Posts Tagged ‘Chromatic Endpin’

The Chromatic Endpin – Rehearsal Reflections

Friday, August 18th, 2017

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!

The Chromatic Endpin – Day Three

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Finally got back to some experimenting.

Day Three

6″ lower rod; angle about 30°; rotation towards back and E string

So I wanted to see what it would feel like to have the rotation be towards the E string, as Lynn Seaton does. But I had already found that the very “horizontal” approach that seems to be Seaton’s approach wasn’t working for me, so I set this up to be more vertical. The bass definitely felt different here. As might have been predicted—see the diagram about center of gravity on Knickstachel für Kontrabass – eine Übersicht—I initially felt as if the bass were falling away from me.

I ran through my chosen repertoire for this trial, and made some adjustments to where my feet were. I couldn’t quite make this comfortable, but I felt like I was making progress. I decided to move to the short lower rod.

4″ lower rod; angle a little more than 30°; rotation towards back and E string

With the shorter rod, I also chose to make the angle slightly greater, as well as to extend the upper rod a bit more from the body of the bass, compensating for the shorter rod but overall making it just a little bit higher.

This felt pretty comfortable. I think it will be the setting I go with for a little while before making more experiments.

That is not to say that I think I found the perfect setting in just three short days of experimenting. (Far from it!) It is more an acknowledgement that my technical skills are really sub-par these days, and I need to get serious about getting back to form before I can make any final conclusions about how to adjust this endpin.

In other news

My last attempt to get folks together for some music reading did not receive much response. Maybe a combination of the short notice and the fact that it’s the end of summer. If you’re a bassist and want to get together to read through music or to play your audition rep in front of a friendly audience, get in touch with me, we’ll set something up.

The Chromatic Endpin – Days One and Two

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

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.