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Joel Quarrington — Canadian School of Double Bass, Book 1 “Daily Studies”

Abstract:

In the realm of string playing, the emphasis on the relaxed freedom of hands and wrists is a common denominator for success. The Canadian School of Double Bass distinguishes itself by placing a particular focus on this facet. With a well-set-up instrument, bassists can harness the intelligent exploitation of gravity and the natural flowing movements of fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. The objective is to attain an effortless technique that elevates musical interpretation and execution to the highest level.

The Canadian School of Double Bass, as exemplified in Books 1 and 2, directs its attention to the practical application of left-hand movements. Rather than dictating where the hand should move, the emphasis is on how it should move. A pivotal recommendation is the incorporation of wrist rotation in all left-hand movements, encompassing vibrato, shifting, rhythmical patterns, and parallel notes. The provided exercise, “The Move,” outlined in Book 1, serves as a tangible method to train the wrist’s flexibility and fluidity, transitioning from an active to a relaxed position.

The proposed exercises advocate for a seamless integration of the wrist in left-hand movements. “The Move” exercise, when practiced diligently, trains the wrist to be loose and flexible, promoting a specific motion that is crucial for various techniques. The incorporation of wrist rotation is highlighted as essential for achieving vibrato, shifting, rhythmical patterns, and parallel notes. The method, when applied to whole-tone shifts and thumb position playing, aims to maintain pitch and intonation while refining the coordination of the thumb and fingers.

In conclusion, the Canadian School of Double Bass, expounded in Books 1 and 2, underscores the importance of fostering a relaxed freedom in the hands and wrists of bassists. By leveraging gravity and the natural movements of the upper body, coupled with a well-set-up instrument, the school aims to cultivate an effortless technique that enhances musical interpretation. The distinctive approach lies in the practical application of left-hand movements, with a strong preference for wrist rotation. The presented exercise, “The Move,” encapsulates this philosophy, serving as a practical illustration to train the wrist for a seamless transition between active and relaxed positions. Ultimately, the school seeks to refine left-hand movements with a relaxed arm, aspiring towards slow, seamless, effortless, accurate, and smooth shifting, vibrato, and rhythmical dynamism, thereby advancing double bass technique through a blend of mechanical understanding and practical implementation.

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Publication date:

ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music

All successful schools of string playing encourage the relaxed freedom of the hands and wrists, and it is this particular facet that the Canadian School of Double Bass wishes to focus on. It is possible for bassists, assuming a well set-up instrument, to utilize an intelligent exploitation of gravity (the body’s natural relaxed weight), along with the natural flowing movements of the fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders to realize an effortless technique and bring musical interpretation and execution to the highest possible level.

The Canadian School of Double Bass Books 1 and 2 take aim at the practical application of how to use the left hand — more how it should move than where it should move. I believe the hand should be moving with the strings rather than at a right angle to them.

I advocate for the use of a wrist rotation in all movements of the left hand to accomplish vibrato, shifting, rhythmical patterns, and parallel notes (like 4ths). The following excerpt from Book 1: Daily Studies describes how to begin.

Exercise 3: The Move (Basic)

This exercise has been developed as a way to train the wrist to be loose and flexible and move in a fluid way, first independently of the instrument, then with the instrument. A slash over a fingering means to move towards the bridge (higher); the slash underneath means towards the scroll (lower).

  1. Start with your left hand near the neck but not touching the instrument (have your 4th finger near a C on the G string). With your fingers near the strings of the instrument, let your wrist flop back and forth so that your 1st finger ends up near the D on the G string. The arm should not move at all, and the elbow is stationary. You are moving from an active position (wrist is extended in a straight line) to a relaxed position (wrist is bent and flopped): this is similar to an inhale (tense) and exhale (relaxed).
  2. As you get used to this effortless floppy action and feeling, bring the fingers to the instrument’s strings and continue with touching where the real notes are but don’t try to close the string at all.
  3. This is the action and feeling that you should have when you are making a whole-tone shift, in this case, 4th finger C to 1st finger D. Later, the motion will be used in every shift.
  4. Practise A with all its variations with just flopping the wrist, no arm motion at all.

In the thumb position, the bracketed note shows the position of the thumb: in example B, the thumb should start on the octave harmonic G, and the 1st finger on the C a perfect fourth above it.

  1. Start with the forearm resting on the left shoulder of the instrument and the hand hanging off and relaxed.
  2. Pull your hand back to your thumb until your 3rd finger is playing a Bb and continue to flop between those notes. (Flop, but actually play the notes!)
  3. The next stage is to do exactly the same movement, but to move the thumb with the hand, so the thumb starts on a Bb and ends on the G as in example C. Again, the note in brackets shows where the thumb should be positioned.
  4. In examples D and E, the pitch and intonation should not be affected by the change of finger.
  5. Make sure you are closing the string with the correct part of your 1st finger pad; otherwise, your elbow will move all over the place (it should be motionless).

Refining this move with a relaxed arm is the key to beautifully slow, seamless, effortless, accurate, and smooth shifting, vibrato, and rhythmical dynamism.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Canadian School of Double Bass, as I’ve detailed in Books 1 and 2, places a strong emphasis on fostering a relaxed freedom in the hands and wrists for bassists. The core idea is to leverage gravity and the natural movements of fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders, in tandem with a well-set-up instrument, to achieve a technique that feels effortless and brings musical interpretation to its zenith.

The focus on the practical application of left-hand movements, with a preference for wrist rotation in various techniques, sets this approach apart. “The Move” exercise, outlined in Book 1, serves as a practical illustration, training the wrist to be flexible and fluid, promoting a transition from an active to a relaxed position.

Advocating for a seamless integration of the wrist in all left-hand movements, including vibrato, shifting, rhythmical patterns, and parallel notes, the school seeks to instill a specific kind of motion. The provided exercises underscore the importance of refining these movements with a relaxed arm, ultimately aiming for slow, seamless, effortless, accurate, and smooth shifting, vibrato, and rhythmical dynamism. Through these insights and exercises, the Canadian School of Double Bass strives to enhance double bass technique by marrying a deep understanding of physical mechanics with practical application.

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