Instrument trials

After the 3D-printed copies were produced and the finishing carried out by Ricardo Simian, we proceeded to mount the keys.


Brass keys were successfully scanned and printed; this procedure has proven to be a good option. More problematic and time-consuming was the mounting of the keys on the instruments, which included making springs, padding, and fine-adjustments to all parts. Intonation and response of the instruments are very much influenced by the precison of the key work. For this first trial, we were able to complete this task on a basic, functioning level – for future 3D-copies, it would however be advantageous to have the tools and expertise of an instrument maker. 


We experimented with various sizes of reeds, and the best-functioning (seen on the left in Figure 1) had these dimensions:

Total length: 50 mm / Blade length: 26 mm / Tube length: 24 mm / Ø above 1st wire: 9 mm

The reed in the middle is another option that was tried. The blue modern Heckel bassoon reed on the right is placed here only as a visual reference. Future experiments will include reeds with other dimensions.

Figure 1: Reeds used for this trial

FT44 Scherer / copies 1 and 2

General remarks

-Both copies 1 and 2  have good intonation using simple fingerings including forks for e-flat and b-flat, with a range of  B-flat – g’’. The overall pitch (depending upon reed and bocal dimensions is possible from ca. A = 410–416 Hz.

-The longer FT29 bocal copy worked markedly better than the shorter FT13.  

Comparison of  FT44 Scherer 1 (current,“as-is” bore) FT44 Scherer 2 (modified “rounded” bore) / Differences were noted by at least two evaluators

-FT44/2 has more stable intonation than FT 44/1

-FT44/2 has a more “open” (= louder) sound (one evaluator)

-FT44/1 has a “warmer”, “darker” sound than FT44/2

-FT44/2 reacts slightly worse in the highest register

-Furthermore, one evaluator noted that f’’ is weak on both instruments (not an uncommon feature), and could be produced easiest using the fingering  L: 2 / R: 4, 5, 6.  Another option is: L: Bb key, 3 / R: 6.

Bocals FT29 and FT13 

Bocal FT29: The intonation between c and d is not optimal, nor were the octaves completely stable. This improved if the bocal was inserted less deeply into the instrument. It would be worthwhile to try a longer version of FT29. We tested this by using a bocal extension at the reed end, but with no real positive results. Any lengthing should probably therefore be made at the large end.

Bocal FT13: The intonation between c and d is less optimal than with bocal FT29. The lower and higher registers were not well-connected or well in tune. The reed end of FT13 is relatively broad, almost like a modern bocal; it could be that a smaller diameter at this end would be advantageous. 

FT 40 Anonymous / copies 1 and 2

General remarks

FT40 is longer than FT44, with an unusual pitch center. We first imagined that the instrument might not be an octave-transposing instrument. The owner has confirmed that he does not play the instrument as octave-transposing, but in another transposition–A or Bb–and pitched at A = 440 Hz. We finally propose that it could be played in C (an octave transposition) at ca. A= 392 Hz.

Initially, the smallest tone hole 1 was almost completely closed in the 3D-prints, due to the finishing lacquer applied to the copies. This could quickly be corrected by consulting the CAD and opening the hole to its appropriate dimensions. It is therefore always important to check that tone hole sizes are consistent.

When we finally compared the tone holes with the original instrument, we could see that all on the 3D instruments were smaller. Subsequently, Ricardo Simian corrected this and made these match the original bassoon. This is a point which we must calculate and take into consideration for future prints.

Bocals FT29 and FT13 

The longer FT29 bocal worked better than the FT13, but was not found to be ideal, particularly in the middle/high registers, where some notes were not playable. We were not yet satisfied with the results, which most likely lies with the bocal/reed setup and not the 3D-copies themselves

The owner reported to us that the original bocal has unfortunately been lost, and that he now uses another.

Comparison of FT40/1 (“as-is” bore) with FT40/2 (modified “rounded” bore) and original

These comparisons are still underway, and all final results of the comparisons will be added here shortly. Some comments are listed below.

With our initial reeds and bocals, the first octave and a half functioned well, but it was not possible to play several notes in the middle-high register (c’–f’’), although f#’’ and g’’ functioned on both copies. We saw that the cause of this problem lay with the bocal and the reed setup, and when this was adapted, both copies had full ranges. The longer FT29 bocal clearly worked better than FT13. The owner uses an even longer bocal, but plays the instrument in A not Bb.

We found that the original instrument and the copies had a great deal of flexibility regarding pitch. Depending up on the bocal and reed combination, it would be possible to play it up to a half-step lower or higher.

We found small differences in response and sound between the 3D printed copies, but also determined that these qualities are influenced far more by the choice of reeds, and skill of an individual player.

Blind test

We developed various opinions while trying and comparing the instruments and were curious if these would also be apparent if we didn’t know which copy (1 or 2) we were playing. We thereby carried out a short blind test with the asssistance of Ricardo Simian. To our surprise, some biases we had already formed were not always consistently confirmed, although some discrepencies may have been due to varying bocal depth insertion into the instruments.  We will repeat this procedure in further trials, especially with the FT40 copies, which as explained above, remain to be fully compared and documented.

First video demonstrations, with Letizia Viola (Basel)

FT40 Anonymous (11) Fagottino – Original
3D-Print of FT40 Anonymous (11), 1:1
3D-Print of FT40 Anonymous (11), with rounded bore
3D-Print of FT44 Scherer (3) Fagottino, 1:1
3D-Print of FT44 Scherer (3) Fagottino, with rounded bore