Paul Hanson

Paul Hanson


Because I play bassoon-people always ask me “ how the hell did you go this direction and play electric bassoon?” I mean-how unlikely. Well-because the instrument itself is so acoustically quiet and impossible to play live on a microphone with a rhythm section unless they are extremely quiet on a live gig.  found that when I was getting into doing things different than most conservatory bassoon players (I’m classically trained) -there were some options with pickups such as the FRAP and others out there and performers on wind instruments doing some things. Having the FRAP made it possible for me to be heard with my bassoon and it becomes a completely different instrument with that type of amplification as it doesn’t sound quite like a ‘real bassoon’ as the sound is taken out of the bore instead of a mic outside the instrument. Due to the lack of feedback and awesome even sound-it was natural to start experimenting with effects. I have to admit that I really loved Jimi Hendrix and he was a huge influence. In so many ways the bassoon is like a guitar: it can play bass lines, funky or whatever-and it can play things quickly from low register to high. Due to the bore being relatively narrow-the air it takes to bop around from low to high registers is much more manageable than doing it on tenor or baritone sax. The high ranges of bassoon are very melodic and singing-much like the lead tones of an electric guitar. And-you can create wild sounding feedback type sounds, mulitphonics that sound really cool through overdriven amps. The bassoon naturally makes crazy multiphonics-and you can bend notes on bassoon easier because of the finger holes. So-that’s great.

My philosophy now after all kinds of travails and experimentation is that although I wish I could get that wonderful acoustic bassoon sound live with a group-I go for a very nice mellow sound that’s the best I can do that both fits the music I’m playing and sounds dark, mellow and not buzzy, brash. With effects-I like to step up the energy here and there-maybe I’ll add a doubling effect to kind of be thicker as I build a solo. I love things like delays-short ones that are barely audible but add space to the sound around the instrument. Bassoon was never meant to be heard dry-listen to orchestral bassoon and you hear the reverb as much as the sound of the instrument. My philosophy about effects is different for different bands. Sometimes I want to be able to play chords like a horn section or like a keyboard-so I use the harmonizer. Sometimes I just like that funky MXR Envelope Filter sound. I like to think a bit like a guitar player at times. The worlds a wild world now in music-I love bands like KNOWER or Snarky Puppy, D’Angelo, ThunderCat, MoeTar, all kinds of stuff. I’m going for different things on different gigs. For example-when I play an acoustic-style jazz gig with Jeff Denson-I go for a little delay on  my sound just for a bit of wetness. But some of the tunes have different personalities. If I’m playing more or less straight ahead-I will leave them alone and play as straight sounding as I can. Sometimes one has to turn the effects off-please. Some tunes of Jeff’s set have a bluesy John Scofield type of sound-and man do I love me some of that vibe so I go for a Leslie Speaker rotary vibe sound. Wet and wobbly. Sometimes I need to scream an octave up-I’ve not had a great overdriven sound in awhile but I think I found at least one in this new Helix pedal. Part of what I do is put the bassoon in a modern sound context; playing it mixed with electronics is just creative if done tastefully. I do wish I had my old acoustic duo from about 10 years ago-and I do occasionally play Brazilian Chorro music here and there which is completely acoustic and I love not bringing any gear at all. That’s a wonderful vibe but I like all kinds of variety with my music worlds. 

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Paul Hansonʼs musical journey is a testament of fearless dedication to craft and creativity. Over the last 20 years, Paul has rewritten the rulebook and set new standards for what is possible on this most classical of woodwind instruments. As one reviewer puts it, “But he simply transcends technique to a point where the listener no longer has in mind that itʼs a BASSOON that heʼs playing.” His explorations have transcended limitations and created new possibilities-all while making music of the highest quality. Paulʼs repertoire encompasses musical aspects of all modern styles of improvised music.

