I bassist just beginning her journey as a double bass teacher wrote to me recently inquiring about what I consider to be a good approach toward starting beginners. Here’s my response:
t’s great that you’re starting to do some teaching! The best series I’ve found for teaching beginners is the Progressive Repertoire series from George Vance (who passed away recently, unfortunately). They are kind of a modified version of the Suzuki materials only designed really well for the bass. The only problem (some would call it a problem, anyway) is that they use the Rabbath fingering system, so all the positions don’t really correspond to what students do in their school orchestra programs. I’ve bounced back and forth between scribbling out all the Rabbath fingerings and writing in traditional fingerings and just teaching both systems to students at the same time, and these days I opt for starting with teaching the Rabbath fingerings and then explaining how the positions int heir school music differ. The Rabbath positions make a lot of intuitive sense, and I find that it’s not too tough for students when I approach it this way.
Here’s a link to the Progressive Repertoire series–I’d get all three books, which will take you from the very first piece through the Dragonetti Concerto (several years down the road!):
One of the cool things about this series is that it starts students in the neck positions, first position, and thumb position at the very beginning, making shifting less scary. The early tunes use nice wide intervals (thirds, fifths, and sixths), making intonation work easier for the beginner. Also, I’ve found that each tune is about the right amount for a beginner (who is practicing!) to learn in a week. That way, I can generally give one tune per week as an assignment and expect it to be learned the following week.
What do you use for beginning bass?
I have used many methods for starting beginners, from Simandl (which I use to some degree in conjunction with Vance), but after discovering the Progressive Repertoire series (along with Vade Mecum for technical studies) I’ve been very content. What did you start with, method book-wise, and what do you use in your own teaching?
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