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Should I be a soloist?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Shmelbee, Mar 28, 2005.


  1. Shmelbee

    Shmelbee

    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Hey guys,

    Ive been lurking for a while, but have recently come across a pressing issue.

    I am a junior in high school. I have been playing DB for 5 years. All my teacher works with me are solos. I have been in his orchestra for 3 years, and I do exerpts and that kind of thing on my own. I am starting to choose colleges, and I dont know what I should go for.

    I am going to study with Gary Karr this summer, maybe he will give me some advice. It seems though that when I practice, I cant ever practice the orchestra stuff because I can play it right away, so I opt to work on the Big Pieces.

    Any suggestions?
     
  2. In my opinion, the orchestra/opera pieces ARE the 'big pieces'.

    My suggestion is that you try to look at the big picture a little more. Why is the audience there? To listen to the bass parts specifically? Highly unlikely.

    Music, especially involving an orchestra, is about teamwork and presenting the ENTIRE piece as a whole. Try to look at orchestral bass parts in that light - as a support to the greater vision of the piece. Find ways to see how the bass part fits and contributes to this.

    Work on your sound for that 'little' pizzicato here and there - see if you can lean on it in just the right right way (or NOT lean on it in just the right way).

    One of my favourite bits of music I've played lately has been a
    stupid 'little' pizzicato in the slow movement Scheherazade. It's really nothing on paper, but it is one of the most satisfying nothings out there. The great operas are full of such moments.

    In short, try to look around and listen more. I think your 'easy' orchestra bass parts will become more important than you think they are.
     
  3. Shmelbee

    Shmelbee

    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Thanks, Rob

    I really appreciate the quick advice. I do know what youre talking about, I guess the reason i picked up the bass was after hearing that one pizzicato run in Dvoraks 9th...its somewhere in one of the movements (duh).

    What are your thoughts on anyone making it as a soloist? Do you think its even possible to make a living as one? It just seems easier for me, I dont think my tone fits in an orchestra all the time, but I suppose thats another thing to practice. I guess my teacher is just wierd, telling me to go be in an orchestra, and then working on Dragonetti and Koussevitsky stuff. Silly man.
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Be a hero and do it all. It sounds like you have enough of a head start.
     
  5. prelims222

    prelims222

    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    Can you be a soloist?

    Do you want to be a soloist?
     
  6. 5stringDNA

    5stringDNA

    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    Edgar Meyer seems to be pulling it off, but not many others. ;)
     
  7. prelims222

    prelims222

    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    Ok, another point to consider: Dragonetti and Koussevitsky is good for a Jr. in Highschool, and you will have to play the Koussevitsky at some point for some audition, so its great to get a head start, but hundreds of players are in the same boat and also are learning the excerpts now, at younger ages than ever. Bass solos are great for advancing some aspects of technique and definitely provides a whole different window into your musical development, but excerpts definitely deserve their place for 99.9999% of the Bass playing populace.
     
  8. Shmelbee

    Shmelbee

    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Thanks for all the help!
     
  9. kraid

    kraid

    Apr 11, 2003
    During orchestral auditions, a bass player is expected to be able to play solo works as well as orchestral excerpts. So while you may think that solo works will have nothing to do with being in an orchestra, they're required to make sure you have the technique that isn't always shown in the relatively boring bass parts that most classical music contains.

    In my opinion, orchestras, at least in the United States, seem to be very conservative with their programming. It seems as though no one is willing to put a bass player as a soloist because of the unknown repitoire and the sound balance issues. Orchestras would rather put a well-known violinist playing the Brahms rather than a double bassist playing the Scontrino concerto because it's easier to sell tickets that way. Becoming a full-time soloist may not be the easiest path if you want to make a career as a double bassist. Of course there are those who have done it- Edgar Meyer, Stefano Scodanibbio, Gary Karr- but there are so little soloists that aren't involved in orchestras at the same time (a lot of Edgar Meyer's success as a classical bassist is also because of his bluegrass recordings' success as they're marketable).
     
  10. Do you really think that? I hope you don't want to be an orchestral bass player then.

    I contend if one finds most orchestra bass parts boring, then you're not looking deep enough. Every little note can be a gem if you approach section bass parts musically with a good sense of phrasing.

    If you can't find those things, then maybe the bass isn't for you.

    I always try to encourage people to be a musician who happens to play the bass. Not the other way around.

    As I said in my post above, in the orchestra, the combined sound of all the instruments is what is important. The bass part is not the centre of the universe (usually), but that doesn't necessarily make it boring. Play the whole piece, not just the bass part.
     
  11. kraid

    kraid

    Apr 11, 2003
    Well thanks for telling me what I already know. An orchestral bass player is the life I want to pursue, I know that. But I think that bass players give their parts a little too much credit a lot of the time. For every Mendelssohn's 4th there's probably 2 Boleros. This doesn't stop me from loving to play, but I think that it's a truth.
     
