Bassoon Reed

I’d like to start this post by making it clear that I do prefer playing the trumpet with an actual trumpet mouthpiece! Nevertheless, there are some unique sounds that can be made by using an alternative mouthpiece on the trumpet. The bassoon reed is the most common alternative mouthpiece I’ve come across. That’s not to say it comes up often – on the contrary – but it is the one I’ve used the most.

The first time I came across this technique was in Raphael Cendo’s dramatic ensemble piece “Charge!”.

I just love the way he notates these crazy sounds!
© 2009 by Gerard Billaudot Éditeur

There are two ways I can use the bassoon reed, either by removing the trumpet mouthpiece and inserting the bassoon reed into the leadpipe (yes, it fits!), or by leaving the trumpet mouthpiece in and placing the back of the bassoon reed into the mouthpiece. Regardless of method, it is relatively easy to make the reed vibrate, but quite difficult to control which sound you get. There is basically no dynamic range to the sounds – it’s either on or off, and always loud. Moving the valves does very little to change the pitch in most cases but can add to the wild texture.

The reed can be placed directly into the leadpipe or held against the mouthpiece.

Bassoon reed directly into the leadpipe

This method seems to produce the best variety of sounds and is a bit easier to control. It’s also the louder of the two methods, and leaves both hands free to move valves or even manipulate a mute. Keep in mind that the player needs time to remove their mouthpiece and insert the bassoon reed and vice versa.

Here are the sounds I can make with this method:

  • Low, undefined multiphonic
  • Low multiphonic based around an Ab (played on C trumpet)
  • Low, defined pitches that have a multiphonic character
  • Clear, high pitches

Rapidly and randomly moving the valves creates a wild sound:

Bassoon reed onto trumpet mouthpiece

This method can produce similar sounds to putting the reed directly into the leadpipe, but the sounds are a bit more limited, slightly quieter and harder to control. One big benefit to this method is that it takes less time to prepare, as the trumpet mouthpiece does not need to be removed. The drawback to this is that one hand needs to hold the bassoon reed up to the mouthpiece at all times.

Here are the sounds using this method:

  • Low multiphonic sound, no real pitch center
  • Low, defined pitches that can be somewhat controlled
  • Higher, very clear (but unstable) pitches
These are super hard to control!

Randomly and rapidly moving valves:

Low, then high

Tip for players

I bought a plastic (soft) bassoon reed for this technique. I find it much easier to use than a real reed and it lasts forever!

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