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The bassoon is a double-reed instrument that is most commonly observed as a part of the woodwind section of orchestras. Bassoons were derived from the shawm, an double-reed instrument used in the Middle Ages that had a cylindrical tube and sound holes. Experimentation to obtain lower bass tones with instruments based on the shawm resulted in the instruments becoming extremely long and difficult to play. This problem was solved in the 16th century when the instrument was folded and curved.

The first instrument to be called a bassoon appeared in the 17th century. Continued efforts to improve the instrument continued until the 19th century. In 1831, German music teacher and composer Cael Almenrader, who had experimented with bassoon designs while working at an instrument factory, formed his own company in cooperation with Johann Heckel. The Heckel bassoon became the industry standard and Heckel bassoons are still considered the best instruments of their kind today.

Prices of vintage bassoons range anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. The general rule is the higher the price, the better the instrument. Brands considered to be of high quality include Heckel, Püchner, Schreiber, Mönning, Adler, and Mollenhaauer. Fox and Yamaha have also manufactured quality instruments since the '70s.

Quick Facts

  • Most vintage bassoons sell for high prices, so students learning the instrument usually rent or use in-house instruments provided by music schools. Vintage student-model bassoons sell for $5,000 to $9,000, while professional instruments often sell for $20,000 to $40,000
  • Antique bassoons are often in need of repair or restoration, so they can be purchased for lower prices. A restored Guillaume Adler bassoon from 1840 to 1850 with a reproduction crook in good playing condition is currently valued at $7,500
  • A Heckel Biebrich bassoon from about 1900 was sold by Brompton's auction house in 2013 for $2,858.50

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