ENDE
Donnerstag, 30. März 2017
Silvio Dalla Torre
Gastbeiträge / Allerlei

Forumsdiskussion "Soloinstrument Kontrabass?"

Mein Artikel "Soloinstrument Kontrabass?" hat eine rege Diskussion im populären amerikanischen Internet-Forum Talkbass ausgelöst:   

Bruce Lindfield,
01-24-2007, 01:16 PM

So I was motivated by another thread in recordings to search for material about solo Classical DB music and I found the following article :

Double Bass as Solo Instrument?
by Silvio Dalla Torre.

His conclusion seems to be that it is far easier to be a solo player in Jazz than it is in Classical, although he sees no reason why it should be so - despite giving the following reasons of his own :

"So what are the differences between solo playing in jazz and classical solo performance?

1. The plucked jazz bass sounds fuller, more "bassy" than the bowed double bass, which usually has a nasal quality in its sound, something rough and brittle, and also has little carrying power.

2. Jazz bassists are often much more unconventional in their technique. As improvising musicians, they are not oriented to any studies or Etudes, but rather to their own imagination, and to top-class melodies. Anyone who wants to play Charlie Parker´s "Donna Lee", for example, has to think about the real aim of the exercise rather than about what is possible.

3. The jazz bass does not have to play high the whole time. It can present itself as what it is, and thus shine in every register."

He concludes :

"I believe that the classical double bass is just as much capable of development as the jazz bass. However, this will depend on a fundamental discussion of the musical requirements, playing techniques, and many of the accepted practices. "

So - why are there not more solo DB features in the Classical world - is he right with his reasons given above, or is it just the lack of a examples from the greats -
as he says "There are no Mozart or Beethoven sonatas, no works by Schubert or Schumann, still less a concerto by Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Elgar or Richard Strauss for double bass solo."

What do you think? 

Bruce Lindfield
01-24-2007, 01:44

I suppose what surprised me was that the writer of the article himself has made several "Classical" solo bass recordings - yet seems to be doubting whether the instrument is suited to being a solo voice in the Classical field - although in Jazz and other contemporary styles it clearly is!

Whenever I look at programmes - say the 3 month-long Proms series at the Albert Hall - there is no DB solo music at all! :hmm:

Bassic83
01-24-2007, 01:48 PM

I think Brian Bromberg does pretty well at it...;) :D

Bruce Lindfield
01-24-2007, 01:52 PM

Well I was talking about Classical solo DB - as you will see the article says that he thinks it's easier for Jazz players. so my question was about Classical in particular - no doubt there's many players in other fields! :)

Bassic83
01-24-2007, 02:24 PM

Ah...I don't think there are many classical pieces written for DB...see, that's why I don't hang out here on the DB side too much. Well, I think I'll go back to my side now...;)

Kam
01-24-2007, 02:42 PM

This is interesting.

I would say the jazz bassist can be better appreciated as a soloist because most often he/she is in an ensemble with instruments from different families, so there is a contrast of timbre and aesthetic - opposed to a bass concerto performed with an orchestra where the sound is a more homogeneous string sound.

That being said, however, the Minnesota Orchestra had a "Minnesota Idol" competition over the summer where kids competed for a chance to play with the orchestra. The final round for the 15-18 year olds had 3 finalists - A Natural Horn, Cello, and Double Bass. All three performed admirably, but the double bassist won playing movement 1 of Bottesini's concerto in b. The remarkable thing about this is that the judges were made up of the 1000+ members of the audience. I was kind of surprised, because although I knew the kid played his a** off, I didn't know if the general public would recognize it. So..I guess my point is, people appreciate a good classical bass soloist, even if orchestras aren't cognizant of it.

MonetBass
01-24-2007, 02:49 PM

...people appreciate a good classical bass soloist, even if orchestras aren't cognizant of it.
Good point. Part of it is probably that the audience was blown away that the kid could make a double bass sound like a solo instrument. I think that the perception of the horn and cello as solo instruments affected it as well. In other words, people didn't know what to expect from a DB solo and the kid (obviously) rocked it.

Bruce Lindfield
01-24-2007, 03:20 PM

This is interesting.

