As you can tell by the name of this blog, bass is featured in most posts here to at least some degree. We have thousands of bass posts–enjoy checking them out!

Guest Post: Banish burnout and rejuvenate your playing!

Hi readers, Peter Tambroni here doing a guest post for I will be doing a semi-regular column from my perspective as a long time public school string teacher and bassist.


It happens to all of us. We practice. We have our routine (which is good!). We have our allotted practice time and organized it into a balance diet of exercises and music for an efficient route to progress.

And then after a few months, stagnation sets in. We’re zoning out, tuning out, and feeling generally flat.

What can you do to get you out of this artistic rut?

Take up an artistic hobby that you’ve never formally studied – and don’t intend to! I took up photography several years ago – by accident. I acquire a digital through my school’s technology buying program. At first I used it just to take pictures of my classroom and events but it quickly turned fun. I took pictures of students and instruments at different angles, perspectives, and in black and white. I consciously decided to not take a photography class. I did subscribe to some photo magazines and joined the local photography club which out to be rather dull. But above all, I took lots and lots of pictures. Thousands. And why not? It was digital so I could delete as many as I wanted. I played with all the knobs, buttons and settings. I experimented and took more pictures – and tons of ‘bad’ ones. Who cared? I wasn’t a photographer so all of this was just fun! There was no pressure; just like when I was a teenager in a garage band with no formal musical training. Just a cheap guitar with a Guitar Player or Guitar World magazine. Ah pure, uninhibited creativity! Give it a shot!

I then noticed many parallels to music – the rule of thirds relating to phrasing and the golden mean. Learning what should be the focus and what’s the background. I learned to selectively focus on a subject – or not. My musicianship definitely improved after I picked up that camera.

Another idea is to try playing a genre that you’ve never worked in before. And it doesn’t even have to be a ‘real’ genre. Pickup a jazz real book but play the melody, or try your hand at comping the chord progression. Turn on a heavy metal or alternative music station and play along or try to transcribe a modern rock tune. Sit in on a bluegrass jam – odds are they’ll be happy to have an upright bassist and they generally have lead sheets (but come, use your ears, it’s just I, IV, V!)

Pickup your instrument and doodle, let your fingers wander and play anything. Improvise! Sing along with crazy lyrics or even a commercial. Chill out with your bass. Grab a beer, turn on the TV and try to figure out whatever theme song or jingles are playing.

Play a different style, improvise, transcribe (especially something different!). Bow along to that dusty Bon Jovi album!

Meditate with the bass. One of the things I really enjoy about playing is the tactile aspect of playing. I like how the bass feels. Just sit or stand with your bass and feel the weight of it. Notice the neck and feel the strings and wood. This isn’t something ‘out there’, just another way to connect with your instrument. When I first started playing the bass in high school, I marveled at it. I touched the bridge full of rosin. The neck with its lack of finish just called to be held.

Go ahead and experiment, there are no rules. Just play around.

I think you’ll be amazed at the results – mentally and physically. Hopefully you’ll reconnect with your instrument and discover why you chose the bass.

Recommended reading:

Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within

The Inner Game of Music


Thank you and keep practicin’!

Peter Tambroni

Terry Plumeri performs The Caves of Peacock Springs

In May, I put out a tribute podcast to composer, conductor, and bassist Terry Plumeri.  Tragically, he was murdered in April of this year in his home in Florida.

I thought it fitting to follow up with a couple of videos featuring Terry.  The following features a solo bass composition by Terry called The Caves of Peacock Springs:

Also, check out this track with Terry and the great Herbie Hancock.It’s called He Who Lives In Many Places and has that open, cinematic quality so distinctive to his music.

CBC 226: ISB 2017 Convention Preview

ISB 2017 Preview 300 x 300This is a special episode featuring International Society of Bassists 2017 Convention Chair and Artistic Director Nicholas Walker discussing plans for the upcoming convention.  This 50th anniversary convention looks like it will be outstanding, with several new developments unique to this event.  Enjoy!

