Upright bass: integral to jazz and classical music

Upright Bass Blog Header Image

The bass is arguably the most integral component of any group. Can you imagine a jazz standard without the bass line, or an orchestral masterwork without a bass section? As the instrument with the lowest range, the bass provides the foundation for almost all music we are familiar with. For all of its importance, it is also a surprisingly unknown instrument and one that invites myriad of questions, including the favorite “don’t you wish you played flute?”

(The answer is no, by the way.)

Whether you call it upright bass, double bass, string bass, or just bass, it is different from the rest of the string family in a few ways. First, it is tuned in fourths rather than fifths. It also sounds an octave lower than what the player reads on the page.

The two main genres people associate with the bass are jazz and classical. Each of these genres have their own use for the instrument and superstars who dominate the field. What are some of these differences?

TECHNIQUE

In jazz, the bass is almost exclusively plucked.  Classical repertoire requires both the bow and pizzicato. Bass is unique among string instruments in that it has two different types of bows and bow holds: French (similar to a cello bow) and German (held with an underhanded grip).

TYPES OF PERFORMANCE OPPORTUNITIES

Of course, there is always room for innovators in any genre (think Esperanza Spalding or Edgar Meyer), but these are the most prominent positions you can expect to see for bass players in the two this post addresses:

Bass performance chart

 

ACCESSORIES

Bass players will need things like rosin (most popular are Pops, Nyman, and Carlsson), a wheel for transport, and a bib for comfort. Jazz players may also need a pickup on their instrument, an amp, or may even use an electric bass for ease of transportation among many other benefits. Brands that manufacture electric basses include Yamaha and NS.

Keep an eye out for more posts about bass in the future!

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Departments of JSI: CHV Office

Departments of JSI

Departments of JSI has returned! This is a series that highlights the different people that work within our company. We’re able to run such a large business through the expertise of and collaboration between our different departments. Everyone has a skill that they utilize to accomplish everything from coordinating rental trips to selling instruments to repairing instruments to shipping things on time and safely. This series will help you get to know the variety of people and jobs that are done here at JSI.

The Carriage House office staff are the people you see at the reception desks when you walk in. They handle everything from paperwork to organization, and do a lot of work behind the scenes. We asked them to answer some questions about themselves and their jobs:

What is your position at Carriage House Violins?

Ariel Chu: I am an administrative assistant for Carriage House Violins.

Sarah Rogers: Administrative Assistant and Recital Hall Coordinator

Eva Walsh: I am a part-time administrative assistant at CHV.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Ariel: A typical day at work involves greeting customers as they enter, creating both sales and workshop repair appointments, and answering phone/online questions. Working at the reception desk, we are the connection between the customers and the different departments of JSI.

Sarah: For the administrative part of my job, I am the first (smiling) face you see upon entering Carriage House Violins! My colleagues and I are here to make sure our customers are directed to the right department, whether they are looking to buy a new instrument, need their instrument repaired, or they just have general questions about the small world of music. I also coordinate events in our recital hall.

Eva: Our typical day is simple, yet complicated. We do whatever is needed to keep the office running, whether it’s organizing our repaired instruments, communicating between the office and our customers, preparing documents, giving tours, answering questions or even just getting up on a ladder to replace a light bulb. Any number of things end up being in our wheelhouse.

What is your main instrument?

Ariel: My main instrument is the viola.

Sarah: Violin

Eva. My main instrument is the violin, but I play on a 5-string viola made by our workshop manager John Dailey. My other main instrument is my voice and I perform just as much as a vocalist now as I do on the violin.

Did you go to school for music?

Ariel: I graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in February 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in music education. I hold a Massachusetts teaching license for music grades K-12.

Sarah: Yes! I studied violin performance at the Eastman School of Music.

Eva: I went to Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music for Violin Performance in Nashville, TN. I loved school, and I loved the opportunities I was offered through the school. Being in Music City did have a huge effect on me though, and it turned me into a folk musician rather than a classical violinist.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Ariel: I enjoy speaking to all of the different people who enjoy music, from new players getting their first instruments all the way up to professional musicians. There is something to learn from every person.

Sarah: I love being surrounded by musicians all day. Working here has opened up a lot of doors for me and has given me several performance opportunities. Playing all of the violins I can get my hands on is also a pretty fun perk of working in a string instrument shop.

Eva: My favorite part of my job is doing good work and making a positive difference in a customer’s day. At the front desk we can see that everyone has their own special situation or set of circumstances, and we see people as individuals, not just customers. We always do our best and we truly care about helping them with whatever they need. The best reward is making our customers happy.

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Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Departments of JSI: Rental Workshop

Departments of JSI is back! This is a series that highlights the different people that work within our company. We’re able to run such a large business through the expertise of and collaboration between our different departments. Everyone has a skill that they utilize to accomplish everything from coordinating rental trips to selling instruments to repairing instruments to shipping things on time and safely. This series will help you get to know the variety of people and jobs that are done here at JSI.

If you have ever rented an instrument from JSI, you’ve reaped the benefits of our in-house rental workshop.  Our head luthier, Sef Gray, agreed to answer some questions about what he does:

How did you become a luthier?

I played violin growing up and when it became time to go to college I was looking at woodworking/sculpture. My violin teacher’s husband made her violin and he helped me find a bunch of local luthiers to talk to. They all seemed like they did the sort of work I could see myself doing. I decided to I wanted to make/repair instruments because of the hands on nature of the craft and I also found it very interesting to do work that would support musicians. I applied to 2 violin making schools and went to North Bennet Street School. While studying at NBSS I built 8 instruments and learned some repair techniques.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I find it rewarding that the work I do helps musicians do their job and bring music to their communities. I build instruments outside of my job at JSI and I am always amazed that I can make a tool for musicians to play. It is so exciting to hear an instrument for the first time after all the work you have put into it.

What advice would you give to someone looking into becoming a luthier?

I would encourage someone  interested in becoming a luthier to reach out to local makers or repair people to see what the work environment is like and what the work is like. It is challenging work and takes a long time to get comfortable working with the level of detail and patience that is required to be a luthier. Go to a violin making school and take a tour.

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Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons

Rentals at JSI

With over 40 years of experience, Johnson String Instrument is the largest string instrument dealer on the east coast. The cornerstone of the company is our extensive rental program. We pride ourselves on our attention to detail—everything from setting up our fleet of instruments to managing your account is designed to make your rental experience easy and enjoyable.

Our rental program is so successful because we listen to what our customers need. Students need high-quality, affordable instruments that will make their experience enjoyable. Parents want staff that are well-informed, insurance to cover inevitable child mishaps, and convenience when it comes to managing their accounts. Finally, teachers want to send their students to a reliable place and know that each student has the right tools. It is with these things in mind that our rental program has evolved and expanded over the years into the household name it is now. Start a rental today by visiting us in-store at 1029 Chestnut Street in Newton Upper Falls, online at www.johnsonstring.com, or by phone at 800-359-9351. Watch our newest video to learn more:

 

Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved · Silvija Kristapsons