Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sermon on the Mount

After hearing about them for quite a while, I finally got a look at the famous Max Dimoff warm-ups – I’ve also seen them referred to as the Cleveland warm-ups – an interesting collection of this that and the other. My eye went immediately to the Simandl Gradus ad Parnassum excerpts (Gradus ad Parnassum is Latin for ‘Steps to Mount Parnassus’, or some such thing) due to their similarity to some passages in the Bruckner sixth symphony I had recently been working on.

The passage from Gradus begins

Below the section is the admonition to ‘keep 4th firmly on the string throughout…’ I assume this means the 4th finger – whether this comes from Simandl or not I don’t know, having never studied Gradus.

Nevertheless, I assume the fingering to look something like this

This was something of a revelation, since I had no experience with these kinds of cross-string fingerings using the third and fourth fingers. For me, fingering the minor seventh across three strings was more in tune using 2 – 4, saving the 3 – 4 fingering for the 4th on adjacent strings. The advantage was twofold in that the longer 2nd finger was better to manage the stretch, and the first finger was freer to prepare for the next note.

This also created a kind of horizontal position

So far so good, but the next passages looked like this

Assuming no open strings – since the exercise modulates through all twelve keys – I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out how to keep the 4th finger down throughout. Anyone in possession of how to do this will receive rich rewards (or at least praise) if they email me a solution.

Having wasted many good hours trying to devise good fingerings for the similar Bruckner passages, I felt it might be fruitful to concoct my own exercise and see what would result. I began in a key that made open strings out of the question and came up with

The object was to begin with the Gradus inspired fingering and continue the pattern.

In descending, I noticed that shifting to the 4th finger produced better results than shifting to 3.


was better than

The problem with this fingering is that the repeated note changes strings. This can be addressed by beginning on the 4th string

The player should determine which produces the better sounding fingering.

Of course, my first inclination for fingering such a passage would be something like

After practicing various ways to do this, I end up gravitating toward the familiar. Still, there is always something to be gained by trying a new approach, many ways to climb a mountain, even when it is a mole-hill.

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