Beethoven 6th help!!!!

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by MeyerBrown, Sep 10, 2005.

  1. MeyerBrown


    Aug 9, 2005
    I am only 16 so if this question sounds stupid sorry.

    Anyway, this year i became the first chair bass player for the Rhode Island Youth Philharmonic and we are playing Beethovens 6th. There is some pretty challenging stuff in this symphony, but there is one part i cant seem to get right.

    The Storm movement.

    What should this sound like? In the recording i have i cant hear basses, only timpani. Should it be as clean as possible, or not clean and very fast? Please help me out!
  2. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    You could practice the bejeezus out of it for precision and speed and then resign youself to the fact that it's supposed to sound like incoherent noise. Is it playable? Maybe. Does it matter? No, IMO.
    I think it's supposed to sound rhythmic but imprecise note-wise.

    There are a couple of licks toward the end of the storm scene where you have to be precise, and those are obvious.

    Have fun with it.
  3. GirlBass


    Jul 31, 2005
    New York
    That part is pretty difficult to actually play, so what I did when I played it was basically move my bow and my fingers in rhythm- or faked it- then played the last note in time with everyone else, which are important notes, and no one will know the difference. definitely remember to count so you know where to come in.
    It's supposed to sound like a storm, so don't stress out too much, you'll be fine!
  4. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
  5. pat1151


    Jun 22, 2004
    Montreal, Quebec
    I'm playing that piece aswell, if it's the part with the continuous 16th note runs on the E string that your talking about, My director just said to slide your hand up and keep the bowing. kinda faking it, it's just for effect according to him so precision shouldn't be too important at that part.
  6. rachelcalin


    Sep 13, 2005
    New York
    HI MeyerBrown-

    Congratulations on getting principal!

    Always seems to me like you're dealing w/ 3 different motions that you have to make in the storm passage: the bow, the fingering, & the shifting.

    BOW: I dont have the part in front of me as I type this, but last time I checked (The last time I played Beeth6 was last season) the bowing is a no-brainer down-up-down-up situation, so I'll just assume that you're all good w/ that & we'll check this one off your list of things to take care of.....

    FINGERING: this is the part you have to 'practice the bejeezus out of' as someone said in an earlier post; two things to keep in mind: you'll be able to use a 'pivot' fingering for at least one of the patterns (i seem to remember doing this last time); on the rest of the patterns always start on your first finger shift so the the last note (of the group of four)is on your fourth finger. This will make the distance you have to shift the shortest possible (and we can use any help we can get!). After deciding your fingerings & you start practicing the bejeezus out of it, the most important thing you can do is to practice it slowly, then work up the speed later. You can even do it super slowly as a warm up exercise, and then, hey, youve warmed up and youve started your practice session....... 2 birds w/ one stone, ya know?

    SHIFTING: stay loose! the fingering is the little finite motion that needs to be made, but the shifting is a larger sweeping motion that has to happen, so its really important to stay loose; we all have a tendency to see a really fast passage on the page & it makes us tense up just anticipating it...... when you practice, you should also practice staying loose.

    The thing about this excerpt is that if you do some really good practice on it you'll be surprised how quickly it will start to get better; just remember, as far as practice goes, slow & steady really does win the race.

    All this said...... my first time playing beeth6 was while i was in in school, and as youve probably found out by now, the first time you play it theres bound to be someone who gets the giggles because you feel (and look) pretty stupid with all that shifting going on.... well, after the second time through we got over it & just tried to do our job. everything went fine until the concert...... a guy next to me ended up getting sweaty palms, and basically there was a really loud SQUEAK! everytime he shifted during the storm, so like a super loud squeak on every quarter note SQUEAK!SQUEAK!SQUEAK!SQUEAK! for the entire storm section.......... needless to say we started laughing so hard during the concert that we ended up concentrating more on not falling off our stools out of laughter than on playing all the notes...........

    good luck and hopefully no one in your section has sweaty palms.......... :D
  7. ispider6


    Jan 30, 2005
    I heard some rumor that Homer Mensch (in his prime days of course) could play that passage note for note at tempo. Rachel, perhaps you could let us know if there's truth there. Whether it is true or not is neither here nor there because, like others said, it is supposed to sound like low, booming noise and (to state the obvious) like a storm. Do you think that anyone in Beethoven's day could actually play it? I applaud your effort to try to play all the notes and if you do, more power to you. But keep in mind, you'll be the only one playing them in your section, guaranteed. Congrats on making principal.
  8. kraid


    Apr 11, 2003
    Yes, it isn't too important to play all the notes right on as the whole bass part is an effect in the storm. Even the ending part is supposed to be distance thunder and not necessarily played note for note. It probably is playable, but I've never attempted to play all the notes. I've never seen a whole section actually play everything spot on either.
  9. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    There is an interesting series of Lenny Bernstein giving a series of lectures at Boston filmed in 1973. One of the many pieces that he conducted with the BSO was Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. I thought surely the prestigious Boston Symphony with Lenny conducting and it being filmed the bassist and cellists would have the storm scene PERFECT. Well, they did the licks the way it has been suggested above. So, focus on the effect rather than the notes.
  10. rachelcalin


    Sep 13, 2005
    New York
    you know, i heard that rumor as well.... while i DID hear it from someone who played with Homer, i never had the chance to witness it first hand, so i personally cant really say. He was quite the perfectionist though, and really, the Beethoven isnt that much faster than some of the quicker Mozart bass parts. It seems likely to me.

