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new forum member needs advice, vents frustration (LONG)

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Darth_Linux, Jan 27, 2003.

  1. Darth_Linux


    Oct 12, 2002
    Spokane, WA
    Hi fellow bassists:

    I'm a newer forum member, haven't really posted much, just been reading a lot. There is such a variety of experience here that I felt it appropriate to ask for guidance from a wide variety of musicians and see what you all come up with.

    Please excuse the longness of this post - I'm really frustrated and need to vent/rant for a while to get it off my chest. Hopefully you can offer me some good advice.

    First a brief introduction and explanation.

    I've been playing electric bass for 16 years, played in lots of bands, recorded CDs, went on tours, done session work alot, and I currently teach private lessons as a major source of my income in addition to the occasional gig as a sub. All the usual stuff, nothing note worthy. I'm a damn good bassist, but due to circumstance, life choices, so on and so forth I'm bassically a big fish in a miniscule pond. that's ok, I don't play for the recognition.

    Due to more life changes and circumstances somewhat out of my control I've gone back to college and now find myself playing double bass. I played it once before for about 6 months (10 years ago) but quit because a) it hurt my right hand, b) I didn't like the snobs in the college orchestra I was in c) didn't plan on pursuing music at the college level to get a performance degree or whatever. I was gonna play electric in rock bands and make millions . . . or something like that.

    so here I am in college again, playing DB again and my hand still hurts, people are still snobs (the jazzers this time round) and I'm really frustrated, because now I AM going for a degree in Music and Music Education. I'm not a performance major, but I still have to pass my Junior jury and do public recitals.

    So here's the problem(s). My teacher - he teaches at all 3 colleges in town plus elementary school. I don't think he gives a rip personally about me as a student. He couldn't - anyone who is that busy pretty much just shows up at what ever school he is at for the day and keeps the revolving door going with the students coming in and out. He knows of my reputation in the "scene" here and assumes he doesn't have to really do much with me but throw the Simandl book in my general direction and watch the clock tick by 30 minutes.

    I have problems that he can't seem to address, doesn't care to research and has no solution for and I'm left wondering if it's me, the pile of crap bass the school has loaned me, the bow or the phases of the moon. I just don't know . . .

    I'm playing a well abused 1952 Kay bass that sounds pretty atrocious, is hard to play, doesn't project and so on. My right hand cramps when I play, probably because I'm trying too hard to get some tone out of it. My teacher suggested switching to German bow. Now I have a whole new set of problems (bouncing bow, awkward angle on the E string, etc.). I'm not convinced french bow is the problem - I can play the cello all day with the french bow and have zero cramping, but as soon as I start on this Kay bass, it just siezes up. The same thing happened to me 10 years ago on the bass the other college loaned me (make unknown). Unfortuneatly I do not have any means to get my own good quality bass. Loans, credit, mortgages - none are an option right now.

    My teacher knows I have recitals coming and he suggests all the standard, over played, run of the mill bass solos you can think of - correlli, marcello, bach. I like Bach a lot, but man, this is the same bass solos people have been playing for centuries. The repetoire for DB, from what he has suggested so far, is either dreadfully boring or just a wanker-fest (dragonetti). I want to play something that makes me cry with long tones, not shows how fast I can play scales and harmonics in thumb position.

    I can't play anything advanced anyway, but I have no desire to show everyone how fast I can arpeggiate.

    so anyway, to summarize that long rant here are my points in question:

    first, I'm paying $18,000 a year to go to a school that has an excellent music program. I expect/demand excellence in instruction. Being a teacher myself (on EB only) I know I have an obligation as a student to follow my teachers direction, but I also believe my teacher has an obligation to me to show genuine interest in where I am as a double bassist. "non-solution" solutions are not acceptable - I'm stuck with this guy and he's stuck with me so we better make it work. I'm willing to listen to anything from him except "i'm not sure what the problem is".

    second, I need suggestions for a method book. Simandl is dreadful. any method book that induces a coma in it's learner should not be handed out. This is just another case of "hey simandl is difficult for 99% of my students so I'll use it with this one too." That won't fly with me - I don't need to spend a week learning where F, F# and G are.

    third - I need suggestions for solo material. I like what Edgar Meyer does - he said in an interview he cuts his own path. I like that. I don't want to rehash the same crap people have been doing. I'm not opposed to taking a tune and arranging it for DB - I've done it for EB many times - I don't think that I should have to only play music that was written for DB. As Jeff Berlin says, "a G is a G" whether on harmonica or hand bell. If someone has some suggested listening I'd love to hear it. anything but the old standby's that my teacher can just hand off to me with out even considering whether they are appropriate for me or not.

