Tag Archives: string bass

Stars and Stripes Forever and Ever

I made this double bass part for John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” to help out the Berkeley Youth Orchestra’s bass section. Could come in handy for young bass players who might be having a bit of trouble transposing tuba parts. Since this is a common piece of music that often winds up on student bassist’s stands, I’m making this freely available:

The Stars and Stripes Forever by sanbeiji

What to practice when time is limited?

I’ve often thought much about efficiency when practicing music. I used to park myself in a practice room from dawn until midnight back at NEC and even before then. I would break my practice routines down into 15 minute increments, and have it all laid out on a schedule. Practice would occur for anywhere from 4 to 12 hours per day, including breaks of course. I was nuts, and obsessed. What can I say? 😉

Nowadays time is limited. I have a day job. I have a family. I have classes that I take at night. But I remain obsessed. After the homework is done and the kids are in bed, I might have anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours to practice on any given weekday. What do you practice when time is limited?

Some things I try to cover are maintenance. With the double bass, shifting positions and pushing the strings down to the fingerboard is always kind of an athletic event. So one must maintain a level of strength, dexterity, and muscle memory with exercises. I use Petracchi’s Simplified Higher Technique book, sometimes hit up Ludwig Streicher’s methods, and have a few exercises I’ve worked up myself to stay in shape.

Another technical maintenance issue I encounter is bowing issues. Unlike my left hand technique where I’m fairly comfortable with everything and don’t feel like I have any major challenges, my bowing arm often feels foreign, even detached from my body at times. Only after regular practice with the Zimmerman book do I feel like I have this thing working properly. It is funny – there’s only four strings and two directions your bow can go, but an infinite number of possible patterns and subtleties that occur in these four planes of existence. OK seven planes if you count double stops…

So I am wondering for all you bassists out there: What do you practice when you don’t have much time? What is the first thing you practice? What does a typical practice session look like to you?

Play Misty For Me

Come and see the show:

Benefit Concert Nov. 7 at 1 PM at 1755 Sunnyvale Ave in Walnut Creek, California, featuring members of the Taiwanese Bay Area community.

As of this writing, my pieces appear to be the Rossini Duetto for cello and bass, Koussevitsky’s Chanson Triste for bass and piano, and the last two or three movements from the Dvorak quintet. Yingwen is working on a Brahms Rhapsody, will accompany me on the Koussevitsky, and is accompanying a soprano soloist, a tenor soloist, and her choir. Should be fun!

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.