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

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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.

Continue reading

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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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Be sure to check out my other blog –

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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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More help on bowing for young players.

A few post ago I gave some tips for helping young players figure out bowings. Below are some sheets I use. Continue reading

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Dean Markley Turbo Tune

I bought this Turbo Tune from Bob Gollihur’s store. It’s a great accessory! Save your wrists and change string very quickly.

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Planet Waves / D’Addario Guitar Dock

I just bought the Guitar Dock from BassStringsOnline and I’m impressed! Easy to clip on and the clamps are have rubber on them to protect the surfaces. The larger clamp end is heavily textured for a solid grip. The piece that goes around the guitar neck also rotates to give you more options on where you mount. I’m traveling and with this I didn’t need to use my bass stand.

For around $20 this was a great buy. The construction feels solid and it works just as advertised. Highly recommended!

IMG_2919 IMG_2920 IMG_2921 IMG_2922 IMG_2923 IMG_2924 IMG_2925

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Are YOU ready to conduct graduation?

With my simple arrangement of Pomp & Circumstance, your string orchestra will be ready in no time AND sound great!

Cover Page

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Beware of being helpful!

Several years ago I was hired to do an Easter church service gig in a very affluent suburb of Chicago. I was excited as it was great music, close to where I lived, and decent pay. There rehearsal was at 9am and the service at 11. The chamber orchestra comprised local gigging musicians and hired guns. The chorus consisted of volunteers from the church – mostly elderly women. Both ensembles sounded lovely.

 I arrived early to setup – as all musicians do! I was the only bassist and was in back just in front of the choir which was behind a wooden railing. We were going through the music and all was good when one of the singers just behind me dropped her music.

I stopped playing, picked up her music,handed it to her and continued playing. She said a pleasant thank you and continued singing. I thought nothing of it. Picking up her music was the right thing to do, right? Apparently not!

The conductor stopped and sternly asked me what the problem was and why I had stopped playing. I explained the situation and reassured him that I knew the music and the performance would be fine. He was not happy about the situation! So here was a church director and I had tried to do the right thing by being helpful. My mistake! I was never hired back in that church!!

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What Counts as Practicing?

What are your thoughts on what does or doesn’t count as practice?
We spend a lot of time with our instrument but what really moves our playing ahead?

Leave your comment below!

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The String Emporium

from the String Emporium:

My name is Steve Koscica and I own and operate a web site dedicated to the upright bass.  While we do sell cellos and cello strings (and cases), our specialty and dedication to the upright bass is unrivaled.  We’re one of the biggest bass dealers in the world!  Personally, I have been a professional orchestral bassist for more than 25 years.

We offer everything from smaller fractional upright (student) basses, plus basses in every possible price range, all the way up and past the $100k range.  We sell our bass strings at the lowest prices in the world as well as just about every possible accessory.   On our website, there are tons of informative articles about choosing the right kind of bass strings (can be confusing for a lot of people) and there are other informative articles about the different types and makes of basses.

Also check out their sites for all orchestra strings:


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Bow Hand in Game of Thrones

Hmmm.. An anachronism? A modern bow hand?

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Valse Miniature for Bass & Strings

An arrangement I did of Valse Miniature for bass and strings is now available for $6.

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Current Trajectory

I recently had a student ask me if he was good enough for a specific ensemble he saw on television. I said no and he was sort of crushed. So I explained my response.

path_illustration3“It’s not that you couldn’t do it, but on your current path you’re not going to make it. However, you can always change

that path – that’s the great part! You can always hop on a new road. But that new road will require more practice, lessons, etc.”

That really helped to change the tone of, “No, you can’t do it.”

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Tip to Learn or Teach Bow Distribution

This past weekend I was practicing and working on some rather fast sixteenth note passages. I wanted to get the down bows and up to be exactly the same length – and very short. Hmmm. I could be out stickers on my bow like I do for students. Nah, not accurate enough. So I thought about putting White-Out on the hair so I could see the distribution. No White-Out in my desk. A-ha! But I have lot’s of paperclips!! Below are pictures of what I did. It worked well and provided I nice tactile stop and aural click at the ends of the stroke.

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