    Ok, so I probably sound like an ass. I'm not. But the pressure is on - I'm paying a lot of money for this education. I HAVE to play these recitals and juries. And I feel like I'm getting no where because I have a teacher that doesn't really care, gives me a method book that make me want to pass out, and suggests recital material that is plain dreadful to listen to. all because it's "the thing to do - the status quo." I've never been a status quo person.

    your opinions please. thanks for listening!

  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    There have been a few discussions around here on your two basic requests - i.e. another replacement for Simandl and material for solos. I think you should find a link to the former in the newbie links.

    I think it can be hard to find material that is suitable but as you say : you can use anything. The most interesting stuff I have found, has been in the magazine Double Bassist - they have some music for DB in each issue, which was obviously interesting to the editors, unusual and fairly new and fresh.
  3. Consider yourself really, really, really, really lucky and super talented if it only takes you a week to find F, F#, and G.

    I don't accept your beef about the solo material. A large reason behind your recital is to demonstrate how technically proficient you've become in addition to being musical. Something slow with lots of long tones won't demonstrate. There's a reason the suggested pieces are used repeatedly. They are commonly known and provide a benchmark against which to judge your abilities. It has absolutely nothing to do with the status quo and lack of caring.

    There will be plenty of time to "cut your own path" once you've learned how to play. You can't cut your own path while you have no idea of what your doing.

    BTW, who's your teacher?
  4. Darth_Linux


    Oct 12, 2002
    Spokane, WA

    I mean in half position. It took all of about an hour for my left hand to adjust to the larger scale of DB.

    I'm not saying my intonation is perfect by any means of course . . .

    No one else is doing music that sounds like an etude for their recitals. Of course other instruments have loads of songs to choose from where as DB music has less to choose from. It just seems to me like my teacher didn't give me very many things to choose from.

    I realize that, but does that mean I have to the most dreadfully boring music while learning the basics? There are NO more musical and less dry methods to learning the instrument out there? I just can't believe that.

    i've read tons of posts by people stuck in the dregs of simandl who have the same feelings as I do. This is what I mean by status quo. i've found the thread on other methods so I'm gonna check out the suggestions.

    thanks for the input.
  5. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS

    I'm assuming you're just venting, because with the EBG experience you say that you have, your difficulty sould really only be getting around the new instrument and learning a new technique. That's no walk in the park, but for someone that's done the work that you have, it doesn't seem to me that it should be that difficult for you. Your ear should be seasoned enough for you to hear where an F, F#, G are on the DB in multiple octaves. Sure the scale is longer, but it's still strung E A D G. I'm assuming you can already read, so note indentification shouldn't be a problem so you can focus more of your energy on intonation and adjusting to the scale of the bass. All of this stuff requires lots and lots of practice, every day. You say your right hand cramps when you play with the bow, odds are your grip is to tight and/or you are too tense. Simandl excercises can be boring, but this is about refining your technique and not really about being entertained, besides you're a grown up with a mission, get cracking my man! :D
  6. Just because Simandl seems boring isn't (IMO) a reason to can it. Learning shifting and positions can be both boring and frustrating at the same time. Hard work is often boring and frustrating. The goal is to reap a reward from it in the long run. However, if the general approach isn't working, there are alternatives, but I don't know them as I am using Simandl.

    It sounds like your bass could stand to be looked at by a luthier. Playing something that might possibly be very poorly setup is a recipe for injury, and might be contributing to your problems with getting a good tone out of it. This could be wrong, its a guess.
  7. Also, and I duck as I write this, I think you should spend more energy practicing SOMEthing, ANYthing, than blaming your teacher or your book for what's happening. It's really easy to get a good tone out of a BG in comparison to DB. Takes a lot of long hours to get *that* tone from a DB . Alot of repetition, feeling like you are on a treadmill. But there are those moments when you feel the progress, and it is good.