From his roots as an award-winning classical bassoonist and jazz saxophonist- Paul has sought to expand the lexicon of the bassoon while creating a unique musical voice. As a jazz/fusion bassoonist: Paul has recorded and/or performed with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Wayne Shorter, Miguel Zenon,  SF Jazz, Peter Erskine, with 6-string bassist in the group OoN, Billy Childs, Harmonica virtuoso Gregorie Maret, Billy Higgins, David Binney, Ray Charles, Charlie Hunter, Patrice Rushen, Alex Acuna, Dennis Chambers, Abraham Laboriel, Medeski Martin & Wood, Bob Weirʼs RATDOG, T. Lavitz from Dixie Dregs, Jeff Coffin, Jeff Sipe, Jonas Hellborg, Afro/Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, Bob Moses, Kai Eckhardt, Peter Apfelbaum and the Hieroglyphics Ensemble, The Paul Dresher Ensemble, DAVKA, St. Joseph Ballet Company, The Klezmorim, as jazz soloist with the Oakland Eastbay Symphony Orchestra, as classical soloist with the Napa Symphony Orchestra (non-improvising) and many more.

As a sax player-Paul has recorded and/or performed with Eddie Money (tenor sax soloist on the 1985 hit song “Take Me Home Tonight”), Boz Scaggs, The Temptations, Tower of Power, Steve Smith, Tom Coster, Randy Jackson, What It Is, Omar Sosa, dobroist Rob Ickes, sessions for Lucas Arts Electronic Games, Sony Music and many more.

In 2008 Paul was invited to create his own role as electric improvising bassoonist in Cirque Du Soleilʼs ZED-a resident show at Tokyo Disney Resort. This unique creation performed 380 shows a year from 2008-2011. Rarely if ever has the bassoon been utilized in such a fashion-to this day Cirque Du Soleil auditions bassoonists for the sole purpose of appearing on ZED in a role Paul helped develop and create. Paul has traveled throughout Europe, Japan and the States. He has appeared as a bassoonist at Carnegie Hall, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Berlin Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, the Ravinia Festival, the Leverkuzen Festival, the INTERLINK festival in Japan, the California Edge Festival 2005 and at the 1999 NAMM show in Nashville.

As a performer/educator- Paul has performed and taught masterclasses at IDRS festivals from Rotterdam to Texas. He has given masterclasses at Ithaca College, Penn State University, Arizona State University, Oklahoma University, University of Wisconsin, Memphis State University, University of Northeaster Oklahoma, University of Arkansas and Portland State University-all specializing in modern performance techniques and improvisation for bassoonists and other classical instrumentalists. Paul has also been bassoon professor at Ithaca College School of Music in 2004. Paul was a featured clinician/performer at the 2013 IDRS Conference in Redlands CA. AWARDS AND EDUCATION Paul was the 1996 Grand Prize winner of JAZZIZ Magazineʼs WOODWINDS ON FIRE award-the first bassoonist ever to win. He also was the winner of the Robert Mondavi Woodwind concerto competition in 1984 in California. Paul was awarded an NEA Jazz Fellowship in 1995. Paul Hanson appears on Bela Fleck and the Flecktones album OUTBOUND which won a Grammy for best contemporary jazz recording of 2000. Paul has a BM in Bassoon Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

To learn more about Paul Hanson, check out these links!

Personal Website
Facebook Page
Patreon Page


"I change my gear quite often, so below are pictures and descriptions of some of the setups ive gone through during the years. The picture to the right is one of my more recent boards. It goes like this: bassoon into Little Jake bassoon pickup that is attached to the neck (bocal) of the bassoon-that leads to a LR Baggs 9V powered preamp on the floor closest to the camera. Then-It goes into the thing on the left-a Avalon U5 direct box. Then-into the main unit that you will see in a lot of pictures because I’ve been using it since about 2012. That would be the thing with the blue light-the TC Helicon Voice Live 2. THen-I have it sent to the Boomerang Looper." 

