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Donovan Stokes

Donovan StokesDr. Donovan Stokes enjoys a varied career of performing, composing, writing and teaching. Stokes is currently Professor of Music at Shenandoah University-Conservatory where he teaches classical and jazz bass, coaches chamber music, directs the Bass Ensemble and acts as head of the String Area. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the International Society of Bassists, President of the Virginia String Teachers Association, former member of the National Editorial Committee for American String Teachers Association and founder and Artistic Director of the Bass Coalition and their Annual Bass Workshop.

His recording Gadaha garnered two JPF Music Award nominations and rankings, for Best Album and Best Instrumental Song. Described as a musician who “paints primary colours and subtle shades to considerable effect” (The Double Bassist), Stokes is also noted for his “eye-popping display of technical wizardry and showmanship” (Madison Jazz) who brings “the bass into yet another dimension of capabilities.” (Gary Karr). He also writes a regular column “Lowdown with Dr. D,” on bass and performance related matters, for

As a chamber musician he has had the honor of collaborating with wonderful musicians including the Fry Street Quartet, Agua Va!, members of the Audubon Quartet, Stuart Malina, Blanka Bednarz, Eriko Sato, John O’Connor , David Oui and Seymour Lipkin. As a composer he has enjoyed recent commissions from Orquesta de Baja California, Barry Green, Blanka Bednarz, The International Society of Bassists Young Bass Division, the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra and Jerry Fuller, among others. He offers a online instruction in upright bass and composition and has created an Upright Slap Bass Instructional Video available exclusively online.

Dr. Stokes earned degrees from Vanderbilt University (B.M.) and Indiana University in Bloomington (M.M. and D.M.), where his major bass instructors were Lawrence Hurst, and Edgar Meyer. He studied fiddle styles with Crystal Ploughman and Mark O’Connor, string pedagogy with Lawrence Hurst, Helga Winold, Inez Wyrick and Mimi Zweig, and composition with Michael Alec Rose, Michael Kurek and Mary Jeanne Van Appledorn. He is also an expert in the life and work of bassist Rodion Azarkhin.

Visit him on the web at and Youtube.

Articles by Donovan Stokes:

  • Keeping Time in Jazz

    Keeping Time in Jazz

    I love a good bass solo as much, or probably more, than the next person. In the band, however, our most important job is to “keeping time.” Below are a few things we can do in the practice room to help improve our “time” before we get to the gig. Pick a tune you know... »

  • When You Can’t Get To It All In Practice Sessions

    When You Can’t Get To It All In Practice Sessions

    One of our No Treble readers has this to say: I understand how to structure my practice, but I’m still having trouble figuring out how to set up practice sessions because I have so much stuff to work on. I’m a bit frustrated. Do you have any suggestions? The first thing I’d suggest is to... »

  • Introduction to “Shell Voicings” on Bass

    Introduction to “Shell Voicings” on Bass

    Playing chords on the upright doesn’t only add to our tonal palette, it also strengthens our knowledge of a tune and our instrument. Some voicings, however, are more pleasant than others. Three and four note chords can easily become “muddy” and unclear, especially in the mid to lower register. As a result, many bass players... »

  • Practice Slow/Practice Fast

    Practice Slow/Practice Fast

    “Slow practice is fast practice” they say. To be sure, slow practice is a powerful strategy. Used by itself, however, it is incomplete. Ultimately, to perform fast passages well, we will need to have practiced them at full speed. In fact, if we are not careful, solely practicing a passage under tempo can drive us... »

  • Learning the Double Bass Fingerboard

    Learning the Double Bass Fingerboard

    I received this question recently via Facebook: “How can someone become more familiar with the fingerboard? I can find the positions on my bass pretty easily, but sometimes I have trouble knowing exactly what notes are in that position across the strings. Thank you!” I’m so glad you are looking to solidify your knowledge of... »

  • Buying Your First Double Bass (Upright Bass): Part 2

    Buying Your First Double Bass (Upright Bass): Part 2

    Now that we have had a short introduction into the various sizes and materials of double basses, we are ready to get our own upright bass. Here are a few thoughts on the final steps. Renting For those folks who aren’t ready to commit financially, renting can seem attractive. If you are just dipping your... »

  • Buying Your First Double Bass (Upright Bass): Part 1

    Buying Your First Double Bass (Upright Bass): Part 1

    When people are just starting to get interested in playing the double bass there can be some trepidation when it comes to obtaining one. Both the prices and the terminology can be off-putting for someone just starting out. For those of you thinking about buying your first upright bass, below are a few things to... »

  • A Quick Left Hand Warmup

    A Quick Left Hand Warmup

    Most people are aware of the importance of warming up before we practice or perform. A slow warmup can protect against injury and help to ensure we are performing at our optimum level. In situations where time is short, however, it can be tempting to forgo the warmup portion of the day. When I am... »

  • Ensuring a Productive Rehearsal

    Ensuring a Productive Rehearsal

    Over the years I’ve been involved with ensembles of varying sizes and genres. As a result, I’ve experienced some extremely productive rehearsals, and some less than productive rehearsals. Below are a few things that can help your next series of rehearsals run well. Be Prepared It is important to have your part ready to the... »

  • Multi-Stop Travel With Your Bass – Part 3: On the Plane, Bass and Travel

    Multi-Stop Travel With Your Bass – Part 3: On the Plane, Bass and Travel

    Most people realize that there are special considerations when flying with your upright bass. These considerations are significantly expanded if your musical journey requires a series of planes, trains, and automobiles, before you arrive back at your home door. To wrap up my discussion on this topic, below are a few ways I prepare for... »