Spending time in the "woodshed" (musician term for practice room or just the act of practicing) is simultaneously one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences a musician can have. I have found it interesting as I improve, stumble, discover things and so forth, that my knowledge of how to make my practice time most productive has gone hand in hand with my experience as a musician. In other words, just because I play better now than I did 5, 10, 15 years ago, doesn't mean that I require less practice than I did in the past. Rather, my idea as to WHAT and HOW to practice is so much more insightful. A nice feeling in itself at times when maybe I'm not feeling so good about my playing.
One of my constant pursuits on the double bass is the practicing & refining my skills with the bow. I don't know if it's a valid assessment, but I feel that a truly complete bassist - at least where the upright is concerned - has attained, in addition to his or her pizzicato playing (or jazz playing, if you will), a certain level of competence & musicality with the bow. I'm not saying I'm there, but I put in the time and I enjoy those occasional musical moments at a gig or a session when I get rewarded for my efforts.
I'm always searching for a weak link in the "bowing chain" if you will; grip, rosin (too much or too little?), arm weight, and finally…the tension of the bow hair. Yes, there's that too. Should it be loose or should it be tighter? As I was playing through an etude this evening, I was struggling to get it to sound good and decided to try something with regard to the tension of the hair. Because I'd never really explored tightening it - I mean REALLY tightening it - I went ahead and did just that. I increased the tension beyond where I'd ever set it before to the point where the curve in the stick was significantly less; almost straight!
Folks, I'm here to tell ya, it was a revelation! I had more control, more facility, the notes were speaking more quickly, more accuracy crossing from string to string, it was a truly "Aha Moment". In fact, it was two-fold in that I simultaneously experimented with a slightly different grip (I play German bow) so it was a rewarding practice session indeed.
I have a symphony rehearsal next week in which I'm anxious to put my new discoveries to the test. Here's to our musical journey; the individual pursuit not of perfection, but of musical purity.
Until next time,