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Essential solos/ensembles for high school bass students?

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by KD20, Feb 20, 2017.

  1. KD20


    Feb 20, 2017
    Hello! I am a high school orchestra director who is working on building up our solo and ensemble library. We were given a nice allotment of money from the district for instructional materials so I want to be sure to spend it wisely. What would you consider to be essential solo material for developing bassists? I have a fantastic group of eager students and I'm so excited to expand the music available to them. They also enjoy playing together after school so any bass duets/trios/etc would be wonderful too. These bassists have a wide range of abilities. Some are considering majoring in music and some have played for only 3 years. Thank you so much in advance!!! :)
  2. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I work from "yorke solos for double bass and piano volume 1 35 easy pieces" that I use for students who are just starting to play solo repertoire and melodies for the first time. They are not particularly long or challenging, but they are helpful for developing a good tone on the instrument which is often lacking up to this point in their musical journey, and you can also get them to think musically and phrase. Depending on the level of your students it may be quite easy for them, but beneficial none the less.

    I have never worked out of the Vance books or taught the Vance method, but "Progressive Repertoire for the Double Bass" is a series in several volumes that gets progressively more challenging. Both the Vance and yorke books could also be seen as good "bang for your buck" in that they are compilations of many solos, instead of purchasing individual pieces. For something a bit more challenging that also makes use of the tenor clef (which is a good thing to introduce at that level) "Solos for the Double Bass Player" selected and edited by Oscar Zimmerman gets up the neck a lot farther and has more challenging repertoire.

    Outside of compilations, Baroque cello sonatas such as the Vivaldi and the Marcello sonatas can be approachable for high school double bassists, and if they are too challenging would be a good addition to your cello repertoire regardless. If you have access to a sheet music retailer that keeps such things in stock, some editions use the tenor clef quite a lot, others don't use it at all. If that is something you are or are not teaching your students, that could influence your decision on particular editions.

    "Classical & Modern Duets for two string basses" is edited by Zimmermann and is a great duet book. It gets a little higher up the instrument fairly quickly, makes use of different keys, and gets your students listening to each other. Both parts tend to be interesting and share the spotlight making them fun duets to play instead of one part being a solo role and the other accompaniment.

    I do not have many suggestions for trios, quartets, etc. as much of the repertoire written specifically for those configurations of double basses tend to be quite challenging, and usually involve at least one or two parts up in the higher register of the instrument in order to separate the voices. Double bass can get pretty thick not in a good way, especially in the lower register with multiple divided parts. If you have a student who is interested in composing/arranging, they could also come up with something within whatever parameters you set for them.
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