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Bassist Career

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by mcnaire2004, Mar 29, 2006.

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  1. mcnaire2004


    Jan 17, 2006
    This thread is intended for the serious bassist that practice daily. Not the casual bassist that hasn't studied for years.

    I am going to try to make a career out of playing classical bass. I plan to go to a conservatory and grad with a triple degree in Music Performance, Music Education, and Music Composition. I then plan to audition at several mediocre and some major symphonies. Maybe give some private lessons and play a gig or two around town. I am curios about the general living some of you pro's make? I saw some principal spots pay around 85,000$ a season. Since I couldn't find much on the bass section I looked at others. I saw one symphony (can't remember which one) had an audition for 7th chair violin and it paid 64,000$ a season. I don't know how bass pays everywhere so this is obviously why I am asking. Do some of you have to do a non-musical job to compensate for the lack of money bass brings in? Next year I plan to audition for alternate for the CSO. Please help.
    Max (AKA) mcnaire2004
  2. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    That is quite ambitious, but it is very doubtful that you will have time for all three degrees. There just isn't time to do that much as an undergrad.
    I know as a Performance major now, there isn't much time for anything else, and I couldn't imagine taking on a Comp or Education degree. The other reality is that each department chair person is going to feel that you belong to them, and that their degree is the more important one. This puts alot of stress on you, and it might also anger the department chairs as you will be spread so far out.

    I would say the best route is to pick either Music Ed or Comp for your undergrad and pick up a performance in Grad school. It looks a little better picking up the Performance degree as a Grad student, and if all else fails, at least you have a Music Ed Degree or Comp degree to fall back on. Performance degrees just arn't as valuable today as they used to be, but they are a good addition to a undergrad degree.

    As for orchestral players pay and such;
    I have heard that the principal chair of the Cleveland Symphony makes approx. $100,000 a year; My teacher is 5th chair and makes about 50,000.
    I'd say go for it if that's what you want to do. But keep in mind that playing an intrument is rarly about the money, especially when playing classical music. You have to really love it.
    Good Luck.
  3. mcnaire2004


    Jan 17, 2006
    You are right. But, when looking at some of the required classes overlap (mainly the theory ones). If I don't get all at once I will stay in college 6 years if I have to to get all three degrees.
  4. mcnaire2004


    Jan 17, 2006
    True but I would love to make a living doing this.
  5. GirlBass


    Jul 31, 2005
    New York
    If you want to make a living being an orchestral bass player, why do you want three degrees? Why the education and composition degrees?
    Also, how are you going to get your level of playing up to a professional level in college if you're working on three degrees?
    A lot of bass players struggle with just getting one performance degree done (myself included) when there are recitals, practicing, classes, auditions, lessons, gigs, etc. I couldn't imagine how one could be triple major and expect to join a professional orchestra upon graduation. There just isn't enough time in the day for all of the practicing expected of an orchestral musician and studying expected of someone pursuing three degrees.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Having done two composition degrees, I can tell you that you'll be seriously shortchanging something if you try to do performance and composition at once. For composition, you not only have to do a lot of really time consuming upper level theory classes like counterpoint and orchestration, but you also have to produce original music every week. This sounds like fun - and it can be - but it's also a tremendous pressure, and there are few things more difficult that I can think of than having to produce creativity. IMHO, trying to layer the demands of a performance degree on top of that would be mental and emotional suicide...something would have to give, and if that something is something you care deeply about, the result won't be pretty. My advice, for whatever it's worth, is either to scale back or try to accomplish your goals sequentially.

    As for the money aspect of what orchestras are paying these days, I'm sure others will chime in, but I'd be careful to research very carefully just how many positions are out there at any given time, and to go check out the playing of some of the folks who are competing for those gigs. Not having heard you play, I can't say how you stack up, but there are some really, really seriously talented and dedicated people out there all vying for the same handful of openings. If it was me, I'd want to get out and hear some of them play in person if only to get an idea of the scale of the mountain I was getting ready to climb.

    That said, good luck, and good wishes!
  7. GirlBass


    Jul 31, 2005
    New York
    Also, I think the union publishes a journal every year called "senza sordino" (it may be someone else that puts it out) and it has the pay scale of every major orchestra in the US, to answer your salary question.
  8. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York
    Who falls back on an undergrad comp degree? What do you fall back on?

