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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

How to stop your practice being counterproductive

‘Am I practicing bassoon enough?’ is often something bassoonists ask ourselves. But a more pertinent question may be, ‘is my practising a waste of time?’

The violinist Noa Kageyama thinks musicians’ practice can often be mindless, and therefore counter-productive. Habits such as repeating the same section over and over, or playing a piece on autopilot, can harm our playing in the long run. ‘You are actually digging yourself a hole, because what this model of practicing does is strengthen undesirable habits and errors’, she says.

Instead, she advocates ‘deliberate practice’, a more scientific approach to practicing. This is a slower and more focused way of playing our instruments, and involves regular observation of where, and – more importantly - why, we’re making mistakes.

This approach is hard work, but you’ll be happy to hear that when done correctly, results can be obtained in a short amount of time: ‘keep practice sessions limited to a duration that allows you to stay focused. This may be as short as 10-20 minutes, and as long as 45-60+ minutes.'

Archie Camden, a famous British bassoonist, in his book Bassoon Technique (P.16, Oxford University Press 1962), writes rather wittily on the need to practice methodically:

‘There are many most earnest and conscientious students who blithely recount the hours they have spent at work each day, cheerfully believing that their progress will match the hands of the clock, speeding onwards. To listen to them practice is often to be very disappointed. Most of the time is virtually wasted effort. They will play through scales and studies many times, making the same mistakes each time. If they are aware of them and go back, they will play the whole thing again, instead of picking out the naughty bits and working at them with great concentration until they are correct. Other times they will pick out the bits they like to play and do these over and over again, while the tricky passage lurks round corner and trips them up almost unnoticed! Ten minutes’ hard work at a few little bits is worth hours of aimless 'playing'.’

So let’s take some time to assess our practicing methods. We may soon be reaping the rewards.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Looking for a unique, professional bassoon? Try a Soulsby

What do we look for in a bassoon? Excellent projection, and a rich tone? A professional sound and range? Or beautiful craftsmanship?

For many bassoonists, it's all this plus a little something extra; something unique, a one of a kind bassoon.
Soulsby bassoon
With that in mind, we're throwing the spotlight onto Soulsby bassoons. Jeremy Soulsby of Hereford, England, only made about 84 of them, and has since retired, so no more will be made. They are all unique.

It may be that our international friends aren't too familiar with Soulsby bassoons. As professional instruments, they are suitable for playing at the highest level. With great intonation and a bright, lively sound, they are some of the best bassoons out there.

A 1990 interview with Jeremy Soulsby in the British Double Reed Society magazine revealed how he made many of his bassoons entirely himself. He used primarily traditional methods, and each instrument took several years to finish, not including the 10 years needed to dry the wood out before work could begin. He carefully played and tested them before sale. Without doubt he put his heart and soul into each instrument.

So if you're looking for a professional bassoon with an exquisite sound and that little something extra, try a Soulsby. 

We currently have a Soulsby bassoon in stock which is in excellent condition and eligible for Try Before You Buy.

Visit us at for more information. 

Soulsby bassoon

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Why the mini bassoon may make your child smarter

The mini bassoon is the bassoon's little brother, and a great introduction to the double reed family. But it's more than that.

The mini bassoon may make your child smarter

A recent study shows that playing an instrument – ideally from age 7 – permanently enhances brain development, leading to greater brain function, memory, speech processing, empathy, motor skills, maths and science skills and even mental health. These benefits can’t be found in any other way; only learning an instrument from a young age will provide them. According to the study, the brain functions developed uniquely through playing music ‘likely contribute more to academic success than IQ.’

The bassoon's size makes it hard to play before the age of 11 or 12. Does this mean children are missing out on extra brain development? Not at all. Its little brother can be played from the age of 7 - the magic age for maximum cognitive development. The mini bassoon also ensures children start learning at the same age as their peers, rather than starting later and lagging behind.

The bassoon is the best choice

What better instrument to learn than the bassoon? Its conical bore provides unique and complex sound characteristics, which can’t be found in any other instrument. The mellow tones and versatility of the bassoon make it an enjoyable instrument to play. Ideally suited to ensembles and orchestras, the bassoon helps develop team working skills, but its rich sound is also appreciated in solo performances. The mini bassoon captures all these benefits, and more.

Recommended by music teachers

Schools are increasingly seeing the value of the mini bassoon. Diana Bushby, bassoon teacher at Hymers College, Hull, has been using mini bassoons for 15 years. ‘I couldn’t build up a bassoon section without the mini instruments,’ she said. ‘They are a valuable teaching resource and should be used more often in junior schools.'

Mini bassoons are about half the weight of a full-size bassoon, and a lot smaller. ‘Children find the small instruments easy to hold and develop a good posture very quickly,’ Diana told us. 'As it’s so light there are no problems with tension in the neck, arms and wrists.'

They have almost identical key work to full-size bassoons, and play in the key of G. Ideally for younger children, they are available in a special dense plastic resin which is rot- and crack-proof. Our most popular mini bassoon is the Ludlow Mini Bassoon. It is currently being used in schools around the UK, including Hymers College, as well as overseas.

Transition smoothly to a full-size bassoon

The mini bassoon is a lot of fun. More and more music is written specially for it, and it’s even possible to play it for ABRSM exams grades 1-3. And, of course, mini bassoon players naturally progress to playing a full-size bassoon. Diana told us that this is a smooth process, ‘generally taking no more than half a term, or less.’ This is great news for the future of bassoon playing. Establishing the key work from a young age is paramount to this progression.

We would be delighted to see more children taking up the mini bassoon, not least because the benefits to cognitive development are impressive. We want the future of the bassoon to be secure. This beautiful and special instrument is a necessary voice in any orchestra; its mini brother is surely key to keeping it there. And it may make us smarter along the way.

The Ludlow Mini Bassoon comes with everything needed to get started, including a lightweight case. It is part of our Buy Back Scheme and our Try Before You Buy Scheme. For more information please visit us at

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Upcycle your bassoon

Upcycling: transforming well-loved items into something new, improved and ready to live again.

We often think of upcycling as simply to do with old furniture. But at Double Reed Ltd. we feel the bassoon is perfect for upcycling.

Often a bassoon has been enjoyed and played for a few years. Eventually the owner decides bassoon playing days have come to an end. Perhaps time is now too short or there are other instruments to be played. Sometimes a bassoonist owns a relatively new bassoon, but has decided it’s not for them. The bassoon goes away into a cupboard or the attic.

We don’t think that should be the end of such a wonderful instrument. Many bassoonists are passionate about finding good homes for their well-loved instruments, and so are we.

Many of the best bassoons are second-hand. If well looked after, they can last almost forever. We regularly hear from bassoonists looking for the right second hand instrument for the next phase of their career. They are perfect for the teenager just starting to play the bassoon, as well as for the professional playing at a high level.

If you have a bassoon looking for a new home, please contact us. We will carefully disassemble it, clean, adjust and oil it, change the pads, and if necessary give it a complete overhaul. Soon it will be in nearly-new condition, complete with a 12-month warranty, ready to be enjoyed and played by someone new.

To discuss bassoons, visit All our bassoons are eligible for Try Before You Buy and many are part of our Buy Back Scheme