Shopping for a quality bassoon is tough.
While there are definitely high-quality instruments being made, bassoons are made in much smaller numbers than most other woodwind instruments, and the price tags of intermediate – and advanced-level instruments makes them a significant investment.
If you’re unsure of where to start your search for a high-quality bassoon, let us help!
Buying a Bassoon
Buying a bassoon is a big undertaking, and before we get to our recommended brands and models, here are some things to look for in your bassoon search.
Remember that although there are certain brands with higher (and well-deserved) reputations, make sure that you play any instrument (or let a trusted teacher or colleague play it) before purchasing.
Bassoons, like every instrument, can vary from model to model and you don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on anything less than the best bassoon!
What to Look for In A Bassoon
If you’ve never shopped for a bassoon before, here are some of the basic things to check out on any new instrument.
Buying A Used Bassoon
Bassoons are very expensive, and high-quality intermediate instruments can cost $5,000 and up, with professional-level instruments exceeding $20,000.
You can get a great deal on a bassoon, though, if you’re willing to look at the used market. There are some important considerations for used instruments, though.
This is a good basic checklist when you’re considering a used instrument at any price!
Best Bassoon Brands
Here are some of the best brands for just about anyone to look into when considering buying a bassoon.
While these manufacturers aren’t the only makers of quality instruments, these are good places to start for anyone – beginner to advanced.
Fox and Renard
Fox, located in South Whitley, Indiana, has been making high-quality professional bassoons since 1951. Fox also makes intermediate-level (but very high quality and consistent) instruments under the Renard brand.
Both Fox and Renard instruments are handmade in-house in the same factory, and while Fox bassoons are definitely exceptionally made (and priced accordingly) the Renard instruments are excellent instruments for a wide range of players – from serious high schoolers through college and beyond.
Fox and Renard Options
Unlike many other brands, there are lots of aspects of a Fox or Renard instrument that can be customized.
This allows you to make a new bassoon “yours”, but it can also lead to lots of choices if you’re not sure exactly what the options mean.
If in doubt, make sure you ask your teacher or another bassoonist you trust.
Best Fox and Renard Bassoons
Fox Model IV
This plastic bassoon is a great choice for a wide range of players, from a more durable professional instrument to a more affordable choice for younger players.
While the body is polypropylene (instead of the cheaper plastics used by other makers), the rest of the bassoon still features the craftsmanship and attention to detail that is the hallmark of Fox bassoons.
Although this is a plastic instrument, it neither sounds nor plays like one, and lots of professional bassoonists use this as an “outdoor” or “marching band” instrument.
A great instrument at a great price, if you are willing to look past the plastic body construction.
Renard 220 or 240
These intermediate wooden instruments are both excellent choices for any aspiring professional or active amateur player.
While most players and teachers do have a preference, both the 220 and 240 are included here so that the student can make an informed choice.
The 220 is a long bore instrument, while the 240 is a short bore bassoon, and so they do play and sound a little different.
Make sure that you get your hands on both to give them a try before you buy – you don’t want to spend several thousand dollars on an “okay” instrument when you can spend it on an “outstanding” one for yourself!
If you are ready for a high-quality wooden bassoon, but not quite ready to sell your car or mortgage your home to finance it, these two Renard options are excellent choices for the vast majority of advanced players.
If you’re looking for the Fox, the 660 is the standard choice. It is both a short bore and a thick-wall bassoon, which gives it a big sou top-of-the-line bassoon, flexible intonation, and a singing higher register.
The 660 is generally a better choice for most players than the 601 (long bore and thick-walled) since it is a little more adaptable in a variety of musical styles and situations. The 601 maybe be the best choice for a full-time 2nd bassoonist, however.
For many bassoonists, the Fox 660 is the perfect balance of a great playing and sounding bassoon with a price tag that doesn’t break the bank!
Heckel is one of the oldest and most widely-respected brands of bassoon makers in the world, founded in 1831 in Wiesbaden, Germany.
The founder of the Heckel company, Johann Heckel, along with musician Karl Almenrader, refined the bassoon’s fingering system over many years, and many modern instruments still use the Heckel (or German) fingering system today.
Unlike Fox, Heckel offers very few options on their instruments, and there are essentially only two models of Heckel bassoon in production today.
Best Heckel Bassoons
The Crest is as close as Heckel comes to producing a student- or intermediate-level instrument, but this is still a high-quality and professionally made instrument.
Instead of being made on an assembly line like the top-of-the-line Heckel, the Crest is made on an assembly line with many different skilled workers, instead of a single master craftsman.
A great way to get the Heckel sound. If you don’t need lots of custom key work, this may be a great way to upgrade to a Heckel
Heckel Model 4LI
When people talk about a Heckel bassoon, this is “the” model. The 4LI is a heavy instrument, and produces a big, powerful sound – and has a big price tag to match.
However, the craftsmanship in these instruments is impeccable, with each instrument being handmade by a single master craftsman.
The handmade nature of these instruments means that you can request almost any sort of custom key work, and generally, they will be able to accommodate you (for an upcharge, of course).
While they are expensive and heavy, the Heckel sound is pretty much the gold-standard of a big, orchestral sound, and these instruments – both new and used – are highly sought after.
The Rolls-Royce of bassoons, if you can put up the cash and stand the multi-year wait!
Buying a bassoon – whether for a beginner or a seasoned professional – is an expensive undertaking.
However, having your own instrument is a great investment in music making and in yourself.
Also remember that while expensive, a well-cared-for bassoon can last for decades!