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  • Lesson: Accents, Dynamics and Balance

    We’ve probably heard the word “dynamic” used to describe the work of musicians from time to time. It’s a compliment. Dynamic equals ‘interesting.’Changes in energy and intensity communicate feeling and add contrast to performance, and can add a sense of momentum and “swing.” Music without dynamics is dull; it sounds mechanical; without the injection of... »

  • Melodic Line Construction: “Oppositionality”

    When we hear the word “line” in the context of “bass line” or “melody line” we tend to think in terms of scales and/or chord tones as we are learning theory. This is good. There is a further level of thought about lines that has to do with the notes not in the scales or... »

  • Why Overtones Matter

    It is critical to understand the natural resonances of the bass to get the strongest tone and make a plan for fingering strategies in each key. A working knowledge of natural harmonics and sympathetic resonances will allow you to make more sophisticated choices in your playing approach and ultimately improve your sound (and give you... »

  • Right-hand technique for upright bass: pizzicato

    There is no “one way” to play pizzicato. There are a few principles to bear in mind that are helpful no matter what technique we use. The main idea we need to communicate is that the left hand does most of the work in sound generation. Playing hard with the right hand can be counterproductive,... »

  • Building Dexterity on the Bass

    Building Dexterity on the Bass

    While it is always important to have a strong theoretical backing and intellectual depth to your music there are times where you just need to focus on your chops. You can have the coolest idea ever, but if you don’t have the dexterity and agility to move freely and quickly around the fingerboard you won’t... »

  • Melodic Construction: Extensions on Dominant Chords, Part 2

    This is the second part of the Melodic Construction: Extensions on Dominant Chords series. Click here for Part 1 A fundamental problem with the “chordal scale” approach to improvising is that it tends to produce mechanical-sounding performance; all scale tones tend to be given equal weight as to whether or not they “work.” Frequently we... »

  • The Zen of Ear Training – Part 2

    The Zen of Ear Training – Part 2

    In the last lesson we covered a few different strategies for starting to train your ears. This included singing with your instrument, singing over a drone, and singing intervals in all the keys. Now we’re going to take it a few steps further and work to really develop our ears ability to pick out notes... »

  • Melodic Construction: Extensions on Dominant Chords, Part 1

    We know that there are many flavors of dominant chord. Various upper extensions of the chord—or alterations of the fifth—suggest different harmonic environments, each with its own chordal scale and triad polychords expressing the arrays of extensions. We’ll explore the most commonly used of these chords and extensions in a future column—but first… What do... »

  • The Zen of Ear Training – Part 1

    The Zen of Ear Training – Part 1

    An important part of every musician’s evolution is ear training. It’s a strange concept, but becoming an active and educated listener pays off in a huge way. First lets cover a few points about what ear training is and isn’t and then we’ll get to the exercises. Ear training is a broad term used to... »

  • Lesson: Fingering strategies for the upright bass

    The upright bass is a physically challenging instrument. I’m not trying to say we’re tougher than our treble-ended friends, but when was the last time you saw a violinist shift three feet at a time? The size of the upright bass means we have to be very efficient in how we approach playing music, especially... »