Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Bach on Bass

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Johnny L, Jan 6, 2006.


  1. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Sorry I'm not adding to the "critique me playing Bach" thread my computer won't let me hear mp3 files (it's a company software thing)...but I would like to talk about Bach on bass!

    I've been working on the first cello suite just to work on my intonation and get accustomed to different fingering patterns so far (it's the Rabbath version I'm doing). I've gotten to see several people (kids, yeah!) perform it in masterclasses and do nice jobs, but some of the fingerings I recall them using aren't what Rabbath cites (e.g., using the thumb on the A string for the G rather than leveraging the open G).

    Vance does this sort of thing, using open G in between stopped notes played around the heel, quite a bit in his method books that's where I first encountered the idea. I wouldn't have ever thought to do that myself because of, again, the bowing challenge. Getting a clean open G for me requires a certain bow draw that the other notes don't ask for...plus going for a lower note on a higher string twists my brain it's so counter-intuitive for me LOL. What a provocative idea wow!

    But I think I like this Bach cello suite thing the best because so much of it has wider intervals, which makes hearing the piece in tune from the outset much easier than, say, pieces that run almost exclusively in scales and use chromaticism for spice. As I learn more about bass in jazz, I'm learning that it's not unacceptable to "walk" lines such that they outline the chord progression and reinforce the center of the song to free the leaders and solos up for exploration around (perhaps away too?) it...and so I'm starting to feel excited about jazz as a means through which to explore the things I cherish most about music also, which really are the basic building blocks themselves. What the visionaries of music are able to construct with them are of course amazing and wonderful, but I'm good with leaving that work to them for now and just striving to give them the best tools I can.

    Which brings me back to Bach. There's so much talk about the Bach cello suites as songs that need to be made meaningful, as though they are the pinnacle of songwriting. I don't now and wonder that I may never see them that way. Maybe as I keep working on them and get better and more comfortable with them I'll start seeing them differently I do have a long way to go for sure...but for now they are simply a standard by which much of the tools we utilize in Western music are judged.

    When we play Bach and we play it well, that's the message I hear.
     
  2. Hmmm - the Bach Cello suites are great but I wouldn't call them the pinnacle of songwriting or songwriting at all - they are in the main dances and IMHO they should be made to dance or in jazz terms - swing. Too many players, for my taste, play them with heavy affected rubato that no-one could imagine dancing to, and I thnk this destroys the beauty of the music.
     
  3. Hmm, That's what my old teacher always said..."If I can dance to it, then you're playing it right".. :)
     
  4. JayR

    JayR

    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    I've been using the bourrees from the 3rd suite for audition fodder (I'm a transferring undergrad and I've been meeting with teachers all over the place for the last few months) and the differences of opinion are drastic. No vibrato, lots of vibrato, no harmonics, minimum string crossing, maximum string crossing, rubato, none... Nobody ever agrees with my interpretation entirely, but if I put together everyone I've played it for, eventually everything I do is agreed on by someone. Chris Hanulik from UCLA / LA Phil played it the best I've heard, using vibrato really tastefully to accent notes in phrases, so I'm kind of shaping my current playing around how I heard him play it, but I'm sure there will be someone out there who disagrees with me when I do that. Why can't we all just get along? Why???
     
  5. Play them with all that is within you and then, whether they agree or not, you will be satisfied.
     
  6. shwashwa

    shwashwa

    Aug 30, 2003
    NJ
    does anyone recommend a good suite to or movement of a suite to tackle first as an intro to these? i guess im asking which ones might be on the easy side, and preferrabley also on the edgar meyer recording so i can listen to it. thanks
     
  7. JayR

    JayR

    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    The prelude to the 2nd suite isnt gut bustingly hard. I mean, none of it's easy, and the prelude to the first suite is almost impossible to play in tune without some serious contortions. if you can find an edition of the 3rd suite in G, a lot of that comes off really nicely, especially the bourrees and the gigue. It's not on edgar's recording, though, and it's not as impressive cuz you can't add the tag "at pitch" after the title.
     
  8. VTDB

    VTDB

    Oct 19, 2004
    VeeTee
    I would recommend the Menuetto (I & II) from the first suite. As someone has already said, none of it's easy. I'm working on the Prelude to the second suite right now and, at least for me, it's giving me a harder time than the Menuetto's did.
     
  9. kraid

    kraid

    Apr 11, 2003
    The Bourrees from the 3rd suite are probably the easiest to play. If you can get a copy of Hal Robinson's transcription I would recommend playing that version rather than other editions of transcriptions like the Peters edition because the editor actually changed what was written some of the time to make it easier when it's not needed. I don't know how anyone could go to a piece of music and just rewrite parts of it.

