Method books

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Shlomobaruch, Dec 31, 2002.

  1. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    I'm looking into starting to teach private lessons and I'm somewhat at a loss as to what method I should use. My own education came from learning piano, bass guitar and cello (in that order) well before learning the bass. The first method book I used was Simandl, but whether it was Simandl himself or the melancholic and malcontent drip I had for my first teacher (or the combo), my sheer love of the instrument is the only thing that got me through it and I have reservations about inflicting that tome upon another human being. But if not that, which is how I learned, then what else?

    I really like Bottesini's method of introducing scales and arpeggios, then well-crafted etudes in those scales, but shifting comes very early on - perhaps too early. Not to mention that the only copy I could ever find is about 100 years old. I've scanned the plates into my computer and can reproduce copies at will, but... I'd have to do that for each student.

    Aside from the fingering system, I really like Bille's method, and am leaning towards using that with Bottesini's etudes as supplemental material, but I don't know anyone else that's used it. Is there anyone who knows the pros and cons of this method?
  2. IMO, the thing about Simandl is that it reinforces the notes in each position and logical, efficient shifting much better than Bille and the other methods. Others may sound more like music than exercises (though Simandl can be made to sound musical), but the point of the method book is to develop the left hand. I hated Simandl, sometimes I hate hearing my students play Simandl, but it's the most systematic I've seen (I haven't seen Nanny's method).
  3. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    Really? Then we didn't even reap the best Simandl had to offer. It was years, even after finishing Simandl, before my shifting on the bass had anything resembling the accuracy I had on the cello. I don't know. I guess I'll take it as it comes.

    While we're at it, here's another question about another book. Zimmerman's "A Concept of Bowing Technique". I've had this book for a few years and have pecked at it on and off. The problem I have is knowing when to move on. After all, even the first actual etudes have a marking of 116=quarter note spiccato (or so), with the suggested instructions to take them to 152 or so with a detache bowing. But if I could do those string crossings cleanly at that speed, there's nary a lick in the repertoire that would give me grief, and even if it did, it wouldn't for very long. So I could spend years never getting past page 15. When do you say "good enough for now" and move on to learn a different pattern?
  4. Playing those string crossings cleanly to have no grief is the goal. When I took that book to my teacher he told me there was no way he'd sit and listen to me play that stuff, then he suggested the book goes way overboard. Don't misunderstand me, it's a great book, but one of the main points of the book can be understood and practiced without playing those exercises.

    My teacher suggested that instead of playing those exercises I play those rythms and string crossing patterns while practicing scales in 3rds, 4ths, or 5ths. The main point of the book, which is painstakingly and pedantically demonstrated in the diagrams, is what my teachers calls "bow to destination." That is essentially setting up your next bow stroke with the current bow stroke (where you are on the hair), and when approaching a string crossing moving the bow toward the string you're crossing to before that stroke occurs. You shouldn't be able to see daylight between the hair and the next string even while you're playing on the adjacent string.

    My teacher said,"If it takes you that whole book to understand that there's something wrong with you." So I understood pretty fast and haven't looked at the book in a few years. The other problem with sticking to the book is that all of the exercises are written on A and E on the 2nd and 1st strings. Playing there is very different from playing on the 3rd and 4th strings in half and 1st position where the trio in Beeth. 5th, for example, is written.

    Not having any aspirations to being a professional classical bassist I haven't worked up my spicatto to sound clean on 16ths at 1/4=120.
  5. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    Funny, my teacher had a similar reaction. He didn't care much for any kind of isolated exercises - to him good technique was a result of good playing. Meaning if it sounds right, then you're doing it right and there's not much more you need to know. To him there were too many etude books and Mozart/Beethoven/Brahms/Mahler symphonies to get through to be concerned *just* with bowing technique. I originally got the book because playing fast passages, especially with string crossings, was very difficult for me with the German bow. I had switched from French due to wrist strain and between changing bows and being naturally left-handed I felt really behind as far as bowing was concerned. I've since learned the wrist strain had more to do with trying to coax the tone of an old Italian instrument out of an overly-varnished plywood piece o' junk. I'm back to French (on a cheap Russian hybrid, but at least I have a solid table) and feeling much better.

