Contrabass Conversations double bass life

528: Kieran Hanlon on Bach for the bass

Oct. 8, 2018

Kieran Hanlon, bass professor at The State University of New York at Fredonia and also a past podcast guest, has been hard at work putting together a Bach project.

Titled Practical Bach for the Double Bass, this project involves transcribing select movements of the Bach cello suites into the lower positions of the double bass.

Kieran shares his inspiration for the project on his website:

I have always thought of solo Bach movements as musicianship and style etudes alongside their clear technical challenges (string crossings, bow control, intonation, balancing double stops, quick range changes, the list goes on and on). It always saddened me, that in my own work, the work of my colleagues, and in my teaching, it seemed that musicianship and style development would sometimes have to go by the wayside as we all struggled to handle the major challenges of high-position playing. I remember on one occasion a violin colleague saying, “I simply cannot imagine playing Bach in 12th position!”

I do feel strongly that once one reaches a certain point of technical achievement on the bass, there is a benefit to and place for high position Bach playing. While I hold that belief, I maintain that playing these works in the low range is beneficial for all of us, particularly for less advanced students or for bassists aiming to develop their comfort, flexibility and elegance in the lower register. This is of course useful in our work on orchestral skills, where we need the utmost musical flexibility and poise in the low end.


Learn more in this short but interesting interview and also on Kieran’s Bach Project page!


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