    Express your frustrations to your teacher. Change your routine to be in more line with your expecations. Get good suggestions from these fine players. But place your energy into practicing. Your teacher is reccomending these things because he's seen them work, or they've worked for him, or whatever. Doesn't make them *Absolute Truths*, but there's precious few of those in the world. Bottom line is he's coming from years of DB experience, and it is possible he may be encouraging you down paths that will benefit you in the long run.

    Or he could be a total bastard and I could be wrong. Chances are its half a case of him going through the motions and half a case of you not giving him the benefit of the doubt. You both need to bend.
  8. I know what you meant, and until you can consistently play those notes in tune, no matter where on the bass you're shifting from and without looking at your hand, you don't know where those notes are. And if you honestly think that after an hour of playing your left hand made the adjustment to the larger scale, you're deluding yourself and you're absolutely right about your teacher not doing his job.
  9. SleeperMan2000


    Jul 31, 2002
    Cary NC
    As far as Simandl goes, stick with it. I started out detesting it as a Dead Sea Scroll that should have decomposed, and now I read the etudes before I go to bed at night and visualize the shifts in my head that I'll play the next day.

    Sure the etudes can sound boring, the challenge is to make them sing. It can be done.

    Simandl is a method and should be considered another tool in your arsenal of learning aids. It gives me a great framework for navigating the fingerboard, and that is a good thing.
  10. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    You need a better instrument and a better teacher.
  11. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    I had many of your problems when I started out. I too, was a bass guitar convert (with about 18 months of cello thrown between the two) and started on a cheap, unresponsive bass, and I still can't look at Simandl book one without twitching... and my first teacher sucked chode. So here's my advice...

    1. The Kay should work for the time being. An old friend of mine went to Julliard with one, Slam Stewart made himself a legend on one. I've even heard rumors of someone winning a Chicago Symphony audition on one... BUT it could be horribly set up, and/or have poor strings on it. I'd advise you to have a luthier look at it and set it up. That should make it as responsive as possible, and help with tension issues. As far as bows... try German, but only to see if it suits you better. Either way mastery is a long road ahead. Changing bows isn't a solution but simply a *possible* step in the right direction. Or not. But what do you have to lose for trying?

    2. Other etudes... Yorke publishes the exercises from Bottesini's Method in two volumes (the second including thumb position). Others will stand by Simandl, but I've learned so much from the musicality of these exercises that I wholeheartedly recommend them. There's also Bille's method which is very much adapted from Bottesini's. Sturm's etudes are very, very good as well but may be a little advanced for you right now. Or perhaps not, I'm not sure where you stand.

    3. Find other bass teachers in your area. Talk to them, explain your predicament. They should give you a free lesson to assess the situation and introduce themselves, then you can see who you like working with and take supplemental lessons from that teacher. Even when my instruction was excellent I still sought additional points of view. In the meantime, as far as the tension goes. Try playing *anything* and relaxing. Even just long bowed tones. See if you can't find where you're causing your tension and why.

    4. Solos... sometimes I think half (or more) of the reason those baroque sonatas don't die is to be endlessly recycled jury/recital pieces. Yes, they can be fun when you have the technique, but they aren't necessarily the ticket for someone itching to express themselves. Pick up a copy of Dragonetti's "Andante and Rondo". I think it's all in standard position, and aside from a few licks, it might be within your capabilities. Also check the Yorke catalog on that. (www.yorkeedition.co.uk) They have some pieces listed that are recommended for early - medium grades, though I haven't actually seen them. It's worth a shot, I think.

    5. In the words of Giovanni Bottesini himself - "It must not be thought that it is a very easy matter to learn to play this instrument according to the Rules. In like manner as for the violin, one must not only have a natural disposition for it, but also a great firmness of hand. The Artist wanting in this last quality is to an equal extent burdened by so much preoccupation with respect to the mechanism as to prevent his freely rendering his ideas and inspiring his audience

    This firmness of the hand, this complete dominion over the strings, can only be acquired by long practice. In order, then, to obtain that mastery, it is absolutely necessary to have time, patience, and perseverance." In other words, have patience and stick with it. That you're asking for help here indicated that you're willing to do what it takes. Do not underestimate this. Maintain that willingness and all else will come. Good luck.

    Oh crap... you're in Spokane. Scratch that about the teachers - my wife checked out the instruction scene there and found it horribly wanting. Uhhh... if you'll drive to Boise I'll give you pointers for free.
  12. SleeperMan2000


    Jul 31, 2002
    Cary NC
    Also check the Yorke catalog on that. (www.yorkeedition.co.uk)

    link is actually


    slow website, but it works. not sure how they'd handle the # to $ conversion, I guess the credit card company would do that.
  13. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    It seems we have here another example of "EB does not necessarily help much for DB"... especially to maneuver the bow: it hurts, like for everybody else (after 5 years it still hurts me after 1/2hr of practice, so I alternate with pizz).

    Simandl becomes more musical if you seek the music in it: analyze the exercises, play not only the notes but also the phrases, make the musical sentences breathe, etc. Actually, this is where your experience should help.

    Also, you attend college as a student or what? You're expected to act as a student, not as a supervisor to the teacher! Accept to be humble: everybody knows you're a big fish. Stop bitching, be nice even to the snobs, they (too) will loosen-up in the long run. Maybe you'll find an easy piece for bass ensemble to perform with them. I have a rough transcription of Yesterday from the Beatles for quatuor de contrebasses... you can PM me.
  14. Yep - if stuff is easy, it means you can blow through it and make it sing a bit, even if you hate it for whatever reason.

    If something is hard, even if its not your cup of tea, learning it will help you, even if you don't end up ever thinking about it again.

    Divide your practice time into learning pieces and creating/improvising. Then you won't need to put so much emphasis on whether you 'like' what you learn, the end goal is to improve your playing ability and your ear. Oh, and that pesky brain.
  15. Darth_Linux


    Oct 12, 2002
    Spokane, WA
    I wanna thank everyone for excellent opinions and advice. Some of your replys were very enlightening, some missed the point. Regardless, I feel much better about the whole situation.

    I think the bottom line is that being an excellent EB player really has little to do with being an excellent DB player. My teacher, knowing my reputation on EB, made a huge mistake in assigning to me recital material that was way over my head and beyond my abilities. This of course led me to panic, frustration and probably a bad attitude to some degree. Of course the financial pressure combined with the pressure to perform at recitals with *any* degree of proficiency really got me off to a bad foot.

    Where I am a week later:

    I'm gonna stick with Simandl but explore some of the other method books mentioned in the forum. I'm going back to lesson 1 with Franz . . .

    I've gotten a second teacher temporarily who I've explained my situation to and he's gonna give me an honest evaluation about the bass, the bow, and my playing, so that I can focus on my weaknesses more heavily. This teacher is the principal bassist in the symphony here in town so I feel I'm in good hands.

    As far as the instrument and current teacher goes, I'm stuck with both - the college provides them both and I don't have the means to buy my own DB yet, and my teacher teaches at 3 of the 4 colleges here in town, so no matter where I go, there he is.

    Anyway, I'm gonna make the best of it and really try and practice 1 to 2 hours a day.

    thanks again!!
  16. Will the school pay to have the bass set up?
  17. Darth_Linux


    Oct 12, 2002
    Spokane, WA
    they've paid for a few repairs, but they aren't going to pay $400 for a real setup :(
  18. MacDaddy


    Jan 26, 2002
    Provo, UT, USA
    Hey I resent that, my current teacher is the best I've ever seen. She freakin' rocks.
    But anyhoo, Darth my man, your current teacher (I know who you're talking about) is a total stud. I had a couple sectionals with him and he's dang good. I know a couple people that take from him and love him to death, so you're certainly in good hands.
    I had the exact same problems with your other teacher (not the principle guy). My bow hand was absolutely horrible and he never said anything. I was holding the bow (german) horribly wrong and he never said anything. The first time I found out was at the Hammond Ashley Bass Camp in Seattle and man I felt like an idiot. Right after that experience I switched from him to my current teacher and man what a difference. Kind of came as a shock. Hope everything works out, and if you have any questions locally give me a hollar
  19. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    I'm sorry if I offended anyone, I was just going by what I was told. I can't remember which school there she was looking at going to, but as a violinist she wasn't really impressed with her instruction/performance options. Then again, her teacher at the time was a retired concertmaster of the London Phil. I unfortunately made the mistake of assuming that if a violinist can't find a good teacher, a bassist is all but certainly even worse off. In most cases I would think this to be a safe bet, but apparently not in this one. Pardon me.

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