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The History of the Bassoon

The earliest ancestors of the modern bassoon were developed in the 16th century and included the shawm, the rankett, and the dulcian (or curtal). In the mid-17th century, a wooden wind instrument that closely resembled the modern bassoon became known in France as the "fagotto." Bassoons with three or four keys emerged in the first half of 18th century and bassoons with six keys appeared in the latter half of the 18th century. In the first half of the 19th century, a German military bandmaster named Carl Almenräder made improvements to the bassoon by increasing the number of keys, improving the "U-tube," making the pitch easier to control, and increasing the instrument's volume. Musical instrument maker Johann Adam Heckel worked with Almenräder and disseminated these improvements. The result? The German-style bassoon (sometimes called the Heckel-style bassoon), which went on to become popular in Germany, Italy, the UK, and the US, and closely resembled the modern bassoon we are familiar with today. The French-style bassoon, now called the “basson,” retained its traditional structure (unlike the German version) and survived into the modern era, but is considerably less widespread than the German-style bassoon is today.

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