard amongst electronic instruments. Our Audio Solutions Specialist – Philip Evans has written an article on the problems that musicians face when amplifying themselves. Please feel free to view it here:

Philip Evans – Woodwind Instrument Sound Reinforcement Problems and Pick up Microphones

We have been successful in fitting these pick-ups to saxophones and clarinets resulting in positive feedback from customers. This method of amplification is compact, easy to use and convenient for varying performance scenarios such as: loud electronic environments and electro-acoustic compositions.

“Pick up microphones:

Sometimes known as ‘piezoelectric’ microphones are different as…

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Let’s play stump the bassoonist

I sometimes run across bassoons with unusual or rare keywork features. Sometimes I’m amazed at how clever instrument makers are at coming up with solutions to problems with the bassoon fingerings. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure out how the mechanism works and how it’s used. I’m almost never permanently stumped on a key, I can usually figure out the weird things.

This one stumped me.


A small tab inserts into a hole drilled in the B natural lever that locks this little stub in place.


If you flex the arm of the button, you can get the little tab to fit under the B natural lever. This would seem to cause the stub to encounter a bit of cork at the body of the bassoon. At the moment this does not impede the travel of the B natural lever.


The other side of the stub shows the little tab.


You can see the hole the stub locks into on the B natural lever, and clearly see the indent cut into the wood where a bit of cork is.

Anybody know what it’s for? It doesn’t seem to do anything right now, so it’s probably missing cork or something.

I mean, it appears to function to limit how closed the low B key gets, but I can’t figure out a reason why you’d want a mechanism specifically designed for that, especially one that’s so cumbersome to undo.

Quick edit, I found Polisi’s patent through an interesting path in Google searches. It describes the mechanism as such:

The holes are differently from the main body of the instrument When the 315 is engaged in one of the holes the underside of stop member 311 is approximately flush with that of lever 310 and the stop member is inoperative. When pin 315 engages the other hole the stop member projects downward from the lever and prevents the stoppers the B C and D keys from approaching the corresponding tone holes more closely than approximately 1/32 – 1/32 inch and the desired mellow E sound can be produced.

So I was right, it’s meant to mute those keys. Specifically for low E. So, a little button just for the first note of Tchaik 6.

Latest design of the Anderson hand rest


Custom crutches

I’m a convert.

For years of not using a right hand rest I finally had a conversation with Chris Schaub that convinced me to switch to using one. But I can’t be too simple. I used the rest that came with my Moosmann for a while, but then got thinking about more ergonomic designs. I had Eric Anderson at Midwest Musical Imports carve me a crutch to my specifications using a clay mold as an idea. That first crutch now belongs to Lecolion Washington and I have #2. Which looks like this:

I’ve trimmed it down a bit, but Eric has continued improving on the design and has sold a few to some others. I’ll post pictures of the new one once the pin is put in place.


The whole point of the crutch is to allow the instrument to be controlled by your hand farther away from the joints of your fingers. My technique improved in my right hand dramatically as soon as I switched to a standard crutch, and these are even better. The control point is shifted to the center of your palm, as far away from your finger joints as you’re really going to get.

What does that thing sound like anyway?

Well, here’s some demonstrations of some various effects used on the bassoon.

Successful saxophone test!

We’ve determined the Little Jake works great on tenor saxophone. It only requires a modification to the mouthpiece, where a hole is drilled and a threaded tap made. The ideal place is likely in the neck area, but this only requires an extra mouthpiece (and a ligature that won’t get in the way).

The sound was very promising. When I had Brandon Wozniak test this on his saxophone when we turned the amp on it was just like increasing the volume on the instrument. The tone was very transparent, it was even difficult to tell it was on except that it was unnaturally loud. Effects worked very well too.

I’ll modify your mouthpiece for free if you send it to me when ordering a Little-Jake. I would say this would be fine on Alto sax or larger, and I can only do this on plastic or hard rubber mouthpieces (not metal). Soprano sax mouthpieces are probably too small – the ligature would get in the way if there’s even a good acoustic place for it. For soprano sax modifying the neck is still probably the only option.

Harmonic flagolet key for bassoon bocal (high G key)

I had Eric Anderson at Midwest Musical Imports custom design and build this mechanism for a Wolf bocal that I have. The idea was to create a key that opens a pinhole drilled in the bocal, operated by the right hand, and have the entire mechanism completely independent of the rest of the bassoon.