I would say the jazz bassist can be better appreciated as a soloist because most often he/she is in an ensemble with instruments from different families, so there is a contrast of timbre and aesthetic - opposed to a bass concerto performed with an orchestra where the sound is a more homogeneous string sound.

That's a good point - so in a concerto with reasonable size orchestra, it's going to be difficult for a DB to stand out?

That being said, however, the Minnesota Orchestra had a "Minnesota Idol" competition over the summer where kids competed for a chance to play with the orchestra. The final round for the 15-18 year olds had 3 finalists - A Natural Horn, Cello, and Double Bass. All three performed admirably, but the double bassist won playing movement 1 of Bottesini's concerto in b. The remarkable thing about this is that the judges were made up of the 1000+ members of the audience. I was kind of surprised, because although I knew the kid played his a** off, I didn't know if the general public would recognize it. So..I guess my point is, people appreciate a good classical bass soloist, even if orchestras aren't cognizant of it.

I'm suprised he beat a Cellist - but then I suppose it's a question of how impressive the performances looked - not just sound, in this case?

Damon Rondeau
01-24-2007, 03:46 PM

Maybe the question needs to be asked differently, or come at from a different angle. Around here, us being double bassists and all, you're going to find all kinds of deep appreciation for the bass: how it sounds, how to play, what it's capable of. So we see all kinds of raison d'etre and potential for the bass, but we're insiders. Maybe we need to ask why bassists have had so little impact on written repertoire for the bass. In other words, where are the composers and the killer compositions for bass? Do composers not understand the bass? Do they not like the bass? Are bass players (i.e., understanders of the bass) not composers?

I wouldn't look at the instrument as such, I'd look at the situation of the instrument in the classical social milieu and its historical development there.

Cory Palmer
01-24-2007, 03:59 PM

In other words, where are the composers and the killer compositions for bass? Do composers not understand the bass? Do they not like the bass? Are bass players (i.e., understanders of the bass) not composers?

I think most composers understand the bass as only accompaniment. Technique on the bass has only recently gotten to the point where it can compete with other instruments in terms of classical solos. Most composers love the bass but they don't understand how to write solos for it and there hasn't been much of a demand for them to learn how to write bass solos.

The ISB is on the right track with starting to commission solos from major composers. I'm not crazy about the Harbison concerto but I'm sure other composers can learn about writing solos for bass by some of the things that did and did not work in that piece.

I don't think there are many professional bass players today that are also composers. The only one that I can think off of the top of my head is Dave Anderson.

Mark Perry
01-24-2007, 04:18 PM

I, don't know much about classical myself (altough my dads been playing classical guitar around the house since almost 20 years before i was born. Must of picked something up)
I'm pretty sure violin is tuned the same as the DB, ie theres lots of solo violin compositions and both instruments have the same range. No reason why there shouldn't be solo bass music.

Kam
01-24-2007, 04:47 PM

I probably should have mentioned that the 18 year old bassist got into the Manhattan School with some decent scholarships I believe..he was one of my old teacher's students and is one hell of a bassist.

The Horn was a little lackluster..but impressive to those "in the know" since it was a natural horn with no valves. Unfortunately that left little to view and the performance paled in comparison to the abilities of the modern horn, though of course that wasn't the performer's fault.

The cellist did a wonderful performance..I forgot what piece it was, but I remember being worried that the she would get more votes simply because I thought the cello would be more popular as a solo instrument..

Bethelbass1
01-24-2007, 05:23 PM

I also went to that concert where the Bass Player won. His performance was incredible but while I was excited by his playing, the people that I went with simply said "You're Just Biased".
I suppose that the bass can be a solo instrument, it's been done by Gary Karr, Edgar Meyer, and many others, but I think it takes more work to get to the level of competing with the other instruments. My teacher knew that young man who won and said that, at a camp, he was working on the Koussevitsky concerto as a 10th grader and would spend an hour on a single measure! IN solo bass playing there is no margin for error and, since the distance between intervals is larger, it is easier to err.
The Bass as solo instrument can be done, but in my opinion you have to start early and it has to be all-consuming.

