Archive for November, 2008

Tone Exercise

November 30, 2008

Here’s a great exercise for tone. Leopold Mozart (in A Treatise on the Fundimental Principles of Violin Playing) says you should do this every day. It will help you to feel in control of the sound at all dynamic levels. You’ll find yourself using a more straight bow and more consistent contact point, too.

Let’s use a C Major scale as an example. Play each note as whole notes at mm = 60 using consistent bow speed. Make the first two beats fortissimo and the second two beats subito pianissimo.

The Mozart Exercise

Then do it again, alternating between fortissimo and pianissimo every quarter-note, and again every eighth-note. I guarantee doing this daily will give you killer tone.

More Modeling

November 30, 2008

I’ve been a fan of Dave Holland since forever. Check out his tone and rhythmic funkiness. The guy doesn’t need a drummer!

This is Dave playing Mr. PC:

My Bass Blog

November 27, 2008

Welcome to my blog!

I’m Mark Foley, bass professor at Wichita State U., and principal bass of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. I also play jazz, rock and bluegrass. The purpose of this blog is to inspire students and to keep an archive of cool bass stuff that would appeal only to bass nerds. Please post comments! I want to learn from you, too! I promise not to be too verbose or opinionated – you shouldn’t be reading rants by me anyway, you should be practicing!

Practice time

November 27, 2008

I like to have a set goal for the amount of time I will practice in a day. That way I’m not tempted to say “good enough” and quit early. A time commitment makes it more likely that you will work on details you would otherwise skip. While at Indiana, my goal was to practice 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. I achieved a little over 3 1/2. A great goal for an undergrad would be 2 hours.

For me, the earlier in the day I begin, the more likely I’ll achieve the goal. I tried to get 2 hours in before lunch. Also, it is easier to focus in the morning, before other things compete for your attention. A good morning session tends to make the rest of the day feel good as well.


November 27, 2008

Modeling means imitating a great performance. A lot of times you can tap into your ability to mimic intuitively to learn from someone else.

Check out Franco Petracchi playing Bottesini’s Tarantella:

This guy’s playing is so relaxed and effortless and cool. He’s like the James Bond of the bass. Sei bravissimo, maestro Petracchi!

Warming up

November 27, 2008

A warm-up is simply that – the time at the beginning of your session when you bring your muscles to optimum temperature, which I’m told is 102-103 degrees fareinheit. It is also a good time to relax, tune in, and work on body awareness. The main purpose is to increase efficiency and prevent injury.

You don’t have to over-do it; 15-20 minutes should be enough. Don’t feel like you have to do 2 hours of scales, arpeggios and etudes before you are worthy of working on repertoire. It might be better to work on rep while your mind is fresh and do technical work later when you notice your attention is wandering. The reason for technical work is to make tomorrow’s practice better.

Practice – goals

November 27, 2008

When you practice, try to have a specific goal in mind. Otherwise your session can become passive and aimless.

Some sample goals:

1. Play the most complicated measure of the piece SLOWLY five times in a row with correct bowings and fingerings.

2. Play the most complicated measure of the piece for memory in front of a mirror.

3. Play the most complicated measure of the piece cleanly five times in a row one metronome click faster than I did yesterday.

The problem that everyone faces is that the ego wants to be stroked – we want to quickly run through the music to prove to ourselves that we are good. Having a specific goal can get the ego to shut up long enough for us to improve. Rule of thumb: if you aren’t sounding beautiful you should change your focus.

Also, know that you can only learn one thing at a time! Your goals can prevent you from being overwhelmed by trying to improve all aspects at once. Then you can finish your session with a feeling of satisfaction rather than frustration. You and your ego end up being friends!


November 27, 2008

Just do it.