    If you want to listen to a recording of it I would recommend hearing a cellist play it before a bassist. Janos Starker, Pablo Casals, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Pierre Fournier are the ones worth checking out first.
     
  10. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    yeah that's been a big challenge for me also I hope to get that thing in tune someday

    O.K. how about everything I play LOL
     
  11. springbogen

    springbogen Guest

    Sep 24, 2005
    illinois
    The Bach cello suites are in general not dances. Bach took the popular dance forms of the time and expanded upon them.
    There are many arguements between performers and scholars of the suites, tempos of each movement, vibrato or no vibrato. This debate closley resembles the french/german bow debate.
    The performer's approach to the suites is more aesthetically appealing to modern ears. The scholar's interpretation try to emulate the baroque style of playing.

    I found this site very interesting in terms of the ablility to dance to the suites
    http://www.cello.org/Newsletter/Articles/mansbridge/mansbridge.htm

    This article talks the different schools of thought when playing the suites
    http://www.cello.org/Newsletter/Articles/angst.htm

    Every single suite are genius and are perfect. It takes a lifetime to master and understand this music. I am not trying to say I am any where close,lol, but with alot of work :hyper: hope to be able to play them.
     
  12. JayR

    JayR

    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    When I got a lesson from Chris Hanulik of the LA phil, we were discussing the cello suites and I mentioned how impossible it is to play that prelude in tune, and he told me it took him years of work and even still it's incredibly uncomfortable to play. It's just that 2nd damn chord, you know? The C major first inversion arpeggio (G E C B C E C E) makes it feel like my wrist is gonna pop out of its socket. It's funny, too, cuz the comparable part in the koussevitzky with the ozzy ozzbourne power chord shredding causes me barely any discomfort at all. I think its because you have to release your hand for the open G string and then clamp, as opposed to holding a position and then just shifting it.
     
  13. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Yeah that's the one Jay. It's a challenge for me too in getting the thumb in there behind the fingers for support and the string crossings force me to keep the fingers up.

    The only Koussevitzky I've worked on much has been the valse. I assume you mean his concerto? Yeah it's a little more forgiving too as the excitement pretty much comes from the chugging rhythm with less emphasis on purity of intonation as I interpret it so far.
     
  14. My Suites just arrived (from Lemur) last night. I read them but did not want to wake the kids. I got the Bach for Bass the 6 unaccompanied Suites for Cello by J.S, Bach Transcribed for String Bass by Robert Rohe. It looks beautifly done by hand in ink on nice paper.
    I play the Bouree in G mentioned earlier. It was such a challege that I committed it to memory. After reading the discussion about how they are played, I like to play it different each time. I have done it for years.
    I just can't wait to play through some of this book. I was reading it last night I've been dreaming it all night. The later suites 5 and six are wicked looking.

    I am curious about the original keys of the suites.
    Peace
    Benton
     
  15. shwashwa

    shwashwa

    Aug 30, 2003
    NJ
    do they give bowings in that edition? do they give bowings in any of the cello editions? why wouldnt one just get the version for cello? i want to play them in the same positions that edgar played them in, which means transposing them down a whole step from his pitch while using orchestral tuning (on my bass). would doing it this way be at the origional pitch that she suite was written?
     
  16. The book does have bowings. The bowings are good for me. I have another book "Bach for Bass Guitar" It had Tab (yuck) and no bowings. The Keys were Lower. It was no fun with the tabs and trying to guess bowings.

    I was curius about the keys because I also play a little cello.

    As far as why I wanted a bass method is simply for me these are pretty challenging. I can Imagine that the cello version is probably higher with some next to impossible chords and intervals. Its hard enough for me as it is.
    Benton
     
  17. bassbaterie

    bassbaterie

    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Did Edgar play them in solo tuning and transpose? Aagh! OK, let's just come up with a way to make it MORe challenging..!?! I worked on a movement from the first suite with Edgar in a master class last year and the fingerings he showed me were in the original key. Just liberal thumb-on-the-neck applications.

    You can get them from George Vance www.slavapub.net
    Paul Ellison's edition
    There is probably not a more thoroughly worked out version for bass, and they print them in small runs, so any time he comes up with a better way to do any part of it, he updates the edition.
     
  18. kraid

    kraid

    Apr 11, 2003
    I think Meyer just plays them at pitch, but with solo strings, so they're a whole step above what a cellist would play.
     
  19. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Yeah I've read that Edgar plays them with solo strings and in solo tuning...the lowest string is at E instead of F# though (but he's got an extension too so it could get lower)

    I haven't seen Ellison's edition but I'm curious

    dang that guy Paul Ellison has the sweetest spiccato :bassist: