I get a lot of email… I mean, a lot of email. Though it is sometimes a struggle to answer it in a timely fashion, it is also a continual source of interesting material for the blog, like the following note from Chris Lastovicka:
Low Note Question
I’ve just been reading your fantastic blog — your articles are so interesting that I had to make myself stop reading to get back to work! Thanks for your insights and thoughtfulness about the classical music world… Esp. for your exposure of conservatories’ lack of prep for the real world, and your itemizations of the cost of freelancing/teaching etc.
I found your blog because I was looking for the answer to a question. In the piece I’m writing, the double bass part includes low C. Does every professional player have either the extension or a 5-string bass? Would it be insulting to verify, or is it a must to check when we look for a player? Would a bass player appreciate a notation in the score that informs them that the part extends below E?
If you have time to respond, I’d be really grateful. If not, I completely understand!
Thanks for the message, and thanks for checking out the blog! Much appreciated. It is fairly standard these days for professional double bass players to have an extension, though there is still the occasional player who, for whatever reason, has neither an extension nor a five-string bass. Therefore, I think that it never hurts to ask or to put an indication in the part that a low C is required for the piece–it’s not an insult to the player at all, and you want to make sure that this part is actually going to be executable by the player in question.
At what point is there an extension expectation?
Though bassists typically don’t start their studies on basses with five strings or with extensions, is there a clear point (high school, college, or later) at which it is reasonable to expect that bassists would be equipped with gear capable of reaching the low notes?
It’s a cloudy issue to me. While it would be great if all bassists started on gear with low C capability, it’s rare to see many extensions even on the instruments of serious high school bassists on a path toward music school. Many bassists still don’t have extensions in college or beyond, and while this is not really a problem for jazz-centric bassists, anyone focusing on orchestral playing isn’t really “playing the part” without an extension.
Bassists: when did you first get an extension? When do you think is an appropriate point for an aspiring bassist to get one. Do you (gasp!) still not have one? Let us know!