12 Proven Techniques to Take Your Double Bass Playing to the Next Level

Do you ever feel like you're "spinning your wheels" when practicing and not getting any better? These tips from Cincinnati Symphony bassist Luis Celis will help!

With Luis Celis · Cincinnati, OH

As a double bass player, you may have experienced moments where you feel stuck in your playing and unsure of how to improve. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced musician, it’s important to continually challenge yourself and seek new ways to take your playing to the next level.

In this blog post, whic was inspired by an interview with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra  bassist Luis Celis, we’ll cover 12 proven techniques to help you maximize your double bass practice efforts and become a better musician. These techniques have been tried and tested by professional musicians, and can help you achieve your full potential on the double bass.

Strategy 1: Get Organized

The first step to improving your double bass playing is to get organized. Make a plan and stick with it. Set specific goals for each practice session and track your progress over time. This will help you stay motivated and focused on your long-term goals.

Start by setting realistic goals for your practice sessions. For example, you might aim to practice a particular piece for 30 minutes each day, or to work on a technique for 10 minutes each practice session. Write down your goals and track your progress over time to see how far you’ve come.

It’s also important to stay focused during your practice sessions. Eliminate distractions and create a practice environment that’s conducive to learning. This might mean finding a quiet space to practice, turning off your phone, or using noise-cancelling headphones.

Strategy 2: Record Yourself

Recording yourself is a great way to objectively evaluate your playing. Use a smartphone or other recording device to capture your practice sessions, and then listen back to them to identify areas for improvement. This will also help you track your progress over time.

When listening back to your recordings, pay attention to areas where you may be struggling. Are there certain passages that you keep stumbling over? Are you consistently out of tune in a particular section? Use these recordings to identify areas for improvement and adjust your practice routine accordingly.

Strategy 3: Prioritize

Understanding what needs the most work in your playing is crucial to making progress. Identify the areas that need the most attention, and prioritize your practice time accordingly. This will help you avoid wasting time on areas that don’t need as much work.

Start by identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a double bass player. Do you struggle with intonation? Are you having difficulty with a particular technique? Once you’ve identified your areas for improvement, make a plan to address them.

It’s also important to be realistic about your goals. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Instead, focus on one or two areas at a time and work on them consistently over a period of weeks or months.

Strategy 4: Think Big Picture

What are you trying to accomplish long-term? Setting long-term goals for your playing will help you stay focused and motivated. Consider where you want to be in five, ten, or twenty years, and set specific goals that will help you get there.

Your long-term goals might include things like performing in a professional orchestra, recording an album, or teaching double bass at a university. Whatever your goals may be, make sure they are specific, measurable, and achievable.

To achieve your long-term goals, it’s important to break them down into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, if your goal is to perform in a professional orchestra, you might set smaller goals like auditioning for local orchestras, taking lessons with a professional double bassist, or attending summer music festivals.

Strategy 5: Plan Ahead

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Make sure you have a clear plan for each practice session, and stick to it. This will help you avoid wasting time and ensure that you’re making progress toward your goals.

Before each practice session, take a few minutes to plan out what you want to accomplish. Write down specific goals for each session, and break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, if you want to work on a particular piece, you might set goals like practicing a specific section, focusing on intonation, or improving your bowing technique.

It’s also important to be flexible with your plan. If you’re struggling with a particular section, don’t be afraid to spend more time on it than you originally planned. And if you find that you’re making progress more quickly than you anticipated, don’t be afraid to adjust your goals accordingly.

Strategy 6: Be Honest With Yourself

Improvement begins with honesty. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses as a double bass player. This can be painful, but it’s the only way to truly make progress.

Start by identifying your weaknesses as a player. Are you struggling with a particular technique? Are you consistently out of tune in certain passages? Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, make a plan to address them.

It’s also important to be honest with yourself about your progress. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from other musicians or teachers, and be open to constructive criticism. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and adjust your practice routine accordingly.

Strategy 7: Mindset is Key

So much of music making is in how you frame your playing and outlook mentally. Cultivate a positive mindset and focus on the progress you’re making, rather than getting bogged down by mistakes or setbacks.

Start by setting realistic expectations for yourself. Don’t expect to become a virtuoso overnight. Instead, focus on making progress each day, no matter how small.

It’s also important to celebrate your successes along the way. Whether it’s nailing a difficult passage or receiving positive feedback from a teacher, take time to acknowledge your progress and feel proud of your accomplishments.

Strategy 8: Get Help from Others

Seeking the opinions of other people can help you progress exponentially faster. Work with other musicians or teachers to get feedback on your playing and identify areas for improvement.

One great way to get feedback is to work with a teacher or coach. A good teacher can provide personalized feedback on your playing and help you develop a practice routine that’s tailored to your specific needs.

You can also seek feedback from other musicians by attending masterclasses or participating in jam sessions. These experiences can provide valuable insights into your playing and help you identify areas for improvement.

Strategy 9: Work on Music Away From the Bass

Listening and score study can help your time on the instrument tremendously. Spend time listening to recordings of great double bass players and studying the scores of your favorite pieces. This will help you develop a deeper understanding of music and improve your playing.

When listening to recordings, pay attention to the phrasing, intonation, and overall musicality of the performance. Take notes on what you like and what you don’t like, and use this information to inform your own playing.

Score study is also an important part of improving your playing. Spend time studying the scores of your favorite pieces, and consider the structure, harmony, and melody of the music. This will help you develop a deeper understanding of the music and improve your ability to interpret it on the double bass.

Strategy 10: Get Feedback in Creative Ways

Send videos of your playing to friends and colleagues for feedback. This can provide valuable insights into your playing and help you identify areas for improvement.

When sending videos, be sure to ask specific questions about your playing. For example, you might ask for feedback on your intonation, bowing technique, or phrasing. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and adjust your practice routine accordingly.

It’s also important to be open to feedback, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Remember that constructive criticism can help you become a better musician in the long run.

Strategy 11: Confidence is Paramount

Confidence comes through clearly in your playing. Cultivate a sense of confidence in your abilities as a double bass player, and trust in the work you’ve put in to get where you are.

Start by acknowledging your strengths as a player. What are you good at? What do you enjoy playing? Use this knowledge to build your confidence and focus on the things that you do well.

It’s also important to be prepared for performances. Practice performing in front of others, and learn techniques to manage your nerves. This will help you perform at your best under pressure and project confidence in your playing.

Strategy 12: Get a Handle on Nerves

Nerves can derail your playing, but they are also a sign that you’re activated and ready to perform. Learn techniques to manage your nerves and perform at your best under pressure.

Start by identifying the things that make you nervous. Is it performing in front of others? Playing a difficult piece? Once you’ve identified your triggers, make a plan to manage them.

Techniques like deep breathing, visualization, and positive self-talk can be helpful for managing nerves. Practice these techniques regularly and use them to prepare for performances.

In conclusion, these 12 proven techniques can help you take your double bass playing to the next level. Incorporate them into your practice routine and stay focused on your long-term goals. With dedication and hard work, you can become a better musician and achieve your full potential on the double bass.

Want to learn more about improving your double bass playing? Check out this complete interview with Luis Celis.

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