Bass Issues Paper
I found a short paper I did in a grad class years ago and wanted to share. It’s not earth shattering but has some decent concepts and references. I’m only including the introduction here since the PDF retains the footnotes.
Recruitment time again and this year a large number of students have signed up to play the double bass. For the past several years very few bassists have continued and those who have are far behind students of the violin, viola, and ‘cello. With deficient skills, and lack of progress, both the teacher and student are unhappy. New instruments were ordered in an attempt to solve the problem, yet beginning bassists continued to leave the string program. Students complained of arm pain and difficulty in holding the bass, but the instrument seemed fine. When the student was given a bow the problems were compounded. The other children, however, were successful and enjoying their newly – found orchestral experience. The bassists were complaining, not practicing, and dropping out. Unfortunately, teachers who are not bassists but teach the instrument often hope “… the needed technical information would perhaps be assimilated by osmosis.”1
Attrition rates for the other string players were much lower. Stuart Sankey, in a survey by Jim Scoggan says that many students quit due to the poor set – up of many string basses.2 The unfortunate students who are brave enough to continue are often given unreasonable assignments on an instrument that a professional would struggle to play.3
What should the disheartened teacher do? First of all, the string teacher must realize the double bass is very different than the other string instruments, especially, contrary to popular belief, the ‘cello.4 The instrument is the “least understood of the strings, [and] the double basses are often the most neglected.”5 Changing methods is a possibility, but may not be practical for a string class. Starting bassists later than the other players is another possibility. However, the answer is often found when the instrument itself and the players are examined.