8 Pieces of advice for bassoon players from Gustavo Núñez
We all need to find inspiration and motivation when learning how to play an instrument. The pressure and stress can be tough to deal with, but hey just keep in mind that everyone has been there and it takes perseverance and hard work to overcome all the obstacles. This is why we think it’s always a great idea to read and learn from the experiences of others. Some say that the bassoon is on the way to “being extinct”, but here at Play with a Pro, we want to give as much support as possible to all already established or future bassoon players.
We proudly present our interview with world renowned bassoon player and teacher Gustavo Nüñez. To be honest, he is a tough teacher who puts a lot of dedication and passion when working with his students. His constructive criticism is one of his trademarks when it comes to motivating and inspiring students. Not convinced? Then have a look at his masterclasses here and get inspired
You can also watch the FREE video with the full interview here
1. What do you advise your students to do in terms of practicing?
I advise them not to play too long. Just concentrate, if you have a long passage, a big arpeggio which is very complicated, take 4 or 5 notes and practice them. Always the metronome is your best friend and your worse enemy, but it’s the only thing that will keep you playing in time and keep the rhythm. I learned how to do that when I was 19, so I think the sooner you try this advice, the better.
2. Do you advise your students to imitate or to find their own sound?
I think the begining is a process of imitation, like a child, a child will always imitate their parents. Then of course everyone develops in a different way, because we are all different, we all have different teeth, lips, tongue and lungs, so we all sound different. You can have the same instrument, but at the end of the day we all sound different.
“You can have the same instrument, but at the end of the day we all sound different.”
3. What do you think has changed in the last 20-30 years in bassoon playing?
I think the playing has become very technical. I see boys of 14, 15, 16 years old and they can play so many notes. I am amazed sometimes. I couldn’t do that when I was that age, I was thinking about girls and football. I see very often people when they have an audition, they all play very clean and have very good technique. I miss nevertheless, very often the warm senses of music making, the feelings, the ecstasy of music making, that emotion the music produces. There are many young musicians who make you laugh when play because they make you happy, because they are so good, but there are just a few who make you cry because they play so beautifully. And that’s the most important thing.
“...there are just a few who make you cry because they play so beautifully.”
4. What do you look for in a bassoon?
There are so many bassoon makers at the moment and they all have their qualities. I try to find the right sound that makes me happy, because intonation is anyway in your head, you can do many things to play in tune. But the sound, if you are not happy with the sound you produce then you will not be a happy musician. If I was to choose an instrument, I would start in the low register. So, if the low register is in tune then you probably have an instrument with a good resonance. So the first thing is that I try to find out if the instrument reacts well in the low register especially the d. If the d sounds good then this is probably a good bassoon. Then you go up to the middle register and to the tenor register and try to find the mistakes, that’s easier. It doesn’t matter the name of the maker once you are happy with the bassoon.
“It doesn’t matter the name of the maker once you are happy with the bassoon.”
5. What makes a good musician?
I think we musicians are in the service of music. You should never use the music to make a profile of yourself or make yourself important. Good musicians are the ones who play the piece in the best possible way, respecting what the composer wrote, respecting the text and the style of the composer. And always try to be in service of the art. Of course there is a lot of emotion in the playing, that’s necessary too, but when the emotion goes that far that you don’t recognize any of the composition and you hear more an extravagant interpretation, then that goes too far.
“I think we musicians are in the service of music.”
6. How can students who don’t have access to teachers keep on improving their playing?
That is very difficult because you are so far away from the musical world. The young players need a stimulus. We are lucky now that we have the internet and there are so many possibilities to get either the music or contact teachers. I would try to look as much as possible around, listen to a lot of recordings, try to get as much material as possible.
7. What is a good orchestra player?
Playing in an orchestra is going with the intonation of your colleagues, with the rhythm of your colleagues, the dynamic of your colleagues, going with them and them going with you. It’s giving and taking and most of the time is more giving than taking. You have to go with the flow.
8. How do you deal with nerves?
The more you practice things, the safer you feel because you know you can play it. If you don’t practice things, then you don’t know what you are going to do. So better prepared you are, the easier it gets, but you are always nervous. It’s an emotion that you need to be able to perform. There are people who say that they don’t get nervous, but I don’t believe it. I think they do feel nervous, but it’s what I call, the emotion, it’s a very strong feeling. There are some days when the emotion is so strong that you don’t want to do it and you ask yourself why am i doing this? And then you walk with very heavy feet, but then again it’s a performance, you smile, you come out. At the end of the day we are musicians because love playing and we love the audience. Afterwards, you always think that it wasn’t that bad and I’ll do it again and then next time I would think again why am I doing this. It’s part of the game.
Thank you for reading and keep on spreading the word about how wonderful the bassoon is.
P.S. In case you have problems with your reeds, Gustavo Nüñez, comes to the rescue with some tips and tricks. You can watch Nüñez’s Free full video on reeds here.