The Chromatic Endpin – Days One and Two

A New Endpin

I have begun my adventure with The Chromatic Endpin. If you have ever been interested in that crazy kinky stick endpin you might have seen on a colleague’s bass—you know, bent at a 45 degree angle to the line of the strings, and rotated toward the G string, or a new hole drilled in the end block with a pin in there—but didn’t want to go drilling new holes in your bass, this device is for you.

It’s a machined endpin device, with multiple axes of adjustment: angle, rotation, height, length. It replaces a traditional end pin of 10mm diameter with no changes to your bass. By installing it, you can experiment wildly with all the variations. And if you find something you like, either continue using the Chromatic Endpin with those settings, or work closely with a luthier to drill that new hole in your instrument in just the right way.

Wild and Kinky

I am currently on the second day of my experiment. And it feels like a wild ride, anxiety-inducing in all possible ways. Day zero (actually a few days) I spent just putting the pin together, trying a few combinations and marveling at the different stances adopted by example players Rufus Reid, Lynn Seaton and François Rabbath. (The Chromatic Endpin site links to videos from each.) My wife was watching with me and marveled at how upright and relaxed each looked, comparing to my Hunchback of Notre Contrebasse posture when playing in the upper registers. (She worries about me. She would like me to join her at Pilates classes.) I was trying to adjust to the idea of the heel of the neck of my bass resting on my solar plexus and the extreme angle of my elbow when trying to tickle my ear with my finger while playing low F (see the Lynn Seaton video). And freaking out at the idea that the upper bouts of my beloved Buchanan bass are too wide to allow a german bow player to play on the E string in that position . . . aaaaaaagh!

Getting a grip on myself, yesterday I settled down to try to make some progress on an actual combination of settings. Instead of just playing randomly and getting worried, I tried more or less to have a set several pieces I was going to play as I adjusted various angle and things. So that I would have a reference, instead of just vague chaotic and fearful impressions.

(Have I mentioned how badly the idea of switching endpins, stance, everything messes with the idea of taking a professional audition in 10 weeks? Yeah, let’s not think about that just now, okay?)

Loosely, here are the things I am trying to play with each different endpin configuration:

  • Beethoven Fifth Symphony, Third movement, Scherzo
  • Bach First Cello Suite, first movement
  • Strauss Ein Heldenleben, any of those damn two+ octave runs in three beats, like rehearsal 9 to rehearsal 11
  • E arpeggio exercise, three octaves
  • E major scale a la Galamian mm=60

Real Day One

4″ lower rod; angle about 45°; rotation towards G string and back of bass.

This setting is somewhat like the Rufus Reid video. But I found that if I tried to emulate Reid’s posture, I could not reasonably play in the low register, nor on the E string with the bow. Partly the shape of my bass and my use of the German bow. However, when I decided to go back to a more ‘upright’ stance, this was a reasonable configuration for the endpin.

The aforementioned kinky stick blog post gives the reason: moving the contact point back means that more of the bass’ weight is forward of that point, and so my left hand was less obligated to support the weight, making it more free to shift. This realization felt pretty good. I did not realize the benefit of standing straight up and reaching forward to play in the higher positions—it’s still incumbent on me to visualize the string-through-the-crown-of-my-head pulling me upright that your Yoga teacher told you about—but I think I can live with that.

Real Day Two

6″ lower rod; angle about 60°; rotation towards G string and back of bass.

I watched the recording of John Clayton, Martin Wind, Lynn Seaton and Rufus Reid (the Talking Hands bass quartet) playing Wind’s Iceland Romance and observed Clayton’s setup. The angle of his end pin is less than those of Reid or Seaton. It looked like something worth trying. With the Chromatic Endpin setup, to achieve the same net position of the ground contact actually means a very extreme angle and the long lower rod.

At first I couldn’t get the bass low enough to be comfortable for the left hand in the low registers (note the upper rod is into the bass as far as it will go), but by putting the long low rod into the extreme angle, the bass was playable and reasonably comfortable.

Of all the experimenting I’ve done so far, both unstructured and structured, this set up is working best. Same caveats apply around standing erect when playing in high registers, but the balance of the bass seems good (re the kinky stick post).

I can’t play for long with these experimental setups: my natural frustration at sounding like a beginner (and today, too much coffee) get the best of me and I have to put the bass down. Today that meant switching to writing this blog post, which isn’t a bad thing.

Keep Breathing

Hey, I have to say that I should not have gone into this thinking “a new end pin setup will be a miraculous enhancement of my technique,” but I admit now that I held a not consciously acknowledged belief that I would suddenly master Ein Heldenleben by futzing with my endpin. That hasn’t happened. Yet. Ahem. But I do feel like there is some good opportunity ahead. I just need to calm down and take the needed time to sort this out.

Please share your experience with the angled endpin concept. I could really use your perspective.

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