The contrabassoon is a double-reeded woodwind aerophone instrument and a relation of the more common bassoon and double bassoon. The contrabassoon is an octave lower than a bassoon and has a reed that is approximately 10mm longer. It also has a tuning slide. The contrabassoon is a very large instrument that plays in a range similar to a contrabass and a tuba.
History of the Contrabassoon
The history of the very large contrabassoon, sometimes referred to as double bassoon, begins in the 1780s. Vienna-based instrument maker Theodor Lotz was an inventor responsible for the basset horn and developments of the clarinet, but he also helped to realise the very first designs for a contrabassoon in the early 1780s. Lotz would play his own instrument in debut composition performances by Mozart. This early contrabassoon was further developed and featured in other performances of works by Haydn and Beethoven’s 5th and 9th symphonies in the 18th century. It could reach contrabass D or C with some extendable tubing to reach Bb. At the time this was beyond what most low instruments could accomplish. Despite its relative popularity during the 17th and 18th century, the contrabassoon peaked during this era and subsequently was replaced by the bassoon and other instruments in the contrabass range. The contrabassoon has very few parts written specifically for it in pieces from the 19th century onwards but has nowadays found a place in chamber music and contemporary classical music.
Inventor: Theodor Lotz

Where to Buy

$10,000 - $30,000

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How to Play

A large, double-reed woodwind instrument with a deep, rich tone, played in a similar way to a bassoon.

In Popular Music

The contrabassoon is rarely featured in pop songs recordings but it has featured on recordings and performances of ‘The Rite Of Spring’ by world-renowned Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It is also prominently included in ‘The Planets’ by Gustav Holst, particularly in the movement of ‘Mars, the bringer of War’. The contrabassoon has a part in ‘Symphony No 8’ by Gustav Mahler.

Famous Players

Gustavo Núñez, Milan Turković, Pascal Gallois

Close Relations

Bassoon, Double Bassoon
Video Credit: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Understanding the Contrabassoon




19th century






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