"Here at another show (picture below) I added an EHX POG2 pedal that goes before the TC Voice Live and I normally just don’t bother with taking the Avalon. I don’t have a roadie so I hate bringing too much. You can’t see it but I also have a MXR Bass Envelope Filter-I love that unit." 

Here I talk about gear. This shot (below to the right) features a lot of instruments I play. I'll go from left to right.

Yamaha Soprano Saxophone (won it in 1995 from JAZZIZ Magazine). I use a Bari rubber soprano sax mouthpiece with Rico Royal 3 reeds. Selmer Mark VI Tenor Saxophone (serial numbers around 64,000). I play a Vandoren metal mouthpiece that's somewhat open with Vandoren Jazz reeds strength 3. Selmer Mark VI Alto Saxophone. I use a brass Lawton mouthpiece that's medium open with Rico Royal 3s. There's a bunch of stuff in this rack that's not mine. My Studio Vocalist harmonizer is dead-I just purchased a Digitech IPS 33 which is older and sounds better but does less harmonies-that's fine! My beautiful Moosmann 200AP bassoon. I use Legere Reeds Bassoon Reeds and I am proud to be a Moosmann bassoon artist. I currently use Leitzinger bocals-I alternate between the gold-plated one for ease of playing in loud and high passages and the silver bocal for more of a classical sound.  I also have a Yamaha WX5 instead of an Akai EWI. I use Logic 9 sounds and I am starting to get into other sound samplers such as Kontakt and Komplete. 


In terms of pedals-I have had a lot of them. I currently am really liking the ZOOM B2.1u a lot because it's small and does a lot of things. However-you have to hoop through programs to get to where your sounds are. I also have the Line 6 M13 which is very nice too. In the past few years I've been using theTC Helicon Voice Live 2. I really love this unit(below center). It actually does intelligent pitch-shifting!! In the recent weeks, I have upgraded to a Line 6 Helix LT (below left) which I am incredibly excited about!"

In the last few years-great strides in bassoon pickup microphones have been made. Most notably at the top of the list is Trent Jacob's Little Jake Pickup microphone. Here's a shot of it on my bassoon (below, right). I have been using it on tour since March and it is really great. I never thought I'd ever stop using my FRAPs but I have." 


"This very briefly shows my FRAP pickup that I used for 23 years. Also it shows that custom made FRAP preamp. And some old effects. The sound track is a recording called “Inner Openings” on my first album “The Last Romantics” and it is bassoon (with FRAP pickup) going through an Digitech IPS 33 harmonizer and some great delays and verbs at OTR Studios in Belmont CA." 

"In this video, I loop and use the MXR Bass Envelope filter a lot"

"This is a solo bassoon show video compilation from University of Florida a few years back. I’m not doing any live looping-I have some bass lines or other minimal parts in an Infinity Looper and I plan my tunes with that in mind. I really admire serious hardcore loopers like Jacob Collier but I’m not there yet."

"Another cool video mainly for the introduction and the production values of the concert-from Paris a few years ago. With oboist/bassist Jean-Luc Fillon. I’m using the TC Helicon Voice Live 2 and the Boomerang Pedal"

Instructional Videos

Here’s a 5 year old instructional video of an old setup utilizing looping of hocket delay. It’s pretty basic to me. The great thing about the TC Helicon is what I can do with intelligent pitch shifting. That’s the one thing I wish I had in the Line 6 but I can live without it at times until I can get a roadie setting up my gear again. What I do for harmonies has nothing to do with any of the presets or harmony algorithms. I plainly do this: I go to a harmony setting that features the ‘custom’ harmony setting and I erase it and from scratch write my own harmonization of a chromatic scale (4 extra notes per each note-I get to go anywhere within 2 octaves above and 2 octaves below the note I play) and save it. Then I do it again about 20 times and save each as user presets. Think of a pianist comping or reharmonizing a melody. That’s what I do to a chromatic scale and I do it differently for each setting and save each setting. 

For more of Pauls Instructional Youtube videos, check out his channel!