Blame Your Tools

My low register was sharp.

This, in and of itself, was not terribly surprising. The bassoon is full of awkward acoustic compromises, and the low register on my instrument had never been particularly in tune, even under ideal conditions. I'd made some changes to my setup (including swapping out part of the instrument) senior year of college that had helped considerably, but still, it was hardly surprising that the first time I pulled out a tuner in LA, low B-flat was aspiring ever upwards.

So I did what I've been trained to do. I set about drilling myself with intonation exercises, training myself not only to be able to hear when notes are or aren't in their proper place, but also to be able to get them there from the moment they start to sound. For those of you unused to the joys of woodwind playing, this involves a lot of fiddly manipulations of parts of your body you don't normally think about: How high up in my throat is my larynx right now? Can I get it lower? What's the shape of the back of my tongue? Is there equal pressure coming from every direction around my mouth? All this while watching the needle on the pitch indicator stubbornly refusing to budge.

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