A tour of articulations by the Philharmonia's very own bassoonist Meyrick Alexander.
The bassoon is a double reed instrument like the oboe and the bassoonist creates different articulations by making contact with the tongue against the reed. As air is blown into the instrument, the reeds vibrate. If the player changes fingering whilst blowing this will produce a legato effect - smooth transitions between notes. When the tongue is used to interrupt the vibration of the reed, thus breaking up the sound and creating shorter notes, this is the basis of the many subtle types of articulation that players use.
Notes played without tonguing. Legato means 'smoothly'. Notated by a curved line above or below the notes. The line is called a 'slur' and indicates that the notes should be played legato, which is often called slurred. The first note in a legato group is always tongued.
Literally 'held' - notes are tongued, held for the full length and sometimes given a gentle stress. The notation is a short line above or below the note. The combination of the tenuto line with the staccato dot (below left) suggests either slightly shorter notes or that less stress should be given to each one, a lighter tenuto.
Suddenly loud or a strong accent at the beginning of a note. Notation: sffzp - (Sforzando piano). Although accents and sforzandi are standard for most instruments, on a double reed instrument they produce a particular timbre.
A rolled 'r' tonguing. Not all players can do flutter tonguing. Those that cannot have to 'fake' with a throat flutter that sounds less effective, more of a rumbling sound than a crisp 'rrrrrrrrrrrr'. The film shows flutter-tonguing on the bassoon and contrabassoon