Choosing Fingerings - Prelude from Bach Cello Suite No.1

In this lesson Lauren Pierce shares how she chooses fingerings when playing solo music. To demonstrate she uses the first eight bars of the Prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No.1. It's a beautiful piece of music and one that's a lot of fun to play on the double bass. Check out the short video to learn how Lauren approaches it.

Click here to download the transcription of the first eight bars of the Prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No.1.

THIS LESSON IS A PREVIEW FROM LAUREN PIERCE'S STEP-BY-STEP VIDEO COURSE, 'CONCEPTS OF SOLO PLAYING'.

Pros & Cons of Playing Seated with Both Feet on the Floor

In this episode of Ask Geoff & Lauren we discuss playing double bass seated with both feet on the floor. We outline the pros and cons of playing this way and how do we deal with them. 

Check out this video and join the conversation in the comments section below. We would love to hear what's been working for you. 

Working on improving your arco playing? If you want to master the bow check out 'Double Bass Bowing Technique', a step-by-step course by Lauren Pierce. 

Double Bass Solo from Mahler Symphony #1

In this lesson Lauren Pierce teaches one of the most famous bass solos from the orchestral repertoire. It’s taken from Mahler’s Symphony #1 at the start of the third movement and I’m sure you will recognise the tune! It’s a minor version of Frère Jacques and is a really haunting melody which all bassists should learn, regardless of what style of music you play.

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription for this lesson.

If you enjoy this lesson and want to learn more from Lauren be sure to check out her course 'Concepts of Solo Playing'. 
She also has technique courses on bowing and playing in thumb position.

How do you know when your intonation is good enough?

Intonation is such a key topic as playing in tune on the double bass takes hard work! We discuss exercises that have helped us and answer Michał's question on when your tuning good enough to move on. Check out the video and join the conversation in the comments section below! 

If you enjoyed this video and would like to learn more with us check out our full length courses

The Vomit Exercise for Double Bass

In this lesson Lauren Pierce teaches you the 'Vomit Exercise'. It's an insanely effective drill to improve your shifting and intonation. I know the name sounds a bit crazy, but it's an exercise every bassist should add to their practice routine. Check out the lesson to learn why. 

Enjoyed the lesson? Check out Lauren's course 'Thumb Position: A Step-by-Step Video Course'

Geoff's Favourite YouTube Double Bassists: Pt.3 - Pop (& everything else!)

Here's part three of my list of favourite YouTube videos. In this one I cover pop music, but really it's anything that isn't jazz or classical!


Sierra Hull with double bassist Ethan Jodziewicz - 'E-Tune'

Ethan Jodziewicz regularly performs with singer/guitarist/mandolinist Sierra Hull. They are both awesome and if you like bluegrass you will love this!


Zaz with double bassist Mathieu Verlot - 'Les Passants'

I love Mathieu's double bass playing. He's got incredible technique and an amazing energy! Check out his YouTube channel for more inspiration! 


Adam Chaffins - 'Hate it Here'

I love this video. Adam is an awesome bassist and singer and this video has an amazing setting so check it out! 


Scott Mulvahill - 'Homeless'

What happens when you loose the power on a gig?.. It's time for the double bassist to step up and shine! Scott Mulvahill's magical performance is one of my all time favourite YouTube videos and testament to the power of live music. 


Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile And Stuart Duncan: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

It just doesn't get any cooler than this! Edgar Meyer with Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile and Stuart Duncan playing at the NPR studios. You know it's going to be amazing and it doesn't disappoint!


Danny Thompson and John Martyn 'Solid Air’

Double bassist Danny Thompson has tone to die for and is one of the best folk bassists ever. This video features a wonderful double bass solo that you will love!


Petros Klampanis - The Beatles ‘Blackbird'

I discovered Petros Klampanis via this YouTube video and it didn't take long for him to become one of my favourite double bassists. He has a unique voice on the instrument which combines formidable technique with his creative arrangements and compositions. Check out this beautiful performance of Blackbird, it's too good!


