COVID-19 update: We have made the difficult decision to cancel or postpone all Philharmonia Orchestra concerts and performances up to 18 April 2020.
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The contrabassoon, or double bassoon, is an ungainly double-long bassoon playing an octave lower, which is very long and low indeed.


Instrument: Contrabassoon

In this film, Luke Whitehead introduces his instrument - the contrabassoon.

Principal Contrabassoon’s Chair Endowed by David and Penny Stern

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To accommodate all that length, the bore doubles back twice on itself like a paper clip in contrast to the bassoon’s hairpin shape. The reeds, too, are thicker and heavier, and the fingering is different. The contrabassoon’s lowest notes are the lowest of the orchestra, and the instrument’s deep profound buzz was thought suitable only for reinforcement of bass lines until modern composers were able to find delight in the contrabassoon’s strangeness. This is another of the instruments Beethoven introduced into symphonic repertory with his Fifth Symphony.

Frequency Range

29-220 Hz

Tube Length

550 cm

Why not download our iPad app, ‘The Orchestra’, to learn even more?

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Did you know?

Contrabassoon-type instruments have been known since the 17th century, however they were little used in orchestras until the late 19th century when Wilhelm Heckel developed the type in use today.