Don’t be a Domino King/Queen Part 2

Professor Robert Meyer’s Advice to Young Bassists, Don’t be a Domino King/Queen Part 2

I have found that this advice is very helpful to beginning students whether they aim to become professionals, talented amateurs or members of a youth orchestra.  I have also found that their overall playing ability is improved too.

First, arrive at the venue in good time, set up your bass and quietly tune. If you have borrowed the music don’t forget to bring it.   When the rehearsal begins, say, with a chord, have your bow ready to attack the string as the conductor gives the downbeat.  No ragged entries!

Second, be sure you bring a pencil, eraser, paper clips and a piece of manuscript paper. Erase all your marks in hired parts before they are returned to lender. This saves your hard-up organization a lot of money.

Don’t be afraid to mark the parts!

In the opera and the ballet sometimes big cuts are made. In a very large cut you can either slip a large paper clip or use some tape over the pages to keep them together so you can make an easy turn. At the end of the cut, mark “HERE” with a large arrow above it at the place where you have to enter. You can’t search for it at the performance and marking it can avoid you much embarrassment.
The sudden stop, or cesura.  (Verdi’s parts are full of them)  Mark it like this::-  //
A  rallentando, or a slowing down   Mark with a wavy line over the bar (s)  like this  ~~~~~~~~~ or an arrow pointing to the left
Speeding up; an arrow pointing to the right.

A section in the music where you have to watch the conductor very carefully, mark with a pair of spectacles       O-O— over the top

Draw an arrow pointing downward over the top of a note that either leads or has to be particularly emphasized.

Turning the page quickly.  Mark V.S. (volte subito) at the bottom of the page, or just before, as necessary.
Sometimes there is a difficult turn.  This is where your m.s. paper comes in handy.  So that you don’t lose continuity write the section of music down and use one of the paper clips or some tape to fasten it in place. On a particularly difficult turn sometimes the players turn alternately.

Change of key, modulation. It always helps for example when a key changes from two sharps to five sharps, to draw a circle around the new key signature and pencil in a sharp on the first few notes that now have sharps, as a reminder.

In a difficult rhythm it is a good idea to put a mark over each beat, which helps you play a syncopated rhythm, also when there is a 5/8 or 7/8 bar often the accents are in different parts of the bar.  You can find examples for instance in Stravinsky’s “Rite” and also his “Soldiers Tale”:

In passages such as those in the beginning of the” Rite”, where all the strings are playing in unison and the accents occur on different parts of each bar it is not a bad idea to emphasize the printed accents by going over them with a pencil to make them stand out.

Sometimes there are pieces with many bars rest such as the Wagner operas (don’t I know!)  It certainly isn’t amateurish to put in cues.  Perhaps there is a very long rest.  If an oboe solo commences at bar 20, pencil in 20 and write “oboe’ above it. Continue to write in other cues, but above all COUNT!

I don’t apologize for all the preceding hints, ridiculously simple though some of them may be.   I never expect a student to have any pre-supposed knowledge, and, as I wrote at the beginning this is really intended for absolute beginners. It might have helped Fred too!   See my previous blog.

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Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 9:53 am  Comments (1)  
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Professor Robert Meyer’s advice

Professor Robert Meyer’s advice to young (or not so young) bassists, continued

In my post of July 8th, 2008, I wrote about having your bass set-up properly. That post was about rounding the fingerboard. This post is about setting the distance between the strings, which can greatly improve your technique thus giving you a better chance to get a job, quite a feat in these hard times, and also it will give you more satisfaction with your playing.

You see, sometimes it is necessary to press down two or three strings at the same time somewhat in the manner of a ligature that guitarists use, if your bass is set-up properly then you can do it.

As an example I can quote Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Scherzo where there is a pianissimo rising passage that can be played with relative ease if you give some thought to the instrument’s set-up. Another piece is Richard Strauss’s “Heldenleben”.

My bass has a stop of 41 inches.

Distance centre to centre between the strings at the nut:  3/8” (three eighths of an inch).

Distance centre to centre between strings on the bridge: 27/32” (Twenty-seven thirty-seconds of an inch, just under seven-eighths of an inch).

One thing; it is critical that your bridge be of the correct height so that your bow clears the bouts of the bass.

Bass Playing Past and Present

In this video I discuss approaches to the instrument, auditions and my reflections as included in my book, The Bottom Line. Also I go into some of the tips I received for performance from de Sabata, Koussevitsky and others, and how these are included in my CD, Discovering the Double Bass.

On Dynamics

Sometimes there are dubious dynamics in the printed parts. For instance, in the last movement of Beethoven’s 5th. Symphony there is a solo passage for cellos and basses with an accompaniment of the upper strings playing chords on the off beat. I remember de Sabata asking the upper strings to lower their fortissimo so as to let the cellos and basses be heard above the din.

In the Variations in Schubert’s “Trout Quintet” one variation is the Theme played by the cello and bass. The piano part is marked F or FF and invariably the pianist thumps it out drowning the cello & bass.

Sometimes the cello and bass part needs to be played really strongly, for instance in the opening of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”.

Opera and Ballet often need the principal bass to play up so as to set the tempo in the first bar or two of a piece such as Bertha’s aria in the last act of Rossini’s opera the “Barber of Seville”, or in the allegro in the first act of Verdi’s “La Traviata” after the first couple of bars intro.

It is only after much experience as a player that you can judge whether or not to decrease or increase the sound to make the bass part more viable. Usually an experienced conductor will tell you. There was a bass player who, when playing the” Messiah” put some very sticky resin on his bow and then declared to the conductor, “Now I’ll show you ‘Who is the King of Glory! ‘” Don’t make the mistake of trying to lead the orchestra: I can quote a conductor’s remark to Dragonetti. “Please, Signor Dragonetti, let me have my Orchestra back!”

Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Professor Meyer’s Guide to Taking Up the Double Bass: Things you won’t learn from Simandl. Part 1, Introduction.

My first advice to anyone wishing to take up the double bass is the same as Mr. Punch’s advice to those about to get married: Don’t!  But there are reservations.

First, I was happily married to my late wife for over fifty years.  Second, if you do decide to do it, make it a wholehearted attempt.  The bass is one of the most difficult instruments, so recognize that it will be a challenge, and then, even if people tell you that music is a precarious profession, but you are still eager and anxious to make it a career then go for it full steam. I was always warned never to be a musician, but I disregarded all well meaning advice and did very well

There are many things you will have to think about; tuition, an instrument, finance and eventually job hunting and auditioning etc. so I propose to write a few posts giving you the benefit of my 70 years on the bass, and if you budding young bass players seem to want my advice then I shall continue.

Published in: on March 23, 2008 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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