Fast System Contrabassoon

 Roberts Elizabeth contrabassooncheck
Elizabeth (Ibby) Roberts checks on the progress of her new Fast System contrabassoon while it is being made.

Introduced in 2001, the Fast System is a development of the contrabassoon conceived by Arlen Fast, contrabassoonist of the New York Philharmonic, and developed together with Chip Owen of Fox Products Corp.

Fast System contrabassoons are sold only through Arlen Fast. Persons interested in purchasing a Fast System Contrabassoon should contact Arlen Fast for pricing and additional details.

The Fast System is a development of the register vent holes on the mouthpipe of the instrument. In conventional contrabassoons these register vents are severely compromised. This is the source of many of the problems that have plagued contrabassoonists for over a century. The Fast System eliminates these problems. The design proved so successful that it increased the range of the instrument by an additional octave.

Arlen’s design for these vents focused on providing the instrument with register vents that are properly positioned and sized so that the notes depending on them play correctly. That is the heart and soul of the system. Chip’s contribution was to design the automatic mechanisms needed to use the additional register vents without the player having to contend with a proliferation of new keys.

A register vent ideally located for a note will allow the fundamental fingering to also play the octave clearly and in tune. When a register vent must serve additional notes, its location is no longer ideal for any of them. Then, as the number of notes increases the position of the register vent becomes increasingly compromised and less effective. The clarity and intonation of the notes using it are degraded. The familiar problems with a conventional contrabassoon indicate that the register vents are overly compromised.

Arlen Fast’s concept for a new register vent system effectively eliminated the excessive compromise. Five register vents are used, each located and sized to service only three pitches. Starting from their theoretical positions, each vent was adjusted in size and location to achieve the best results.

Automatic mechanisms were an obvious necessity to avoid needing five keys to play what formerly required only two keys. In the end only one additional key would be required. The new key is referred to as the “D-Vent” as it serves D(, D) and D'. The familiar upper and lower vent keys each control two register vents, only one of which is allowed to open when the key is depressed. Automatic mechanisms determine which of the two vents will open according to the fingering being used.
As part of the process to improve the qualities of certain notes an additional mechanism is always included with the Fast System. The Divorced Low E Mechanism makes corrections to notes that are not directly affected by the register vents. It functions by replacing the connection between the lower vent key and the low E key with a new connection between the right hand third finger G key and the low E key. Additional information about this mechanism can be obtained by downloading “The Divorced Low E Mechanism for Fox Contrabassoon.”

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