Introduction to different schools/methods of pedagogy

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by musicman1586, May 25, 2012.

  1. musicman1586


    May 24, 2012
    Hey everyone, have both a very complex but also kind of simple question. Warning you now that I might be a bit long-winded in getting to my exact question, but I want to give as much prior information as I can so this thread doesn't get the unnecessary comments that will be made if I don't make all my intentions clear from the start. Alright so here's the deal, I am finally going to get into double bass. I've wanted to play for atleast a decade now, but for various reasons I haven't been able to except for a brief period in high school when I talked the orchestra director into letting me borrow a bass for six months to take lessons on. Don't have a bass yet, but I'm finally in a financially stable enough position where I have enough savings to be able to set aside some extra for a purchase. I'm a soon to be finishing up graduate student who wants to play in an orchestra again someday, and I also just love the bass (in all its forms).

    So my question is simple, I want to start a thread to compile information about the different schools of double bass technique. Couldn't easily find much using the search, all the terms I expected to return results actually didn't bring much up. So the types of stuff I'm looking for include: names of the school/pedagogical technique, names of method books, names of big proponents/developers, and other sorts of resources that one would use to introduce a student to a particular school of DB technique.

    So now that I've said such, let me be long-winded so we all don't spend time weeding through responses that don't really need to be said. First of all I do have a fairly strong education in classical music as I've been playing music all my life. For many years I thought I wanted to be a composer, and so I took many opportunities to expose myself to and learn many different instruments...think I'm at close to a dozen now. Through all this I understand how important a teacher is and I know full well that I absolutely cannot teach myself these various methods on my own. That is not my goal. What I want is to introduce myself to various ways of thinking about and approaching the instrument, just to start wrapping my head around the instrument. I'm a string instrument kinda guy, while my primary instrument through school was bassoon, strings have always made more sense to me, and I'm at the point in my playing now where I can pick up almost any string instrument (fretted or fretless) and so long as I know the tuning, I can put the relations together in my head and start making music (obviously rarely ever using techniques proper to the instrument). Anyways, I fully intend to get a teacher once I graduate (taking piano lessons through the school gets me access to the campus grands, can't afford two sets of lessons), and I do realize that by getting a head start I will probably develop some bad habits that I will have to break, but by now I am very much used to having serious focus on technique, and I don't mind relearning things down the line. Despite that school keeps me from being able to play music as much these days, I still have a fairly good ear, and I can atleast start getting a basic idea in my head for the positions. I also just really enjoy geeking out over pedagogical approaches, I just find it really interesting how different people over time come to approach an instrument differently, and the double bass in particular fascinates me because it has gone through such a transformation in its overall playability. Oh I should also say, that when it comes to Western classical strings, I've played violin, cello, guitar, and did 6 or so months on the DB learning Simandl; in addition I do play electric bass. I also know that nothing about the techniques for any of these instruments transfers to DB except in understanding things like correct intonation, the basic physics of bowing, and what, maybe vibrato? (kinda funny that since I play a 6 string EB, almost none of my current bass playing will transfer :p) So anyways, I've tried to throw as much info about my background out there so some of the typical "get a teacher", "only learn Simandl first" responses don't get tossed around so much. I absolutely intend to get a skilled teacher once I finish up my last semester, I fully accept that I will have to unlearn some bad habits, but I'm also expressing that I have a pretty good grounding given my past musical training for understanding how Western pedagogy was and is typically developed, and also that for me, even just looking at a method book and how passages are fingered is interesting and enlightening about an instrument.

    Okay enough of that, also I'm sorry if I seem like I'm thumping my chest over here: "Look at me, I am master of classical music, I can play everything" etc. I really am not some fantastically amazing musician or anything, and I probably sound arrogant, but I just wanted to put everything out there so the thread doesn't get diverted. I'm looking to be able to compile a list of the different schools of DB and the introductory methods/other resources available. That's the simple question.
  2. Witjas


    Dec 4, 2010
    *takes a big breath*
  3. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    The schools are not distinct here in the US. End of story. The Rabbath method uses what looks like Simandl fingerings the majority of the time, and trained orchestral Simandl devotees use extensions, pivots, thumb below harmonic, and just plain whatever works when playing difficult passages. Even the line between French and German bow grips is becoming blurred as more players learn both (highly recommended,) and even use bows that allow both grips on the same stick.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but you'll find the vast majority of American pedagogy does not identify exclusively with one school or method 100%.

    For context- my stand currently has pedagogy from Rabbath, Simandl, Zimmerman, Bille, Sevcik, and more, which are all used interchangeably. All may be seen as separate and unique paths, but modern teachers pick the best from what's available... There's too much good stuff out there to ignore something based on pedantry.
  4. musicman1586


    May 24, 2012
    Yeah, perhaps I shouldn't have come off so black and white, but these names that you mentioned here, that's the sort of stuff I'm looking for, can you recommend anything by them in particular? I'm not looking for "the definitive end-all-be-all method book" but just different resources that will inform me of how many different people have come to approach the double bass. Or better yet, of the things on your music stands when it comes to pedagogy and technique, what would you recommend to an overly curious beginner who just wants to learn learn learn? I know there is a big stickied thread for method and technique books, but most of the stuff in there is atleast at the advanced student level.

    Thanks ILIA that's exactly the sorts of things I'm interested in finding.
  5. Sorry to go a little off-topic here, but I'm curious by this US-Europe thing. Is there an(y) clear divider(s) between the two continents? I wouldn't know, living way up in northern Europe and most importantly never been to the US.