MonetBass
01-24-2007, 07:24 PM

I'm pretty sure violin is tuned the same as the DB...
Actually it's reverse of the DB -- in 5ths. G-D-A-E from lowest string to highest.

And it's not as simple as transposing a violin concerto for DB. What can be played easily on the violin -- due to size and tuning -- cannot be easily played on the bass in most cases.

Pcocobass
01-24-2007, 07:34 PM

1. The plucked jazz bass sounds fuller, more "bassy" than the bowed double bass, which usually has a nasal quality in its sound, something rough and brittle, and also has little carrying power.

I strongly disagree with this statement. A bowed bass has a huge carrying power and can cut through quite nicely, especially in higher registers. If the tone is nasal sounding, I'd blame that on the bassist and not on the double bass in general.

2. Jazz bassists are often much more unconventional in their technique. As improvising musicians, they are not oriented to any studies or Etudes, but rather to their own imagination, and to top-class melodies.

Most jazz bassists I know are classically trained and have studied Simandl and all the other well known etudes and so forth. Their technique is more often than not extremely conventional. As far as learning melodies and tunes, I do agree that doing so can really open up one's mind to new harmonic and rhythmic possibilities. But you can do the same thing by learning Bach, can't you?

3. The jazz bass does not have to play high the whole time. It can present itself as what it is, and thus shine in every register."

Again, I think this really depends on the player. I think the bass sounds good in any register, the player may not, though...;)

He concludes :

"I believe that the classical double bass is just as much capable of development as the jazz bass.

Couldn't agree more.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't guys like Meyer, Karr, Dragonetti, Koussevitzky, etc. already proved that the double bass is a capable and beautiful solo instrument? Keep in mind, as a bass player, I have absolutely no bias one way or another.:D

Interesting article, Bruce. Thanks for sharing.
Pete

Kam
01-24-2007, 07:37 PM

I also went to that concert where the Bass Player won. His performance was incredible but while I was excited by his playing, the people that I went with simply said "You're Just Biased".

Were they musicians or common folk? I think musicians have a harder time accepting the bass as a solo instrument, or being impressed by a solo bass work, than your average orchestra subscriber..

I suppose that the bass can be a solo instrument, it's been done by Gary Karr, Edgar Meyer, and many others, but I think it takes more work to get to the level of competing with the other instruments. My teacher knew that young man who won and said that, at a camp, he was working on the Koussevitsky concerto as a 10th grader and would spend an hour on a single measure! IN solo bass playing there is no margin for error and, since the distance between intervals is larger, it is easier to err.
The Bass as solo instrument can be done, but in my opinion you have to start early and it has to be all-consuming.

I disagree. Yes, I'm sure Patrick spent an hour on one measure of the Koussevitsky..as have I. That doesn't mean Patrick or I spent an hour on every measure of the concerto. The other thing to think about is that for that hour of work on that one measure, how many future obstacles become easier? The more you work on something that gives you trouble, the easier it will be in the future to learn new material with similar rhythms/pitch leaps/string crossings/etc.

damonsmith
01-24-2007, 09:56 PM

A lot of bass players play solo on it, myself included, therefore it is a solo instrument. End of discussion.

mcnaire2004
01-24-2007, 10:21 PM

The bass is a solo instrument. Public (though ignorant) appreciates a bass solo more than the rest of the orchestra. And, since (as in most instruments) a bassist wants to go somewhere they'll learn allot of solo music.

Christopher
01-24-2007, 10:31 PM

So - why are there not more solo DB features in the Classical world - is he right with his reasons given above, or is it just the lack of a examples from the greats -
as he says "There are no Mozart or Beethoven sonatas, no works by Schubert or Schumann, still less a concerto by Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Elgar or Richard Strauss for double bass solo."

What do you think?

I think the limitations on Classical DB soloists are primarily a function of (1) lack of original repertoire and (2) bias on the part of classical music programmers against the DB. I have no real basis for this hypothesis, but I think there may be a chicken and egg problem wherein the promoters and the venue fear a concert featuring a DB soloist will not attract as wide an audience as the umpteenth performance of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto featuring the latest good-looking pubescent prodigy in a low-cut dress.

