Monday, March 9, 2015

Dear Bass Community

I am honored to be bringing Remy Yulzari back to Rochester this weekend for several different classes - all FREE and open to the public thanks to our many sponsors!  Please check out this schedule and attend what works for your schedule and your life as a musician:

Saturday March 14:
noon-1:30pm - Improv Workshop - Room 320 Eastman School
       This class is open to all instruments, and will help provide easy ways to incorporate improv into your practicing and your teaching.  Honestly, last year when he hosted this improv class, little Classical me said "I can't improvise...." and learned that anyone CAN do this.  Remy gives great guidance that players at all levels can relate to, and uses it help build our listening and our technique as we make our way through different modes and scale patterns.  It was fun the entire time we were improvising, and I felt myself listening and thinking differently after this class.

3-5pm - Double Bass Masterclass - Room 404 Eastman School
      Mr. Yulzari is a classically trained bassist, studying first in France, then earning his Artists Diploma from the Juilliard School.  He now tours with guitarist Nadav Lev performing their own compositions, and influences range from Classical, to klezmer to jazz.  Remy's technical prowess and ability to connect with students make for a great masterclass experience.  Please contact me directly if you want to play in this class (only one opening remains) by emailing

Sunday March 15:
3pm - performance with Nadav Lev at the JCC - $15 suggest donation, concert of all original music, much of it recently released on two new cd's.

8pm - masterclass at Cornell University.  Contact Jordan Morton with questions or for more details

Monday March 16:
12:30pm - Creating your own path - a discussion of Remy's unique career path and advice for creating your own way in music.  - Room A4 Nazareth College (pizza lunch will be served)

I hope you can join us for many of these events!


Friday, January 16, 2015

Repertoire: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It's winter and I'm suddenly abandoning my usual "summer thinking" (daydreaming about Eastman@Keuka, which I am organizing for this summer) and catapulting to NEXT winter's NYSSMA conference here in Rochester.  And what double bass fun I can unleash on our teachers...mwahahaha!

So here's what I've come up for my next session in December, yes 11 months from now.  Deadlines are always so far in advance, as most of you know, so I've been reviewing the comment cards teachers returned from my last session and pondering how I can meet their needs at the next one.  The overwhelming notion I heard was: repertoire!  For young ones, for intermediates, for my advanced kids!

Ok - this is going to be a lot of work to pull together, but I *think* I can do this, with a little help from my Nazareth College bass studio.  Below is the proposal I sent in.  Please feel free to write me your suggestions on what you'd like to see presented, or if there are specific questions you'd like answers to about teaching the double bass.

In the past two years, I've given sessions on bow technique (2013) and left hand technique (2014), and had a ton of fun presenting them alongside my pre-college students.  Seems only right that I let the college kids get in on the action now.

That's all the news for today!  Happy practicing!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

working with(out?) a net - practicing performing

Good morning bass people!

I had the chance to go to Sarasota, FL last week and spend the holidays with my family there.  Yes, it was a really nice break from the dreary/freezing/assault that is winter in Rochester.  While we were there, we had tickets to the Sailor Circus, which is a training program with kids from (what appeared to be) age 10-18.  It was a full-blown circus, and rarely did I remember that these were just KIDS!

Like most circuses, it ended with the daring feats of the trapeze.  Mostly the one where someone takes off, leaps into the hands of the waiting "catcher" and then is tossed back to their bar to return to the "home" area.  Those were great, and honestly, even though they look easy, I'm sure they require lots of time and practice to get the timing and energy and height of the bar just right.  Then.... the announcer said that they would Complete Silence (!) as the final tricks were very difficult and very dangerous...... oooh..... ahhhhh!!!  A young man attempted to get a lot of height in his swing, and leapt off, doing a triple somersault before being "caught" by the second person.  Their hands met! But the downward force of finishing so many spins propelled him out of that catch a moment later.  We cheered, then moaned for this great display of courage.  He bounced into the wide, hammock-like net, then came to the edge and had a confab with his coach.  And once he started climbing back up the tower, we cheered even harder!

And that started me thinking.  Of course they work with a net for trapeze - it's high up, it's dangerous, and how could you ever begin to take a risk like that without having a modicum of security under you?  Not to mention, these kids are training.  But what really got me was that it didn't matter that he hadn't completed the trick - we were rooting for him, maybe even harder now that he was getting back up there and trying it again.

In fact, he did try it again - and this time their fingertips just grazed each other, but no catch was made.  And you know what?  We cheered so loudly for this act of courage, it was deafening under the tent!

So, how is this like practicing performing?  Or even just actually performing?  We all need a net, and I'm a little tired of people putting it over on students that they need to be able to do things without one.  Seriously?  Our kids need a space to be able to try ideas, practice performing before actually performing or auditioning, and know that we respect their courage, we encourage their creativity, and that when things go wrong, you just get up and try again.  You talk to your coach (or watch your video, listen to your tape) about what needs to be altered, and then you go right back and try that.  Knowing that we support our students, we admire them for taking on the challenge of learning from mistakes.

It also means you need a good coach, someone you trust and will actually listen to.  It wouldn't have helped our trapeze artist if the coach only said "you tried, I believe in you, you'll do better next time."  We all need practical advice from someone who's been there, done that.  For years I have called on my dear friend Aaron when I've been stuck with a piece I'm working on.  He's younger than me, but has great experience, and is a devoted practice-r.  He's always got some idea that hasn't dawned on me for ways to finger a passage, or ways to practice out what's not working.  In fact, maybe his biggest help is that he listens to me talk about the problem (we no longer live anywhere near each other, so it's all calls and facetime now) - then can parse out what's actually not working.  Sometimes it's posture, sometimes it's just the way I'm thinking about it, or the tempo I'm taking.  I've got many other coaches - my section in the RPO is made up of 7 other wonderful players, any of whom I could call on for ideas and advice, my teachers have always been great about answering emails or calls, or squeezing me in for a tune-up lesson from time to time.  The learning just never stops.

I think we need to frame performing and auditioning this way to our students: it's all a part of learning.  Even that high-powered college audition, for the largest scholarship ever, it's all part of the continuum of learning.  Know that you have a net, that you will not crumble should things go differently from your plan.  But also know, that you need to practice performing with that net in mind, before you up the stakes on what performing means.

With that in mind, I'm off to don my big floppy shoes, and water-squirting flower on my lapel, happy practicing everyone!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Making a bent endpin

Hello Bass players!

I recently spoke to a great room of teachers at the NYSSMA Winter Conference here in Rochester, NY. One of things I recommend highly to teachers who must keep their bass players standing (for whatever reasons) is to use a bent endpin.  My favorite supplier is but sadly the owner has decided to close the business.  And my research for another supplier led me only to sites that sell a kit which you place on the bottom of the bass that provides for a spot for the straight endpin (which you also buy) to be angled back correctly.  But those kits run about $250, which seems quite out of reach for most public school programs.

So today I'd like to share with you the directions, as given to me by George Vance about 15 years ago.  Don't be put off by the need for a gas torch.  Your facilities department may have one.  I purchased one from an Ace Hardware store years ago and they are lightweight and very easy to use.


Any steel rod may be bent.  Grunert uses the Gotz endpin assembly which has a sufficiently thick rod (10mm).  If a thinner rod such as is found on cheaper endpin assemblies is bent it will tend to wobble.  It is possible to bend hollow endpins such as the Ulsa model but the procedure is more complicated.  The rod is bent so that it will hit the floor at a point lined up with the back edge of the bass when it is in playing position.

The bass cannot be carried around with the non-retractable bent endpin sticking out, so a sort rod with a rubber tip (or a wheel) is a necessary piece of equipment.


  • Mapp Gas torch. Propane will work but more slowly
  • Vise
  • Bucket of water
  • grinding wheel or hand file
  • Endpin (I have purchased lengths of 10mm steel from the hardware store to do this)
  • rubber cap - if you are using plain steel which you purchased

How to do it:

  • The endpin will be bent at the point where it leaves the socket when it has been adjusted for playing. (Simple math here: measure how far out the student is using the endpin, then accommodate for the angle when deciding how far up to bend the endpin - ex: 4" of  straight endpin will yield 5.6" of length before the bend)
  • Clamp it vertically in the vise and heat the bending point to incandescence.
  • Wearing a glove, pull the endpin back to the desired angle. (44 degrees is optimal, I'm told by George)
  • Remove it from the vise and plunge it into a bucket of water to temper the steel.
  • Grind a flat spot on the pin just above the bend.  This is where the screw will hit when it is installed.  Without this flat spot the endpin would twist in the socket.
Here is the page written by Francois Rabbath talking about why he developed the bent endpin idea and how it helps players.

