Tenor Bassoon (Tenoroon)

Tenor Bassoon

tenor bassoon in g range

tenor bassoon in F

The Tenor Bassoon or Tenoroon is like the Alto Bassoon in that it is an old instrument that has recently been revived.  The current instruments come in two flavors; F and G.  The F instrument (also known as a Quart-Bassoon) is pitched a fourth higher than the Bassoon, while the G instrument (also known as a Quint-Bassoon) is pitched a fifth above the BassoonSound-wise, there is very little difference between the two.  In general, professional players prefer to play on the F instrument, while the G instrument is used for children as an educational instrument.  In writing for the instrument, I suggest writing for the F instrument, but including an alternative part for the G instrument.

At one time, I was a huge advocate for the use of the Tenor Bassoon, and even owned one.  The Tenor Bassoon is still rare today, and until composers start to write for the instrument, it will remain so.  During my years of studying the instrument, I could only find a handful of pieces written specifically for the instrument.  Not including those written by myself, the number of original works for the small bassoons (Alto and Tenor) is in single digits.

A note on the range, unlike the Alto Bassoon (as it currently sits), the Tenor Bassoon is fully chromatic.  However, its range is only three octaves (an additional major second may be possibly by some players on the F instrument only), so the top note of the instrument (a sounding F) is exactly the same as on the Bassoon.

Interesting musical combinations can be as the top voice (or second to top voice if the Alto Bassoon is used) of a bassoon choir.  It will mix well with flutes and make for a mournful sound.  Here, I must quote Berlioz in one of his few mentions of the Tenor Bassoon:

“(B)y combining the low tones of the oboes, English horns, tenoroons, and large flutes into a small band – expressions of pious mourning in piano.”

Berlioz was expecting four Tenor Bassoon in his perfect orchestra!  But, his sound idea is a perfectly valid one.  To this sound, I would also add Alto and Tenor Flutes (to Berlioz, large flute meant the C Flute and the Piccolo was the small flute) as well as Bass Oboe.

Technique is nearly the exact same as the Bassoon, except for the top half octave, where the fingerings differ.

I would love to see this unusual instrument become part of the modern band.  We are really missing the tenor voice of the double reed choir.  As the choir traditionally stands, there is a huge gap in range between the English Horn and the Bassoon.  Can we not fill this gap with a Bass Oboe and a Tenor Bassoon?

Bertoli’s Sonata Prima played on Tenor Bassoon in F

Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise played on Tenor Bassoon in F

Well, modesty forbids… this is your humble author playing.

5 thoughts on “Tenor Bassoon (Tenoroon)

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  4. Claude Medearis

    I think it’s a beautiful instrument. I love the sound.
    I do have one odd question. I’m 56 (not likely to become a major orchestral bassoon star in my lifetime) with a small place and not much money to put on an instrument I might not be playing in a year. But I would like to try out a bassoon and the tenor seems a good size and pitch for me.
    Do you have an opinion on the Eb mini bassoons from China that are on Ebay in the $800 range? Would they be suitable for a home hobbyist on a budget?

    1. A few things. If you want to try bassoon, do not go with the Tenor to start with. You will find that the instrument will be practically useless. There’s no music or call for it. Start on regular Bassoon.
      I can’t honestly give an opinion on those Chinese Tenors. My gut reaction is: 1. they aren’t in E-flat, but rather in G. 2. Even the top of the line Wolf instruments have inherent problems that will only be magnified by a Chinese instrument.

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