Overview and History of the Bass
The modern double bass is not a true member of either the violin or viol families. Most likely its first general shape was that of a violone, the largest member of the viol family. Some of the earliest basses extant are violones, (including C-shaped sound holes) that have been fitted with modern trappings. At the beginning of the 17th century, Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) described a violon da gamba sub-bass, a five-stringed specimen tuned DD EE AA D G. While this monster (over 8 feet tall) was tuned very much like the modern bass, it must be considered an unusual bass instrument for any era. Praetorius noted that the player of this instrument had to read the regular notation for the bass line even though the sounds he produced were actually an octave lower than what he saw, a practice that is the standard procedure for the double bass players of today. It is also interesting to note that Praetorius’ drawing of the instrument was patterned more after the violin shape than that of the viol. At the same time the neck appeared fretted and the bow held underhanded after the manner of the viols. It was not until around 1800 that the frets were finally removed. The underhanded bowing style is still with us today.
Age to Begin Bass Lessons
Like the violin, cellos and guitar, Basses come in a variety of sizes to suit the age of the player. Students may begin lessons on the bas at a very early age; at the Royal Academy, we recommend the student be approximately 4 years or older. Bass is offered 6 days per week (Monday through Saturday).
Developing The Necessary Skills
A child is most prone to developing “bad habits” in music between the early ages of 4 through 12, that is why we take great care in how we introduce to our students to music. At the Royal Academy each child will explore music in its entirety, developing all the skills necessary in being a well rounded and creative musician. The Royal Academy ensures that all of its students are taught sight-reading skills, counting and rhythmic skills, technical skills, basic music theory and most of all, to be creativity. We do not teach our students to “play by ear” nor do we subscribe to ridiculous notions that a child can learn to play an instrument online or in a month from a “learn it yourself book or CD “. Music is accumulative and the only way to progress and become a good little musician is to instill healthy and productive practice habits. It is equally important the teacher presents the material in an enjoyable and encouraging way, carefully listening to your child and understanding how they register the material along with being attentive to your child’s problems in a particular area is key to their music development.
Finding an Instrument
If you do not already have a bass there are several options that you have. The first and least expensive option is to rent a bass. Because basses come in various sizes like the violin, and guitar it is important to be “fitted” for the right size. The reason it is important to rent a bass, as opposed to purchasing one at first, is because your child will out-grow his/her bass rather quickly. Once a student reaches full size then it would make much more sense to purchase one. The Royal Academy rents a variety of instruments, if you are looking for a bass, please call us at 508-792-1221.
The Benefit of Bass Lessons
Interesting Article on “Music and the Brain”
Music enters the brain through the ears. Pitch, melody, and intensity of notes are processed in several areas of the brain such as the cerebral cortex, the brain stem, and the frontal lobes. Both the right-brain and left-brain auditory cortex interprets sound. Feza Sancar (1999) writes that the right-brain auditory cortex specializes in determining hierarchies of harmonic relations and rich overtones and the left-brain auditory cortex deciphers the sequencing of sound and perception of rhythm.
Many studies have been performed to examine the affect of musical instruction on the brain. For example, researchers at the University of Munster, Germany, (1998) reported that music lessons in childhood actually enlarge the brain. The auditory cortex is enlarged by 25% in musicians compared to those who have never played an instrument. According to the study by Frances Rauscher of the University of California, Irvine, (1997) links between neurons in the brain are strengthened with music lessons. Dr. Frank Wilson’s study (1989) involving instrumental music learning to play an instrument refines the development of the brain and the entire neurological system and the brain reveal that evidence, it is clear that music instruction is essential to children’s education because it improves their academic performance. Curriculum areas that music instruction affects most include language development, reading, mathematics, and science. Music itself is a kind of language full of patterns that can be used to form notes, chords, and rhythms. Exposure to music helps a child analyze the harmonic vowel sounds of language as well as sequence words and ideas. Another curriculum area enhanced by music participation is reading. A child who participates in music activities experiences sensory integration, a crucial factor in reading readiness. Wilson’s study (1989) reveals that music instruction enhances a student’s ability to perform skills necessary for reading including listening, anticipating, forecasting, memory training, recall skills, and concentration techniques. Mathematics is the academic subject most closely connected with music. Music helps students count, recognize geometric shapes, understand ratios and proportions, and the frameworks of time. Researcher Gordon Shaw (1993) found that piano instruction enhances the brain’s ability for spatial-temporal reasoning, or the ability to visualize and transform information.