I was using my copy of a transcription of the six cello sonatas by Vivaldi this evening when I thought to myself, “I should play this.”

Sad, I know. I shouldn’t be using my precious sheet music for this purpose. But the varnish on my desk doesn’t get along well with the optical mouse. Or vice versa. And besides, the nice 9 x 12 opaque paper that music publishers use makes for an excellent mousing surface.

Anyway, I played through the six sonatas this evening. All six? Well yeah – they’re pretty short if you don’t take all the repeats. And the Schirmer edition is pretty much written to be sightreadable. Easy stuff.

These are nice pieces. For my taste, they’re scored too low for playing on a double bass in orchestral tuning. The piano and the bass sound like mud unless the pianist lays off the pedal and plays real quiet, and the bassist is playing a bit close to the bridge and not sucking too badly. But it’s real nice to have a set of sonatas that one can just pick up and play with a pianist and not have to swap out a set of strings for a solo set, or have to practice like mad just to make it sound halfway decent (like Hindemith or Misek.)

The problem with the Schirmer edition is that, IMHO, the realization of the given bass sucks. Sorry. Check out Christophe Coin’s recording of the six sonatas and compare it to the merde that Schirmer put out and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve got a couple of my own attempts going at the realization for the first sonata that are incomplete, but let’s face it, I’m not going to do much better. Coin’s recording uses an archlute and organ for the continuo in the 6th sonata, which sounds way cool and is a nice change in tambre from the usual harpsichord or piano.

Continuo is a lost art.

The dirty room theory

Fellow double bassist Matt Frisch has a great post on practicing, and it’s worth a read for anyone who is engrossed with instrumental study:

hella frisch: the dirty room theory of practicing

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about practicing, and coming up with bizarre theories and analogies as I often do. I think that practicing is a little like cleaning your room – both tasks never seem to quite get finished, and both can be a bit of a chore, even though we’re much happier after we’ve done them well.

Also, just as the way you clean and organize your room says an enormous amount about you (Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink has a great chapter on this subject!), practicing can be an extension of your personality. In the past, I’ve been the type of person who keeps things in a state of semi-disarray, just messy enough that if someone is coming over I can quickly shove everything into drawers and closets and create an illusion of neatness. I’d like to be more organized – not only is it stressful to have to shove things in drawers all the time (stressful for me, as well as the drawers), but it’s pretty obvious when someone lives this way. You don’t have to poke around much to find the chaos beneath my veneer of order – just ask me for a pair of scissors, or where I put my keys!

Read on…

Back to work

Back to work after almost two weeks of being on vacation ��� moving and a short trip up to the Redwoods for some performances.

The new house is the best part. We finally got DSL up and running today. Actually, Yingwen got the tech support call saying that it was finally fixed. I spent all day yesterday trying to get it to work, but it turns out that the problem was a faulty switch on SBC/Yahoo’s end. They replaced it today and walked Yingwen through the setup before I got home. Not bad! I just transferred her settings to the AirPort base station and life is back to normal.

Up in the Redwoods, we played tons of good music. I first had a chance to read down the Rossini duo for cello and bass, and that went pretty well. We then moved on to the Trout Quintet which was not bad, soon followed by the Dvorak Quintet which turned out to be a train wreck. I need to send these parts out ahead of time… 😉 Finally we wound down with a reading of the Brandenburg 4 and 5 concertos, which was sublime. Stellar musicianship on the part of my colleagues there, especially the first violinist and the pianist. That was the first time I had played any Bach ensemble with a piano instead of a harpsichord, but suprisingly the piano didn’t sound bad at all. I think it sounded fine, and really it shouldn’t matter what instrument is playing the continuo just so long as it can play all the notes and doesn’t sound too quiet or too loud.

And now that we’re all moved and life is back to normal, I’m looking foward to some regular practice again. I’ve been neglecting my scales and études, and want to spend more time working up some solo double bass pieces. I’m considering a heresy too ��� attempting to learn everything with the scortadura where you tune the G string on the bass up to an A, á la Edgar Meyer. I just am getting sick of swapping string sets and tuning up a whole step for solo pieces and then back down for orchestral all the time, and heck since I’m no longer a professional orchestral bassist then that kind of frees me up to do whatever the heck I want right?


We are all moved in to our new pad. Oh my god my legs are tired, my arms are sore, and I am so totally exhausted.

View from my loft.I finally have a dedicated practice room/office space. I have my desk set up, my bass in the corner and the guitar next to it. I’m set up in the loft, technicaly a 3rd floor, and it has a nice view of the Tassajara and Diablo foothills. I can hear the kids having a screaming contest down in the kitchen on the first floor. It’s a nice, distant, faded sound from up here… 😉 This is a great spot to practice ��� nice and quiet, can keep the instruments out at all times, a desk for things like metronomes and rosin, a bookshelf full of my music and books available at arm’s reach, and my computer for writing little practice timer scripts and for blogging about it all. And a nice view for inspiration. I can really get some practicing done here…

The backyard is cute. It is laid down with flagstone and has a nice little pond with goldfish. Not koi mind you – just nice tiny little goldfish. I think the koi would quickly outgrow the size of this pond.

Max has his room all set up now. I put together his bunk bed and Yingwen set up all his shelves and toys. It looks really cool actually ��� the kid has his own damn walk-in closet.

The living room and formal dining area are right there as you walk in the front door. We have the piano set up in the corner and are thinking about a new dining room table set.

Damn, it’s good to be home…