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THE STRANGE APPEAL OF THE DOUBLE BASS



Why the double bass in the middle of the summer, you might wonder. Well, it is summer, my neighbours are building something in their garden and it is taking a month to put the foundations down. Builders, you know. However nothing is possible without a base. Rock solid base on which we build the rest of the structure. This is valid in construction, it is valid in music too.

Hence the bass.

Mr. Double Bass or just The Bass is the base of the classical music. You spell base, I spell bass - the two are homophones (words spelled differently but sounding the same) in that case they even mean the same in their functions.

So what do we know about the Bass?

It is big! It is very difficult to carry around. It looks like super model with a very long neck and an overly big ball gown. It is made out of wood - very beautiful maple wood which could make a fantastic dinner table.

Most jokes in the classical music circles- I can assure you those circle comprise of people with very bizarre sense of humour - are about the viola and the double bass. It is very likely they were all created by snooty violinists and cellists, but here is one:


What do a bass and a lawsuit have in common?

Everyone is relieved when the case is closed.

What we do NOT know about the bass is that it is a very fine musical instrument with immense capacity. It has four strings on which one can play a phenomenal virtuosic stuff, not only classical, but also jazz, folk, pop ... anything that has a harmony and a beat in it. Mozart composed the same passages for the first violin of the orchestra and for the basses. My advice to all the camera men, directors and editors who film classical music - stop filming and showing the violinists in the orchestra- they are truly boring. Film the basses! It is very difficult to play the bass well in tune because the spaces between the notes and the spaces between the strings on which the bow moves are big and when the double bass virtuosi play something fast, it looks genuinely fascinating. And it certainly takes many long hours to master.


Those who like to invest might like to know that a good, old Italian bass costs around 300.000 pounds. The biggest sale so far has been at 750.000. Yes, that’s right. Although much cheaper than the violins (the most expensive violin so far is 16 million pounds), they are progressively getting pricier. So sell your house, buy a bass and run. Running might prove tricky actually. In five years you will sell it for double the amount. In case you want to travel with it you will need a car with a big trunk for sure. Michael O’Leary, the greedy boss of Ryan Air will make you buy a whole flight just to let you put your bass in the hold.


So how do people choose to play the bass and why? There is no other profession in the world which requires carrying a wardrobe with you everywhere you go. Why that instead of a flute? Or a triangle? Here are some answers given by some of the very best in the world:


Mary Scully, the iconic Abbey Road Studios double bass leader :


“Well, I first played the cello! But my piano teacher decided to set up an Irish folk group and thought I should play the Bass !!!! I knew it was the instrument for me straight away ”


Steve Mair, another London Bass master and a famous Black Cab driver:


“I was tallest in my class at school and was offered lessons on the double bass. My teacher was a wonderful eccentric self taught bass player who had recently left as principal double bass on the Scottish National Orchestra to teach bass in schools before going to uni to read non European languages!”


Petar Slavov, one of the most prominent jazz players in NY



"From a very early age I wanted to be a musician. My dad was a drummer in a very successful rock band, but for some reason he did not want me to play the drums and I started on the piano. Despite the wonderful teachers I had, I became very bored with it. That was a problem as I really wanted to go to the Music School - not only I loved music, but also there they had no Maths. I hated Maths with passion. However, at the entry exam I had to compete with a whole bunch of hard practicing piano wunderkinds. And I sucked. That was the music dream down the pipe. Without missing a beat, my dad suggested: "Hey, why don't you try the upright bass?" I had no clear concept of what the bass violin was. I didn't love it and i didn't hate it and, but according to my professors, I showed early promise with my quest for good intonation and my ability to get s big sound out of it - as much as a 13 year old can get sound of this behemoth of an instrument.

My dad once told me that he loved dreaming about me playing the bass with some jazz "cats" in New York City. So here I am."


Leon Bosch, prominent soloist, conductor and educator:

http://www.leonbosch.co.uk


My relationship with the bass came about purely by chance.  I was a cellist, and during my first year at the University of Cape Town, my cello teacher Edna Elphick introduced me to Zoltan Kovats, the principal double bassist of the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra who, after a cursory look at my left hand, instructed me to turn up for my first lesson the next day.

I duly obliged and the rest as they say, is history. Zoltan was a fabulous teacher, and it soon became clear the bass and I were meant for each other.

And just like that my love affair with the instrument begun.


Dobril Popdimitrov, former member of the Netherlands Symphony and an active freelancer in Holland (who will make you stand up by playing for you the Dutch national anthem!):


“My family were all professional musicians, mainly violinists, but I had no interest in playing the violin. One day my dad came home with two instruments: a French horn and a Double bass. “Choose!” he said and I knew that he was not joking. An instrument it was going to be The Bass was much bigger and cooler looking and that sway the choice. And just like that I became a double bass player.”



Do you see what I see? It is a pure matter of a love of first sight and some say that love is blind and knows no boundaries. Thank God for that!That means that Love is in the foundation of music. Just like in everything else.


So next time you go to the opera, concert, musical, jazz bar or anything else which has an instrument that looks like a non perfect big violin, pay close attention to the person behind it. Especially if you are slightly bored. The bass players are usually tall, good looking and with beautiful big hands with long fingers. They also like a good joke and are a very friendly bunch. They are the "cool dudes" in the symphony orchestra. You will be amazed by how much is going on in their musical corner and they will for sure keep you entertained. Your ticket will well worth the money!




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