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Assessment of Bassoon Tuning Quality from Measurements under Playing Conditions

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In reed woodwinds, the pitch of a sound is the result of an interaction between the air column, the reed, and the player. The air column is well described by its resonance frequencies and their damping. The reed is a pressure-controlled valve, which drives a coupled oscillation that settles with a fundamental frequency near a resonance frequency of the air column. The musician provides the blowing pressure and can alter the dynamical properties of the reed with his embouchure. An experimental study is presented that investigates from the player's perspective the tuning quality of the whole system under playing conditions for the case of the bassoon. A strong influence on tuning is reported for the bocal or crook, which is the interchangeable part of the resonator's top end. Here we focus on the lip force a musician has to exert for the instrument to play in tune. For normal playing regimes, the relation between lip force and pitch is roughly linear: higher lip force at constant blowing pressure increases the pitch. However, as each fingering requires a different lip force, playing a succession of notes may require considerable lip force changes that are tedious: the instrument appears to be badly tuned. Covering the full tonal and dynamical range on three modern German bassoons, this study investigates the tuning properties in two ways. Firstly, a professional musician has been asked to play notes without embouchure corrections on three bassoons. Secondly, the lip force and blowing pressure to play notes in tune were measured on these bassoons with an artificial mouth. A linear fit explains a half of the observed relation of the tuning discrepancy in uncorrected playing to the measured lip force when playing in tune. This link between objective and subjective tuning measurements justifies the method of measuring lip forces during playing with an artificial mouth to assess tuning quality. The results point to a common tuning trend of bassoons of the modern German type independent of the bocal and reed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2015

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  • Acta Acustica united with Acustica, published together with the European Acoustics Association (EAA), is an international, peer-reviewed journal on acoustics. It publishes original articles on all subjects in the field of acoustics, such as general linear acoustics, nonlinear acoustics, macrosonics, flow acoustics, atmospheric sound, underwater sound, ultrasonics, physical acoustics, structural acoustics, noise control, active control, environmental noise, building acoustics, room acoustics, acoustic materials, acoustic signal processing, computational and numerical acoustics, hearing, audiology and psychoacoustics, speech, musical acoustics, electroacoustics, auditory quality of systems. It reports on original scientific research in acoustics and on engineering applications. The journal considers scientific papers, technical and applied papers, book reviews, short communications, doctoral thesis abstracts, etc. In irregular intervals also special issues and review articles are published.
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