Tag Archives: contrabass

The Importance of Mentor

Finding the right mentor is more important than anything else. This quote struck me as a perfect example of the mentor-disciple relationship:

Confronted with a sudden, near-lethal dose of humility, my mind hatched an insane plan. Acting with cleverness and boldness unmatched before or since, I started looking for Wil Shipley. When I finally found him, I blurted out: ���I want to work for you, with no pay, for one year.��� When I got back to Seattle, I sold my condo, gave away most of my things, and moved into Wil’s basement.

For certain disciplines, teacher is everything. Sure you can learn programming and do it well on your own with a solid curriculum of books, dedication, and a few classes. But having an iconic mentor to guide you through and provide answers to your most vexing questions on demand is a huge boost. The same goes for music study: You can go far with private lessons and lots of practice, but having the right teacher makes a big difference when you look at the statistics. Jason Heath states:

Music performance degrees are completely superfluous to your pursuit of a music performance career.

Check out his post on this for the numbers. It is an interesting statistical analysis – the four double bass teachers clearly show a strong track record for who gets hired in modern orchestra bass sections.

I say if you want to do something with your life and are willing to make a life-changing and risky change in your life to pursue that goal, then stop being such a chicken and go for it.

C is for C-Extension

Upton C ExtensionGood friend and luthier Gary Upton has finally begun offering a C extension over at Upton Bass. These extensions are different from ones I’ve seen in the past, and look like they might be a compelling option. Gary described to me that the piece is made out of english sycamore (what americans call maple) and best grade ebony. He also states that he plans to create a very lightweight version that is just sycamore and no ebony cap.

One thing I can see from the photos is that the conduit for the string manages to avoid drilling a hole through the scroll. That’s a nice feature. The unit appears to do a good job of having a minimal impact on your scroll.

A few years ago I helped Gary develop and design the current state of uptonbass.com, and I’m glad to see it has expanded greatly. I am very excited to see a venture into the low C world for this shop. Maybe I’ll have to send my bass out there for an upgrade!

People think they are funny.

In Basses, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Part 2 – Trains, Jason writes:

People think that they are very funny — One of the most annoying things about carrying a bass around town is having grown people gape at you, slack-jawed like drugged cattle, as you struggle to get from point A to point B. You know how cattle all slowly turn their heads and stare at you as you walk past them on a country road? That’s just what your fellow commuters do.

After staring for a while, a light bulb goes off in the back of their commuter minds.

“Hey,” they think. ” should make a humorous remark directed toward that person carrying that strange thing! What a great idea!”

They close their gaping mouths, wet their lips, and blurt,

“Did’ja ever think of playing the piccolo? Haw haw haw haw haw haw haw haw!”

this so reminds me of riding the T to gigs back in Boston. My favorite moment was when a fellow bassist and I were riding back on the Green Line from a rehearsal with our basses on one of those tiny little cars, and we received this exact same comment about how we should have picked the flute. Because the face on my friend after that one was priceless – looked like he just took a sip of 2 day old Pabst Blue Ribbon where someone dropped their coals in. I laughed out loud and our stand-up comic erroneously thought she was hilarious.

Penguin suitSome others I’ve heard whilst dragging my bass through the snow:

  • Is that a body in there?
  • Is that your canoe?
  • That’s a big cello/guitar/whatever!
  • How do you get that in your car/a taxi/on the train?

Every single time. Like clockwork. Try it. Walk down a busy street with a double bass in a case and see what you get. You will be running home frantically searching for the Absolut in no-time.

I get the same sorts of inane chatter from having a homophonically similar famous boxing legend.

Some things for the future

Well, so far this year has been tough at best, so it is time to look forward.