    Otherwise, you know, the storm section is always going to sound like a storm no matter what. It just seems like common sense to aim higher in situations like these rather than to sell yourself short; try for %100 of the notes; if you only end up really playing %75 in the end, fine, but its better then aiming for %50, then only getting %25......

    Anyway, I wonder if MeyerBrown has already had his Beethoven 6 concert? And how it went?
  11. There are several Bass players who can do that part note for note, but as a section, it doesn't really matter, it's a sound effect imitating thunder. I've played the 6th a few times, and no one ever said " That Ab in the storm section was out of tune" Now that I think about it, that part might have been another suggestion from Dragonnetti, who the story goes, frightened a bunch of monks by imitating a thunderstorm with his Gasparo.
  12. AllegroConBasso


    Apr 3, 2005
    How can you say that notes spawned from Beethoven's quill are "unimportant" or can be "faked"? Let us not forget that this is the same man who gave us our precious 5th symphony trio that is perhaps our finest melodic / virtuosic passage. The dotted halves in measures 178 - 181 are as thick as German dunkel.

    On the topic of Beethoven's famous storm: there are storms in life as well as the sixth symphony. If you fake this storm, where does it end? Why not fake the last page of Ein Heldenleben or Nielson 5? Is it OK to fake your way through life? There ARE technical demands in the passagework, but they can easily be solved by innovative alterations which can be made outside the general space of the left hand. The passage starting at letter C, I suggest using the back of the skull or employing some sort of Capo. I personally tune the A string down to an A flat in the 3 bars rest before C. This, however, is not wise unless you are a phenom at transposing at sight because I don't tune back up until the 7 bars rest, though I have been known to finish the entire symphony in this scordatura - don't want to fall asleep.

    While I do agree it is unlikely that Beethoven's bass players would have nailed this passage in their day, it is simply UNacceptable in this day and age (with our pedagogy, steel strings, pops/ kolstein blends, and Dr. Beats) to strive for anything less than perfection.

    To those who believe this passage is just a is me giving you the finger for faking it in MY section. It is easy to allow oneself to fake a passge if one's peers deem it "impossible", but take it from me: it is very playable.

    Back to the shed!
  13. ispider6


    Jan 30, 2005
    Look, I don't think anyone that has posted here believes that you shouldn't try to play the notes. Indeed, practice your heart out if you like. The point we're all making is that you should try your best to play the notes but if you can't/don't, it won't be noticed.

    Another point is that in Beethoven's day I doubt that there were any players that had the ability to play all the notes at tempo. You just have to ask then: was Beethoven ignorant of this? I doubt it. Given that Beethoven was most likely cognisant of the fact that bass players would have a difficult time playing this passage, he most likely intended it to be noise whether they could play it or not. Did he write a bass part similar in difficulty ever again? Nope.

    So, if Beethoven wanted noise, who are we to deny him?

    Disclaimer: I in no way pretend to know exactly what Beethoven was thinking when he wrote this. I'm just trying to make some sense.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Stravinsky definetely wrote parts that couldn't be played by the instrument specified, as he wanted to hear the players striving for the unattainable...?

    Sadist!! ;)

    I've also read that in Beethoven's 9th - some of the vocal parts are virtually impossible and this was put down to his deafness at this point - but maybe it was just some weak Prima Donnas complaining and bitching....:D
  15. Keep in mind that Beethoven met Dragonetti and heard him play. (before Beethoven went deaf)

    There are stories going both ways on playing all of the notes. Some conductors insist on every note being articulated, others say it's just an effect. You only have to look up one line in the part to see that the cellos are playing 5 notes against the 4 16ths played by the basses and there's no way it's going to sound real clean.

    I shoot to get every note, including the lower passage on my 5-string. The best I've ever done in performance is maybe 90%.
  16. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I have read these horror stories in the past here about this Stormy business. Now I have the part on my stand and will play it with a chromatic C-Ext, all the lows as written. I have been working on it for over two months now mainly practicing the Ext. work. There are a few other tricky parts to play as well and I plan on nailing them as well. It's the acrobatic stuff that made me start this months before we have the performance. I was going to use my Martini but I have chosen the Gilkes instead. The Gilkes was out on trial and I wasn't sure if it was coming back so I started working out on the Martini.

    The Martini has a darker sound and sweeter tonally but the Gilkes has a punchier fat and clearer sound under the ear. Either one will work fine but I need to break in the Gilkes after its recent restoration. I have it strung with the new EPs as well.
  17. NotACello


    Oct 11, 2006
    new york city!
    How much are you asking for both the Gilkes and the Martini?
  18. Anonymous75966


    Jun 29, 2004
    FWIW, the following quotation is attributed to Beethoven, in reply to a complaint by a violinist that a passage was unplayable:

    When I composed that, I was conscious of being inspired by God Almighty. Do you think I can consider your puny little fiddle when He speaks to me?

    Quoted in Scorn: With Extra Bile, ed. Matthew Parris, Penguin, 1998.
  19. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Can't say in the forum. It's against the forum rules, sry. Pm or email me. I get my emails mon-fri at the office.