My textbook,  An Introduction to Double Playing is available as a multimedia book on iTunes for the  iPad here.

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20 Things Chicago will miss about Jason Heath

1. Parts of his melted car are still on the highway.
2. We know the people he blogged about.
3. He always finds the bright side.
4. His positive energy.
5. Even the Chicago wind doesn’t mess the hair.
6. He made every gig better both for the audience and the section.
7. If you were even remotely related to bass playing he would track you down for an interview!
8. He knows the best beer spots.
9. The hand gestures.
10. The low B extension.
11. Having a bad gig? Cheer up – he’s had worse!
12. You never know where in Chicago he’ll show up.
13. We love betting on whether his car will explode.
14. Cats in a stroller.
15. Does anyone do better hand and facial gestures than Jason?
16. He’s improved the lives of thousands of students.
17. He’s increased the bass community while reducing musical and geographic distances.
18. We’ve met many new bassists!
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“Le Bass” Preamp from Two Notes Audio Engineering

LeBass-largeI recently bought the Le Bass preamp from Two Notes Audio Engineering from Sweetwater Music. I was looking for a tube based preamp that actually used the tube. Many amps and preamps have a ‘token’ 12AX7 tube in them but the tube isn’t supplied with enough current to really do anything. Not so with Le Bass.



The Two notes preamplifiers are a True High Voltage Design running internally at 200 volts to preserve the interaction between you and your guitar while working perfectly with your other effect pedals.


Dual independent tube preamps

The heart and soul of the Le Bass are the two fully independent and footswitchable tube preamps. These preamps are voiced to give you the character of clean and driven bass amplifier tones. Preamp A is clean, clear, and extremely fast, while preamp B adds more grit to the sound, maintaining a tight low end. The two footswitches let you select either sound or blend them together to taste in Fusion mode to pile on even more gain that can take you into high-gain and fuzz territory.

I’ve been using a Tech21 VT Bass modified by Putnam Guitars to add a blend control, headphone out, auxiliary in, and DI out. By the way, Putnam does outstanding work and stands by his work.

I’ve had it for years and it’s a great tone shaping device. But it never seemed to get alovtbass_smng with my low B string.

It would distort a little too early for me on the low notes. So I found myself adjusting things between songs. This is a minor fault and I still love this pedal. It can get a thick, tubey sound and then provide plenty of grit and edge. Then tweak the knobs and you’ve got 1970s Rickenbacker edge. And at their price point, they’re hard to beat.

The newer ones have most (if not all) of the mods I had done but I haven’t used the newer versions. When I have a student ask about which pedal to buy first, I always recommend the VT Bass.

But I was looking for something more. Something that could provide me with an ultra clean sound throughout the register of the instrument but still give me grit when I wanted it.

Le Bass totally provides the cleans down to a low B and grit or distortion / fuzz as needed!

The tube in Le Bass is very easy to replace. They stock tube is a Ruby brand – which is a great tube! I was curious to see what difference other tubes would make.
Here’s what I found:

Ruby 12AX7AC5 HG+ – no noticeable difference
Electro-Harmonix 12AX7 – meh.. little flat sounding
Tung-Sol 12AX7 re-issue – favorite in Le Bass
Electro-Harmonix 12AY7EH – TONS of low end even on channel B. Very low noise. Louder on Channel B. Sounds much less full on A. Do NOT like channel A sound.
Ruby 12AT7C – Very clear and articulate. Nice open sound. Plenty of low end on both channels. Low noise.
My favorite so far. 
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Jason Heath’s Double Bass Blog & Contrabass Conversations

Jason Heath Blog

Hey everyone! I was on Jason’s Contrabass Conversations this week. Check it out! Thanks Jason! Here’s his release info:

In keeping with the thematic weeks of episode releases in 2016, I’m calling this week Finding Your Path. We are highlighting two longtime colleagues of mine that are working in diverse niches within the music industry.

On Monday, we release an episode featuring double bassist, educator, and author Peter Tambroni. Pete is the author of An Introduction to Double Bass Playing. He appeared on the podcast back in the early years, and he continues to work on interesting projects. Pete has worked in education for two decades, and we talk extensively about the advantages and challenges about this career path.

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Italia Leather Guitar Straps

**UDPATE 4/7/16 I just bought a 2.5″ wide strap. Not only is it absolutely perfect it’s very comfortable. I thought I would notice a big difference from my 4″ wide strap.

**UDPATE 12/06/15 These are such a good strap I’m updating the post 🙂


I was recently in the market for a new strap for my bass guitar – a walnut 5 string by Carvin. It’s a bit on the heavy side so I knew I wanted a wide (4″) strap. There are a lot of choices out there with a

variety of materials used for fabrication. It seemed that many pros and people who want

quality go for nice leather straps (including the guitarist in my band). So the hunt began for a quality, 4″ strap that didn’t require a bank loan.
Enter Italia Leather Straps.

