LSO Master Class - Double Bass

Uploaded by symphony on 07.10.2010

Gibson: Hello, YouTube,
and welcome to the double bass masterclass
for the 2010 YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
I'm Matthew Gibson, and I play double bass
with The London Symphony Orchestra,
and I want to give you a few helpful hints,
a few handy tips as to how you might approach
playing an audition in this situation.
Now when playing any orchestral audition,
it's worth bearing in mind that a listening panel
will be looking out for four different aspects
of your playing.
The sound you create on your instrument,
the musicality you express in your playing,
solid intonation,
and a really good, strong sense of rhythm.
And I would say that all four of those aspects
are equally important.
In preparing orchestral extracts,
the first thing you have to do,
if you don't know the music already,
is to listen to the music.
Buy yourself a CD, a recording,
download it if you can, and possibly buy a score
and familiarize yourself with the context
of the music you're going to play.
And then you can make a decision
about the speed you want to play the music
and with what character you're going to play it as well.
Quite often when playing orchestral excerpts,
there is music that comes before
the piece of music you're playing,
and when you've finished,
the music will also continue afterwards.
So for our first orchestral extract,
let's look at "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony,"
the third movement.
And in this extract, we have two sections.
We have the opening allegro and the trio section.
But remember, they are both from the same movement.
And I think it's important in an audition situation
to play both sections at the same tempo.
And working out the tempo,
I would first look at the trio
and think how I'm going to play that part.
It's full of energy, off the string,
a lively piece of music.
It's one-in-a-bar, obviously.
The whole thing is one-in-a-bar.
But you want to play the quavers at a speed
where you can get the notes out in an audition.
I think would be an appropriate tempo.
So take that over to the allegro
and start the first movement in that speed.
Now the opening allegro is legato.
It starts on an up-bow,
and it's pianissimo.
[playing bass]
So at the end of the first line,
there is a forzando.
I wouldn't put too sharp an accent on that forzando.
It needs to be a lean, rather than a heavy accent.
And when we get to the bar before the pause,
I would make sure we do that with separate bows
so that the F-sharp at the end of the bar
can be placed within the ritenuto,
which is happening at the time.
And then we start again with full crotchets.
[playing bass]
So in the bars where we have diminuendo, subito diminuendo
after those forzando bars,
for instance in bar 43 there is forzandos,
bar 44 we have a diminuendo.
You have to really pull the weight away on that bar
to make sure that you're back to pianissimo in the next bar.
The next section is the trio,
and we want to try and keep the trio
in the same tempo as the allegro beforehand.
I would play it with the first opening crotchet
a long note, not short.
It's like a springboard into the rhythm of the next bar.
Crescendo through the second bar,
and then do two down-bows in the third bar
to allow you to phrase in two-bar phrases
in the passage coming up after that.
[playing bass]
So at the beginning of that extract,
it's important, I think, to get some shape
into the crotchet section.
So phrase every two bars, for instance.
And then when we get to the second time bar,
keep the upbeats long,
but the important bits as well are the rests.
Make sure the rests are in tempo.
It really has to click along at one-in-a-bar all the time.
And at section B,
we start forte, then diminuendo,
then piano, and then sempre piu piano.
And really, you have to make an active effort
to lift the weight off the instrument
to make it quieter and quieter
while keeping in tempo.
So our next extract
is "Mozart's 35th Symphony," the fourth movement.
Now this is a tricky passage.
These running quavers, slurred over each bar, piano.
I would practice this starting slowly
with separate bows
and with two different dotted patterns.
I'll show you what I mean.
[playing bass]
That's the first dotted pattern.
The second one would go...
[playing bass]
Then I would practice the same thing but with slurs.
[playing bass]
And the second pattern.
[playing bass]
Then I would practice it in straight rhythm.
First separate.
[playing bass]
And then slurred.
[playing bass]
And then, if you were using a metronome,
I would set the metronome up one level
and start the whole process again,
getting faster and faster each time.
Now to help you play a fast passage like this,
I think I would use minimal movement,
particularly in the left hand.
Don't lift your fingers too far off the fingerboard.
Keep them close to the strings.
Avoid shifting position too much.
Avoid crossing the strings too much.
And most of all, keep the left hand fingers relaxed.
[playing bass]
The other interesting thing about this passage
is the dynamics.
In bar 134, which is the first bar,
it's marked piano.
Five bars later, it's marked piano again.
And then in bar 147, it's marked forte.
And that's pretty much it really,
apart from the two forzandos
in the last four bars.
But of course we have to create some shapes
within the music there.
We can't just play it completely flat the whole time.
So for instance, when we get the tune at bar 139...
[playing bass]
In the third bar,
I would separate the first D
and play the next three crotchets in one bow
with a crescendo growing through those crotchets
to the next bar and then diminuendo
on the A and F-sharp.
So then when we get to bar 152,
I would crescendo through that phrase,
diminuendo on the next one,
crescendo through to 157, and then...
Each time build through the phrase.
I'll play it for you.
[playing bass]
One final tip.
We all get nervous.
I'm nervous now. I'm dripping wet.
And if anybody tells you they don't get nervous,
they're probably very nervous too.
In fact, professional musicians,
professional performers get used to performing with nerves
and using that as a positive energy.
But something I was taught very early on
which works well for me
is that before I go into an experience
that is going to make me nervous,
five or ten minutes beforehand
I would do a controlled breathing exercise
where I breathe in for five seconds,
hold that for five seconds,
breathe out in a controlled way for five seconds,
and then hold that for five seconds.
And then repeat that four, six, or eight times.
And I find this slows your heart rate down
when you're nervous, and it allows you
to be in control of the situation,
and hopefully enjoy the experience.
I have to say, I have a fantastic time
playing in my orchestra.
There is such an amazing variety of music
to be involved with.
And in 20 years, there's never been a dull moment.
So try your best, and it could be you.
Good luck.