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Jazz ninja Ruth advises on transporting the beast
I am often asked how I can carry such a huge thing as a double bass
around. People sometimes think that having small hands is a real
obstacle for a bass player, but I've never really known anything
different - and I certainly didn't choose the bass because I wanted
to play something big and difficult to transport! It was always about
the sound for me. I have a few students with small hands who ask
me similar questions. The answer is that everyone has to find their
own way around the instrument. Usually people with small hands
develop a bigger
stretch than
others, adding
some stretching
exercises to help
that along. I
usually do those
before I start
playing. A good
one is to put
your right thumb
against your left
pinky, and vice
versa, with the
palms of your
hands facing each
other, and then
gently press your
hands towards
each other. Bass
players with small
hands also learn
how to move faster
up and down the
neck in order to
compensate. However, I think the double bass is a tough instrument
for everybody, regardless of physical size: it's really about posture and
a good left-hand technique. For people with small hands, these can
be crucial. Making sure that your thumb is around the middle of the
fretboard and developing a good one-finger-per-fret technique can
make things a lot easier and avoid wrist pains. The set-up of your bass
also has to suit your body. There is no point in having a massive bass
if you're having trouble playing it. I was so happy when I discovered
my 5/8-size bass, which is slightly smaller than the usual 3/4-size
basses. I also play a short-scale electric Fender Mustang, but it doesn't
matter what kind of bass you have: your sound and your choice of
notes are going to make you sound unique.
Trivium bassist Paolo supplies some sound
business sense
Focus. That is a word which I would like to see hammered into each
and every young musician's head. Focus is a virtue in my opinion, at
least when it comes to being a musician. Creativity is a fleeting thing
that comes and goes as it pleases, so cluttering your mind up with
multiple tasks does you no favours. It is disheartening how many
musicians I've met who simply accept where they are as a player. I've
been fortunate to have Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu as bandmates:
they share the same drive as I do and they really challenge me as a
bass player to always grow my skill set. Having great focus on your
creative outlet is number one. When it comes time to write new
music or practise, I tune out the rest of the world. Great songs and
great players come about with intent and purpose: you cannot bypass
the effort and time that it takes to achieve results. Bearing that in
mind, too many musicians overextend themselves. In this era, we are
so obsessed with having tons of projects on the go. My suggestions:
Put your music first
If you're talented and have a knack for playing or writing music,
hone those skills. Immerse yourself in listening to music as well
as playing it. Always give yourself time to learn and reflect on the
music you make.
Start with one outside project
The time to start adding secondary projects to your schedule is
when your band has a solid foundation. If your band is doing
well, I suggest adding one extra outlet to your plate. Prioritise it
accordingly and let those you work with know where each project
stands in your mind.
Know when to move on
The rule of thumb in a new business is five years. If it hasn't taken off
in that time, it probably never will. One of the hardest things to do
is walk away from something you have helped to create. Focus more
time on fewer projects, channel every ounce of your abilities into a
single goal and it may be greater than anything you could imagine.
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