    Since we're on a roll here, how about Sevcik? I have a bass transcription of his stuff, but am at a similar loss as to how to use it.
  6. Isolated exercises are a great way to address specific problems encountered in actual music. For instances, when working on an excerpt, if there's a string crossing that's giving you a problem, isolate it.

    I haven't encountered Sevcik.
  7. To do so would certainly be a refreshing twist on scale/arpeggio practice, but for me, as bowing practice per se, this defeats what I took to be part of the essense of the Zimmerman Bowing book: that it is sometimes effective to isolate the right hand from left hand in a difficult passage, and master each separately, before putting them back together. To this day, I am regularly surprised to find what I think are left hand problems are as much right hand problems, and vice versa. The basic approach this book advocates is for me a regular practice tool. So in that regard, I guess I disagree with Slow-mo's teacher's advice.

    That said, I don't think any normal bassist would want to share a stand with a nutter who actually beavered through every exercise in the book. If such a player wasn't of doubtful mental stability before going all the way through the book, he most certainly would be afterward.

    As for the notes used for most of the exercises, it was always my impression that he selected the notes he did mainly in an attempt to avoid sounding too ridiculous when going through these repetitive bowings. Agree that this introduces the problem that bowing in each particular neighborhood of the neck is different from bowing in other zones. When I first started trying some of those exercises, I almost injured my left hand by leaving it in one place for too long a stretch too many days in a row!

    Now, when I use the technique of separating out bowings like that, I'll devise a simple, fixed fingering somewhere in the region of the passage I'm working on. The key is to get rid of any left hand challenges for the moment. Also, occasionally I do throw a page or two from Zimmerman's basic bowing exercises into my regular warmup for a week or two, but with variety of simple fingerings so I am working the bowings with different types of string responses under the bow.

    All in all, though I couldn't agree more that to go through the whole book like a normal method book would be pretty insane, I still have found it a useful resource.

    Now, Sevcik, I still wish I could figure out what to do with that. My teacher only sniffed and tossed it aside. Maybe the thing to do would be to ask a violinist or a cellist how its used by them, where, I understand, it was originally intended. I think that more than one bass version has been produced, and they're very different. The one I have gives no real clue what its supposed to be getting at.
  8. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    I like what Dr. Morton teaches I have touted his method before. Take a look at what he has to say over at

    I went to his school last summer it was well worth the price.

    If I ever teach it is going to be his method I use.

  9. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    Oops. Apparently Dr. Morton lost his website!

    At any rate, I wasn't necessarily espousing my teacher's philosophy - in fact his resistance to any kind of specifically technical work and his closed focus on etudes and orchestral repertoire are my only complaints against him. Other than that, I owe everything I am as a bassist to him. I basically stated it for edification of what kind of background I was coming from. I agree the book is useful, it's just a question of how to use it. I've been using the crossings on page 15 as part of a few bow-specific exercises to improve things there. Lately it's been helping.

    As far as Sevcik... My wife's a violinist, and she'll take exercise numbers, say 3-4 at a time and assign them for a weekly lesson, take it from there based on how many they learn. I suppose that's how I could use it, but to learn it myself... it's harder to have that kind of structure when you're currently teaching yourself. Especially when I'm *capable* of playing what the exercise requires, but the question is to what degree. After all, there's my spiccato, and then there's Edgar Meyer's. Again, at what point does one say "enough" and move on?
  10. I suppose, in it's essence, that's a question only you can answer based on your ambitions.
  11. Don't go "overboard" yourself! That book does have a lot of pages - a lot of examples for the same concepts - but it's just trying to lead you towards what every "method" book should be doing - showing you how to apply the concept to everything you do.

    So when working on beethoven 5 trio, which someone complained wasn't in the book - just pretend it
    *is* in the book, and treat that excerpt to the same dissection it would get if it were in the book.

    then you've learned the lesson.
  12. Darth_Linux


    Oct 12, 2002
    Spokane, WA
    this should be . . .
  13. Gabe


    Jan 21, 2003
    How about the Suzuki series? Bach For The Young Bassist is good for student pieces.
  14. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    try strokin by Hal Robinson, It is a bass adapted version of sevcik bowing technique designed to help you conquer any kind of orchestral bowing, and learn the differences between your strokes.

