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Some thoughts on upright bass method books

I didn't even know what the heck an Etude book was until I got to college at Indiana University.  I remember the first week that I got to IU,  I walked across the street from where the Music Building was to a store called T.I.S.  Little did I know that it was a chain and that so many other colleges had a T.I.S as well, but the discovery that I made upstairs that day was that at this particular store, they also carried just about every imaginable Etude book for the double bass! 

I remember vividly looking at "all those books" thinking that I was getting into some serious trouble picking that school and the fact that my teacher (at the time) Stuart Sankey, edited a lot of them.  There I could see...."edited by Stuart Sankey"  Geez, I thought...here I go! 

Stuart Sankey's Bass DuetsSankey was great. We started with Storch-Hrabe.  He could tell the funniest stories (he had made up) about Storch and Hrabe drinking beers late at night at some pub (100 years before), thinking of stupid ideas to fluster bass students.  I loved all of it!

For each page, he would write in some bowings or fingerings that he wanted me to try.  Sometimes we skipped an etude in the book and would go back to that same missed one a lesson or two later only because of what I learned in the later one, would make that earlier one "click" for me.  Some teachers like to teach out of certain books and over the years they learn to utilize every page to their teaching advantage.  In most, but not all cases, etude books start out easy enough and then get more complex as the book progresses.  As a professional symphony player I've learned that just playing a one octave scale and doing it perfectly is hard if you have enough parameters on what it is supposed to be.

Here's how a good typical practice regime or schedule might look like for someone in college or soon to be:

  1. Some kind of Etude book... (Let's use Storch-Hrabe for example and I would have to learn one etude from that book for my weekly lesson.)  There you will be required to write in lots of fingerings so that you will be encouraged to use (the fingerings) that are different and hopefully, a new habit. 

  2. Something from my Symphony literature books.  We almost never did excerpts, but had to learn the whole part!  It would be something like Beethoven's 2nd Symphony (complete.)  Only later did I really spend many hours on audition excerpts.

  3. Some kind of Solo.  The solo...by far, was of course my favorite part of the lesson and playing sessions.  I remember that I tried to get the symphony "stuff" or the etudes out of the way early (to be prepared for my lesson) so that I could really "enjoy" playing my solos.  I am sure it was all good in the sense that know one could fault a young student for playing his bass all day (no matter what he was playing!), but truly, it was the solos that got me excited.  Now this was music! 

There are lots of really great educational methods, books, DVDs and even some impressive dealers like us that actually show their very own videos!  So pick out your solo, pick you Etude book and play!!!

Go back to the bass method and etude books.