International Society of Bassists 2017 Convention
June 5-10 at Ithaca College, New York

Other ISB-related interviews you may enjoy include:

CBC 225: Nicholas Walker on musical influences, performing, and Domaine Forget

Ithaca College professor and International Society of Bassists president Nicholas Walker

Ithaca College professor and International Society of Bassists president Nicholas Walker

Today’s episode features Ithaca College professor and International Society of Bassists 2017 Convention Chair and Artistic Director Nicholas Walker. In addition to teaching at Ithaca College, Nicholas performs over 170 concerts a year in a wide variety of musical genres, he is a prolific composer, and he has taught for many years along with Paul Ellison and François Rabbath at Domaine Forget in Quebec.  Nicholas will be hosting the 2017 ISB Convention at Ithaca College next June 5-10.

We talk about his early musical influences, his experiences working with Paul Ellison and François Rabbath, balancing performing with other activities, and the Ithaca double bass experience.  We also go into great detail about a day in the life of a student at Domain Forget, which is a topic that we talked about with David Allen Moore back on episode 162 of the podcast.

We also feature several musical excerpts from Nicholas, starting with excerpt of a tune with singer songwriter Tenzin Chopak called “Just Don’t Go.”  We’ll also play a few excerpts of some of Nicholas’ solo bass compositions, and you can find complete recordings on his YouTube channel.  Enjoy!

Musical Excerpts:

Interview Highlights

Background and Early Years

  • started on piano, picked up bass in 4th grade, playing jazz early on and music with friends in addition to the public school
  • started taking lessons with Duane Rosengard, who was a student at Eastman at the time
  • played in the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
  • studying with Mark Foley
  • with many of the people surrounding Nicholas, there wasn’t a big distinction between jazz and classical playing – it was all part of musical life for him

Working with Paul Ellison

  • moving to Houston and meeting Paul Ellison
  • Paul’s teaching style
  • the Domaine Forget double bass experience
  • Buddhist philosophy – any student who shows up has earned the right to learn
  • Paul’s comfort moving from student to teacher role

Working with François Rabbath

  • the right time to hear something from a teacher
  • how, exactly, can he help each particular person
  • his first experience meeting François

A Day in the Life at Domaine Forget

  • put the bass players in a barn and let them work
  • get up early
  • 8:30 am – all meet together – 25 students plus the two teachers
  • bodywork and 90 minute workout together
    • Stretching
    • Yoga
    • Feldenkrais Method
    • Alexander Technique
    • Pilates
  • bass workout together – all done by ear and by rote – no music stands – working together in a big circle
    • shifting exercises
    • bowing exercises
    • specific left hand techniques
    • hand frames
    • drop thumb
    • expansion
    • pivoting
    • hammer on / pull off
    • fingering patterns
    • etudes
  • at the end of the two weeks, they have a 90 minute routine that they do together without stopping – one exercise after another
  • all this material comes from meeting with all the students the first night and asking them their goals for the camp
  • 10 am – break followed by two hours of lessons
  • lunch
  • 1:30 pm – back in the barn for another 90 minute class with the senior faculty member
    • Paul does a lot of stroke work and body awareness
    • opportunity to introduce concepts like balance, arm weight, anything that came up in prior master classes
    • everything from the simplest open string playing to more complex bow bouncing, forward/reverse curve
  • 3:00 pm – master class
  • evening – concerts with notable visiting artists, bass recital, public master classes

The Double Bass Program at Ithaca

  • largely modeled on the way Domaine Forget operates
  • one of the nation’s oldest conservatories – Sevcik and Rachmaninoff were both on faculty
  • group classes for technique, orchestra rep, studio class in addition to lessons
  • alternative lesson approaches in addition to traditional one-on-one lessons

Performing, Teaching, and Composing

  • finding balance (or not finding balance)
  • being at peace with the choices you make
  • 170-180 concerts a year
  • the concerts and individual practice are where the “important stuff” happens

CBC 224: Peter Tambroni on Student-Centered Teaching and Life Planning

Double bassist and music educator is today's podcast guest

Double bassist and music educator is today’s podcast guest

Today’s podcast features an in-depth conversation with Peter Tambroni.  This is a “round two” conversation that builds upon the topics that we covered in our previous talk on episode 204.  Today we dig into fallacies surrounding public school teaching, instrument setup, life planning, instrument insurance, practicing ideas, teaching philosophies, and much more.  This episode is a gold mine for anyone interested in taking their teaching game to the next level!

