Orchestral instruments

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Nov 9, 2013.

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  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    The DB is one of those instruments (together with tuba, or trombone or timpani for example) very much gender skewed towards males. I may be generalizing here, :bag: but that's the impression I get from watching orchestras, playing with others etc. Apart from the physical strength/stamina required, are there any other reasons for this lack of participation? Are there any renown female DB orchestral players you can enlighten me on, please?

    Thanks for reading!
  2. There are tons of female bassists. Your gender doesn't make you special, sorry.
  3. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    There are plenty of female double bassists in the DC Metro area.

  4. type "orchestral double bass" into Google image search - plenty of ladies - not as many as the fellas of course, but hardly rare!
  5. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    the local orchestra here in Akron, OH, has at least 2, if not three in their 6-8 person section. I think some women who are smaller can feel intimidated by the practical issues of carrying the damn thing around, but I think that applies to people of either gender. If someone wants to play, then they'll find a way.
  6. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    There are not any "limitations" or "gender differences" that prevent women from playing bass (or trombone, tuba, timpani/percussion) at all. I studied bass with a fantastic woman who has a great freelance career and sits principal with a few regional orchestras. If you're worried about size/strength/stamina, she had one of the largest basses I have ever seen, and made it sound great. I went to university with an amazing bass trombone player who was a woman, and there were a few others there as well. We had two female bassist in our studio, a tuba player there as well, and the percussion studio was about a third female. All of these instruments are significantly less demanding than many other things that women do every single day. My cousin is a firefighter who rides a Harley, and I'm sure that she could handle the "strenuous" physical requirements of playing an instrument.

    There are still social pressures/ideologies associated with music and certain instruments. Cello was considered a "man's" instrument for a lot of years, because it was inappropriate for a woman to spread her legs like that in public. Most of the instruments you've mentioned are low and loud, two things that are not considered "lady like". Having larger hands, longer arms, being taller etc. all help with playing these instruments, but there are plenty of us here who are none of those things and manage bass quite well. There is nothing saying men can't wear pink, but a lot of guys don't feel comfortable with it.

    When deciding to become a musician, most people select their own instrument. Your parents might put you in piano lessons or start you out on violin at 3, but a lot of people make the choice of orchestral instruments in school at whatever age their school system starts those instruments. Young boys are often drawn to "low and loud" and young girls are often drawn to higher, more melodic instruments. Although everyone is fighting for equal rights and against gender discrimination, a lot of people still think that boys shouldn't play with dolls and girls shouldn't play with trucks. Regardless to how level the playing field is social norms need to catch up. Technically I can wear a dress and my employer, government etc. cannot discriminate against me for making that choice, but that doesn't mean that everyone's going to be ok with it.

    Give it time. Change is happening, but doesn't happen overnight.
  7. I have a female friend who is not even half my weight, yet I'm pretty sure her grip strength is even with mine. She can lift things I can't, and do one-handed chin-ups... women are not as fragile as people seem to think. Not all of them, anyway.
  8. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    I'm pretty sure the O.P. was making a general observation, not a blanket statement. And generally speaking, it is obviously true. But personally, I don't think it has as much to do with women's physical limitations as it does with the fact that most girls/women like to do things that are feminine. And the double bass really isn't that.
  9. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    What Lee (rightly) said

    Thank you
  10. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    Orin O'Brien (NY Phil), Ju Fang Liu (Principal, Indianapolis Symphony), Laura Snyder (Milwaukee Symphony), Gaelen McCormick (Rochester Phil), Diana Gannet (professor, University of Michigan) Tracy Rowell (ex assistant principal, National Arts Centre Orchestra [Canada], Oberlin Conservatory),

    And those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure there are plenty of others.
  11. Susan Cahill, Colorado Symphony and Lamont School of Music; Sheila Garrett and Trish Bereti-Reid, Calgary Phil; Gloria Jones and Jane Little, Atlanta Symphony; Carolyn White and Sarah Hogan, St. Louis...
  12. jaff

    jaff Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2006
    No offense intended, but I'm not sure you are really in touch with the world today. Women are making huge advances in all areas and they deserve that acknowledgement. Your statement about 'feminine' is really archaic now..
  13. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    How so? Are you actually suggesting that boys and girls/men and women play bass in equal numbers? Or are you of the conviction that there is no difference between "masculine" and "feminine"?

    And "the advancement of women in all areas" was not really under discussion. . . . Why would I mention it?

    And I'm pretty sure offense was intended, but I'll be O.K.
  14. SeaMist_au


    Aug 28, 2012

    How so? It's archaic because it subscribes to a position that some instrumentalists are either masculine or feminine depending on what instruments they play. Clearly men and women don't play the double bass in equal numbers. If your labelling of gender appropriate musical activities is any guide as to the welcome given to women in the DB world it's no wonder that most women would run a mile before taking up the instrument. Fortunately there are enough women emerging willing to ignore the outright sexist attitudes that lie beyond the language you are using in your posts. May there be many more.
  15. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    I never said that instrumentalists are necessarily more masculine or feminine based upon the instruments that they play. I was speaking about perception, and it is common perception that a bass is more masculine than a flute. I would never discourage a girl/woman from playing double bass because of that perception, but I believe it's likely that that perception discourages some girls/women from playing bass.

    If you are going to throw around such harsh accusations against me, I ask you to please identify the "outright sexist attitudes that lie beyond the language you are using in your posts."
  16. SeaMist_au


    Aug 28, 2012
    So the double bass is not 'feminine', presumably making it a masculine instrument, played by men. Somehow this is not sexist. Men defining what is or isn't feminine.......I have no more words.....

    Let others speak for me.


    Says it all, especially in the comments.
  17. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Without wading into the charged area of gender politics I must point out that what I read Lee saying was more like...

    "Masculine" as in "that bass sounds like a low male voice". The instrument is being described with human like characteristics, it's not a comment on whether the player is the proper gender or not.
  18. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    I was not defining anything. I was merely saying what I am fairly confident that females (and most people) generally perceive as feminine or masculine. But regardless of perception, I am very glad to see females playing bass, and I would encourage females who have the interest to pursue it and not be deterred by common perception.

    I am also glad to hear that you have no more words.

    bkbirge - Yes, that is more or less what I am saying. I would add that the size also contributes to the bass being perceived as a more "masculine" instrument.
  19. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    My two best teachers, and two of the finest bassists I've ever known, Gundrun Raschen and Yuka Tadano, are women. Both are young, smaller than most men, and have thriving performance and teaching careers. Thank heavens they had the courage to defy stereotypes and do what they loved.
  20. mtto

    mtto Supporting Member

    May 25, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Chi-chi Nwanoku

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