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Doubling on cello?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Tele295, Jan 9, 2002.

  1. Tele295


    Jan 8, 2002
    Ventura, CA
    I was just curious if there are any bassists who double on cello.

    Our church music director approached me about the possibilities of doubling. I could get a lot more wedding-type work, and the cello would stand out over the pipe organ properly, which my doublebass does not do, even with a microphone.

    So how feasible is this? My first thought would be to string a cello up in fourths, as a piccolo bass, but I cannot find the right strings. I wouldn't be seen that much (choir loft) so I could make markings on the fingerboard until I learn the intervals/intonation.

    Would I be able to use my same German bow? I know it's unorthodox, but it's what my hand can play comfortably.

    Lastly, what's the cheapest way to get into this?
  2. When I was in college, I played cello in the orchestra for a semester just for kicks.

    Playing the bass is like swinging two bats; getting a solid tone and huge vibrato out of the cello right away was a cinch (in fact, I had to tone it down a little). I left it tuned in fifths, which really made my brain and fingers work over time. But I did it for the challenge anyway. Intonation was a struggle w/out daily practice, too.

    I play French bow, so going to the cello bow was not problem either. I can definitely see some weirdness trying to play a German bass bow on the little ol' cello. Maybe you can find a way to grip the cello bow underhanded.

    There are some bass players out there who double. Dave Holland was into cello extensively a few years ago, and I think he left the tuning in fifths. Percy Heath plays it (pizz only) and tunes it in fourths. I have no idea what Oscar Pettiford did.

    Good luck.
  3. I almost took lessons from a cello player when I started DB 'cause I couldn't find a teacher, figuring, the bowing technique must be the same, right?
    After I began taking lessons from a DB teacher, my sister-in-law began taking cello lessons. When we compared notes, she said she'd been corrected because she was bowing from the shoulder instead of the elbow, whereas the first thing my teacher told me was bow from the shoulder and not bend my elbow (with certain exceptions)!

    BTW, didn't Mingus start out as a cellist?
  4. I took bass lessons from a cellist, too, for a while. Harry Sturm--he'd played 2nd chair under Fritz Reiner in Chicago.

    We didn't discuss technique an awful lot, but he taught me a ton about phrasing and shaping a musical line.
  5. Pettiford did play some mighty fine Cello in a DB fashion. Try to pickup the disk Deep Passion; if you can find it. It has a lot of great cello playing by Oscar.
  6. cadillac


    Dec 18, 2001
    St. Louis
    mingus started on trombone and then moved to cello before he traded it in for a bass.
  7. Tele295


    Jan 8, 2002
    Ventura, CA
    Thanks for the info, folks!

    Hey Mike - that semester you spent in the cello section sounds like fun, although I can see how much work it would be. Is there any reason at all whyI couldn't use my bass bow (German) on a cello?
  8. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Most bass bow are just a little bit shorter than most cello bows. The greater weight of the bass bow and the German hold might impart a weightier tone than a cello bow, but these things probably can be compensated with technique.

    Homogeneity is a big thing in orchestras. The sectionmaster might want you to switch simply for appearance's sake.
  9. Tele295


    Jan 8, 2002
    Ventura, CA
    Thanks for the info, Christopher. i wouldn't be playing this in a section, or even be seen for that matter. It's just an opportunity to pick up some extra $$ in a church-type (choir loft) setting.
  10. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Well, if you're in the loft section, no one will see you. Saw away.
  11. I was just thinking that the heavy weight and possibly coarser hair of the bass bow might produce a harsher tone than you might want.

    But, as Christopher said, if you can compensate your technique, don't mess around with learning French-style bow grip. Have fun!