    To add my 0,2 Öre (swedish cents), I've been taught from various "schools", at first selected pages from some local bass players starting books - a rather quick phase for me, since I'm converted from Electric bass and also saxophone in my luggage, hence I only had to learn some fingering adjustments and manouvering the bow, and not having to wrap my mind around music and notation.

    After that, I've "followed" Rabbath - or rather my teachers interpretation of Rabbath's books, mixed with all kinds of good-to-do exercises and pieces, as well as generally playing music with others.
  6. jaff


    Jun 7, 2006
    So far I am privileged to have had 4 excellent teachers and each of them has stressed learning both Rabbath and Simandl (to over-simplify) with a huge emphasis on becoming proficient in the shift before getting all wrapped up with the 'pivot'. There is an understandable - and sometimes useful - desire to classify, but with a lot of practice and application I think the boundaries blur into finding the best technique for you at the time. More than one of my teachers have advised always having a 'Plan B'.
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Does it really matter what school you are following?
    I think you should be open to any technique out there and assemble it to your own liking. I don't like the word 'school' because it can also limit one to look further. Also not all approaches work for everyone. So you should study everything you can and then see what works the best for you IMHO.
  8. Her are the scale systems that I've found most helpful:
    o Flesch Scale System (my teacher had me put in fingerings that work for fast virtuosic playing and for slow lyric playing)
    o Vade Mecum by Georg Vance is a great introduction to the concepts of Rabbath book 3.
    o Rabbath book 3
    o School of Agility by Eugene Levinson

    I also like to work through Boardwalkin' by Hal Robinson with different bowing and rhythm patterns. I like to use the Galamian Contemporary Violin Technique, Vol. 1 bowing and rhythm patterns with Boardwalkin'. The Galamian book is in two section. One section is just scales for the violin which aren't that applicable to bass and the other section is just bowing and rhythm patterns.

    Other great bowing/rhythm books:
    o Zimmerman Contemporary Concept of Bowing Technique
    o Strokin' by Hal Robinson/Sevcik

    Etudes that have worked well for me:
    o Bottesini 24 Exercises
    o Nanny Dix Étude Caprices (These are a great precursor to the Findeisen etudes)
    o Findeisen Etudes

    I worked in the Simandl and Nanny method books. I like the Nanny book a little better but it's also very expensive. The Simandl is just really dry so as long as it's balanced with some more interesting material it's not too bad.

    Petracchi Simplified Higher Technique is a great book for hand structure.
  9. Tom Gale

    Tom Gale

    May 16, 2009
    You can combine all bass techniques into several usable groups - closed hand (1,2, 4. - Simandl, etc.), open hand (1,2,3,4 - many names, etc.) and using the thumb above AND below the octave. Now, keep in mind that much of the older material was written when the bass had a different set-up - thick gut strings and high action. 1,2,4, was best for these conditions but it has all changed in the past 50 years. Today's techniques combine all of the above mentioned ones and will change according the immediate musical challenge. I have combined all three areas into the study material I have written for bass and have used them all within any concert to achieve the best musical result.
    Tom Gale
  10. musicman1586


    May 24, 2012
    I guess I wasn't quite clear or chose a word which is too loaded in saying school, but what you are suggesting I do is what I am trying to do with this thread. So far I have only been exposed to Simandl; through searches in the forum I have seen a few names, like the Rabbath books and Simandl Plus, talked about for a different style of approach, but I don't know what sources to turn to in order to get introduced to these different approaches (is approach a better word? saying school seems to have elicited wrong assumptions about what I'm looking for). I know that Simandl is not the only way to approach the bass, although from most regards it is still held to be quite foundational to any player, but what else is out there? When all of you first branched off from Simandl, what were the books/methods you turned to, who were the instructors that showed different ways to approach the bass, what pieces forced you to look at things in a different manner? Besides the good ol' standard Simandl text, what things should a beginner to advanced student be exposed to when it comes to the modern technical approach to the bass?

    The recommendations of texts so far are the exact things I'm looking for, so thanks again everyone.
  11. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Yes I prefer the term 'approaches'. All I am saying is that you should try every approach that you can get your hands on and then mix it all together to your liking. Strictly following one approach can be very limiting and maybe also a bit old fashioned way of learning. I think most modern (younger) top players do it like this. Also I have read too many Simandl vs Rabbath vs four finger method discussion and I am bored with it ;)
  12. Tom Gale

    Tom Gale

    May 16, 2009
    Well said! Mark Morton and I put this practical mixture together 20+ years ago and called the whole approach the "American School of Double Bass". :bassist:
    Tom Gale
  13. I didn't read your entire post but, this might be what you are looking for. When I think about bass pedagogy in America, I like to think about who the big teachers are, how they are affecting THEIR students, and also the influences in their playing. It is hard to start to understand pedagogy without getting to know some of the more well known teachers in the country, but you are on the right method of checking out Simandle and Rabath. The best place to start is in the method books. Just about any conservatory level teacher has a unique set of books they like to use, for justified reasons. I feel like generally up until a pretty recent time, there wasn't a really standardized method of playing the bass. The standardized method is now becoming an organic blend of these schools of teaching. Simandle and Rabath are excellent for left hand, and of course Zimmerman is essential to developing a good bow arm. When it comes down to it, every player is unique and we must all develop the best way of playing that is compatible with our own body type. EXPLORE EXPLORE EXPLORE! There are so many great method books out there, all with something that can help you be the best you can be. When considering pedagogy it is also key to not get too caught up in the left hand or bow arm, but the posture of the body itself. I try to incorporate the more relaxed and refined elements that I see in the pedagogy into my playing. Anyways, I don't really know if I answered your question, but good luck!!
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