Tag Archives: string bass

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.

Classical Double Bassist Forum

If you are a classical double bassist, then you might be interested in checking out the new Google Groups forum, designed exclusively for discussion of issues pertaining to the classical bassist.

I had seen plenty of online bass forums, but most of them were a mixed bag of styles and instruments – jazz, classical, rockabilly, bluegrass styles, and then there’s electric fretted and fretless basses as opposed to the upright string bass – one almost forgets what to call it with so many bits and pieces floating around. So I felt it’d be a good idea to start one that had a purely classical focus.

Speaking of not knowing what to call it, there’s a ridiculous number of names given to this instrument – more than just about any other instrument I know of ��� which makes it somewhat of a pain when searching online for sheet music:

  • double bass
  • string bass
  • upright bass
  • contrabass
  • bass viol
  • standup bass

or just

  • bass

I heard my aunt Lisa call it “bull fiddle” once and nearly died laughing. Perfect name, but it wasn’t the last time I heard it called that… suddenly I heard bull fiddle popping up all over the place in conversation and it still cracks me up. One of those things…

Now of course in classical music, every musician has to learn a few key words, i.e. allegro = schnell = fast. Ergo, the bass is:

  • Kontrabaß in German
  • Contrebasse in French
  • Contrabajo in Spanish
  • Contrabasso in Italian

I’ll post more translations as I figure them out, if for nothing else than to find a great excuse to stretch out the true promise of UTF-8 in a single weblog posting. But in the meantime, don’t forget to visit the classical bass forum.

Il Devastatore

New York Press: BOOKS: Cuba and Its Music by Ned Sublette

Double bass virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini gets a mention in this New York Press review on a book I wanna read: “Cuba and Its Music”, by Ned Sublette:

Cuba even gets back to the Havana opera company’s Giovanni Bottesini, “one of the first contrabass virtuosi” who “revolutionized the instrument by using a violin-style bow” named Il Devastatore.

I just love that Bottesini named his bow The Devistator — there is nothing subtle about a name like that. This goes to further illustrate that we classical bassists, even historically, are a bunch of raucous, feral party animals that are obsessed with power tools. We are often obnoxious, tend to dress strangely, and keeping time—much like sobriety—is apparently optional. (And by time, I mean clock time, not metronome time. Tempo is critical, no matter how late you are or how many drinks you’ve had.) Would you ever find a violinist or cellist naming their bow an instrument of wanton destruction? If one did, I’d like to play some chamber music with them.

Back when I was in college at NEC, we used to sit in Brown Hall and see if we could get the old windows facing the Boston YMCA to rattle. To pull the strings on a bass in such a way that it makes the whole room shake isn’t terribly hard, but it’s often overlooked and requires some practice and concious effort to get used to. Basically, you play a bit closer to the bridge, apply a moderate amount of torque from the full span of your arm, and pull the bow in a speed that is sensitive to the note you are playing. If you’re making the right contact, you will feel how fast the bow should move because it will feel like it’s naturally moving against the frequency of the vibrating string. Slower for lower-pitched notes, and faster as you ascend the register. But it’s those low notes you want to blast to activate sympathetic vibrations in big hall windows.