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Marvin Tailpiece Day 2 (2009)

I am never going back to a regular tailpiece! My excerpts are so much easier thanks to the more even response – think of the Ginastera excerpt…I no longer have to finesse and coax certain notes. Figaro Overture is a breeze now. I realize your mileage may vary but this is exactly what my bass needed!

I feel my bass now plays and sounds like an instrument twice its value. I’ve had new bridges, the top re-graduated, soundpost adjusted, bought new bows… This tailpiece should be the first thing you try when searching for a new sound.

And – full disclosure – I paid full price for mine and have no affiliation with Marvin USA. As a matter of fact I’m still waiting for a response to an email I sent. UPDATE 12/20/09 – Kevin Marvin responded to all my emails (he was away) and has been really great answering all my questions. This tailpiece RULES!!

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Tailpiece Initial Reactions (2009)

Pizzicato is much more even across strings and register.

My dreaded Ab on the D string wolf tone is gone.

Strings definitely speak easier.

Thumb position register is much louder! Still a nice tone.

Harmonics are clearer and speak easier.

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Marvin Tailpiece Pictures of Unpacking and Installing (2009)

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Quick Audition Story

Sometime in the 90s I saw an advertisement from Disney looking for musicians and other performers. My mind raced to create all sorts of magical situations and wonderful fantasies – if I could just win it.

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Bass Family Tree





































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Bach’s Remains

In 2002 I was fortunate to be able to travel to Germany. One of my stops was Leipzig where Bach work at the St. Thomas Church.

In 1950, his remains were moved to the church and are toward the back of the altar.

It was a moving experience to be there and know you are a few meters away from one of (if not THE) greatest composers of all time.



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Bottesini Reverie – Updated Accompaniment

2/15/16 UPDATED – Corrected some incorrect chords / notes. AND now has 2 versions of the accompaniment – one with the solo in tenor clef (with some treble) and one with all treble clef.

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Shifting Exercise

Here’s a shifting exercise I made today for my private studio.
Click the image to download the PDF.

Shifting Exercise

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French or German bow? Q&A

I was recently interviewed by a graduate student in Switzerland about teaching the bow to beginning bassists. Here are the questions and my responses.

First, I am in a Master of Pedagogy. I played with french bow during 17 years and one year ago I changed to German bow and it’s a good  choice to me. However, I’m French and I would like to return in France to teach…
So, this my thesis’s subject : “French bow, German bow : Which bow propose to an adult beginner?”
The interviewees are professors who teach both types of bows to their students.
1. Some of your students play bow French , other German bow.
How do you explain this diversity in your class?
(How do you explain the diversity to an outside observer?)
I teach each student whichever style bow works best for them. We go through a process (explained in a later question) to determine this.
I also feel that French and German bow are more similar than people often think. Instrument position and technique is based on proper body mechanics, posture, and alignment.
Therefore, if we take a relaxed bow arm – that is the arm hanging naturally at the side of the body – the palm of the hand is generally facing the body. This is close to the German hold. For a relaxed French bow hand all we have to do is rotate the hand slightly counter-clockwise.
2. For you, this plurality in your class is an  advantage or disadvantage ?
3. Why ?
While it would definitely be easier to teach a class of one bow style, a mixed class allows students to see each style in action. This helps me and the students find the best bow style for them.

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Video & Lesson Presentation Tips

I’ve been watching YouTube videos lately to improve my bass guitar playing. YouTube can be a great resource but as an open forum one has to spend a lot of time to find the gems.
Guitars and bass guitars are common instrumental endeavors for people — as opposed to orchestral instruments where training is needed right from the start. Most people cook but few are chefs. Before you get too offended, I did start on bass guitar before moving to double bass. And it worked out well for me. 🙂
So all you YouTube pedagogues, internet academics, and bass guitar gurus, here are frequent issues I see in your debut professorial lectures.
– Umm, like, yeah, so. First sign of nerves, an amateur, or someone who didn’t plan their lesson. Delete these crutches and fillers – they’re wasted space and time.
– Basically. People – stop using the word basically. The entire reason I’m here watching your video is to get the details, not a “…statement [that] summarizes the most important aspects, or gives a roughly accurate account, of a more complex situation”
– Sequence, sequence, sequence! Here you are telling me something and then I get, “Oh wait. So let me backup because basically I forgot step 3 through 6.” Great, thanks. Not only did you not plan your lesson but it’s akin to reading a book with the pages out of order. I’d rather have you read notes than give me directions out of order.
– Speak slower! Many people speak too fast and then repeat themselves since their directions flew by. Repetition can be a very useful tool – if something is worth repeating.
– Do not intone up – or uptalk as LifeHacker calls it –  at the end of a statement. That makes it sound like a question.
These can all be cured by one simple step:
Write down what you are going to say AND practice saying it before you hit the record button. You know who doesn’t need to do that? Teachers that already have done it for years.
Bonus points if you record your video and WATCH IT before you post it. You’ll probably want to re-record it. Good! It will be ten times better.
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NSA Cryptography & Musical Encryption

I was listening to the StarTalk podcast where Neil DeGrasse Tyson interviews Edward Snowden (September 17, 2015). Encryption is one of the topics that is discussed.