  12. Actually, I don't mean to say that unto themselves those 'simpler' parts are super dramatic all the time, but they do have their place in the grand scheme of the piece.

    I'm not encouraging anyone to make something out every little thing, but am encouraging people to look at the big picture more and try to phrase in a more supportive way.

    Struass waltzes are a good example of this. It's far to easy to play 8 bar sequences of every note the same weight and volume when, if you listen to the melody carefully, there is a huge amount of overall phrasing that can be added to sensitively accompany the melody. It really isn't just 'oom-chuk-chuk' for five minutes straight. I used to find Viennese waltz programs boring, but now I love them.

    So I don't at all mean to suggest you try to make a concerto out of a simple pizzicato passage, but do look to how you can better support the people that do have the melody.

    Our job, a lot of the time, is to make other people sound good, and that's a real art unto itself.
     
  13. Shmelbee

    Shmelbee

    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Maybe just around small town aberdeen, the orchestra is boring. Ive been sitting high in South Daktota all-state, and when I get with real musicians, orhcestra is a blast. I'm principal of All-State Band :eyebrow: and we have the concert tonight, and even in band, its fun adding to the bigger picture even when I'm doubling tuba parts just for effect. I do hope I get a job someday (I suppose thats all i'm worried about), whether its orchestra or solo (or both) Thanks again for all the advice, Rob W and all.
     
  14. I completely disagree. YOU ARE MISINFORMED!!!!!!! DAXUN Zhang IS THE MAN!!!! I would much rather listen to daxun any day. He recorded with YO-yo ma and many others and won the Young Artists competition in NEW YORK. Just thought I would let you know, I am a little bias I go to IU. BUt anyways. thanks James
     
  15. Didn't Meyer go to IU?
     
  16. prelims222

    prelims222

    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    On the other hand, DaXun doesn't want to just be a soloist for that long... ask him about his chinese gypsy band sometime jimmy.
     
  17. AllegroConBasso

    AllegroConBasso

    Apr 3, 2005
    As Principal Bass of the Astoria Symphony Orchestra I can tell you that while solos are like desserts while excerpts are our bread and butter. Too many solos and you will go fat and bad at spiccato.

    Try to apply the same high standards to your excerpts as you do to your solos. Can you really just "play through them" or rather "fake through them"? How clean is your articulation? How in tune is it? These are questions I am sure you ask when playing Capuzzi but may overlook when playing beethoven - who is just as good a composer and deserves as much of our time.

    An excerise I enjoy is
     
  18. Shmelbee

    Shmelbee

    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    :D It makes me so happy to see how much all of you care about my problem! Thanks!

    An excerise you like is....please tell!

    I do love playing in tune, in fact, when Im doing anything, I actually get really upset if I cant get it in tune. I do try to get everything right, articulation, phrasing, intonation, etc. I do that for EVERYTHING.
     
  19. AllegroConBasso

    AllegroConBasso

    Apr 3, 2005
    Sorry to leave my last post unfinished - I had to run to an incredible rehearsal. This week we're playing Dvorak 7. Sometimes my sound is so big that my endpin (or even musicstand!) starts to rattle. I think I need a new endpin.

    Its good to hear that you apply high standards to all of your playing! I too grow frustrated if I can't attain the desired pitch -and I grow downright mad if I can't acheive the dynamic level I crave.

    Oh yes, about the excerise in question: An excercise I enjoy is spiccato. But more specifically HIGH spiccato. My initial studies on the double bass were with the band teacher at the local junior highschool who happened to be a fine percussionist. He turned me on to thinking of the bass as a large wooden, stringed, soundboard - similar to the skin of a timpani head. The similarities are uncanny (read some Asimov if you are interested in the Physics pertaining to this).

    Have you ever seen a timpanist acheive a loud dynamic by starting his stroke a mere inch above the head? No, of course not. So, in this day and age, we bassists must too learn a high vertical stroke like the downward thrust of a mallet. See, by not wasting time and energy on horizontal bow motion in the strokes, we can acheive the highest level of spiccato and allow the body of the instument to resonate the length and taper of the tone (like the body of the kettle drum).

    Master this stroke and you are sure to turn heads with your playing. In my orchestra, the stands of cellists in front of me turn around wide-eyed a dozen times per rehearsal. They call the sound I pull unbelievable.

    Start with your metronome on 120 to the quarter and thump out eighths making sure to clear the string by as much as you can. Through time the stroke will get bigger and bigger. Also note that one's stick must be very tight and one must use plenty of rosin to attain a core sound through minimal horizontal length.

    This should help! Good luck one and all! In the words of Hal happy "strokin'"
     
  20. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Wow, I might actually pay money to see this... So you do this while staring down and rattling your competitors?

    Scuse me while I get some popcorn. :D