What would be terrific for the instrument is if the DB found its way into the hands of a good-looking pubescent prodigy who could play the Tchaikovsky on DB.

There's nothing inherently limited about the instrument itself that would prevent it from functioning as a solo instrument. There are still some comments from the classical community that the tone of the DB is "inherently" too quiet/nasal/low/unfocused to stand out above the orchestra, but players like Daxun Zhang prove those comments to be completely unfounded. It's just a matter of time before the DB finds equal footing with the rest of the strings.

Bethelbass1
01-24-2007, 11:55 PM

Were they musicians or common folk? I think musicians have a harder time accepting the bass as a solo instrument, or being impressed by a solo bass work, than your average orchestra subscriber..
I agree
The people that went with me to the concert were all musicians. One trumpet and two pianists. The pianists are very good musicians and I usually trust their judgment but they really don't understand the bass considering backgrounds in solo piano music and band.

I disagree. Yes, I'm sure Patrick spent an hour on one measure of the Koussevitsky..as have I. That doesn't mean Patrick or I spent an hour on every measure of the concerto. The other thing to think about is that for that hour of work on that one measure, how many future obstacles become easier? The more you work on something that gives you trouble, the easier it will be in the future to learn new material with similar rhythms/pitch leaps/string crossings/etc.
I never meant to assume that one would practice every measure for an hour. In fact, it was the first measure of the double stops he allagedly spent an hour on which is an important and difficult spot. I too have spent a tremendous amount of time on it (though not one straight hour). I mostly meant that, it seems to me, that initial work to become "soloist capable" is quantitatively more that it is with traditionally soloistic instruments.

Kam
01-25-2007, 12:14 AM

Well of course, that's because other instruments are easy! ;)

gael
01-25-2007, 12:16 AM

I play classical solos too.
Stefano Scodanibbio and Joelle Léandre sometimes play entire
solo-recitals. As for lack of repertoire, I haven't met so many bass players who play all the existing repertoire !

mcnaire2004
01-25-2007, 01:16 AM

I play classical solos too.
Stefano Scodanibbio and Joelle Léandre sometimes play entire
solo-recitals. As for lack of repertoire, I haven't met so many bass players who play all the existing repertoire !
This is true. As we all know. 89% of all statistics are made I'll throw one out there.

Of our repitiore (original or trascribed) I say bass playes max out at about 10% maybe 20%. This doesn't count guy's who write their own stuff. (ie Edgar Meyer)

damonsmith
01-25-2007, 01:28 AM

There is actually a lot more solo repertoire than most peopel know and certainly more than any of us can learn in one lifetime. Joelle knows a lot of very good modern pieces. I have stacks of solo scores.
The 3 cds Bjorn Ianke are really worth tracking down he recorded a lot of beautiful pieces.

Simandl Fan
01-25-2007, 02:15 AM

The Dvorak cello concerto lies suprisingly easily on our beloved DB...try it sometime.

Mark Perry
01-25-2007, 09:53 AM

http://www.doublebass-solo.com/index.html

All_¥our_Bass
01-25-2007, 10:09 AM

Can it be used as a solo (or at least melody carrying instrument within a group)? Yes. Is it generally? No. I'd actually like to hear some more solo double bass, the only piece I can think of where it is not a solo, but a carrier of the main melody is Primus' "Mr. Krinkle."

Bruce Lindfield
01-25-2007, 02:24 PM

There is actually a lot more solo repertoire than most peopel know and certainly more than any of us can learn in one lifetime. Joelle knows a lot of very good modern pieces. I have stacks of solo scores.
The 3 cds Bjorn Ianke are really worth tracking down he recorded a lot of beautiful pieces.

I suppose the question that interests me is whether it is possible to make a career out of being a Classical solo Double Bass player and if so, where are they and how many of them are there?

So - my original point was that in all the concert programmes I have browsed over maybe 20 years of going to Classical concerts in London - I have never seen any solo Double Bass featured!! :crying:

Whereas I have seen at least 2 Tuba concertos and various other less well-known instruments... like Recorder,Saxophone etc.! :eyebrow:

While at the same time - just about every concert I've been to, has had about 8-10 DBs in the ensemble.