    As for pay in professional orchestras...I understand why you ask. I think that "you can make a decent living playing the bass" should be answer enough.
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    You need to go to one of the "chosen few" classical schools, study with one of a handful of "chosen" pedagogues, practice your bippy off and have oodles of talent just to be INVITED to audition for the major jobs!
  10. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby

    I wore mine away a long time ago and it was no laugh-in, lemme tell ya...
  11. Kam


    Feb 12, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    Ambition would be an understatement for this plan.

    A music degree is more work than it seems to most people. Most colleges reduce the credit hours on music classes so music ed majors can actually graduate in 4 (realistically 5) years without paying overload fees. I've been told that Music Ed is one of the most demanding liberal arts majors because of this fact alone.

    I will second the claim that with those 3 degrees, something, if not a couple things are going to drop. I dropped my education degree after 1 semester because I had no time to play or practice. It works for some people, but if you're a player, it sucks when you realize your "backup" plan is sapping tons of time away from learning your instrument.

    With that being said, if you can pull it off, more power to you.
  12. conte2music

    conte2music Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2005
    Dobbs Ferry, NY
    I am currently in my 5th year of college and until a few weeks ago I was attempting a vocal performance, double bass performance, and music education majors with a theater minor. I was attempting to do all these things because I "could" do them...not because it was what I really wished to do for a lifetime. Just try to figure out what you really want to do, or atleast know what you don't want to do. Realize that you could play or compose without degrees, however if teaching is your thing then you must have the certifications that the different states require.

    I will be graduating next fall with the vocal and double bass performace degrees, and then persuing graduate studies in either vocal performance and pedagogy or music business. Depending on what I choose I hope to either eventually have my own vocal studio at a college, or be a manager for an orchestra, opera or theater company. All the while I hope to be playing and singing jazz and doing local orchestra gigs.

    Best of luck, and keep an open mind. You'll be amazed at what you'll take interest to in college.

  13. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I can vouch for that. But I somehow wound up being a bassist in spite of it.:smug:
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    From an old (but eminently searchable) thread

  15. bierbass


    Sep 5, 2005
    Knoxville, TN
    Section pay in Cleveland is in the upper 90's and Princ. would be approx. 30-40% over that.
  16. bierbass


    Sep 5, 2005
    Knoxville, TN
    Around 12% of people who go and get a degree in music actually make a living from music alone.
  17. bierbass


    Sep 5, 2005
    Knoxville, TN
    Hey McNaire,
    It sounds to me like you are pretty ambitious and you really love the bass and music. Your motive for wanting to triple major in Performance, Mus Ed, and Comp. all come from a real love and enjoyment of those three areas. You probably admire your teachers and influences, enjoy playing on stage, and writing your own music and that is great.
    However, it is difficult enough getting through one degree let alone two or three. I know many of the classes overlap, but you are still looking at 5 years in school just to get a double major and adding a third degree would certainly mean 6 years. One or all areas would suffer and you'd never achieve your full potential in any area, especially the performance area.You would honor us all if you'd narrow your focus a little more. Ask yourself these questions:
    Would I enjoy practicing 4 or 5 hours a day along with homework for all my "regular" classes?
    Can I handle rejection?
    Am I prepared to handle rejection over a long period of time?
    (like 4-40 years)
    Thinking of all the kids in your school that really annoy you, would you be prepared to see them all day everyday for the rest of your life?
    Can you write music that people will want to listen to and then can you handle the rejection if they don't?

    Any of these areas would be great to pursue but I'd pour all my energy into one and save the others for your spare time.
    Best of luck, Dan
  18. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    The main advice i have for you is-if you go for a triple major, you'll either: drop out entirely, suicide, do better than anyone ever imagined.

    Why am i saying this & what do i know? Well, i'm in the tail end of my 2nd semester as a jazz bass major at a school in Chicago. Yeah-it's not classical. Before college i thought i'd have loads of free time, would audition in as an upper level player, would be able to party whenever i wanted, would be going to a different jazz club each night, jamming till all hours on the weekend.

