Saturday September 26, 2020
Silvio Dalla Torre
Chameleon Double Bass Double Bass as Solo Instrument? Tunings Playing Techniques I Playing Techniques II New Dutch School - Heavy Bow - Strings - Elements of Technique - Practising in Flow - Methods / Tutors - Opinions - FAQs


Prof. Gerhard Mantel, Frankfurt:

On the occasion of a seminar at the Rostock Music University, Professor Silvio Dalla Torre gave me a thorough presentation of his system, in which he redefines the posture, the fingering and the bow of the double bass. It became clear that many points in Professor Dalla Torre´s system are directed at a natural approach adapted to the body and above all the hand that I also recommend very emphatically in my own cello teaching.

He puts his technique into practice both on the traditional double bass and on the "Bassetto" that he has rediscovered. With this instrument, which Professor Dalla Torre uses for his investigations in addition to the double bass, the strings are tuned in fifths. This permits (or, depending on your point of view, requires) a fingering which approaches that of the cello. This integrates the third finger, the ring finger, into chromatic playing. In the "classical" style of playing introduced by Franz Simandl and his teaching methods, this finger is largely excluded.

It is occasionally put forward as an argument against this method that the hand is not large enough to play in a chromatic sequence as on the cello. It is certainly true that no hand is large enough to position four chromatic notes in the hand at the same time in their places on the double bass. This is, however, in no imaginable case really necessary. A good cellist also does not position his fingers on the fingerboard in accordance with a rigid orientation, but following the changing circumstances of a constantly changing performance. Hand and arm are always in motion, in the first place for reasons of their sensitisation.

This means that a finger that is not being used is immediately relaxed and either leaves the string or takes a position on the string that suits a relaxed hand, rather than to an imagined "keyboard". The subdivision of the notes (on the double bass and the cello in chromatic sequence, and on the violin in diatonic sequence) takes place in the imagination, not in a strained pre-defined positioning of hand and fingers.

These even applies to violin fingering, where because of the smaller distances it is indeed possible for the fingers to remain in position. Nevertheless, top violinists to a certain extent "play piano", in order to relax the hand again at every moment after the application of force used to position the finger, and also in descending passages to create a similar (percussive) impulse for each finger application. This innervates the playing finger itself, and is thus more efficient and is perceived much more clearly than when the adjacent upper finger is simply raised.

As Professor Dalla Torre assured me, from the historical standpoint it is very likely that all the great double bass players of the Viennese Classical period used this method, which requires much less position shifting than the fingering usual since Simandl near the end of the 19th century. In this style of playing (after Simandl) only two consecutive notes can be played in one position, which obviously requires many more shifts of position which have no musical function.

I would like to give my full support to Professor Dalla Torre´s project. For us musicians, it is always difficult to depart from the beaten track and to venture out on new paths. This also includes experimenting with the different sounds produced using a heavy bow which takes account of the characteristics of weight, length and thickness of the double bass strings.

With the greatly individual differentiation of physical constitutions and learning histories, it is always fascinating to come across alternatives, rather than being faced with a rigid didactic position. For this alone, Professor Dalla Torre deserves our thanks and encouragement.