So - realistically, my picture as a concert-goer is that ensemble DB players outnumber solo peformers by about 999 to 1 - or worse!! ;)

It can't be a good career option, can it!! :p

damonsmith
01-25-2007, 04:45 PM

I suppose the question that interests me is whether it is possible to make a career out of being a Classical solo Double Bass player and if so, where are they and how many of them are there?

So - my original point was that in all the concert programmes I have browsed over maybe 20 years of going to Classical concerts in London - I have never seen any solo Double Bass featured!! :crying:

Whereas I have seen at least 2 Tuba concertos and various other less well-known instruments... like Recorder,Saxophone etc.! :eyebrow:

While at the same time - just about every concert I've been to, has had about 8-10 DBs in the ensemble.

So - realistically, my picture as a concert-goer is that ensemble DB players outnumber solo peformers by about 999 to 1 - or worse!! ;)

It can't be a good career option, can it!! :p

- I know there are some, Scodanibbio, Gary Karr, Joelle Leandre, Edgar Meyer, etc.
I think When you get that level of technique lots of other opurtunitties are available as well as solo concerts.

Bruce Lindfield
01-25-2007, 04:47 PM

That doesn't make me think I'm any further away from my estimate of 999 to 1!! :p

Jake
01-25-2007, 07:14 PM

A lot of bass players play solo on it, myself included, therefore it is a solo instrument. End of discussion.
+1. Go listen to Daxun Zhang, Edgar Meyer, Jeff Bradetich, Yasonori Kawahara, Max Dimoff, Eugene Levinson, Hal Robinson, Ed Barker, and the others not mentioned play in recital or in a concerto setting with an orchestra and you will hear a level of musicianship on par with virtuosos on any other instruments.

mcnaire2004
01-25-2007, 08:22 PM

I see solo bassists all the time. I feel sorry for you.

BGreaney
01-25-2007, 08:51 PM

Not that it's all that significant, but there is record that Haydn did write a bass concerto for a bassist in Esterhazy's court...

That said, I think a big reason that some better composers never thought of writing solo bass music is because playing a solo on guts is really not all that appealing. Thickness of the string makes it difficult to play in the higher register and in general, they're really quiet. I got to play on a bass set up with gut strings once and for those who haven't tried it, the difference is really mind boggling. I think in the past 50 or so years, the functional identity of the bass is changing and it's still making progress in the field of solo playing. Yes, you CAN play a solo on a bass, but you can also play a solo on a kazoo or something ridiculous like that...It's progressing, but I don't think it's reached its potential yet.

Bruce Lindfield
01-26-2007, 08:49 AM

I see solo bassists all the time. I feel sorry for you.

Well - as I say - we have many great Concert Hall in London and I looks through their programmes for the year and there are no solo Bass features - which concert halls are you seeing them at?

We have the World's biggest festival of classical music in the Proms at the Albert Hall and I haven't seen a DB feature in the last 8-10 years -

http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/

so where are they?

mcnaire2004
01-26-2007, 12:44 PM

Well - as I say - we have many great Concert Hall in London and I looks through their programmes for the year and there are no solo Bass features - which concert halls are you seeing them at?

We have the World's biggest festival of classical music in the Proms at the Albert Hall and I haven't seen a DB feature in the last 8-10 years -

http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/

so where are they?
I think that is the problem. The biggest classical festival is going to be over run by violinist and cellist. I am in Chattanooga Tennessee. I've seen several solo bassist. I have to travel for some. But here, the Tivoly has one a year usualy (Edgar Meyer last year).

Bruce Lindfield
01-26-2007, 01:00 PM

One a year!

Well in a year, I would see dozens of DB players in orchestral sections - back to my idea that it's 999 to 1 solo vs section players!! :p

JazzDude
01-26-2007, 03:43 PM

I nominate this for the understatement of the year! :eek:
...
What can be played easily on the violin -- due to size and tuning -- cannot be easily played on the bass in most cases.

damonsmith
01-26-2007, 07:41 PM

One thing I have done often is be the sole instrument for dance and Theater productions.
I have also tons played solo concerts and even radio broadcasts. Your career and playing possiblities are only limted by your ideas and ablities.
So with your (Bruce) Attitude, no, it is not a good career option, for others it is very natural.

