Hal Robinson at U of North Texas last night

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Monte, Sep 25, 2001.

  1. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    Last night I drove down to Denton with my bass teacher for a masterclass with Hal Robinson, who is the Principal in the Philadelphia Orchestra and
    was deeply humbled. For one, UNT has always had its share of good jazz bassists, but with Jeff Bradetich on the faculty now their orchestral/solo
    bassists are excellent! They were very poised; I watched them stand up in front of everyone and play ridiculously difficult orchestral excerpts for
    the Orchestra masterclass and get *nicely* shredded by the master. Their #8 bassist would probably be principal at most universities. Such beautiful basses too; one guy was playing the same wonderful Dan Hatchez bass I played
    and coveted in Albuquerque in March. The solo class was incredible; six bassists got up and performed solo pieces (I believe all in orchestral tuning, interestingly) which included 1) The Faure Elegy 2) Bottesini Gran Duo 3) 3 Bach Cello Suites and a Eastern European composer whose name I can't remember. Then Hal Robinson would stand up and tell them how they could improve, often demonstrating how passages should be played.

    The main impressions I took away were this:
    1) Don't always assume that the accepted fingerings are the way to do something. If you can make it easier by playing a harmonic instead of a
    large leap, do it.
    2) Don't become so locked into Simandl fingering that you are unwilling to let go with the first or anchor finger. Trust that your muscles will
    remember, because you can really free up your vibrato by not clamping down on the bass.
    3) The biggest thing he picked on people for was the way you hold your bass. He is big on ergonomics, especially letting your skeletal weight provide the power, not your muscles. Use your muscles only to move the skeletal weight. For most, this meant lowering the bass height and standing more directly behind it. He spent a lot of time showing how to transfer the bass neck to
    rest on your shoulder when shifting to thumb position. He demonstrated with students that when you are straining with your reach, your sound is pinched and tense sounding. He was a big proponent of the bent end-pins (such as the
    egg pin) to take weight off of your left thumb.
    4) DON'T put vibrato on everything. It makes it stand out more if you aren't always using it, or at least vary it some. Also, use vibrato to achieve dynamics, as in slowly getting louder.
    5) I was secretly glad to see that he was unimpressed by the current D'Addario Helicore phase, which is what 12 of the 13 bassists I saw last night were using. He (like me) thinks they are "fuzzy" and don't produce enough fundamental pitch. Hal uses Original Flexocor, and mentioned that he likes the Eudoxa (silver wrapped
    gut) on many peoples basses.

    This was a lot of fun and gave me a ton to work on. I'm anxious to try applying this to the Bloch "Prayer" I'm working on.

  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I don't have anything to add to that....interesting post, though - thanks for sharing.
  3. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN

    Thanks for the review. I just wish you could have been a little more enthusiastic :D. Good luck with the Bloch piece.
  4. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    My teacher Don Munday posted more from this that I neglected to mention, so if you want more (great stuff here) he got this out of it:

    Hal Robinson mentioned some other good points, keeping in mind the Philly bass section plays louder and more sustained than most sections because the hall doesn't have good bass response. He also said that everything is arguable and changable. What one player likes may not be what another likes. How you play a passage or solo is up to your technical ability and the way your body works. The bowings in the Philly bass section are traditional bowings that the section has used for many, many years, i.e. start passages with a down bow and crescendo with an up bow, that is most of the time when applicable.

    Don't vibrate every note. Why would anybody vibrate 8th notes on Mozart 40?

    When you can't start a passage with a down bow use an up bow BUT make the down bows sound like up bows and
    the up bows sound like down bows.

    Play peices like Mozart 35 and 40 on the string. He said that %.01 of all bassists can play them off the string
    and cleanly at tempo MOST (not all) of the time. So what do the rest of us (included himself) do? We play on the
    string! His quote was, "The dots don't mean off the string. In fact dots don't mean anything." He said they're
    always played according to somebody's interpretation.

    Play 8th notes like 8th notes and quarter notes like quarter notes. What a concept!

    He likes original Flexicor strings, but hates the E string. Really likes an old Tomastic red wrapped or a Supreme
    Super Sensitive. Right now he's playing a Helicore Orch Heavy for a C string. Says it goes dead in 3 or 4 months.

    Mahler 1 solo is a nursury rhyme. How hard can that be?

    He won't go to an audition that has a Bottesini concerto as a required solo. He can't play those pieces on a bass
    that's set up for orchestral playing. Fooled me. He's used the Kousevitsky concerto for auditions.

    He thinks adjustable bridges are a good thing to have on a bass. In fact if he did play Bottesini on an audition he
    would ask the commitee to wait while he adjusted his bridge to orchestra height and tuned the bass. From listening
    to him I'd bet he'd have them wait while he changed his Solo strings to orchestras.

    For solo strings he likes Blue Tomastics, Corelli's, and Flexicor Permanents.

    These are from the notes I took for the class.

  5. Monte, I'm glad you were impressed with the UNT crew! I wasn't at the even last night, but I started out as a performance major at NT during Bradetich's first year there. He's an amazing player AND teacher! I could tell that within a short time, he would have that program as one of the best bass programs in the country (it's already the biggest), and I would say that he's well on his way!

    With all the attention that the jazz department gets up there, I'm very happy to see the orchestral group getting some very deserved attention.

  6. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    With that kind of quality, UNT deserves wider recognition. Indiana U. has (deservedly) been THE bass school recently, but from what I saw UNT is getting there rapidly.