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Simandl and parallel repertoire suggestions

Discussion in 'Double Bass Pedagogy [DB]' started by David Potts, Sep 9, 2013.


    As mentioned in a current thread below (Intonation - how, when and where to start)) my beginners start in First Position. Before attempting Simandl they work through two easy Australian books, "Tricks to Tunes" Book 1 by Audrey Ackerman and "I Bags The Bass" Volume 3 by Chris Bellshaw that are full of nursery tunes.

    Simandl 1st. Position gives a chance to tighten up on LH shape and correct finger spacings for better intonation across all four strings.Nothing is played quickly. The bow hold and movements are kept simple. The bottom G in tune will set the open G into sympathetic vibration which helps a beginner identify the octave sound in tune before learning the scale. A above open D both tunes a 5th and sets up 1st.Position.

    Then going back to Half Position I use more nursery tunes in "I Bags The Bass" Volume 1 before returning to Simandl and following Half Position with Second Position. The beginner is now hearing that the structure of each of these simple scales (G, F, B flat and C Majors) is the same. There are now tunes in Half and First Position to be found in "Amazing Solos for Double Bass" that have piano accompaniments, eg Pop goes the Weasel, Come Neighbours All. There is also Greig's "Norwegian Dance" in "Double Bass Solo Plus (out of print), entirely in First Position, that has a faster middle section to challenge with.

    "MicroJazz" and "Rags, Boogies and Blues" books are also useful now. "Rythm for Strings" (Reilly?) is a good introduction to rythmic patterns based on fruit pies!

    I pause in 2nd Position to work on changing and stabilising the bow hold, bow arm movements, note starts stops and "release". Also drawing the bow at 90 degrees to each string with steady contact point for best tone. There are tunes in "Amazing Solos" and Double Bass Solo (not Solo Plus) and I encourage the student to read through Wohlfhart's "25 Studies" (now out of print) that are in simple keys and reinforce reading skills and bowing patterns, as well as note finding and beginning to use alternate fingerings.

    I jump students from 2nd Position to 3rd Position in order to stay with simple keys. D Major scale comes first, followed by a few simple tunes that combine 1st and 3rd Positions, eg "Amazing Grace" and "Troika" in "Amazing Solos." These are followed by the Simandl exercises that precede the D scale then perhaps "Ragtime Bass Player" by Adolf Lotter (?) and the First Movement of Marcello Sonata in G Major.

    From 3rd Position I jump to 5th and the F Major scale over two octaves. This enables the student to know the notes chromatically from lowest E all the way to 2nd octave F and opens up lots more repertoire. "The Elephant" and "The Bull Steps Out" as well as many of the tunes in "Amazing Solos" are now possible. Also string crossings in Zimmerman's "Contemporary Technique...."

    I will usually leave Fourth then Two and a Half Positions in Simandl until later, but will teach the scales they contain with alternate fingerings so that there are as few gaps in the knowledge of the fingerboard up to 5th Position as possible. So the keys now covered are C major and up to 5 flats and 5 sharps, with E and F Major both over 2 octaves.

    I will pause here to reflect on the repertoire (including studies) that I may have missed so far before going on.

  2. On thinking further about repertoire to accompany the above range of positions I must admit that I have not delved deeply into other books such as "Bass is Best" (Yorke), "The Bass Project" (Carl Fischer) or "The Really Easy Bass Book (Faber).

    My lasting regret is that I did not learn piano when I could have and cannot accompany my students. I think this lessens my value as a teacher.

    In our Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) system the Grades Preliminary and 1 - 4 cover the range of positions above and are called the Beginning Grades. Grades 5 -8 and Performance Certificate are called Development and the highest Grades, A.Mus.A and Licentiate, are called Advanced Development. Each Grade generally requires piano accompaniment for two pieces of the program. The current syllabus is quite old and has rather extensive lists of possibilities, many of which might be quite hard to find now. Each teacher seems to choose their own favourite path through this repertoire when suggesting pieces to their students. There is a new Syllabus coming next year that I haven't seen yet even though I am one of the AMEB examiners!!

    If you will bear with me I will soon go on with more repertoire suggestions that reflect the student's developing technique and musicianship as they go higher into Thumb Position.

  3. ThomClaire


    Dec 31, 2012
    Asheville, NC
    I'm surprised that no one has chimed in here yet. David, once again, you've been extremely helpful (it seems that you can't stop! Nor would I want you to). Perhaps the next "section" should be positions half-10th or 11th (whichever one has the first finger on the octave harmonic). Slightly more advanced, but not encompassing TP. One of my teachers had me learning Après une Rêve. I thought that was a good piece to get you into TP, since you play the melody below the octave harmonic, and then same, an octave higher. What are other suggestions for pieces covering positions 1-10?
  4. As my students finish off the main "neck" positions (Half to Fifth) they are ready to take on the Galliard Sonata (2nd Movt) that will take them up to the octave G and exposes them to faster 16th note passages with different bowings.

    About now I introduce Abe Luboff's Sevcik and early ones from the Slama 66 Studies and Sturm 110 Studies Vol 1. I push past F to thumb position by logically extending the F Major scale to B flat. This enables me to bring in the first two movements of Eccles Sonata then the first movement of Capuzzi Concerto (the B&H F Major version). The Corelli Sonata is about the same level, as are the Vivaldi Sonatas. Also Ratez No.5 of his 6 Characteristic Pieces and the Romberg Sonata.

    I issue the students with my handout of 2 octave scales in the form of work sheets that have on the same page Major and both forms of minor scales, major and minor arpeggios, and Dominant and Diminished 7ths starting on that keynote, eg a whole page of E. Each item has two good fingerings that overlap to prepare for flexible fingering of fragments of scales. I encourage them to study two side-by-side at a time, eg E and F, that will cover many of the notes on the neck in various ways.

    For light relief I use Turetsky's "Segovia" that is all pizzicato and copies Spanish guitar sounds.

    By now the keen students are ready to take on the first movement of Koussevitsky Concerto and his smaller works, and look towards the other Concertos and more difficult repertoire.

    All the above has raised the average student up to about our 7th or perhaps 8th Grade level and has probably taken up to 4 years, what with all the things I try to teach them along the way that will train them as orchestral bassists. I see this as just about the end point of my role as first teacher and a good time for them to consider changing up to the next level. I don't believe in only learning from one teacher. The very few students who wish to be professionals are hopefully ready to survive and grow with the next teacher at Tertiary level (Conservatorium or University studies).

    Cheers all,