Beginning bow curves for double bass

Exercises with images

Caroline Emery, professor of double bass at the Royal College of Music and Yehudi Menuhin School, UK; author of Bass Is Best and Bow Works demonstrates how to tackle string-crossings with four basic moves that should be taught from the outset. Taken from the September 2017 issue

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Among double bass students there are some technical problems that I see again and again. When I teach younger students, I aim always to give them material that supports their development in these areas. Most important is to put the bow first. We can focus on the left hand and play as many tunes as we want, but if we can’t bow, we won’t be able to do anything. We have to work with the bow to make the bow work, and often that just isn’t understood.

An important part of this is string-crossing. On the bass, to change strings is a huge issue: the distances are enormous, so we have to engage our torso and move the arm, wrist and fingers as a unit. Effective string-crossings require us to learn four basic shapes, or ‘bow curves’, and to pivot across the strings as though the bow is a see-saw. These bow curves dictate the way we move the arm and bow when doing string-crossings. Because the bass is so much bigger than the other stringed instruments, the way we move has much more impact on our playing and learning.

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