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The Lowdown with Dr. D - Page 7

Playing Bass… Fast

Playing Bass… Fast

At some point most bassists want be able to play “fast.” The question that usually arises is obvious: “How?” The most common barriers to being able play quickly on upright bass are: Poor bass setup Inefficient technique. (Too much tension, etc.) Lack of stamina Lack of familiarity with the passage, tune, line, etc. (Trying to play a passage too fast...

Single String Shifting Exercise

Single String Shifting Exercise

Single string shifting exercises are great for teaching us the geography of the fingerboard. Not to mention the help they provide in solidifying pitch accuracy and bow control. As a result, variations of the exercise given below have likely been in existence since the first human put first put bow to string. Edouard Nanny has a version at the end...

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Easy Experimentation for Artistic Growth in Improvisation

Easy Experimentation for Artistic Growth in Improvisation

Students of improvisation are often looking for the quickest way to learn vast amounts of new material, all while sounding great immediately. Oftentimes this translates into playing a large number of tunes for a few minutes each. In the short term, such practice sessions can be helpful. This is especially true if we need to learn a great deal of...

Improving Vibrato Control: A Guide for Bassists

Improving Vibrato Control: A Guide for Bassists

If the first step in acquiring control of our vibrato is to obtain a smooth motion that we can turn on or off at will, then the next step is to gain control over the speed and width of the vibrato. Being able to adjust the speed and width of a vibrato is indeed a valuable skill. Having this kind...

Finger Independence for Bassists: A Preparatory Double Trill Exercise

Finger Independence for Bassists: A Preparatory Double Trill Exercise

Complete independence of the left hand fingers is a laudable goal for every serious bassist, guitarist and string player. Below is a short beginning exercise designed to prepare us for playing double trills, (trills on two notes simultaneously). Strictly speaking, there are no double trills in the exercise below. However, it is a necessary step we must take if we...

Ten Prescriptions for Productive Practice

Ten Prescriptions for Productive Practice

Playing is fun, and important, but real progress happens when we practice. In fact, the most significant element in our development is our daily practice regimen. So, how we approach it is vital. To help us get the most out of our sessions, here are ten principles for productive practice: For best results, practice 6 days a week. Less than...

Thoughts on Improving Your Technique on Bass

Thoughts on Improving Your Technique on Bass

There are voluminous technical exercises designed to make us better instrumentalists. Nearly all have benefit when executed properly. Unfortunately, many people focus solely on the musical result expected (e.g. How fast can I play that trill today?) when doing technical work. However, the best results are gained when we balance our focus between the musical result and our physical actions...

Exercises and Schedules for Building Stamina on Bass

Exercises and Schedules for Building Stamina on Bass

My experience has been that when musicians work, they really work. It is completely feasible that we can play gigs morning, afternoon and evening. When times are good, we can find ourselves playing nine hours a day, or more, many days in a row. Needless to say, when these periods come around our stamina needs to be high. The demands...

The “Bloody Thumb” Exercise for Thumb Position Playing

The “Bloody Thumb” Exercise for Thumb Position Playing

Thumb position is an essential technique for upright bass. Players like Steve Bailey and Brian Bromberg have even adapted it for use on the electric bass. However, when people first start using their left hand thumb to stop a note (i.e. play in thumb position) they often experience discomfort. This is sometimes due to their inexperience with the new hand...

Shifting Exercises for Bass

Shifting Exercises for Bass

Sometimes, just for fun, I like to work on the short shifting exercise below. It helps me measure my accuracy, ensure I am light during the shift, and that I am using minimum pressure with my fingers, all while keeping my shifting fluid. It’s short, fun and challenging. Keep the following things in mind: Play with the bow, this trains...

Pyramiding: An Approach to Musical Exercise

Pyramiding: An Approach to Musical Exercise

There are many ways to approach a given exercise (e.g. trills, vibrato, etc.) and each have benefits. Some, of course, are more thorough than others. When I want to truly want to intensive on a particular area of technique I sometimes apply a concept borrowed from bodybuilding known as “pyramiding.” In simplest terms (when applying it to music), it means...

Settling into a Groove: A Guide for Bass Players

Settling into a Groove: A Guide for Bass Players

One of the most important things we do as bass players is to create and lock into a groove. When I practice this I prefer a drum machine to a metronome. Here’s a guide to working with a drum machine to master the groove: 1. Set the tempo and style. Choose all the styles you are trying to be competent...