Repair and Restoration Studio
Given the popular terse definition for the contrabassoon, as comparing it to the bassoon; the contra in depth is in fact quite a different instrument, both mechanically and acoustically.
The increased size of both the wood and metal components and their relationship to each other are more subject to effects of expansion and contraction relative to humidity. Added to this is the weight distribution in the playing position and the compression and expansion of mechanisms on the front and back of the bassoon. These variables become a challenge in regulating the contra to maintain it's stability throughout the seasons for it's playing lifespan. There are 11 joints including the U-bends, semi-permanently assembled making inspecting and maintaining the contra often a total mystery. The integrity of all these joints is paramount to the performance of a contrabassoon, both mechanically and sonically. Viable contrabassoons are often older than their bassoon counterparts and are subject to all the vagaries of their additional age and circumstance.
The contra has no boot joint with it's intricate tone hole geometry that's critical in creating the bassoon's complex harmonic structure. The contra's tone holes beyond the wing joint, are regular and perpendicular to the bore with short chimneys, making the contra far more bore-dependent and linear in acoustic nature. This alone is one of the redeeming advantages of contra design that allows this instrument it's longevity of use.
Contra "Bundle of Sticks"
(click here to visit the contra repair shop)
Fox contra with some surprise repairs
(click here for another day in the contra shop)