Jorge Roeder & Sofía Rei -"Coplas Escondidas" 

You can tell from the start that Jorge is a seriously impressive bassist, but then he also start to sing! This is too good!
P.S I know this one isn't on YouTube, but it's a video that's too good not to share!


I hope you have enjoyed the videos, but what have we missed? Let us know in the comments section below and share your favourite music!


Lauren's Favourite YouTube Double Bassists - Pt.3 Pop (& everything else!)

Here's part three of Lauren's list of favourite YouTube videos. She covers pop music, but really it's anything that isn't jazz or classical! To check out the previous lists follow these links:

Lauren's Favourite YouTube Double Bassists - Pt.1 Classical
Lauren's Favourite YouTube Double Bassists - Pt.2 Jazz
 

Geoff's Favourite YouTube Double Bassists - Pt.1 Jazz
Geoff's Favourite YouTube Double Bassists - Pt.2 Classical


Stay - Rihanna with Adam Blackstone (on double bass!)

Adam Blackstone is currently the musical director for Nicki Minaj and Justin Timberlake, and is one of my absolute favorite electric bassists out there right now. I didn’t know he was also a fantastic upright player as well, so you can imagine my surprise when watching the 2013 Grammy’s and see him not only playing upright, but playing with the bow! He sounds beautiful in this performance and, like always, he knows exactly what to play to make the music extra special.


Red - Taylor Swift with Edgar Meyer

One day, Taylor Swift decided she wanted to play her song “Red” with Edgar Meyer, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Sam Bush, and Eric Darken. So she did. The whole band obviously sounds incredible, but Edgar sounds like he’s just having so much fun. I love that you can hear his personality distinctly in everything he plays (listen for his little “Edgar-isms” peeking out, like at 1:42, 2:12, and 2:27), but he still compliments the music perfectly.

Sigh. I love him.


Alex - Punch Brothers (Paul Kowert)

This is one of my favorite songs by the Punch Brothers, and I love this performance of it. I think Paul’s playing is just beautiful (in this video and just as a general statement). It’s quite delicate when it needs to be, and his sound compliments Chris Thile’s voice so perfectly.


Daft Punk Chaconne - Sam Suggs

Sam Suggs is one of the most special musicians I know. He’s an incredible performer, composer, writer, and way too smart for his own good. This Daft Punk Chaconne is so unique as a composition and Sam’s performance is oodles of fun to watch.


Somewhere Only We Know - Simply Three (Nicholas Villalobos)

I’ve always loved this song, so I was really excited when Simply Three released their cover of it. I was even more excited hearing their bass player, Nick, playing the melody with that beautiful tone of his. He makes the opening of this song very sweet and intimate.

If you haven’t already, you should follow his Instagram: nvbass


Mega Man 2 Theme - David Wong, JFlo, and Man Wai Che

I knew Man Wai when he was at the University of North Texas with our teacher, Jeff Bradetich. He was an amazing player and always had such unique ideas and ways of thinking, so seeing this video of him years later just made sense.

How awesome and nerdy is this though??


I Want You Back - Lake Street Dive (Bridget Kearney)

This is the first video I ever saw of Lake Street Dive, and it’s still my favorite. Lake Street Dive is made up of super talents, with bassist Bridget Kearney being no exception. Her bold playing and sassy tone bring a totally different character to an old favorite.


Lloyd Goldstein - Lean on Me

Lloyd Goldstein is a Music Practitioner and Artist in Residence at the Moffitt Cancer Center - his job is to play music for cancer patients in treatment and recovery, and he has composed and arranged a bunch of music for solo bass for this purpose. This performance of his “Lean on Me” arrangement is beautifully played, but also very touching knowing the kind of person Lloyd is.


