Archive for August, 2009

August 26, 2009

Bow Rehairing

I had one of my bows rehaired last month. It’s a bit of a monster – quite the longest bass bow I’ve ever seen, and too long to fit in a “normal” bow case. The person who rehaired it did not put on sufficient hair for my liking – I think it may even have had less hair after the work than it had before it went in…

Anyway, I got the bow back, and tried it out and it seemed to be OK, so I thought nothing more about it. I finally got round to using it properly in a Schubert Octet, and got halfway down the first page before I noticed that the bow seemed to be a bit loose. Kept tightening it up as I went along, and by the repeat mark realised that the thing was not at all happy. It seems as though the hair is not being gripped properly at the frog.

Does this sort of thing happen regularly? I did once have a cello bow that failed completely at the tip – the glue just gave way in the middle of a concert (most embarrassing). But surely a rehairer should be able to deal with a bigger bow?

Anyway. I am waiting for a refund, and a recommendation for a rehairer somewhere near Leeds who’s up to the challenge! (The length of the playing area is 24 inches, and I like white hair – thanks!)

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August 20, 2009

Trout Quintet

At last! The piece I have been waiting for all week. A pleasant romp through Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet. Although I have played this many times, it still has potential to catch me out in places. And it’s remarkably evocative – I find it very hard to play without remembering the times I played it with my grandmother taking the piano part. Music & Memory – I’m sure there’s research potential here.

We coupled this with Mme Farrenc’s second quintet for the same combination (Piano, violin, viola, cello, bass). Like other works of hers that I have sampled, this is eminently playable without too much to worry the bass player.

August 20, 2009

Beethoven & Berwald Septets

Last night was a the regular Beethoven Septet session, fixed by the boss with his favourite players. Coupled with a very relaxed and calm Beethoven septet, we also did the Berwald. This is one that I have seen before, once or twice, and definitely need to look at properly for there are some trickier passages here & there.

Hmm. I seem to be building up quite a shopping list!

August 19, 2009

Helsted Decet

Have just come out of a session of mixed decets (string quartet + bass, + wind quintet). The main feature was the Helsted decet – a new piece to me, that definitely requires some attention! There are all sorts of interesting corners and fiddly bits, and even the double bass gets a look-in. I need to get hold of a copy of the bass part and go through it in detail.

We finished off the session with the Dvorak Bagatelles, arranged by Geoffrey Emerson. A fun arrangement, if a little light on the bass side.

August 17, 2009

Nonets, nonets everywhere

Today has mostly been spent playing mixed nonets. Spohr & Farrenc this morning (but we only really had time for the first two movements of the Farrenc). And then this afternoon I was covering for another bass player who’s not well. And that session was supposed to be the same again, but we switched in the Onslow for the Spohr.

Nothing too hairy in these, thankfully, but the odd corner would repay attention. Again, I’ll try to get some notes together at a later date.

August 16, 2009

Dvorak Quintet

Played the Dvorak quintet (string quartet + double bass) this morning – and am doing it again this evening (hopefully more successfully this time).

There are some tricky passages to look at here – more details later.

To add to the fun, there’s a mistake in the double bass part – 1st movement, 10 bars before the final “Piu mosso”, the first three quavers should be triplets. This problem is in both the editions I’ve looked at today. Oops. You have been warned.

August 15, 2009

Strauss Metamorphosen

A fun start to the week. I was invited at short notice (half an hour or so) to play the Strauss Metamorphosen, in the arrangement for String Septet (2 vln, 2 vla, 2 vlc, cb) as a sort of musical night-cap.

Technically, it’s not really that complicated – there’s a short stretch in the tenor clef (not a thing to spring on a lad after a long day’s drive), and a couple of exposed passages where (shock) the double bass has the tune, but it’s really quite playable. Assuming, that is, that there’s a clear beat from a strong leader. Oh, and it helps to know how quickly you can detune your bottom string to a C (if, like me, you’ve only got an ordinary, un-extended 4-string bass). This is important – it’s the bottom of the last chord, and needs to be that low, and it is noticeable when you get it right. (I’ve done this before in the full 23-part version, and the conductor complimented me on the low note afterwards.)

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to find a copy of the score on the interweb from which I can extract the hairy bits that need to be looked at, so will have to go grovelling in the morning.

August 14, 2009

Busy week ahead

I have a big week of music ahead of me, which is good. I’ll try to post briefly as it happens, and end each day with a summary. Well, it’s an idea, anyway.

What sort of stuff is coming up? A sneak preview of the first couple of sessions shows me down for Brandenburgs, Dvorak quintet, Spohr & Farrenc Nonets. There’s almost certain to be a Beethoven septet later in the week, to which I’m looking forward.

August 11, 2009


I am a double bass player. There. I’ve said it. Nothing to be ashamed of there, right? But that’s not the reason for this blog.

I find myself very often the only double bass player in things. Sometimes this is right – after all, did Schubert write the Trout sextet for Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Bass? Quite. That would be silly – not that I’m against silliness.

However, what has been happening over the last few years has meant that I have been the only double bass player in Wagner operas. Yes indeed. Gotterdammerung was the most recent one I did “solo”, which made the divisi parts quite entertaining. And as for the sections marked “only 4”, that was to be expected. However, some parts were marked “only 8”!

So. Anyway. This blog is to be primarily about music involving double bass. It’ll probably be more chamber than orchestral, and may contain some snippets of music showing particularly unpleasant / tricky sections for you to cut out & keep practising.