Without realising it, I have actually played the double bass for 15 years! This is worth a celebration.
I can't remember which was the exact date that I had first lay my hands on the double bass. Fifteen years ago, how would a young teenager like myself even expect that I would play this instrument and love it till today? Then how then, would I even bother at that time to take note of the date that I had started learning the double bass?
Anyway, as best as I can vaguely recall, when I was in Secondary One, I had to choose an Extra-Curricular activity. I had initially wanted to join the basketball team, but decided I didn't want to be out in the sun and I did not like competitive sports. I didn't want to march, so all the uniformed groups are out. In the end, I chose to join the Chinese Orchestra of my Secondary school as my first choice.
For some reason, I had missed the first meeting for Secondary One students who have enrolled for the Chinese Orchestra. When I turned up for the second meeting, most of the students have already chosen and decided on the instruments that they wish to play.
I ended up deciding to play the double bass. There were two main reasons:
Reason number one: The conductor was in the opinion that I have the physical built (fairly large hands and tall height) to play the double bass.
Reason number two: I learnt that it was strongly encouraged for almost everyone to buy a instrument of their choice so that they can practise more often. I wasn't prepared to buy a instrument at that time. Neither was I sure if my parents would even approve to support me financially to purchase an instrument then. As such, when I learnt that I won't be expected to purchase a double bass if I were to choose it, it became a natural and practical choice.
Starting to learn the double bass proved to be quite a challenge. Except for the very limited music lessons (once to twice a week) that I had during the six years in my primary school, I didn't have any other background to music.
I picked up the skills of playing the double bass through one of the seniors who was playing the double bass. I still recalled that my senior had to use apples to explain to me the concept of rhythms. It went something like this: Imagine one crotchet beat is equivalent to an apple, one quaver beat is equivalent to half-an-apple.
Actually I knew that concept, thanks to my limited music lessons in primary school. However, I was pretty quiet when I first joined the Chinese Orchestra. For one thing, I tend to be slow to warm up. I didn't respond much even when questions were asked, so my seniors had probably misinterpret my silence as ignorance. But well, I had a good laugh and fun as they taught me music the lay-person way.
Next was reading the scores in bass clef. In order to speed up my learning, I actually took some of the scores home, and attempted to play the notes on my brother's piano. It wasn't that difficult. Then I could hear what the scores were trying to get me to play. Thanks to my limited music lessons, and what little that I had managed to make out from my brother's piano beginner's guide, I managed to figure out where the notes are on the keyboard. Then when I go back for Chinese Orchestra practice sessions, I would try to play by ear, literally.
The hardest part which I find was to learn to use the bow. I don't know how long I had taken just to be able to make an acceptable sound on the double bass using the bow. Even years later, it has taken me a lot of trials and errors, and guidance from teachers and fellow double bass players, and by observing others, in order to improve on my right-hand technique of using the bow. I am still learning.
There is something very energising about learning. For me, it is to realise that I have grown with time, and maybe without realising, I have improved, and I can perform better.
Meantime, I shall end the post here. If I should find more inspirations to continue writing about this topic, I shall write a second part to this series. I wonder if anyone likes to read more on this topic?
Anyway, with 15 years of relationship with the double bass, I am happy to share that I have improved over these years. Well, at least for those who knew me 15 years ago, they should be able to tell the difference.
Knowing that I have already 15 years of relationship with the double bass, you may better appreciate what makes the double bass have an important place in my heart and my life.