JohnBarr
01-26-2007, 07:43 PM

I'm glad to see this discussion. It's one I've wondered about.
(--alas, I play electric, not DB, but bear with me, OK?)

I can remember running across some articles from critics proponents of classical music poo-pooing or outright damning the use of double bass in jazz. I haven't been able to track anything down in the literature though. It would have been from the 40s I believe. If anyone has a citiation or two I'd like to see it. Jazz was certainly damned from many quarters through the 50s.

Anyway, the point is that, this kind of conservative view would be consistent with not seeing the bass as a solo instrument and reacting in that fashion to its use in a non-classical situation. Horrors! Those new musicians use the lowly bass and look what they do with it!

The forces seem to be as much social as musical.

mcnaire2004
01-26-2007, 07:52 PM

One a year!

Well in a year, I would see dozens of DB players in orchestral sections - back to my idea that it's 999 to 1 solo vs section players!! :p
One a year at the Tivoly. There are several recitals around. Plus if you get board, just go to a college recital.

I don't know where you get this 999-1 stuff. I have never seen a bass ensemble. Though I have heard of many. It's way more common for a solo bassist than a ensemble.

Bruce Lindfield
01-28-2007, 06:02 PM

I don't know where you get this 999-1 stuff. I have never seen a bass ensemble.

I'm talking about the bass section in an orchestra - so I go to to concerts in London and the big orchestras have at least 8-10 Double Bassists and I assume these players are making a reasonalble living...;)

So my point is that if I look at the annual programmes for the big concert halls in London or the Proms series for which I provided a link - there are no solo basssists - but hundreds and hundreds of Double Bass players in Orchestras - I thought that was obvious! :hmm:

Bruce Lindfield
01-28-2007, 06:07 PM

So with your (Bruce) Attitude, no, it is not a good career option, for others it is very natural.

It's not my attitude - I was simply pointing out an article that was interesting, from a current solo Bass player!!

I have no opinion or attitude about this - I am simply pointing out what I see and that is that in London there are almost no Solos Classical DB features - whereas I see literally hundreds playing in Orchestras!

I was asking the question and giving the facts as they are where I live!

kurt muroki
01-29-2007, 05:36 AM

I think things are changing for the better for the bass. I am glad that there are more soloists now than ever before, and I think the numbers will keep growing. Strings, setup etc... all getting better for playing solos... it doesnt matter too much what the odds are now and in the past, just where it will go in the future. I like the fact that people have different opinions about bass as a solo instrument. My main issue with violinists is that they all want to be soloists and they all sound the same. We are at a point where the bass is coming into the limelight and is still an interesting instrument to listen to. Oh and needing more music for the double bass is why I made the double bass classical music databse http://database.homermensch.com and passed it on to a ton of composers who I hope will write more solo and chamber music for the DB. ALOHA!

lloccmttocs
02-27-2007, 08:13 PM

Were they musicians or common folk? I think musicians have a harder time accepting the bass as a solo instrument, or being impressed by a solo bass work, than your average orchestra subscriber..

I agree

A few months ago I played my classical bass solo infront of all the people in my orchestra and I knew I played it well yet when I was finished and nailed the last note they just clapped and didn't comment. It was rather strange to just sit there waiting for someone to say anything. I just ended up picking up my bass and going back to my seat. But playing my piece for my regular non musician friends really enjoyed it.

Michael Binder
03-09-2007, 06:45 PM

Hi guys.
I think that the doublebass is a soloinstrument, like all the others instruments it has a own voice, like human beings..
Maybe we don`t have pieces from the great classical composers, only the aria for bass, doublebass and orchestra "Per questa bella mano" from W.A. Mozart. But we have a lot of contemporary composers, which are still not named as "classical", but I feel very good about introducing new music to listeners of today, because at the time of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, people were only used to listen to new music and that we have lost somewhere during the decades. People are going to the movies, because they want to see a new movie, so why they don`t go to new music concerts???

NKUSigEp
03-09-2007, 07:02 PM

Willie Dixon?