The Chromatic Endpin – Rehearsal Reflections

Last night was my first rehearsal using the Chromatic Endpin. (See my other posts about setting up this endpin.)

I continue to use the settings I describe in “day three.” And I got to compare notes with longtime friend Rich Armandi, who is also using the endpin.

I really experienced no problems with the endpin. Partly, this is because the new setup is quite similar to my straight endpin setup. I’ve been a standing player for over 20 years, and the way I have configured the endpin moves the contact point a little bit back and a little bit towards the E string. This shifts the weight just a little away from my body, and I think that means my left hand works just a little bit less at holding the bass up. It’s subtle, and the transition has not been difficult.

One caveat should be made here: this was not the most challenging rehearsal in terms of technique. It was a string sectional of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic (performing next week at Chicago’s Millenium Park), and the strings–particularly the basses–do not have the hardest of Orbert Davis’ writing. The relative simplicity of this rehearsal was probably a good thing for my trial of the endpin!

Here’s what I did notice. In the practice room, I have begun moving more, forward and back, using the new balance point of the bass to shift how I get into and out of the upper register. What this means in practice for instance is that for a Bach Cello Suite (#1, Prelude) I take a step backwards with my left leg, allowing the neck to rest on my left shoulder and easing the left hand’s access to the thumb position. For low pitch passages, the left leg comes forward and the bass very upright, so I don’t have such an acute angle with the left elbow to reach the low positions (think Beethoven Fifth Symphony, third movement, Scherzo).

This movement was harder to execute when playing in the section, for two reasons. One, we were in a rehearsal room with a riser-like floor, so a rise in the floor just behind me kept me from stepping back unless the endpin was very close to the front of the riser I was on. Two, the other players and the “cramped”–compared to my regular practice space–area for the bass section kept me from complete freedom in my movements. And related to that cramped-ness, sharing a stand with another player while wanting to keep the conductor in sight meant I couldn’t just move however I wanted.

I think with time I’ll find ways to overcome this movement inhibition. It’s just a matter of trying different things, working with section mates to get into the right place physically. Maybe it means not sharing a stand, or being more picky about where I need the stand to be. (I remember seeing a violist in the San Jose Symphony using a tape measure to adjust the distance from his stand to the end of his nose before a rehearsal, quite a sight!) Or maybe it means just not worrying about ever being a section player again, since I have decided AGAINST taking the Detroit audition after listening to a recent podcast from Jason Heath on the oversupply of conservatory graduates and the failure of conservatory training to prepare musicians for the real world. (Also Phantom Brass blog post.)

And the one other worry I had is proving unfounded. I had been concerned about the “teeth” of the Chromatic Endpin having enough depth or bite to hold the bass up for a long period. At home, I’ve been babying the pin a bit, taking it out and replacing my straight endpin when stowing the bass in the corner. I just don’t know if the angle will hold when subjected to long-term weight-bearing (like overnight, etc.). But it didn’t slip during the two-hour rehearsal, and I didn’t have to think about it or feel it wobble.

A last observation, my sound production seems to be really solid these days. I felt quite good about the tone I was getting last night, and in tune with the section. (Of course, being in tune with the section is sometimes a matter of the rest of the section being in tune, eh?) I don’t know if the better sound production is a result of a change relationship between the bow, right arm and string due to the endpin, or to the fact that recently my practice routine has focused an awful lot on Gary Karr’s bowing exercises in book one (harmonics only! super-aware of bow speed!). Well, even with knowing for sure, I’m glad of it!

As I mentioned, Rich and I were comparing our setups. His endpin is set using the long lower rod and angled towards the G string. He’s going for a much less upright position than I am (more like the Rufus Reid video shared in the Chromatic Productions resource section). It seems to be working for him, so go for it!

Bottom line, we’re still happy with the new endpin!

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