My recommendation is still that players sit from the time they start learning to shift.  However, I have run into enough teachers telling me that they aren't allowed stools or don't have room for stools that I want to make this possibility available to everyone.

Please feel free to contact me with questions!

Happy practicing and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday bass carols event - this Saturday at 3pm in Rochester

Dear Bass Community,

Dan Ziemann and I, both teachers at the Eastman Community Music School are hosting an afternoon of FREE bass ensemble fun, playing through some holiday tunes and new swinging arrangement Dan has done just for us!  The Eastman School is where we'll meet this time, in room 209 which can be reached either by elevator or taking the grand staircase up from the main hall.  We will read through the carols at 3pm, take a short break, then play them through for our friends and family.  All levels are welcome and parts are available for any ability - yes even all open string parts are available!

We really had fun at our last community event - the Open Studio Class - and can't wait to see everyone this weekend and play together.

Parts can be found here:

Feel free to browse the folders and see what appeals to you, print it off and join us Saturday!

Happy practicing!


Sunday, December 7, 2014

NYSSMA 2014 Winter Conference presentation

My dear bass friends,

I just finished giving my second presentation to the NYSSMA conference attendees. Since last year's topic was right hand, his year I spoke about left hand technique and development.  What a great crowd of teachers and players!  For those of you who couldn't join us , or who want to follow up with me, I'm going to give all the handouts below.

click here to grab them from Google docs:

Please give credit if you are going to use them for any publications, but otherwise just grab them and start working with your students.

I'm incredibly happy three of my students got up early to come downtown and help me out (you really should have seen how professional they all were!) - Jill Alexander (5th grade), Mabel Zawacki (7th grade) and Sarah Wager (10th grade).  They were my role models and did a great job trying out some of the exercises we talked about, and they played a few of the solos that are mentioned in those sheets but were not included online.  Most of my examples come from Progressive Repertoire volumes 1 and 2, and the Essential Elements series.  I chose Essential Elements because I see that book being used the most frequently in NY state.

I'm happy to come work with your bass students at your school, so please feel free to contact me about that.  I'm also happy to try skype-ing with a group class if the distance from Rochester is far.  And - save the date! - I'll be hosting the Rochester Bass Retreat in mid-August 2015 for teachers and players of all levels.  This year will be 3 days of fun including a track for pedagogy (with in-service credit available), new jazz and classical teachers coming in to work with us, and large bass ensemble where we'll all (yes, even you teachers) work on preparing a couple of works for last recital of the retreat.

Meantime, happy practicing, as always!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Early Christmas present for teachers and students

Good morning Bass players!

I received an email from a student who's recently graduated from Nazareth and off and running her own string program here in Rochester.  She's very excited that her bass players, whom she started with the Vance Progressive Repertoire, are getting really good left hand setups and finally able to play some simple tunes in the high position (3rd position, end of the neck).  They had been a little sad that all their peers were playing simple tunes in first position, and wanted to be able to go home and play something for their families to show off what they were learning. We had talked about things like Hot Cross Buns and Twinkle, so that she could keep them parked in the high position for a little longer.

As I thought about how few tunes we get from Progressive Repertoire that stay exclusively in the high position, it popped into my head that "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" would work really well in that high position and give them something popular to be proud of learning.

So, here it is for you, too - Do You Want to Build a Snowman - put in G major and can be played entirely in the high position.  I included some notes at the bottom about how to adapt it to be a shifting exercise between 1st position and the high position, and about the little pivot you'll need to add so they can reach one new note.  The pivot is something you would get to with them in Progressive Rep volume 2, but it's easy enough to show and the kids will probably want to "get it" just so they can learn the whole song. I've marked when it's time to pivot as "move up" and when it's time to return to the "home base" of 3rd position as "move back".

If this jpg isn't clear enough, email me ( and I can send you a pdf of it.

Happy practicing and happy teaching!  Merry early Christmas, y'all!