“Love Affair” by Ennio Morricone - DaXun Zhang and Doo Woong Chung

This arrangement of “Love Affair” for 2 basses and piano is so lovely! Both DaXun and Too Woong sound great, but when DaXun comes in with the return of the melody at 1:12, I almost can’t handle it because it’s so beautiful. He just has this way of making time feel like it’s standing still.


Mr. Krinkle - Primus (Les Claypool)

I’ve never heard a band with a sound anything remotely like Primus, and that’s what I love about them. I think this write up expresses exactly how I feel better than I ever could:

“Primus. What a weird f***ing band. Absolutely insane music that shouldn’t work and yet it does. I don’t know why I love this band but goddammit I do.”

“Mr. Krinkle” is a very…special song with an insane, nightmare-inducing music video to match. I think my favorite part is Les Claypool’s bow technique. That off the string stroke is pure gold.


I hope you have enjoyed the videos, but what have we missed? Let us know in the comments section below and share your favourite music!

Left Hand Shape: Technique Tip for Beginner Double Bassists

In this lesson I share an essential tip for beginner double bassists who want to develop a great left hand technique. It's about hand shape and that's a crucial area of study if you want to play in comfort and with great intonation. I've filmed a short lesson to explain what the problem is and how you can fix it.

I hope you enjoy the video and if you want more lessons like this please check out my step-by-step course 'Beginner's Double Bass'. 

Should Professional Bassists Play French & German Bow?

Should professional bassists play French and German pattern double bass bows?

This is a great question! We all know that double bassists have to choose to play either French or German pattern double bass bow, but do professionals need to play both? In episode 51 of 'Ask Geoff & Lauren' we answer the question and share our experiences.

So what do you think? Should professionals learn to play both? What if they are teachers as well as performers? Join the conversation in the comments section below and let us know your thoughts. 


Want to learn more about the French bow? Check out Lauren's step-by-step course, 'Double Bass Bowing Technique' for over 5 hours of lessons.

What is the Optimum Setup for Thumb Position?

In episode 50 of 'Ask Geoff & Lauren' we discuss how to achieve the optimum double bass setup for playing in thumb position. It's a great topic as playing bass shouldn't be made harder due to a poor set up. We share what's worked for us and what you might want to consider when setting up your double bass.

If you want to learn more about thumb position technique check out Lauren Pierce's step-by-step video course. 

I hope you enjoy the video and we would love to hear your setup secrets! Join us in the comments section and let us know. 

Should I Do a Jazz or Classical Major?

In episode 49 of 'Ask Geoff & Lauren' we answer a question from Eric about whether he should major in jazz or classical music at college. It's a great question as there are many different routes that musicians can take and especially double bassists! We share our backgrounds and what we would recommend new students consider when choosing what area of music to study.

Eric also asked for school recommendations and we forgot to answer that question! This means we need your help. Please post below and let us know where you think Eric should study. Here's his question:

"Any school recommendations? I've been thinking about Indiana, NEC, Juilliard."

I hope you enjoy the video. It would be great to hear your thoughts and recommendations for colleges to study music.

Old vs New Double Bass Strings - Can you tell the difference?

In this video I compare a brand new set of double bass strings with an identical brand that have been on my bass for a year and a half. I discus the topic and share some examples of pizzicato and arco playing.

The strings I use in the video are Evah Pirazzi Weich by Pirastro. I'm a big fan and recommend them if you are looking for a hybrid string. I usually change them about once a year, but please bear in mind that some brands can last much longer, especially steel strings like Thomastik Spirocore.
It really comes down to personal taste, so you may not need to shell out for a fresh set as often as you think.


So, can you tell the difference? Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section. 

Related Lessons:

Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Weich String Review
How to Change Strings on the Double Bass 
Double Bass Strings Buyers Guide

How Do I Treat a Wolf Tone on My Double Bass?

In episode #47 of 'Ask Geoff and Lauren' we answer a question from Jennifer about treating a wolf tone on her double bass. A wolf tone is an artificial overtone which occurs at the frequency your double bass naturally resonates. They are very common and the bad news is that a that a wolf tone can sound terrible but the good news is that they are easily treated. 

We discuss how we have handled a wolf tone on our instruments and how you can go about it. 

 

In the video we discuss Wolf Tone Eliminators. They are a cheap and effective way to combat wolf tones and here's a great article on Gollihur Music if you want to know more about them.

Double Bass Articulations & Markings Guide

Meet the Author

Lauren Pierce

Lauren Pierce

Lauren Pierce is a professional double bassist and educator. Her hugely popular YouTube channel features virtuosic performances of double bass solo repertoire. 

Lauren is our classical double bass teacher & co-presenter of 'Ask Geoff & Lauren'. She has released numerous lessons and two step-by-step courses ‘Double Bass Bowing Technique’ & 'Double Bass Thumb Position'.


Introduction

Below is a list of some of the most common articulations and markings you will find in written music. For some of the articulations, I’ve included the equivalent vocal sounds - these are from Henry Portnoi’s book, “Creative Bass Technique,” which is a fantastic resource for orchestral playing and overall a great read by a legendary pedagogue.

The information below is intended to be used as a reference guide so I recommend bookmarking this page for later use. If you have a friend or student who you think would benefit from this information please share the page with them and help spread the word about what we are doing here at DiscoverDoubleBass.com.

If you would like to learn more about these articulations, as well as other bowing techniques, check out my step-by-step course, 'Double Bass Bowing Technique'. It's comprises 5+ hours of HD video across 70 lessons for beginners to advanced students.

Please note: The video demonstrations are not playing the specific notated examples.



Index/Quick Links

 

Articulations

Written Symbols


Articulations

  • If you see the word “Arco” written in your music, it means to play the notes with the bow, instead of plucking them.

 

  • Pizzicato means to pluck the strings with your fingers, as opposed to using the bow. The technique varies between different musical genres. To play a classical pizz, grab the string with your index finger and pull the string upwards, away from the fingerboard. For a jazz pizz, the string is pulled more to the side.

 

  • Short or detached. When a dot is placed over a note, there should be a clear separation between that note and the following one. When dots are placed over a series of notes, there should be a clear space or break in between each one.

 

  • While staccato refers to a type of sound or shape of a note, spiccato is the bow stroke often used to achieve that sound. To play spiccato, the bow bounces off and back onto the string throughout a series of quick notes, making them short with a percussive quality.

  • This is one of the more notoriously tricky techniques in bowing, so I would recommend getting together with a teacher who can show you the intricacies of this stroke and how to do it properly.

  • Vocal sound = "Peter Piper".

 

  • Legato indicates that the notes should be played more connected with no space in between. When playing this, you should aim for a sound similar to a slur, but played with separate bows.

 

  • “Detached”.

  • Non-legato, but with no accent at the beginning. To play detache, use an even amount of weight and speed throughout the stroke (to create an unaccented beginning), but with a distinct break in the sound between every note.

  • The vocal sound might sound like, “Dado”.

 

  • A combination of legato and détaché, this indicates that the notes should be played connected like legato, but with a more pronounced beginning like detache. Usually slurred, each note is re-articulated throughout a continuous bow.

  • When playing portato, be careful not to add space by stopping the bow in between each note. The bow should continue to move throughout, re-articulating each note by using more weight and a faster bow speed. It should sound like rounded and pulsing, not sharp like an accent.

  • The vocal sound for this might sound like, “ha ha ha”.

 

  • “Marked”.

  • This is a type of accent that indicates a noted to be played with more force. You should aim for an accent at the beginning of the note, but the notes should have no space in between.

  • To play this, begin by playing a series of legato notes - connected with no space in between. From there, add an accent at the beginning of each note by increasing the weight in your arm and speeding up the bow at the beginning of each note.

  • The vocal sound for this might sound like “tar tar tar”.

 

  • “Hammered”.

  • This is another type of accent, but with a sharper attack and more space between the notes. You might think of martelé as an aggressive form of staccato - short, but with a lot of force. The “hammer” sound comes from the sharp, aggressive accent at the beginning of the note but, unlike marcato, a series of martelé notes will have space in between each one.

  • The vocal sound for this might sound like “Cocoa”.

Martele

 

  • "To hold".

  • Usually, this marking means to hold the note for its full value (or slightly longer, when taking time or pulling back the tempo), or to play the note slightly louder. Essentially, the tenuto marking means a note should have emphasis.

  • If the tenuto marking is written over a staccato dot, play with a space between the notes, or detached. In that instance, the marking is indicating length of the note.

  • If the tenuto marking is written over an accent, it is calling for emphasis on the accent. In this instance, it is indicating the dynamics of the note.

Tenuto

 

  • “Suddenly with force”.

  • A sforzando is a type of accent that indicates a very sudden, sharp emphasis on one note. To play this type of accent, use an increased amount of weight, combined with a faster bow speed. This works best with a down bow because of the natural weight closer to the frog, but can also be done in an up bow.

  • The vocal sound for this would be, “K.”

Sforzando .png

 

  • A variation of sforzando (written sfzp or sfp), which is a sforzando accent immediately followed by a piano. This creates a sharp contrast in dynamics.

  • The beginning of the note will be played exactly as a sforzando would be played - with a large amount of weight and fast bow speed. Immediately after the accent sounds, lighten up the weight considerably and slow down the bow speed to play. This will create a sharp, loud accent at the very beginning of the note, followed by a very soft dynamic.

 

  • Commonly used on dotted rhythm passages, hooked bowings help to play groups of notes short, but without accent. A slur marking is placed over two notes with dots over each note. This indicates to play the two notes in one bow direction, but with a space in between each one.

  • To play hooked bowings, stop the bow in between the two notes that are connected to create a small space.

 

 

  • This means to play with the bow close to the bridge. The sound produced is thin and tinny, and allows the higher harmonics to be brought out. Common examples of Sul Ponticello are in Francois Rabbath’s “Poucha Dass” and Bela Bartok’s Roumanian Folk Dances.

  • To play this technique, move your bow as close to the bridge as possible while still able to get some pitch. If the bow moves too close or on top of the bridge, very little sound will be produced. As you play, use a free bow speed (not too slow) and not too much weight.

 

  • The opposite of Sul Ponticello, this means to play with the bow above the fingerboard. This creates a glassy, airy tone quality with a soft dynamic level. To prevent the string from crunching underneath the bow, use a light amount of weight with a fairly quick bow speed.

Sul Tasto.png

 

  • Flip the bow over so that the stick is on top of the string. To play the notes written, tap the stick of the bow against the string. This creates a soft, percussive sound. The most common example of this technique is in “Mars” from Holst’s “The Planets.”

 

  • This is an effect caused by quick bowing on a single note. The rapid re-articulations create a shaking or trembling sound.

  • The trick to playing tremolo is to use as little bow as possible. If you use too much bow, even when the dynamic is marked as forte, you won’t be able to move as quickly. This technique works best if you stay away from the frog and move closer to the center or tip of the bow.

 

  • A trill is an ornament that calls for a quick alternation between two pitches. In context, “tr” will usually be written above a note, sometimes with a wavy line following. The two notes in the trill consist of the note written and the pitch directly above it.

  • Unless otherwise indicated, the pitch will be the in the given key signature, making it a diatonic trill. If there is an accidental over the trill, it is called a chromatic trill. For example, if there was a trill over the note G in the key of C major, a diatonic trill would use the notes G and A. A chromatic trill might use Ab or A#.

  • Depending on the time period of the music written, the trill will either start with the note written (the lower note) or the note above. Trills begin on the written (or lower note) in music written during the Romantic Era and later (example 1 in video below), while trills in music written during the Classical Period and earlier are played starting on the upper note (example 2 in video below).

 

  • “With mute”.

  • This indicates the musician should put their mute on the bridge. This created a softer, fuzzier, and generally more muted tone quality.

  • Alternatively, “senza sord” means to remove the mute.

 

Written Symbols

 

  • Play two or more notes within the same bow without re-articulating or changing bow direction. This creates a smooth, legato sound with no break in between the notes.

  • Vocal sound = “minimum”.

Slur.png

 

  • Down bow is notated by a symbol that looks like a square with the bottom missing. This means to move the frog from left to right.

  • Up bow is notated by a symbol that looks like an uppercase V. This is the opposite direction of down bow, where the frog moves from right to left.

Up Bow.png

 

  • Lift the bow off of the string and return it to the starting point. This is used when you need to play 2 down bows right after each other, but a slur or a hooked bowing isn’t appropriate.

 

  • Get louder or increase the dynamic level.

  • Get softer or decrease the dynamic level.

 

  • The string can be divided into intervals - 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc. At each of these points is a node where, when touched on a vibrating string, will produce a harmonic overtone. The most common harmonics are the octave harmonic of each string, an octave and a 5th above the open string (on the G string, this would be the D harmonic above the octave G), and the 2nd octave harmonic (2 octaves above the open string). Outlined below are some of the more common harmonics.

  • Some harmonics are the same pitch as the note when pressed down, like the octave G harmonic. These are notated like a regular note would be, but with a circle above the note to indicate it should be played as a harmonic.

  • Some harmonics produce different pitches than when the note is stopped. An example would be the A on the D string (see chart below). The note that sounds is an A, but an octave above the A when stopped. These are notated with an open diamond to indicate not only that the note should be played as a harmonic, but also that the pitch will be different than the stopped note on the fingerboard.

  • To play a harmonic, tough the string with one finger without pressing down. Make sure only one finger is touching the string - otherwise, the harmonic won’t sound properly. To get a clear sound, move your bow closer to the bridge and use a fast bow speed.

 

 

  • Full stop in the music. Stop playing, then wait for either the conductor or ensemble leader to resume the music.

 

 

  • Indicates the note should be held longer than the written duration. The prolonged duration is not exact and is up to the discretion of the performer or ensemble director. However, it is common to hold a note with a fermata for about twice as long.

 

 

  • This means to go back to the last double bar or inside repeat symbol (see below) and play the passage again. Unless otherwise specified, a section with a repeat is played twice all the way through.


I hope you have found this page useful. If you have please share it with another bassist and help spread the word about what we are doing here at Discover Double bass. 

If you want to learn more with me check out my step-by-step courses 'Double Bowing Technique' and 'Double Bass Thumb Position'.
 

Double Bass Bowing Technique

Double Bass Bowing Technique

- A step-by-step video course to master the French bow.

- Over five hours of video lessons with transcriptions of exercises.

- Ask Lauren questions directly on the lessons pages.

- Access to an exclusive members-only study group.

Thumb Position

Double Bass Thumb Position


- The most comprehensive video course for double bass thumb position technique available anywhere.

- A step-by method.

- Over five hours of video lessons with transcriptions of exercises. 

- Ask Lauren questions directly on the lessons pages.

- Access to an exclusive members-only study group.

Thanks for checking this out! - Lauren Pierce

Neck Heel Navigation

In episode 46 of 'Ask Geoff & Lauren' we discuss how you can use the neck heel to play in tune on the double bass. I remember the first time I was shown this technique and I couldn't believe how useful it was! 

In this video I reference my lesson 'Unlock the Fingerboard: Neck Heel Method for Great Tuning'
I also recommend checking out 'Two Questions about Thumb Position'.

I hope you enjoy the lesson. Please let us know your thoughts on using the neck heel by joining us in the comments section.