As I sit here suffering a thankfully rare but severe reaction to gluten that will undoubtedly keep me awake the rest of this evening, I am contemplating what things I need to do to get life looking up again:

  • First of all, I think the basics are covered. I’m getting excellent grades in my masters program, and I’m exercising regularly. We bought a recumbent exercise cycle and I found that a laptop perched on my nice wooden music stand allows us to use the computer while we pedal. Watching DVDs, doing homework, reading papers, surfing the web, or listening to podcasts all make it very productive time, which was the main reason why I wasn’t exercising before. I have found the auto-scroll feature in Acrobat Reader to be particularly handy for reading while exercising. But I certainly could be eating a bit more healthy – less chips and beer, more fruit and wild rice.
  • I decided finally that, given my career as a web geek, playing ensemble with my double bass just isn’t going to happen anymore. I don’t have time. I will never have time. I might have time for a few people to come over and jam on Dvorak and Schubert, but the reality is that I know very few good string players out here in the burbs. However, what I do have time for is practice – late nights, weekends, whenever I can get a few minutes. The whole reason I got into the double bass in the first place was to play solo music, so it’s time to get back to my roots and string that thing up with some solo gauge Thomastiks. Heck, this is how Yingwen and I hooked up in the first place: She was a pianist that played the double bass; I was a bassist in need of a good and willing accompanist; one late night rehearsal after another and… 😉
  • I will never apologize for not blogging, but I do intend to write more. And by the way, I am sick of being hosted on a non-PHP5 server. Looking for new digs for this site. And I really should start learning Ruby.
  • “But what about Ajax?” I can hear some of you saying… Well it is true that every single damn job posting out there these days asks for someone who is god of Ajax and all things server-side. Great – you know, I read Jeremy Keith’s book on DOM Scripting, played around with some of the frameworks, and for whatever reason I’m still not digging it. There are too many hacks, failovers, workarounds, and the rest of it for me to fall in love with this language. In most cases when I come across a deep and serious problem in my web team with an application, it is because of an over-reliance on Javascript. So I’ve decided to keep it in the utilitarian mode for now until such time as I can further dive down properly into it later this year.
  • Finally, the guitar deserves a little attention since that has actually improved dramatically over the past half year or so. I really should firm up my technique and stop slouching that instrument over my right leg all the time.

How does one find the time to practice two instruments, go to school, work full time and have a family? Simple: Give up television.

Duruflé Requiem 9/11 Memorial Benefit Concert

I’ll be playing the double bass in a benefit concert on 9/9 and 9/10 for the program shown below. This all-volunteer performance is to honor the five year anniversary of the September 11th disaster, and proceeds will go to benefit the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. (See this shameless cute puppy photo for more detail on what our concert proceeds go to.) If you would like to get out of the house for a change and hear some beautiful music, you might consider coming to one of these performances:

The Pacific Collegium Presents:
A memorial benefit performance
In support of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation

  • Christopher Kula, conductor
  • Tonia d’Amelio, soprano
  • Joseph Wright, baritone
  • Susan Matthews, organist
  • Pacific Collegium
  • Pacific Boychoir

— Program —

Finzi, Lo, the full, final sacrifice
Festival anthem for chorus and orchestra

Finzi, Dies natalis
For soprano solo and strings

Duruflé, Requiem
For soloists, chorus and orchestra


Duruflé’s orchestrated setting of the Requiem Mass is a marvel of the liturgical repertoire, as well as being a seminal work of the 20th century Gregorian chant revival.

Lo, the full, final sacrifice is viewed by many as Finzi’s masterwork, though it is little widely known and virtually unheard in its lush orchestral version. A series of musical vignettes around the hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas: Adoro Te devote and Lauda Sion Salvatorem, set in English by the 17th-century poet, Richard Crashaw, it is particularly celebrated for its final Amen in eight-part divisi.

Dies natalis, also by Finzi, sets texts of another 17th-century English metaphysical poet, Thomas Traherne. Accompanied by string ensemble, this work explores in solo voice the innocent ecstasy of a newborn child discovering the world and its wonders anew.

Visit http://www.pacificcollegium.org/ for more information and to purchase tickets for this event.