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Orin O'Brien's Double Bass Notebook

There is a new double bass book out now by Orin O'Brien, a well known player and bass teacher.  She currently plays in the New York Philharmonic and has been a member there since 1966.  She teaches at both Julliard and the Manhattan School of Music and has had many, many great students.  One of them she even mentions in her book, Michael Kazepides, whom I have have the pleasure of working with in the Phoenix Symphony.  Mike sometimes tells me about something he learned or studied from Orin and to my delight, some of that magic is here in her new book, "Double Bass Notebook".

This is not your ordinary Storch-Hrabe or Simandl bass book.  Don't forget that at her level of playing and the level of students she's had, she doesn't waste any time getting down to business.  She first explains how this notebook came about and honors the bassists and teachers that taught her or were a big part of her life.  The book consists of 114 pages of photos, musical examples and her personal instructions on how she likes to play them.

On page 4, she jumps right into outlining body position with the bass, arm weights, relaxation and some great anecdotes to help players image and visualize playing points.  She gives daily practice schedule ideas for morning or afternoon!, then for afternoon or evening. Even 4 year plans that list study books, and solos that people should be on during their 4 year plan or schedule. Very intense already Orin!

If you are a serious classical  bass player and aspire to be the best (and aspire to get a symphony job), you should have this book!  Even if you already have some totally awesome teacher, this book would be a great addition in conjunction to your studies.

On page 64, under "Phrasing" she wrote:

"Try to determine whether the line you are playing is melody or accompaniment.  If the line is melody, listen to the first phrasing of the same melody and try to copy it.  If it is accompaniment, it should be rhythmic, precise, and slightly subsidiary (for example: the do-sol figures in Rossini.)  If the line consists of harmony changes (Brahms symphonies have many of these beautiful lines), sometimes a slight emphasis is needed, often produced by simply making a clear bow-change.  This can often help a conductor, when he is busy with other elements in the orchestra.  If you know the score you will know what parts you should emphasize and what parts you should know are subsidiary and need to be subdued."

Here's a brief list of some of the major points that she covers in the book:

  1. Daily Practice schedules
  2. Four Year Plan  (don't forget...she teachers in college!)
  3. Recommended Study Material for Reading and Listening
  4. Daily Warm-Up Finger Exercises (this one alone, worth the whole price of the book!)
  5. She explains how to actually use the Zimmermann bowing book (I always thought it a "boring" book, but nice to have someone show how to use this book...by the way, Zimmermann was her teacher.
  6. Shifting
  7. Scale and Arpeggio "Suggestions"
  8. Hooked bowings
  9. Rotation System of Practice (another good one for me.)
  10. Basic Principals of Orchestra playing
  11. Then she gets into Orchestra Bass auditions, how to prepare, what is asked for etc...
  12. I personally liked reading the chapter on "Professional Behavior and Auditions" (I am bad at turning and looking...)

This list is only about half of what she gets into with her  Double Bass Notebook