    Very clear work from a very clear bass player, Philly principal and curtis bass instructor.

    availiable from robertson's 1800-a violin
  15. Use what you know, and make it your goal to squeeze whatever value you can recall out of the Simandl, and leave the rest of the pain behind.

    I use pages and concepts from:
    "Strokin'" by Hal Robinson (basically the Sevcik Violin Method)..
    .....I *do* also use my copies of the original transcription of Sevcik for bass, but can't buy it anymore.
    "New Method by Simandl" for basic position exercises
    "Simplified Higher Method" by Petracchi ... truly excellent stuff, repeat ex# 6, 9, 11 every day.
    "A Contemporary Concept of Bowing Technique For The Double Bass" by Fred Zimmerman
    "Double Bass Books" series by Gary Karr

    The George Vance Books and the Suzuki books also offer some nice melodic material and good fingering ideas, but the Actual Suzuki Method is It's Own Thing; you aren't using "The Method" just by buying the book.
  16. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    After teaching lessons, which I'm enjoying immensely, I've come to a lot of realizations about methods. kpo is so completely on the money in that other thread about methods just being a tool of the teacher and that a specific method isn't nearly as important as the teacher that uses it. The reason I never remember using one truly page by page, cover to cover is because no one really does. Every student seems to have things they just "get" and others that need to be worked on. Trying to fit them into a systematic mold doesn't really work. I was looking for some kind of structure I could lean on, and instead I'm kind of revelling in the chaos of their various learning processes. Which isn't to say that I don't expect progress, just acknowledging that it comes differently for different people. I keep a notebook handy, because when I practice, thoughts will occur to me as to how to communicate a point to a student in a way that will work specifically for him/her. I love it.

    As far as "Strokin' Sevcik"... I haven't been able to find it online anywhere. I know that 800 number was listed... What *is* the difference from the violin method? Because my wife has the original violin stuff, and if I'm going to be looking at the same exercises in a different clef, I'll just borrow hers instead. Besides, I had to bribe her with a Starbucks bear and candy just to order Caimmi's edition of Bottesini's "Elegy No. 1". These days a penny saved is a penny earned.
  17. You can order *Strokin'* and many other things, like the David Anderson concerto and the Anderson "four pieces" for solo bass, from Mr Hal Robinson by emailing and asking for the catalogue.
  18. For bow studies I am a big fan of Bille's "School of the Bow" which can be found at the back of the second Bille book (I. Part, II. Practical course - Ricordi 262). Much of the book is scales and arpeggios, but the bow school at the back has 10 studies that give an extensive workout of all bow strokes.

    I've also recently discovered an incredibly detailed bowing book by Klaus Trumpf that I'm about to start one of my students on since he's almost through the Bille.
  19. Although the Simandl might be the most boring thing you ever play, it is probably one of the best things you will ever play. He can teach so much in one tiny etude. How to do a 4 4 finger shift or string crossings. His book is in my opinion invaluable.

    If you are looking for a book with scales and arrpegios then I would suggest the Flesch/Drew method books. He will start in C maj. you play the scale, three octaves, then you might do seconds, then thirds......then thirteenths. You know your fingerboard upside down and backwards after that!
  20. Dondi


    May 3, 2003
    The lesser of the evils is still the Simandl book for me. However, you have to add materials to it and work them into your students routine. There's nothing wrong with using several books with each student. Some that I have found useful are: Slama scale studies, Sturm studie, Storch-Hrabe studies, and the Kreutzer etudes. That is roughly in order of difficulty.
    In conjunction with the studies you must have a healthy dose of real music, perhaps starting with the Marcello Sonatas, with Vivaldi right after. Then Mr. Capuzzi's concerto and some Teleman sonata. If you get good at the Telemann, try his canonic sonatas and play them with your student.
    Finally, get hold of Bach's Cello suites and go to heaven.
    Just a suggestion,