Eloise Riddell reviews Lorraine Chai’s two volumes of double bass theory books for younger students
Stringstastic: Double Bass
Level 1: 52PP ISBN 9780645267082
Level 2: 52PP ISBN 9780645267099
Quiet Life Music
Stringstastic is a collection of instrument-specific theory books by Lorraine Chai, aimed at ages 6–10. Completing the string series are the newly published double bass books, for which Chai has been aided by two renowned bass players, Barry Green and Claus Freudenstein. Both the Level 1 and Level 2 books successfully bridge the gap between complete beginners to ABRSM Grade 1 theory, and would suit a group learning environment as well as individual lessons.
Book 1 follows the young bass player from their very first lesson through to an Initial grade level of playing, while Book 2 continues on to an approximate Grade 2–3 level. Both are clearly laid out with colourful illustrations. Opportunities for creativity are plentiful, including drawing a double bass and composing simple tunes using open strings.
I enjoyed the storytelling aspect of the books, and how they were linked to the student’s own practice. Animal characters guide students through each book, giving helpful tips including visualising the notes on their fingerboard, with opportunities to learn theory through playing the notes, scales or articulations on their instrument, something rarely found in other theory books. There is a test at the end of each volume, and a revision chapter at the beginning and in the middle of the Level 2 book. In addition, printable flashcards and more worksheets are available on the website www.stringstastic.com
Book review: Double Bass Basics
It is always going to be a challenge to incorporate different teaching methods of learning and practice into a theory book, and while some different options are identified – such as showing the differences between playing French and German bow, and between sitting and standing – there are some technical explanations and approaches that not all teachers will agree with. These include the use of stickers on the instrument, how to shift and pivot, and certain fingerings and finger patterns for scales. While the C, G and E major scales are taught, D and A major are neglected, which is perhaps a missed opportunity.
It is great to see a theory book for the double bass, and these books are a welcome addition to pair alongside the student’s repertoire.