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I have six extra keys on my Fox 601 Bassoon that are very useful in giving me additional fingering and trill possibilities.
Little Finger Whisper Key: This key is placed under the Db left little finger key. It is one of the most useful keys I have on my bassoon. It frees up your left thumb on passages like the opening of the Marriage of Figaro Overture. It is also very useful in slurring down to notes not involving the Eb or Db keys, for example, a slur from low F to low C and back. This was the way the whisper key was positioned on the French bassoon, so it is sometimes called a “French” whisper key.
Right-Hand E-Flat Trill Key With Alternate C# Position: The E-flat trill key is very popular on European instruments. It is usually placed between the second and third fingers of the left hand. This gives you a very good D to E-flat trill. You can do the same trill by trilling the thumb C# key. If the E-flat trill is placed on the top of the boot joint (right-hand E-flat trill) it gives you the following trills: D to E-flat, C to D, and C# to D in both octaves. If you have this key, it also moves the position of the C# trill key down so it can be used by the second finger's right hand. This makes the high G to A trill much easier if using both the G key and C# trill.
Articulated A-Flat to B-Flat Trill Key: The installation of this key involves making a post connection between the right-hand third finger “G” key and the thumb B-flat key so that when the G key is depressed, it closes the Bb key. The B-flat key is sprung differently than normal in that the thumb B-flat key mechanism has two springs, a heavy one on the thumb key to close the pad and a much lighter one on the pad that functions to open the pad when the B-flat key is depressed. There are no additional tone holes bored into the bore with this mechanism, but it needs to be well taken care of to function properly. If the B-flat pad becomes sticky, it may not open when the B-flat key is depressed. This key gives you the following trills and tremolos: F to B-flat, F# to B-flat, G to B-flat, and A-flat to B-flat in both octaves.
I strongly suggest that if you consider adding this key to a new or present bassoon, you get it with a clutch mechanism that disengages the key when it is not needed. Normal fingerings that involve both the right thumb B-flat key and the right third finger (G) key will not function with this mechanism engaged. You also should consider getting extra guards for this key to keep any clothing from touching the Bb key and keep it from opening. The normal thumb A-flat to B-flat trill key gives you a good Ab/Bb trill in three octaves but not the additional tremolos mentioned above. This key involves drilling a secondary tone hole in the boot joint, and the adjustment of the key is also fairly critical for the bassoon to function properly.
Hi G#/A Ring Key: This mechanism allows you to finger high G# and A using the F key instead of the usual G key. This lets you avoid the cross-fingering in scale passages from G to A /A-flat to B-flat/B natural and also gives you the following in-tune trills: G to A-flat and A to B-flat.
Alternate Low C# Key or Low C# to D# Trill Key: Measure 74 of the first movement in Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is a low C# to D# trill. This is an impossible trill on the bassoon unless the bassoon is equipped with a C# to D# trill key, a mechanism that opens the low C# key and closes the low C key so you can make the trill by opening the low D# key. This key is available in two ways. The C# touch can be soldered directly to the C# rod or there can be a separate key that opens the C# key and closes the C key when depressed. I recommend the latter. This trill can also be achieved with an articulated C#/D# mechanism that is a single key for the left-hand little finger that opens the E-flat key unless the low C key is depressed, which then opens the low C# key and closes the D# key. The disadvantage of the articulated C#/D# is that you can not use the C# key on low E and middle G. If you depress the single key, the D# key will open with these notes. If your bassoon has a Little Finger Whisper Key installed on it, you can slur down to low C# using this key without the whisper key coming up.
High F key With Double High E Key: I have this option on my newest bassoon. It does give you an easier way to play high F, and I have used it when playing the Bernstein “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.” I do not like the double high E option that adds an additional spatula over the high Eb key because the key gets in the way when I use the high Eb key for F (above middle C) to G trills. I have had an additional high E key made that does not have this extra spatula, and I use that on my bassoon.
Cork Tenons: Fox sells its bassoons with string-wrapped tenons. I usually get my tenons wrapped in cork. I have been told that cork tenons offer more resonance than string-wrapped tenons. String does offer more structural support than cork and can be adjusted by adding or removing the string. You can only sand cork if tight or add a string on top of it if the tenons become loose.
Rotary Whisper Key Lock: The standard lock on a Fox Pro Bassoon is the Pro Type II “Slide” Lock. I find the Type III Rotary Lock easier to use and quieter. There is no cost difference for switching locks.
C# Trill Guard: I don’t use a crutch on my bassoon; instead, I have the C# trill guard installed over the C# trill key on the boot joint and rest my right forefinger on it when playing.
Bell Choice: I prefer the white bell ring, but that choice is up to the individual. My newest bassoons have a gold-plated metal ring on the bell.
Wood Choice: Most Fox professional horns are made of Yugoslavian Mountain Maple. I recommend this wood. Black, Big Leaf, and Red Maple are the other choices for a 601. Fox has recently been making more pro horns in Red Maple that seem to increase the fundamental sound of the bassoon.
601 vs. 660: The 660 is pitched slightly higher, A-442 than the 601 at A-440.
Two Piece Bass Joint: This option is getting much more popular now that airlines are getting pickier about the size of carry-on luggage they allow on planes. This option actually helps the action of the low B and Bb keys; the only drawback is that there is almost no space inside the case for reeds, tools, and accessories. This is the only option that I know of that is actually less expensive now than when it was first introduced.
Extra Rollers: I usually order rollers on my right thumb Bb and F# keys. This is because I find it is easier to slide between the low E key and these two keys with a roller than without. This is from experience. Double rollers here will just increase the distance between these two keys and are not recommended. I ordered a right-hand little finger F# wide roller on my last bassoon and found it to be a useless option. When thinking about rollers, remember this fact: Adding rollers increases the extraneous noise of your bassoon exponentially with the number of rollers you add.
Plating: My last three Fox Bassoons have been gold-plated. This sounds very expensive, but the amount of gold used is very little, and the cost is less that $1000. Gold plating is a bit “slipperier” than standard silver plating. Gold-plated keys are silver-plated first. Nickel plating is much harder to replate if it wears through. The keys have to be totally stripped of their remaining nickel plating before they can be replated. My experience with nickel plating has also included skin reactions with the plating when it wears out. Silver plating is standard on Fox pro horns. It lasts a very long time, and if the plating does wear through, it is very easy to replate with silver.