Pete is the author of An Introduction to Bass Playing, which is now in its seventh edition, and is an active bass performer, teacher, and author.  You can learn more about Pete on his website

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast or download our free app to get these episodes delivered to you automatically!

Interview Highlights
Fallacies Surrounding Public School Teaching
    • you don’t want to get too well-educated or you won’t be hired
      • Pete has never found that to be true in the various districts in which he has worked
      • everyone wants the best person for the position
      • most districts will do what they can to give you credit for your past experience
    • the right person for the job is the right person or the department philosophy-wise and personality-wise
      • people tend to focus too much on the nitty-gritty skills – it’s more about fit than anything
      • you should be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you
  • replacing people that are:
    • good and well-liked
    • good and not well-liked
    • not good and well-liked
    • not good and not well-liked
  • Skills are easy to teach – personality and philosophy are not
  • people tend to not ask enough questions in job interviews
  • Pete always want to be somewhere where the administration supported fine arts performers practicing their craft – this was a question he posed in his interviews
  • look at the distribution of music teacher positions – are people full-time orchestra, part orchestra and part general music, etc?
  • what degree does fundraising play in the school?  this can turn into a nightmare
  • learning the other instruments as a music teacher
    • Pete took two extra semesters of violin and viola
    • music ed programs are not all requiring bass for music ed majors
Instrument Setup
  • the condition that many school basses are in – so easy to totally neglect them
    • a bass with action that is too high is a catastrophically worse situation for a young player than a violin with action too high
  • setup considerations for school instruments
    • fingerboard
    • bridge shaping
    • the need for a proper luthier
  • the extreme difficulty created for younger bass students by basses that are poorly set up
  • the advances that D’Addario has made in strings recently for students
Life Planning
  • investing vs. saving
  • index funds
  • Apps and programs
    • Betterment
    • Wealthfront
    • Robin Hood
  • IRAs
  • Roth IRAs
  • 403b investment programs for educators
Instrument Insurance
  • get a separate policy apart from your homeowners or renters insurance – these may not cover your instrument at a paying gig
  • Clairon
  • Merz-Huber
Practicing Ideas
  • teaching replacement fingerings
  • the challenge for bass players of heterogeneous string teaching (starting in D major, for example)
  • nothing beats Simandl for mapping out the fingerboard
  • Thomas Gale’s book Practical Studies for Double Bass is great for younger students
    • starts in 1st and 4th positions – allows for physical anchor point of thumb against the neck block
    • helps eliminate the “old-school bass vertigo”
  • teaching shifting
    • finding the goal note should not be a fishing expedition!
    • Mathias Wexler article about shifting in American String Teacher journal: “Throwing The Dart and Other Reflections on Intonation” from the November 2004 issue of American String Teacher.
    • this is a link to the shifting exercise Pete describes
    • shifting practice
      • play
      • stop
      • evaluate
      • play correct note if not in tune
      • repeat above procedure until shift lands right on
General Teaching Philosophies
  • try to teach for 10 years down the road
  • try to teach for the student’s next teacher
  • set people up so that things don’t need to be fixed in the future
  • having students nail a simpler piece versus struggle through a more difficult piece
  • empathizing with your students
  • don’t ask questions to “put students in their place”
  • it’s never strings versus band versus choir – though there are doubles, there are “string kids,” “choir kids,” and “band kids” – offering all programs brings music to a larger portion of the student body
  • we remember the emotion of experiences – emotion drives attention drives learning
How Gigging Helps You to be a Better Teacher
  • helps with empathy
  • opportunity to observe other players
  • opportunity to observe conductors
  • being respectful of the student’s time
Listener Feedback Links: