My textbook,  An Introduction to Double Playing is also available as a multimedia book on iTunes for the  iPad here.
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Need a clinician for your school, music department, string sections, or college music education / string class? I’m available!

“…[Peter] offered a full day of interesting insight, thoughtful analysis, and enjoyable music-making for the students in my program and myself.” – Mr. Michael D. Blostein , Averill Park High School, Averill Park, NY.

I was fortunate to work with local students this past winter (2013) in River Forest, IL.

 “Peter participated in our string workshop at Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest. He came super-prepared to work with and motivate our students. Peter brought materials he had created just for our workshop and presented each kid with their own copy. His enthusiasm was motivating. He is very passionate about teaching and about stringed instruments, especially the string bass.” - Mr. David Wuersig, director

And from a parent of one of my private students (9/24/13):

[Student] tells me he won first chair bass, and he’s the only freshman in his bass section! Thank you for all your good work with him!!!

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How Long Can A Bow Be Left Tightened?

How long is safe to leave a bow tightened? That’s the question I posed to several luthiers around the United States. My schedule allows me for several shorter practice sessions throughout the day and I was curious if I should loosen it every time or if it could be left for the day. Here’s the info I received.

I received responses from:

Anton Krutz, KC Strings
Barrie Kolstein, Kolstein’s
Michael Spadaro, A440 Violin Shop
Andy Stetson, Cincinnati Bass Cellar

How long is safe to leave a bass bow tightened?

Andy Stetson: There is no hard rule on length of time, just always untighten if you’re not playing.

Barrie Kolstein: The bow should always be detensioned slightly after playing, it leaving it for prolonged periods tensioned, can create the potential for warpage to the stick of the bow, and also can stretch the hair an a more expedited basis than normal. It should be noted that when loosening the bow tension the hair should be just slightly loosened , as to loosen the hair too much can create problems as well.

Michael Spadaro: Regarding your questions about bows and bow hair, we TRY to loosen every bow when it is not being played.  We typically include Glasser bows with our rental instruments (unless the teacher specifies a wood bow) because young players don’t always remember to loosen the bow.  If we can get them in the habit of loosening their student level bows, which are quite strong, they will be ahead of the game if and when they own a relatively more fragile bow of pernambuco/snakewood/ipe, etc.  We also sell high-quality carbon fiber bows from CodaBow, Carbow, etc.  These are strong and responsive sticks, but they don’t work well with every instrument.  They can sometimes tone down an instrument that’s overly bright, or help focus the sound of an instrument that has broad and diffuse characteristics.  I tell our customers to play as many different instruments as they can, before they make a purchase.  And I also show them instruments above and below their price range, so they gain some perspective.  If they already own a bow, but are shopping for a new instrument, I recommend that they use the bow that they already own for auditioning instruments.  It’s one less variable to deal with, and a new bow can be purchased later, if desired.

MostlyBass to Anton Krutz: Let me clarify the reason for the survey. I’m a bassist and public school orchestra teacher. I keep my bass at school to practice during random free moments that arise. I kept loosening my bow each time but I wondered if – A) Is it ok to leave it tightened from 6am – 3pm and B) is the tightening / loosening process doing more harm than good if I do it 6 or so times a day. I have a nice pernambuco German stick by H. Cirilo.

Anton Krutz: That only harms the bow. Being under stress that long without a break. Bows and instruments are like people. They can be stressed for a certain time but then they need to relax.

There is no harm to tightening or loosening a bow. Just don’t over tight

What effect does the bow material have?

Continue reading

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How Long Can A Bow Be Left Tightened

How long is safe to leave a bow tightened? That’s the question I posed to several luthiers around the United States. My schedule allows me for several shorter practice sessions throughout the day and I was curious if I should loosen it every time or if it could be left for the day.

 

Post and response coming soon!

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Bass Muting

I’ve written before about the use of spring clamps as a great sounding mute. But they can also augment a practice mute. As an apartment dweller I need to be respectful of my neighbors but I also need to practice. During the school year I can practice at school. I need to say that I have a great relationship with my neighbors and that’s really the first step. I also picked a place where my music room only shares one surface – the ceiling – with a neighbor.

