Re: How do YOU?

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Posted by Rich Laird on December 10, 2001 at 09:47:02:

In Reply to: How do YOU? posted by Al Smith on December 09, 2001 at 15:32:55:

: How do YOU deal with "fast" passages - like Mozart "eighth" notes
: played at "half note = 144" down up down up ?( That is, not slurred
: or not just one long bow stroke).

: These fast passages seem "impossible" for me to play at my stage
: of human development. I can play the notes with correct bowing at half speed
: but not full speed. Any hints or answers will be helpful - Thanks.
: -Al Smith

Stefan has some good ideas about using the wrist...although I'm not familiar with the "bag of rice" technique.

Whether you slur or not just depends on what is written in the music. Most of that Mozart stuff is separated - one note to a bow. Learning to play that stuff up to tempo can be a real challenge and also a great learning experience.

In fast Mozart passages, your best bet might not be a true spicatto as much as a "pseudo-spicatto" that actually starts *on the string* and bounces only a little...actually keeping the bow quite close to the string. The thing to strive for is an even, clean sound with some separation between the notes. Whether your bow actually bounces is a by-product of the sound you need to produce - not a goal in itself.

The degree to which your bow stroke is "vertical" as opposed to "horizontal" depends on the musical style. You're more likely to need a lighter, vertical stroke in Mozart as opposed to Strauss, Brahms, or Mahler, for example. It also varies with the actual tempo being played and the stylistic intent.

Listen to different recordings. How are the the string players handling certain passages. Are they using a light, "bouncy" stroke? Or is it heavier and more "on the string"? Even if you can't always hear the bassists clearly, listen to what the violinists, violists, and cellists, are doing with similar passages.

IMHO - Bass players have this annoying tendancy of forgetting that they are actually part of the string section. We need to play in a style that is consistant with what's going on in rest of the orchestra.

Speaking of Mozart: Check out the Berlin Philharmonic...listen to the basses on the fast movements. (Yes, you can hear them - it's awsome!) Those cats tear this stuff up! I'm not a German bow player....but this is the answer to anyone who says you can't be quick and articulate with a German bow.

Anyway, if you can play one of these movements at half tempo, you're well on your way. Get a good metronome. Find the tempo where you can play one of those fast movements PERFECTLY. (I would suggest the 4th movement of the 41st symphony to try first.) Notice that I say PERFECTLY.

Play through the passages PERFECTLY at your chosen tempo. Really work the hard spots.

Move the metronome up one notch. Try again. See what you have to do to play PERFECTLY. Don't move it up to the next notch until you can play PERFECTLY. Keep emphasizing the hard spots.

You might notice that what starts to become difficult is bowing - not fingering. As Stefan says, you will want to start using your arm less - and your wrist more - as you increase the tempo. Somewhere in the middle, you'll be using your elbow somewhat. The trick is not to over-analyze - just make sure you remain relaxed and in control. Keep your bow arm hanging loose and relaxed. It's gotta be clean and even. If it's not, you're not ready to move it up to the next notch.

The big thing you're going to learn about is string-crossing. Personally, I feel that this could be the single most difficult aspect of playing the Double Bass. You'll find that the mechanics of what keeps your sound clean and even at one tempo can change with adjusting the metronome just one notch. Frustrating at first - but a terrific learning experience!

You may also discover at some point that there's limitations in your technique that prevent you from progressing at a good pace. Nothing to worry about...but it might be more productive at that point to work on other things that are aimed at addressing those limitations.

Practice scales, thirds, arpeggios, etc. using the type of bow-stroke your having trouble with...or maybe something like the Sturm etudes that are based on passages from the orchestral literature. Your teacher can help you with what to work on next. Don't have a teacher? That's probably your biggest problem right there.

Hope that helps.

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