The position of the seat strap for a bassoon player seems like a small thing when compared to playing the bassoon as a whole but improper seat strap position can make things more difficult than they need to be. From the very beginning, it is possible to have bassoon players that create a characteristic sound but only when there is a removal of unneeded tension. The seat strap is an easy place to start.
Proper seat strap placement is as close to the front of the chair as possible (as seen below). If the student is shorter and not able to have the seat strap that forward without it sliding, try the second option where the right hand (hook) side of the seat strap is forward and the rest of the strap is diagonal towards the left back side. The bassoon needs to be as vertical as it can be to find the best balance point for the weight of the instrument.
The goal is to create as much space between the student and the bassoon as possible. I try to think of first position in ballet, core muscles are supporting the upper body rather than the shoulders attempting to hold the upper body up. This also starts to promote a fuller, deeper breath and a push from the stomach area versus the shoulders attempting to push the air.
Ways you can see if a student has their seat strap in the correct position is by looking at their right shoulder. If it is pulled back and lifted the seat strap needs to be moved forward. Also if the student is bending forward at the waist, looking like they are at the starting line of a race, the seat strap is pulled too far back.
The seat strap towards the back of the chair also creates a balance point for the weight of the instrument on the left hand, while the balance point should be on the right thigh. The ultimate goal is that the student is sitting in a natural, comfortable and supportive posture. Not creating tension in the right shoulder because that will always create unneeded tension in the lips. That is really what we are trying to avoid, tension up and down on the reed. Proper seat strap position is the first step to an open and round sound. As I always tell my students, if you want an open sound all of your body has to be as relaxed and open as you can, while still properly supporting your air. That is the only way the reed will fully vibrate! Proper seat strap position should be addressed as early as possible with beginners and reinforced daily! It seems like a small adjustment but I promise it will create some dramatic changes in the quality and pitch level of your student’s sound.
Dr. Sara McCallum Addams is an active educator, performer and reed maker in the Dallas Fort Worth area. She is the current adjunct professor of bassoon and double reed methods at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. McCallum Addams is also the bassoon private lesson instructor for Coppell ISD, where all 40 students playing bassoon in the district are enrolled in private lessons. As a freelance musician Dr. McCallum Addams plays an active role in the thriving musical community in the Dallas Fort Worth area, having performed with regional orchestras, musical theatre companies as well as several chamber groups.
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