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Teaching bass to an 8 year old

Discussion in 'Double Bass Pedagogy [DB]' started by Gregmak, Jan 11, 2018.


  1. Gregmak

    Gregmak

    Oct 1, 2009
    Larnaca, Cyprus
    Hi everyone,

    I recently started teaching the double bass to an 8 year old kid. I don't know how it's possible, but this kid really loves the double bass! We had 4 lessons so far, and all I've done is show him how to hold the German bow (holding it like a French bow for now), and letting him play open strings. He seems like a smart kid, and learns things fast. He can already get a steady tone on his 1/2 size bass on the D & A strings.

    Now, I'm not sure how to proceed with introducing the left hand to him. Even the 1/2 size bass is a little big for him. I would be really grateful if anyone has some tips, because I'm actually really enjoying teaching this kid. He really wants to learn.

    Also, I was thinking of introducing the Suzuki method. I studied some of the Suzuki stuff a couple of years ago, and it seems like a great way to start learning the bass. Do you guys agree? Or is there a better way?

    Any tips are welcome. Thank you!

    Greg
     
  2. turf3

    turf3

    Sep 26, 2011
    If I recall correctly, it seems like the Suzuki bass books start (or maybe it's an option) up near thumb position, so the stretches are small enough a little kid could manage them. Check it out. The only other thing I can think of would be making sure of a low string height; I don't think 8 year old hands are very strong.
     
    Gregmak likes this.
  3. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    @Gregmak, welcome.

    I teach a fair number of children. I decided to own and rent out to my students because it's just too difficult to find a right-sized bass, and IMHO, one of the biggest reasons kids quit playing any instrument is because they simply don't have the right size.

    I own a 1/10 size (same size as a cello), a 1/8 size, and a few 1/4 size basses, plus a 1/2 and several 3/4. As a general guideline, a 1/4 size bass seems to work for most 5th graders. I bought the 1/10 size to teach a particularly small 4th grader, who played that his first year, played a 1/8 size in 5th grade, and is now big enough for 1/4 size.

    8 years old is about 3rd grade, and I would suggest a 1/8 size as the biggest you might have him play. 1/2 size is much too big. Consider using a cello and tuning it like a bass (but an octave higher, of course).

    IMHO, 8 is old enough to begin more or less traditional instruction and you don't need Suzuki. IMHO, there is much to be learned from how Suzuki teachers teach, but I consider what they do only part of what I do, and I would never teach a student without a significant focus on reading music.

    Best of luck to you and to your student.

    -S-
     
    neilG, Tom Lane, jebmd and 2 others like this.
  4. Gregmak

    Gregmak

    Oct 1, 2009
    Larnaca, Cyprus
    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for that! Unfortunately, finding a bass here (Cyprus) is already very difficult, and the parents got the 1/2 size bass through a school. They can't afford to pay for a bass. So I have to work with what they're giving me.

    What books to you recommend for reading music at this age? I own the Simandl Bass books 1 & 2.

    Thank you again.

    Greg
     
  5. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    I'm not a Simandl fan, especially not for kids. I use a series called The ABC's of Bass, volumes 1 and 2, and then another book by the same author after that. Please consider the cello idea.

    -S-
     
  6. Gregmak

    Gregmak

    Oct 1, 2009
    Larnaca, Cyprus
    Thank you Steve, will look into it.
     
  7. neilG

    neilG

    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Why? There are half size and maybe smaller bows he can use. I would use the right grip for the bow.
     
  8. Gregmak

    Gregmak

    Oct 1, 2009
    Larnaca, Cyprus
    Hey man, I'm waiting for his parents to buy him a bow. So for now he's just holding mine, and it's to heavy to hold it with a German grip.
     
  9. neilG

    neilG

    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Sounds like a plan. My first teacher in public school had me hold a German bow like a French bow because he didn't know how to hold it. Luckily I got a private teacher early on who corrected that. :)
     
  10. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    Caroline Emery har a good book you should get.
     
  11. Gregmak

    Gregmak

    Oct 1, 2009
    Larnaca, Cyprus
    Thanks, will check it out!
     
  12. chilensko

    chilensko

    Sep 27, 2010
    I now that some teachers start with 4th position (C with first finger) or 6th position (D first finger) because is easier and you don't to stretch your fingers a lot like in half position.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018 at 1:42 PM
    Gregmak likes this.