Ok, on to the mutes. The Ultra brand rubber mutes are the most common option for bass practice mutes. They work well but tend to loosen up quickly and lose their effectiveness.

Bass Mute4

 

Use a large spring clamp to tighten it again.

 

Then you can really quiet down your instrument by adding small and medium clamps.

Bass Mute1 Bass Mute2 Bass Mute3

I experimented with different locations of the clamps and using them on the treble / soundpost side makes the most difference. The third clamp on the bass side makes just a slight difference. The three spring clamps combined with the rubber practice mute combine to really reduce the output of the bass. My general rule of practicing in an apartment is the 9am – 9pm are completely acceptable practice hours with or without a mute (although I tend to almost always use one). But with this much muting I feel completely comfortable practicing outside of those hours. The sound is really soft!

The three blue clamps cost me $20. The orange one was a gift from a student :)

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Chicago Ensemble Needs Bassist

BASSIST NEEDED!

Chicago band Voice Box is an improvisational spoken-word project that uses a guitar, a bass guitar or upright bass, one or two percussionists, a saxophone player, a harmonica player, and some others.

Bruce Fournier, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist, is a songwriter who specializes in dark world visions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bY6SlVJMcS8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfoyUpEISxs

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One For the Violists

Here’s the violin part from Johann Pachelbel’s (1653-1706) Canon in D transcribed for viola. Click the image to download the PDF.Canon in D_Viola_Solo

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The Rhythm Ruler

The Rhythm Ruler is a tool to teach students about rhythms. It displays inches with sixteenth, eighth, quarter, half, and whole notes. The back has a breakdown of eighth, quarter, and half note triplets.

Teaching rhythms can be a difficult task but by relating note values to measurements – which most students are familiar with – the task is much easier. Students readily relate the two and easily understand note divisions with the Rhythm Ruler.

The Rhythm Ruler is perfect for band, orchestra, chorus and classroom music students. Teaching note values in general music and classroom music classes to students without previous music experience is much easier with the Rhythm Ruler.

The Rhythm Ruler is made from heavy matte cardstock. It is available in packs of 50 rulers for $50 per pack plus $10S&H. School purchase orders, credit cards or PayPal are accepted. ****Need a smaller quantity for gifts? Contact me at tambroni @ gmail DOT com. Discounts available for large purchases.

 2′x4′ Vinyl Banners of the Rhythm Ruler  Perfect for your classroom!!! – $120 shipped – These are nice banners with metal grommets for hanging. Of course, school purchase orders are welcome. Email me – tambroni AT gmail DOT com.

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Bow Tension Survey

I’m currently survey luthiers around the country for input on how long is safe to leave a bow tightened.

How long is safe to leave a bass bow tightened?

What effect does the bow material have?

What other concerns are there such as the stretching of bow hair.

What about violin, viola, and cello bows?

Any other thoughts, concerns, or comments?

My reason for the survey:

I’m a bassist and public school orchestra teacher. I keep my bass at school to practice before school and during random free moments that arise. I kept loosening my bow each time but I wondered if – A) Is it ok to leave it tightened from 6am – 3pm and B) is the tightening / loosening process doing more harm than good if I do it 6 or so times a day.

But I then thought that there are many musicians out there that can benefit from professional luthiers’ input.

My focus is on the stick and it’s material, including:

Brazilwood
Carbon Composite
Carbon Fiber
Pernambuco
Snakewood (I don’t have anyone with a Snakewood bow but perhaps we should include that info for the article)

My initial question was bass specific but as I teach all strings I’d like to know the same thing for bows of the other instruments if there is in fact any variation due to the differences in bow length and thickness.

Please feel free to comment with your experience and thoughts.

 

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Timing Practice Sessions

Knowing how long you have – or going to – practice is useful information.

Stopwatch

There many ways to go about this from digital options with multiple timers to old school mechanical stopwatches. I like both for different reasons.

Lately I’ve been using a mechanical stopwatch from the Clark Stopwatch Company. Yes, it’s a lot more expensive than a phone app but it is very liberating to NOT have your phone near when practicing. It’s also handy to be able to quickly glance and the analog face with the elapsed time.

