"When I began studying the double bass many years ago, the harmonics on the instrument were something of a mystery to me and my fellow students. Those of us who began our double bass journey with Simandl’s “New Method” worked for quite some time in the “orchestral” register of the instrument exclusively. My own first encounter with harmonics occurred while studying the Dittersdorf Concerto, and later the Hindemith Sonata. But there has been a noticeable movement in recent decades to introduce the entire range of the bass to students early on, with some pedagogues even suggesting the youngsters should begin their studies by playing near the mid-point of the instrument’s string length rather than down in the low positions at the nut end of the string.
Notable in this respect are the “Progressive Repertory” books of George Vance, which follow the explanation of fingerboard positions set forth by Francois Rabbath. In these volumes, we find that melodies which have initially been introduced in the low register of the bass are often repeated in what is labeled 4th position (at the mid-point of the string) and 6th position (using harmonics that occur near the end of the fingerboard). To be sure, the Rabbath/Vance 6th position harmonics are quite accessible, though perhaps still somewhat unfamiliar to most bass students, which points (I believe) to a need for more repertory scored in that register. The Bass I part of these three short duets is set entirely in the 6th position (as described by Rabbath), the terrain that was so unfamiliar to me and many of my friends in our early years of study. As the title implies, they were written to help students to become familiar with the highest register. The lower voice can be played by a younger student who is not yet comfortable moving beyond 1st position. The duets may be played with multiple players on each part as well, which may work well for a studio or bass class; indeed, the premiere presentation on May 9th, 2017 worked quite well performed with a total twenty bassists of different levels on stage. We hope you will find these pieces both useful and enjoyable." [Programme Notes - Michael Montgomery]