Comments on practicing a passage in the fifth movement at numbers 63 and 64. By Terry B. Ewell. Bassoon Digital Professor #97.

<music: Berlioz, Symphony Fantastique, movement 5>

Well, welcome. This is Terry Ewell and this is just a little bit of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, fifth movement, after number 63. The tonguing pattern I use for this, in the first pattern, you probably would call a triple tongue. “T K T T, T K T T.” So I use that right after 63.


For the pattern before number 64 with the six sixteenths, I use the straight double tongue, “T K T K T,” for that passage.

I work for clarity with the tonguing. Understand that this is played with three other bassoonists, so it is important that you play as an ensemble. Listen carefully. It is only marked mezzo forte so you don’t need to play this loudly. You do need to concentrate on playing this together with the rest of the ensemble. It is important when you practice this that you keep it under control.

Some ways to practice and consider practicing this are to separate the tonguing from the finger pattern. You can practice the tonguing pattern by itself on a single note.


Get good control over the tonguing. Then you need to practice the fingers separately with these arpeggiated figures. I suggest you use some different rhythms.


Practice those. Make sure it is all very even and under control. When you have control of the fingers and the tongue you can put it together and work on this excerpt. God bless you. Bye.

Let me conclude with a few more comments on this passage in the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. You will notice that this not a solo passage. It is performed in this part by bassoon 1 and 3. It says here “a. 2” which means both instruments play. Moreover, not only do bassoons 1 and 3 play but also bassoons 2 and 4.  So you have four bassoons playing this passage together. It is important when playing together that you listen very carefully to the partner to your left and right. The first bassoonist in some ways really can’t lead the whole section, because only the second bassoonist can hear what the first bassoonist is doing. By the time you get further down the line to the third and fourth bassoonist, you are relying on the partner to your right to help you gage the tempo. It is very important that you not rush or slow down and that you listen attentively to the bassoonist to either side of you so that you all play together as a section.

This is not the only part in the Symphonie Fantastique where the full bassoon section, all four bassoons, is featured together. In the fourth movement there is a solo here with all four bassoons starting on E flat 4. And later at number 52 there is another very prominent solo for the four bassoons playing again as one unit. So playing in an ensemble you need to master you part individually, but then you need to very carefully listen to those around you so that you can play exactly together. Thank you. I hope that this video has been very helpful to you. Bye.