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Donate Your Used Strings

Instead of throwing away your used strings, donate them to a great cause!

Check out WeNeedStrings.com

From their website:

Do you have used or new strings that are lying around and doing nothing? Instead of trashing your old strings, you can join our growing list of string donors that include myself, Liam Wilson of Dillinger Escape Plan, and James Valentine of Maroon 5, and donate your used strings to us so we can get them to underprivileged kids, aspiring musicians, and pros who live in countries like Cuba where strings just aren’t available.

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iBooks version of “An Introduction to Double Bass Playing” now available world wide!

The Apple iBooks version of “An Introduction to Double Bass Playing” now available world wide! It is a multi-media book and includes videos and photo galleries. And it’s only $9.99 US dollars.

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Italia Leather Guitar Straps

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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D’Addario Flex Steels Bass Guitar Strings

I love trying new strings. A lot. And as primarily a double bassist that pays almost $300 FlexSteelsfor a set of strings, buying bass guitar strings seems like a steal! So when D’Addario announced their new Flex Steels I immediately pre-ordered them from Bass Strings Online. (On a side note, my favorite double bass string vendor is Bob’s House of Basses / Prodigy Strings. )

Last night after band practice I decided to put them on, replacing the D’Addario balanced tension nickel strings that I’ve been using. I have pages of string notes in my Evernote notebook. The D’Addario nickels are a great standard string to start with. They have a nice, neutral sound, play easily and are inexpensive.

D’Addario writes that “…FlexSteels deliver the unique combination of flexible feel optimized for slap and finger-style playing coupled with a coveted deep and round tone with just the right amount of punch and bite.”

I agree! Right out of the package they delivered on that statement. These strings are punchy while retaining an even sound across the sound spectrum. As with most steel strings they do have a more ‘abrasive’ feel than nickels. It’s not a huge difference and after a few minutes of playing you probably won’t notice it any more but I think it should be noted. But again – that’s generally a characteristic of steel strings versus nickel.

I play a 5 string Carvin bass and prefer lighter gauge strings. D’Addario does not yet have a 5 string set in the gauges I like so I ordered a 4 string light set and put on a D’Addario ProSteel low B string. The Flex Steels were noticeably clearer, more defined, and well…punchier.

The sound was great right out of the package. Some strings need to break in, others have too much treble zing but the Flex Steels had the right sound immediately.

Even with a pick they retain their full sound.

I’m completely blown away but these strings! The sound is absolutely perfect and clear.

 

Posted in Reviews, Strings | 5 Comments

Groan….

Comic

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D’Addario Kaplan String Review

D’Addario writes on their website, “Kaplan double bass strings are aimed at the most discerning orchestral musicians. Kaplan strings offer a rich tonal color palette and superb bowing response in a beautifully balanced set. The set provides clarity and warmth from low to high registers and allows versatility and control throughout the dynamic Kaplanspectrum.”

When I try new strings I like to change one at a time to see how they compare to what I’ve currently been using. My bass was strung with Pirastro Flat-Chromesteels which are agressive sounding, have lots of projection, and have a very resonant pizzicato sound. As I play more solo literature than orchestral these days, this works well for me. I also like Pirastro Obligato strings for their lush, warm sound and sustaining pizzicatos.

Kaplans respond quickly under the bow and are easy on the left hand throughout the entire register of the bass. They offer a warm, rich sound and the tension of the mediums is perfect.

I have a fully carved Rogeri copy bass by Rumano Solano with a C extension by Bill Merchant. The instrument is on the small side of 3/4 so I try to squeeze every bit of volume I can from it. I’ve had the top thinned out and replaced the stock ebony tailpiece with a Marvin tailpiece. Both of these modifications added volume and resonance.