There is the standard use of passwords and keys to lock and unlock date across the internet. But other layers or dimensions (such as location) can be added to the encryption.

Location is three dimensional using axes X,Y, & Z. The user has to be at a specific location to use the password or see the data. Time is the fourth dimension where you have to be at the X,Y,Z coordinates at a specific time.

What about adding another layer where the user has to enter a musical – and specifically rhythmic – code? Music in encryption is not a novel idea. In the TV show, LOST, Charlie has to enter a melodic code on a numeric keypad.

Rhythmic encryption could be a 5th dimension of cryptography. So when the user is at a specific location at the specified time, a rhythm such as this example is tapped out.

Cryptography Sample


Not secure enough? What about adding a phase changing rhythm similar to Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. In this classic minimalist piece one musician claps the rhythm  below while the second performer has the same rhythm that shifts to the left by one eighth note. This shifts the performers from in phase to being out of phase by varying degrees.

Clapping Music theme:

Clapping Music


Not only could the specified rhythm shift in relation to a variable such as the day of the week but it could also shift in a way similar to a metric modulation. We could take the rhythm based on eighth notes, phase shift it, but the next week it modulates to a triplet based rhythm.


Cryptography Phasing


#NSA #Cryptography #MusicalEncryption

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Warming Up vs. Calibrating

Warming Up vs. Calibrating

Calibrate – “adjust  to take external factors into account” –  like when using a different bass or switching from bass guitar… or before a gig when you’re getting used to the space and sound… or using a different instrument, bow, or rosin. You recalibrate your mind and muscles to the current instrument or situation.

Calibrating doesn’t take long but it takes as long as it needs to take. Probably between 5 and 15 minutes.
Once you’re calibrated, it’s time to start the warmup process.
A warmup should contribute to and improve an aspect of your playing.
Too much time is spent on warmups that don’t improve anything or help us. They are just mindless, automatic gestures that are too easy.
Most of our warmups are really just us calibrating and we don’t need much of it.
We need useful warmups that prepare the mind and muscles for the challenges within the upcoming music.
There’s nothing wrong with doing some easy warmups but I view these more as a time to calibrate our muscles and brains. Once we’re dialed in (and that doesn’t take long), move on!
A simple yet useful example / warmup would be to do bow strokes to make sure the down and up sound the same and use the same amount of bow.
If string crossings are an issue then Frederick Zimmerman’s “A Contemporary Concept of Bowing Technique for the Double Bass” should be in your warmups.
image from

image from


“Eating Your Frog” refers to tackling the most difficult or least desirable task first. I go to my gym every morning at 4:30 when they open. A friend is always there at the same time and does cardio which he referred to as eating the frog!

We all know what our frogs are. They gnaw at us. The best players attack the frogs while the rest just let them continue to hop around and plague our playing.

Don’t spend too much time on mindless ‘warmups’. Focus on exercises that truly stretch your playing or tackle your frogs.


I recently had a 6 month hiatus from double bass playing.  My bass was in the shop and I was traveling during the summer months. I knew that when I got back to playing I’d have three obvious frogs to eat:

– Strength

– Thumb position callous

– Fast bowing… I had always done long bows and scales as a warmup but I don’t need to. My long bows and scales are fine. But very fast bowing was a deficiency. I’m not saying don’t practice scales and such but make sure you are doing them for a reason, not just because that’s what you’ve always started with.

My thumb position callous needed serious attention! So the first thing I did every practice session was rub my thumb up and down the G & D strings. Then do some scalar passages with just my thumb. This hurt! But the callous developed more quickly than it ever had in the past.

Now go enjoy those frogs and watch your playing skyrocket!

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Plateaus in Learning

Plateau Learning

Plateau LearningPlateau Learning 2

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Planning Your Financial Future

Musicians tend not to be the most foresighted financial planners. This is understandable as most freelance musicians aren’t salaried. A paycheck here from an orchestra, some cash there from private lesson. We fill up the gas tank, get some groceries and go home, waiting for the next monetary infusion.

And through all of this, saving and planning for retirement are probably not high on the priority list.

But, with the current economic and market conditions, THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME TO INVEST! EVERYTHING IS ON SALE! It’s always a good time to invest and plan for your future. The best advice I ever read about investing is this: When is it a good time to buy / invest? Now! Market up? Invest. Down? Invest. Stagnant? Invest.

Start at the Motley to learn about investing.

Not-for-profit employees have the option of a 403(b). As a school teacher I take advantage of this tax shelter opportunity!!

A great option for freelancers is a Roth IRA.

If you have no experience or don’t want to do the research, go with an index fund.

To get started, I recommend Betterment ( use THIS link to save us both some money ) for mutual fund investing and RobinHood for buy individual stocks. I recommend these two because there are NO FEES to buy or sell.



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From Men’s Health

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