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

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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Off Topic?

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

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.

To get started, I recommend (now owned by Capital One). If you’re serious about getting started, send me your email and Sharebuilder has referral benefits (you get $25 bonus!!). Either way, now is the time to plan for your retirement!



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Tips For Taking Care of Your Instrument

I received this email and although it was marked as spam it has good advice to prevent cracking and issues due to climate changes.

from Gary Bridgewood, Bridgewood Neitzert Ltd., violinsbn AT


Top Tips For Taking Care of Your Instrument

With the autumn comes lower temperatures, rain and changes in humidity, and with that our minds often turn to keeping the cold and damp elements out of our homes and possessions. As a musician your most prized possessions are likely to include your musical instrument(s) e.g. your violin, viola or cello.  Although you may already take good general care of your instrument, is there more you could be doing?  When you’re out and about playing in autumn and winter how much should you be worried about the atmospheric effects on your instrument and what can you do about it?  You may find yourself in a cold or draughty venue in winter or playing at an outdoor or marquee event at any time of the year – so just how robust is your instrument and what are the main risks?

Water and Humidty

Shrinking, swelling and distortion of shape are all things that can ordinarily happen to wood. In short the more humidity in the air the more wood will expand, and the less humidity the more it will contract. Water, humidity and extreme temperature can also have a detrimental effect on the glue used in the joints of a stringed instrument like a cello or violin.  If your instrument has had a lot of repairs e.g. to cracks this could make it a little more susceptible to the effects of changes humidity and temperature.

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Practice Diary of Matthew Barley

Click the image for the full size PDF.

Practice Diary

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Bass is too large. What to do…

Hi everyone – I received an email from a teacher and wanted to share…

QUESTION: I have run in to a problem with a fourth grade student and thought you might have had a similar experience.. The student is really excited to learn bass but the school only has a 1/2 size available and it is too large for him. In order to get the 1st and 1/2 positions accessible he has to hold the bass in an odd way that hinders him from properly bowing the E and A strings. If you have any recommendations they would be greatly appreciated. I would hate to see him get frustrated and stop playing due to a setup issue. Hope you can help.
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Bass Issues Paper

I found a short paper I did in a grad class years ago and wanted to share. It’s not earth shattering but has some decent concepts and references. I’m only including the introduction here since the PDF retains the footnotes.

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Some favorite quotes…


“A life out of balance produces no greatness. ” Dr. James E. Loehr

“All outward success, when it has value, is but the inevitable result of an inward success of full living, full play and enjoyment of one’s faculties.” – Robert Henri

“Attitudes are the ‘stuff’ of which champions are made” Dr. James E Loehr Continue reading

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10 things that we should change in classical music concerts

Interesting article! These are probably more of a barrier than the actual music.


10 things that we should change in classical music concerts

Johnny Greenwood recently published an article about live classical music being off-putting . Johnny’s thoughts are great and a good perspective from somebody who comes from the outside of the classical  music world, but who really cares about it. Over the years I’ve seen and done a lot of concerts and if classical music ever wants to attract a new, younger and more engaged audience, we’ll have to think hard about certain things and step out of our own little world (as James McQuaid writes in his article for the Guardian Culture professionals network ).

I often find myself sitting in a concert thinking I would never be here were it not for professional interest. This is a real shame, because to sit down in a concert hall and not do anything else other than listen for two hours is a great and quite radical experience in our lives. But there are many unspoken “rules” and conventions at classical concerts that we often accept quietly and which make the experience of classical concert worse than it should be.

1. The audience should feel free to applaud between movements

Gustav Mahler introduced the habit of sitting silently until the end of a piece and I think after some 100 years, it’s time to change that. I love it when people clap between movements. It’s spontaneous expression of enjoyment and people should feel free to show their feelings in a concert.

2. Orchestras should tune backstage

There is something really exciting about hearing a great orchestra in a great hall. We shouldn’t spoil the impact of the first sounds of a piece by giving away so many of these magical sounds in a random way at the beginning of a concert. Works like the Lohengrin Prelude, Gigues or Lontano do sound strange after tuning onstage. They should emerge from complete silence.


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Requested Audition Excerpts

BlastFromThePast Post

Here is a grid I compiled in 2003 & 2004 of requested excerpts from several orchestras.

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10 things the college admissions office won’t tell you


1. Not all grades are created equal

For the more than two million high school seniors who intend to go to college next year, the stomach-churning slog of filling out applications is in full swing.

And whether they’ll get a thick package announcing their admission or a thin, dream-dashing one-page letter (or their online equivalent) may well depend on their grade-point average. Grades account for about 75% of the typical admissions decision, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

But not all good grades are created equal. In the eyes of the admissions officers at the nation’s more than 2,800 four-year colleges, an “A” earned at one high school may only be worth a “B” at a more rigorous one. And in recent years, colleges have given more weight to grades from designated college-prep courses—and the more exclusive the college, the more weight those grades get.

