Re: Need Video/Book for Correct Use of Bow

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Posted by Rich Laird on January 05, 2001 at 20:11:32:

In Reply to: Re: Need Video/Book for Correct Use of Bow posted by TONY BALUGA on January 05, 2001 at 14:39:44:

: : : I am a church musician playing the electric bass (with 4 other guitarists) during Sunday guitar mass. I recently bought a beginners model upright acoutic bass just so I can learn the bowing technique. Plucking strings on the electric bass is not always appropriate for sacred music we play.

: : : I am basically a self-taught musician, but can play well enough to be the bass player in a dance band, (that plays for hire only 4 to 5 times a year, on account of the other members being busy physicians like myself). However, I am starting from scratch with the use of the bow. I could use videos/tapes/or books that details the proper use of the bow.

: : : There's a ton of material for the electric bass but hardly anything for the string bass! Any suggestions?

: : : You may want to take a look at some of the other postings on this site...there's a bit of an ongoing debate on the question of whether you need a teacher or whether it's worthwhile to "go it alone". Having played the double bass myself for more years than I care to admit, my vote goes - without hesitation - for getting a teacher. I'm sorry - but this stuff just can't be wrtitten down.

: : Having said that, here's a book that makes possibly the best attemt to date at explaining "how to bow": The book is called Creative Bass Technique, by Henry Portnoi. You can order it from this web page: It has a lot of pictures as well as explanations of the fundamental principles of all aspects of bass technique - and least as professed by Portnoi.

: : Let me add this: I used to study with Henry Portnoi. My memories of him don't exactly overwhelm me with feelings of warmth and fondness. But I did feel at the time - and still do - that nobody I've ever known really understood the intricacies and subtleties of really good bowing - and bass technique in general. He worked wonders for my playing. But the there's two things that I'm reminded of as I've looked this book over: First, it's mostly work. All the theories and ideas in the world are meaningless if you don't apply them and make them an inherent part of what you do. Secondly, you need someone there listening to and watching what you're doing...coaching, reminding, and critiquing.

: : The simple reality is that the double bass (electric or otherwise) is just not as intuitive as the bass guitar. Save yourself, your fellow musicians, and your audiences some grief. Get a good teacher and get a good start.

: : Best of Luck!!

: Thank you for your suggestions, Rich and also to Mr. Curly.

: Taking lessons, I agree is the best way to learn the arco technique. Unfortunately, this is not always available, or possible for one reason or another. I checked the listings for instructors using Bob Gollihur's web page, and it seems everyone around my area is teaching jazz bass or something else. Everybody wants to play pizzicato and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot wanting to play arco! I can't even buy the right kind of rosin from the very store that sold me the upright!

: The next best thing to one-on-one private instruction, is a well made video. For me this is the only option at this time. I also checked Gollihur'w web page and couldn't find one, despite all other listings from all over the world! The only videos out there are performance videos. I can't believe that there's not one instructional video on bowing the double bass, compared to the hundreds available for the electric bass! As you've said this can't be described in a book. A video is the next best thing to an instructor. Getting in touch with the double bass player of the Chicago Symphony, is a very long shot for me. I have weird unpredicatable working hours and merely want to be able to play something like "My Wild Irish Rose" as a form of relaxation, after I managed to keep someone with a gunshot wound alive, and not play arco the double bass part for Handel's "Hallelujah", which by the way, I've already done pizzicato for midnight mass last year.

: I my line of work. Videos are very helpful. I can't see any reason why this can't be true for someone trying to the learn the bowing technique, if it were the only means available. I suggest somebody out there make an instruction video on the bowing technique.

: Among other things. It should cover:

: 1. What's the advantage of using either French or German bow.

: 2. What kind of strings is best for bowing, plain or wownd.

: 3. What's optimal bow tension.

: 4. Best kind of hair for bow.

: 5. How much rosin to use. How much is too much/too little.

: 6. What's the most common cause of scratching sound. (Just found out from this web page, I was using the wrong kind of rosin)

: 7. Left hand fingering/damping/vibrato. With such a bulky instrument, can this be done properly without most of the weight resting on your shoulder or body?

: 8. What's the optimum position, to be able to view the sheet music, bow contact with strings and location of fingers on a non-fretted instrument.

: 9. Where is the location of the "sweet spot" for bowing, if there is such a thing. How close is to close to the bridge and how far up the fingerboard is still o.k.

: 10. How much is arm and how much is wrist action on the bowing extremity.

: 11. For someone who's been playing fretted instruments for years, (guitar & bass) is why can't I put markings on the figerboard to make my life easier?

: These are just a few topics I can think of that might be difficult to discuss in a book, but could be shown on a video.

: Thanks and will appreciate any more suggestions.



:There is a video "Double Bass Technique" by Jeff Bradetich.
You can order it from Shar Musical Products,
by the way, is a good source for many "things bass-ic" such as that
hard-to-get rosin.

I have not seen it but judging from the description in the Shar
catalog, the video might suit your purposes.

The Portnoi book I mentioned has answers to most of your questions.
Just keep in mind that it's one man's opinion (and a very opinionated
man, I might add!) and also that the answers to many of your
questions start with "It depends...".

I hope that helps and keep saving those lives!


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