musical maturity



In life we tend to move from the energy of youth to the wisdom of age. Which is why most orchestral jobs are won by players younger than 30 - its tough to have the energy for the rigours of orchestral auditions.


Age and youth do not always fit together like a hand in a glove. I can think of two bass players in Melbourne, either side of 30. The older one has been in a position for a long time, is focussed on orchestral playing and cannot stand solo bass playing, at all! The other is younger than 30 and fill of enthusiasm and the joys of playing the bass - its hard to get the instrument off this player, who is a wonderful soloist, often ripping thro bass music in the breaks. Luckily these two players are not in the same orchestra!


Both have plenty to offer - energy, youth, flexibility, as well as wisdom, experience and musical maturity. We have different priorities at differing stages of our life:-


1 sound - young kids by an large are into playing the instrument, getting the notes, having a ball. I remember that it was later on that I took an appreciation in other aspects of playing the bass, such as instruments and the different sounds that were available. Things change - older player are more likely to get a kick from playing an open E on a beautiful old English bass then ripping thro a page of semi quavers


2 enjoying the music - remember the thrill of playing Swan Lake for the first time, wonderful stuff. Now fast forward to your 30th year in an orchestra, and Swan Lake come up again, and again...


3 all the other stuff (check out the rest of the mind map), two of which are:-

Understand the music We learn from many sources but the more we perform with different conductors, soloists and colleagues, the more we learn about the music, assuming our mind is open to learning! Players and orchestras develop thier own taste and style. Some use vibrato in Mozart, other dont. Some string sections play off the string a lot, other not much. In my opinion opera bands play with voices much better than symphony orchestras, and vice versa with the symphonic repertoire.

Understand how the bass part fits in Good musicians understand thier part and how it fits in with the group as a whole. I have leant a lot from Davin Holt, principal bass with Orchestra Victoria. I am not a fan of french music, but Davin has played this music for decades and he understands how the bass part fits, when to drive the tempo a little, when to push a pizz a bit louder so the accompaniment can kick off it, what sound is needed (often extreme flautando) etc. I dont think there is a book to read about this stuff, it comes with experience. We learn from those around us, conductors, soloists and our colleagues.



© 2016 Stuart Riley, all rights reserved