    The reality: it's rare that i have more than 2hrs of free time a day. I auditioned/chaired last out of 9 jazz bass majors [3 seniors, 1 junior, 1 soph, and 4 freshman]. I've yet to attend a party, i haven't been to any jazz events besides Chicago Jazz Fest & a few different Jazz concerts [and classical] at Orchestra Hall-i work at the store, so i get to watch em for free on our big screens when i'm working, jamming? it's been hit or miss.

    The practice required to progress is more than i thought i ever would. I use this wording-i thought i practiced a lot in high school, *for my school* i practiced 2-3X's more than everyone else. Here? I do more than i did in a week in highschool in a day. It's not uncommon that i'll spend 6 hrs practicing in a day. In fact, i call those good days.

    The academic course load isn't so bad, as for a jazz major here you're required to take 1 year of english, and 3 credit hours of an African studies class. I'm finishing both of those requirements this year. The rest of my course track is mapped out. I think i'll have a choice of a few electives over the 4 years. The music related course load is where it gets fun/time consuming. I think this is true with many college/university music programs-our theory "class" is actually 3. Written, Aural, and Piano. Written comes the easiest for me, but i still study for 1-2hrs a day, Aural & piano tie for the hardest with the edge going to piano. Some people can breeze through these like it's no thing, for me-i have to work for it.

    I'm taking additional lessons outside of school on electric bass as i'm the only one out of the 9 of us who see Jazz as a means to an end vs. the end. I really love playing jazz, but i'm not shooting to be a jazz musician my entire life for a living. My focus is on the pop & commercial end of things. E.g. musicals, recording sessions, and pop/rock stuff. So i'm studying with a local guy that does 2/3 of those. He plays for the Chicago cast of Wicked and still does sessions. What does this mean? Well-another 3-4 hours of practicing a day.

    This stuff might sound like i'm trying to say "don't do a triple degree"-well that would be accurate, i think doing a triple degree would be suicide either mental, emotional or literal.

    However, i encourage you to pursue the music degree.

    I forget which one of the teachers told us this-but he was quoting Steve Swallow. I could very easily butcher the bulk of this wording.

    Steve would ask his students about why they wanted to be professional musicians, and why they wanted to be professional bass players if they said "i want to" or something along those lines-he did all that he could to disuade them. When they said "i need to" or "i don't have a choice-it's something i have to do"-then he tells them that it's a wonderful life for those who can take it. It's a challenging, yet fullfilling life if you can handle it.

    So my view after a year as a jazz performance major-a double major would be pushing it, a triple major i don't think is feasible. However, i don't regret for an instant coming here. I may be in debt for the rest of my life [looking at around $120k of student loan debt when i graduate w/my bachelors], but i'll be damned if i have to live with the "what if i went for it". :)

    take it easy.
  19. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    If you are looking into all three of those things and want to seriously pursue all of them, my advice would be to drop composition as a major and just take the lessons. Or some type of composition for non-majors class (that's what they have here at my school). I know people here who do performance and education degrees. They are so busy it hurts. For expample, I've been trying to play some clarinet bass duets I arranged for my friend and I to play about 2 months ago. She is a double major (Perf. and Ed.). We still haven't played them. And we both want to really bad.

    That being said, if you really want to do perf. and ed I say that that is possible, just difficult. Triple major, I think that it would be hard for a school to accept you into 3 programs at once, let you do all of them, and I think after the first year (or semester) you would want to drop one of them.

    Again, I'd say if you have your heart set on those three things, get the perf. degree, with the ed if you can. If your more inclined to education, then get ed and try to add performance.

    For composition I'd suggest to keep composing and try to get lessons (frequent or in frequent) from a/the composition teacher at whatever school you end up.

    Ultimately, you don't need the degree to be a performer or a composer, only to be an educator. With lessons, the other two (composing and performing) can easily be cultivated.

    Best of luck
  20. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    I'm pretty sure you could get a job teaching anywhere if you were an amazing player and didn't have any degree at all.

    I won't name any names but you know there are alot of them teaching at major universities right now. Does it matter? Hell no. I'd rather study with someone who can play the instrument than someone that met the requirements to have a piece of paper that says they are qualified to teach.

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