On to the Kaplans. They are an oustanding orchestral string – warm and rich with a complex tone that would easily blend well in a section. I tried the medium tension version. They respond well, speak quickly under the bow (about the same as the Flat-Chromesteels) and are easy on the left hand throughout the register.  The arco volume is less than the Flat-Chromesteels but the Kaplans do keep giving volume as you dig in and they did not feel like they ‘maxed out’. This is nice as it’s always good to have some volume in reserve. The pizzicato is noticeably softer with less sustain than the Pirastros. They have a nice thump and somehwat quick decay. Again, this is probably a good thing in an orchestral setting. I did notice that after a few days the G, D, and A string pizzicato sound gained some volume and sustain. The low C lagged in pizzicato volume but I think this has more to do with my bass than the string. When bowed, the C string response was clear and articulate as was the entire set from the open C to the stratosphere notes with my extended fingerboard.

D’Addario Kaplans are definitely an orchestral string. The sound is rich and dark – yet still clear. They sound a bit ‘covered’ in the mid-frequency range but this would blend well in a section. I feel they would be great on a large, old instrument or a brighter instrument that needs some edge taken away.

These are a great addition to the D’Addario brand. Although they are not a great fit for my bass and current playing, I must stress that’s a personal sound choice – especially since my playing is currently more solo focused. For an orchestral player wanting a warm sound that ‘plays nice with others’, I highly recommend these strings!

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BEADGCF Banner

BEADGCF

photo 2***IN STOCK AND READY TO SHIP***A banner of the order of flats and sharps. I tried having two banners for each but students found it confusing. So here is a banner where they can just read it from the appropriate side and with a single flat and sharp they know which side to use. The banner it 60″ x 6″, made of durable vinyl with ultraviolet protection and has 6 brass grommets for hanging.
$80 + $10 S&H

DISCOUNTED BLEMISHED – Has a tiny (~2″ long and less than a millimeter in width) on the flat and sharp sign. Contact me for pricing.




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Snark Tuners

Everyone seems to love Snark Tuners. So did I. But they just don’t hold up to daily use.

20131121-081830.jpg

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String Orchestra Holiday Music Available

I have added two string orchestra arrangements to my store.

Holiday Medley

This is a simple arrangement for string orchestra of Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Good King Wenceslas and Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful).

Only the key of G is used and there are no accidentals. The first violin part has some third position work to provide a challenge for more advance players. Dotted rhythms and hooked bowings have been using sparingly.

The harmony is generally two part between upper and lower strings.

Markings have been kept to a minimum to allow for flexibility, interpretation and to get students in the habit of notating their part.

Silent Night

Another simple yet very flexible arrangement to accomodate ensembles with varying abilities as well as the possible time crunch in preparing for a holiday concert.

Every instrument has a standard and advanced part. Any combination – or even just using the standard line – will work.

Be sure to explain the legato hooked bowings. Feel free to transpose any phrases or even just specific measure up or down an octave.

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Jungle of Cities

The first studio EP from Chicago ensemble, Jungle of Cities, is now available.

Burlap Soul features 6 original music songs rooted in traditional electric/acoustic folk, pressed with a cinematic feel and delivered with lyrics drawn from today’s headlines.

Influenced by music from Roots Americana and Blues-Rock, but our influences are as much literary as musical as we pay homage to Ginsberg, Ferlingetti, Bruce, Orwell and Stephen Vincent Benet.

Check it out on iTunes, Spotify or right here.

Burlap Soul

 

And please give us a ‘like’ on facebook! 

 

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Great Customer Service from D’Addario Company

People are always complaining about companies, products, and customer service. Therefore I like to recognize companies when good things happen. D’Addario makes lots of great products and strings. I’m a huge fan of their patch cables with the mute button. I own three and they perform flawlessly and have been rock solid.

Anyway, I had a TINY issue with another product and their customer service is OUTSTANDING. They actually reached out to me in the popular forum TalkBass. The issue was resolved within minutes and the representative was a pleasure to work with.

Thank you D’Addario! It’s always nice to post positive things!

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New Speaker Cabinet – Greenboy Designed

I have to share with you all my new speaker cabinet. It’s a Greenboy design, Bassic15 model, built by Don Barry. The Greenboy authorized builders do each one to order and there are many variations to choose from.

My specifications:

FaitalPro 15PR400  8ohm speakerPT2
Okoume wood
Black duratex
Natural wood bafflle
Circular grill
Recessed handles on both the sides and top
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