Mudcat Café message #3217363 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #134838   Message #3217363
Posted By: GUEST,josepp
02-Sep-11 - 08:21 PM
Thread Name: Bought a double bass today
Subject: RE: Bought a double bass today
Haven't posted on this thread in a while. I have changed the strings and bought D'Addario medium tension hybrid steel strings. Hybrid means they take well to both plucking and bowing. Ordered them from Lemur Music online. My instructor says to get used to ordering from them because we'll be doing a lot of business--Lemur and I. He changed the strings for me and loved them and said he's thinking about re-stringing his main bass and just might buy a set. They're $117 and with shipping total out to about $126 or something.

I'm looking to order a double bass mic/pickup from Lemur but haven't quite made up my mind what I want.

I'm learning swing jazz pieces like Woodchopper's Ball and Chattanooga Choo-Choo which are great fun and very valuable for learning to swing the notes written on the paper. My plucking is pretty good and my slapping is coming along. I can double- and triple-slap a standard bass shuffle riff. It feels funny to slap that bass line and hear how cool it sounds and never thinking I'd ever be able to do that. Tremendous amount of practice though.

Bowing, on the other hand, is just fucking tough as hell. My instructor says it's like playing under a magnifying glass--everything you can dash off pizzicato is magnified in difficulty 100-fold in arco. Pizzicato is forgiving but arco is ruthless. If you don't play it right, there's no getting around it. It not only sounds bad, it sounds utterly Shitty (note the upper case). Draw your hand back a little too soon or late and everybody hears it. Have a moment of uncertainly and the bow bounces on the string and sounds so amateur that it's depressing. You can mess up your fingering to a degree in pizzicato and get away with it. You cannot mess up in arco because you will NEVER get away with it. The bow throws even the tiniest mistakes right back in your face every single time. No let up.

I'm learning advanced bowing from a Fred Zimmerman book that takes every stroke apart and shows you how it works. It completely disassembles the strokes in a piece of classical music and lays them out in painstaking order and you have to learn them by heart.

My instructor's instructor was a Zimmerman student named Bill Gladstone who was the principal bassist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for over 30 years. "He was like a Zen master of the bass," my instructor said. He recalled once that he was in an orchestra playing a Copeland piece for Gladstone and some conductors who had come to listen. My instructor has a bass solo that consisted of nothing but the low E. So he's stroking away at the E when Gladstone yells for silence. Then he says, "Gimme that bass!!" and my instructor timidly handed it over. Then Gladstone signaled to the orchestra to start from the top and when he played the bass solo, my instructor said it sounded totally different even though it was nothing but the low E. "It boomed and boomed and filled the whole room with sound!" he said. "He was barely moving his arm and yet the bass was roaring to the rafters! I realized how weak my game was and what it was Copeland was trying to do with that bass line. I felt like a total flunkie but I realized how you have to play that instrument if you want to be any good. So make that bow grip that string!"

It's a huge challenge but I'm really enjoying it.