Scaling the Heights
24 Scale Studies for the Progressing Double Bassist
"Whether I’m working with a student on 2 or 3 octave scales & arpeggios or an actual piece of music, I've noticed that the transition between the "Danger Zone" and "Thumb Position" is always a struggle. The left hand challenges range from knowing where to place their thumb for each note, what to do with their elbow and a myriad of other things. I have, for many years, wished for music where we can address these technical issues because once we get to this level of technique, the repertoire quickly becomes quite advanced and the student needs to feel very comfortable getting in & out of thumb position. David had the brilliant idea of writing pieces in each key where a student can learn the entire short piece or simply focus on a measure or two. Keeping the tasks small makes dealing with these technical challenges seem less daunting and the student has a feeling of accomplishment. It's a win-win for everyone!" [Susan Hagen / Principal Bass, Boston Pops Orchestra / Assistant Professor, Berklee College of Music, Boston, USA]
"Love these studies - been working them with the guys in both thumb position and up and down the G string. Terrific!" [Rod Patterson/The Bass Academy, Belfast, Northern Ireland]
"I enjoy writing music for my students and many friends and Susan Hagen (Principal Bass, Boston Pops Orchestra/ Associate Professor, Berklee College of Music) has been an amazing friend and supporter, as soloist and commissioner. The most recent commission from Susan is 'Scaling the Heights' which I completed a few weeks ago. The brief was for music which moved into and out of thumb position, always challenging for young bassists, and when I had spent a little time thinking, I realised that a short piece in each major and minor key would be the right approach - 24 pieces in all. I started with C major and went through all the sharp keys, then the flat keys ending with D minor, my favourite key.
I tried to include musical as well as technical challenges and some of the pieces can be played on one string, or on two strings if you remain in thumb position. Each study is in a different style and finding the titles was often a greater challenge than writing the music but, hopefully, titles such as Monday Morning Jig, Lament, Tea at Three, Arietta and Waltz-Time, are accessible and effective, As I composed the set I realised that I was trying to write happy music for the major keys and sad music for the minor ones so decided to shake this plan up a little. G flat major is a Berceuse and the Burlesque in E flat minor is the happiest and most upbeat piece in a minor key that I have ever written! D flat major is a Prayer and B flat minor, a quite dark key, is a lively and rhythmic Humoresque.
I loved writing the 24 studies and there are so many ways for an inventive teacher or student to use them. If the key or the look of the music is intimidating then select one or two bars which you think you can play and work on these first. When you are more confident add a few more bars and you can do this with every piece to keep things interesting and moving along. You don't have to start at bar 1 and you don't have to complete a piece before moving onto another, they can be used in so many different ways.
I added a few scale studies at the end of the book, and scales, arpeggios and work in thumb position can easily be added to the mix. There are no fingering suggestions, which is intentional, but always keep in mind that they were written by a bassist so they 'work' and the challenge is to find the fingering that the composer intended, although there are usually several choices." [David Heyes, May 2021]