If you want to get married and stay married, having a college education helps. MarketWatch’s Quentin Fottrell explains.

One reason colleges are getting choosier: Grade inflation. Research by the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, shows that the average GPA for high school seniors rose from 2.64 in 1996 to 2.90 in 2006—even as SAT scores remained essentially flat.

The researchers saw this as evidence that some teachers were “using grades…to reward good efforts rather than achievement.” (The College Board also noted that, based on their test scores, less than half of SAT takers—just 43% in the graduating class of 2013—were academically prepared for college work.)

All that said, admissions officers generally believe that if you have a good GPA in high school, you’ll probably have a good GPA in college.

“The clear message (is that) hard work and good grades in high school matter, and they matter a lot,” said William Hiss, a retired dean of admissions at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine who co-wrote a February 2014 study on standardized testing.

Read the entire article on their website.

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Large Schools vs. Small Schools

I’m often asked about school suggestions for college-bound musicians.
Many parents and students assume that a larger school with a well known name is always the best choice. Maybe, maybe not. I would go as far as to say probably not.
Here’s how I came to my current stance.
IMG_0059I was a late bloomer as far as being a musician goes. I didn’t start playing the bass until I was 16. Oh my, look at that hand position (and hair!).
I loved playing the bass and after a year or so decided I wanted to become a music teacher. That gave me about 18 months to learn the bass and actually prepare for college auditions. Big name schools were definitely out of my league! But there were a few music schools within a few hours of where I grew that happened to be decent, small – medium sized colleges. I was in upstate New York so I looked at Ithaca College, The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, and SUNY Fredonia. My first bass teacher was a Fredonia grad and really pushed that school! I ended up choosing Crane and am so glad I did. Not only is it a great music education school but it had fantastic facilities, an amazing staff, and Potsdam has wonderful feel to the tiny town. Fast forward a few years and after two years of teaching I decided I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in performance and wound up at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
I was the only bass graduate student at the time. The other bassists told me that all most of their first and second year classes were taught TAs (teaching assistants). A TA is a graduate student that received a scholarship and / or stipend and taught undergraduate classes as a part of that scholarship package.
So their first year of theory, ear training, history, etc. were taught by students rather than professors. Most of these students had no formal education training. And often the theory classes were taught by composition majors who taught the class because that’s just what they were assigned to teach. That first year is critical as it is the foundation and fundamentals for their entire college and music careers!
Smaller school (and the Crane School) have much fewer, if any, TAs. Therefore, actual professors with years of experience teaching these classes taught all undergraduate classes.
Which scenario is more beneficial to the student?
I’m not going to write about all the advantages and disadvantages of large and small schools or all teaching assistant – or lack thereof – scenarios. Each student is different. A young musician who is on the fast track to a great career will and should attend the right school with the right teacher for their instrument and level. I just want to present a perspective that is often overlooked.
I often recommend the path that I took. I went to a small school for my undergraduate music education degree and then a large school for my master’s in performance degree. I think that’s a real ‘best of both worlds’ combination.
I did have a teaching assistantship. I couldn’t have afforded graduate school otherwise. But I went in with two years of public school teaching experience. My duties were to teach bass to some non music majors, do some computer work and research, and I team-taught the string methods class WITH the professor (we both came from a public school background).
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My Cause :)

Give my cause a like! No ice water needed. CourtesyHorn

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Quick Tip for Practicing Quick Runs

Here’s a tip I just posted on Jason Heath’s Double Bass Blog.

When practicing fast / scalar passages, play them in groups of odd numbers. Although notation generally beams notes in even groups, the actual music is usually in an odd group.

For example, if you have 4 sixteenth notes, practice them with the next note – they lead to that note. There’s a group of 5. To help get the velocity on the sixteenths, practice the first 3. After you repeated that many times, play the last 2 with the destination note – another group of 3.

Another example can be found in the trio from Beethoven’s 5th – third movement. When practicing the measures that are all eighth notes, practice them with the following downbeat – that’s the landing point.

And in any running note passage, isolate groups of odd numbers to practice – even if they cross beams or barlines. This will even out your playing and give your lines direction.

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Cool Bass!

Check out this unique bass by luthier Robert Ross.

Ross Bass

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How Loud Music Leads to Hearing Loss

Click image for full size PDF.

Hearing Loss Info

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Practice Tools & Utilities

Jason Heath (of Jason Heath’s Double Bass Blog) has put together many outstanding resources for musicians. Check them out!

PDF, MP3, Music, Exercise Downloads

More Practice Tools

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Quick Teaching Tip for Tense Bow Hands

To help relax a student’s bow hand, try this:

Have the student setup their bow hand and place it on the D string, about a 1/4 of the way from the tip.

Then with your (the teacher) hand try to ‘dribble’ the bow on the string. If the student’s hand and arm are relaxed then the springiness and buoyancy of the stick will allow you to bounce it like a ball!

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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?

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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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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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