The fascination of the bassoon’s sound lies in two qualities:
On the one hand, it achieves a good blend with most of the other instruments in the orchestra, as does the horn; This capability to blend with the sound of other instruments allows the bassoon to merge with the overall sound of the orchestra as an unobtrusive bass voice.
On the other hand, the bassoon’s sound is also clearly defined and therefore suitable for thematic and solo tasks.
Bassoon and woodwinds
Bassoon + bassoon, contrabassoon
Produce a homogeneous, full-sounding and sonorous overall sound. In the orchestra of the Classical era it had become customary to use two bassoons which functioned purely as bass instruments. The bassoon retained this function in later styles, too, although it was increasingly entrusted with melodic tasks as well. Since the Romantic era a contrabassoon has been added to reinforce the sound an octave deeper and thus compensate for the increased volume of the larger orchestra.
Bassoon + flute
Produce an interesting combination. The flute often plays one or two octaves above the bassoon, but the two instruments can also play in unison in the flute’s low register.
Bassoon + oboe
In the woodwind group the oboe often plays an octave above the bassoon. Although the resulting sound is powerful and the instruments are related due to the double reed, no tonal blend is achieved. The bassoon is dominated by the more incisive and reedy sound of the oboe. The combination with the deep oboes, on the other hand – the English horn and the Heckelphone – is very homogeneous.
Bassoon + clarinet
When the bassoon plays in unison with the high woodwinds in their low registers, the sound is always dominated by the latter. With the clarinet playing an octave higher a mellow, substantial sound results. The mellow sound of the bass clarinet supports the bassoon in bass tasks in unison, in chords or an octave lower.
Bassoon and brass instruments
Bassoon + horn
The bassoon and the horn, which both possess an extremely mellow and full sound as solo instruments, produce an impressive volume when played in unison, which is particularly effective in tutti passages.
The two instruments also produce a homogeneous blend in chords.
Bassoon + trombone, tuba
The bassoon takes the edge off the trombone’s metallic timbre, making it more mellow, but is dominated by the trombones. The combination with trombones an octave above and tubas in unison or an octave below produces a mighty bass voice which is used especially to provide a solid bass foundation in passages scored for many instruments.
Bassoon and strings
In combination with the strings exceptionally velvety and voluminous blends are produced in which either the bassoon (or other woodwinds) or the strings can dominate, depending on the dynamic levels. The bassoon's staccato combines very well the strings' pizzicato.
Bassoon + cello
Combine to produce a powerful, mellow and sonorous overall sound in unison. Supported by the double-bass an octave below this is the standard combination for bass tasks.
Bassoon + double-bass
Full-sounding bass blend either in unison or with the bassoon an octave above. Staccato notes reinforce the double-bass’s pizzicato, legato notes “prolong” the pizzicato’s sustain.