I play mainly acoustic bass guitar or electric bass guitar. My acoustic bass guitars are built by luthier Kenneth Brøgger. They have Fender bass mensure (scale length) and I had the privilige to participate in all vital choices: wood, finger board, rosette etc.
I practice (and struggle with) J. S. Bach’s Cello Suites every day. It has helped me to build up technique, overview, sound and touch of my instrument as well as it has opened my mind and improved my skills as a composer. If you play bass and have time and patience enough I strongly recommend this.
Bach on Bass: Suite II, Prélude
I’ve made a couple of videos on how to play Bach’s second cello suite, and I realize that I with that join a world of fast talking, not so trustworthy people that are eager to tell you about how to do it almost without practicing. You may wonder why I do it then…. But I think my take on it is a little different, although I know that mastering Bach’s music is not something you do after watching a video. Actually, I don’t believe in YouTube teaching – unless of course you will get inspired to practice and understand that playing any instrument is a lifelong task.
So, what is my special take? It is the camera angle! All instructional videos I’ve seen are shot from the spectators viewing point – I’ve found a way of filming it as you, the player, see it, as if you are playing yourself or looking over the shoulder of your teacher. I combine it with ‘artistic’ performance with the usual camera angle as part of an audience. I have combined it with the music in the bottom of the picture with fingering and string indications – no TAB, as I’ve never understood the big idea behind it. Why learn a system that omit the rhythm and that is never used in the professional world? If you want the music on paper, you can download it on this page.
In the video I try to briefly explain what I’ve done to the original score from the descendants of Bach (we don’t have Bach’s original score – nor do we know who he wrote it to, but it must have been a master musician). I have followed some simple dogmas: I keep the original key, and in the case of the 2nd suite, I play it an octave lower of idiomatic reasons (the bass sounds good and natural in D minor) and as a consequence of that, I must play some – not many – sequences up an octave. Some places I have omitted a note in a chord, and in the last 5 bars I’ve added a scale run as I find it hard to believe that baroque musicians played those 5 bars without improvising a bit. There is a whole science here, that I unfortunately don’t know enough about: did Bach really mean that? It derives from the fact that in Bach’s time, composers and musicians had a lot of congenial understandings on how to interpret the scores, so the composers didn’t have to be too precise – because everybody knew what to do. This goes for tempos, phrasing and – interestingly – in that context: playing quavers as triplets. We know it from jazz scores today: we write eight notes but they are executed as triplets. We also know that improvisation has disappeared from classical music, and the cadences were open for the musician to play freely. That is why I take the liberty and play a single run on one of the chords. I might get killed for that.Bach-on-Bass-Suite-II-Prélude-download
Bach on Bass: Suite II, Allemande
The Allemande is the first of 6 dances in the 2nd Suite. Allemande is a not too fast dance, but the music is not made for dancing, already in Bach’s days the movements were stylized, and the musicians knew what to do when the read ‘Allemande’ in terms of tempo, phrasing etc. All the movements are two-part pieces that should be repeated. The question is if this repeat is meant to be an exact copy of the first run-through? I have heard some people say that the musician is freer in the repeat, allowing him (or her) to improvise on the first repeat. In any case, playing Bach’s music strictly as written I am sure is a misinterpretation, most likely because composers later began to give much more precise instructions to the musicians. And when nothing is stated in the upper left corner it indicates that you play the music as written – in many cases mechanically and stiff. I find it hard to believe.
In this movement I have tried to add a little folk music style into the music by adding some open D-strings here and there (2nd bar on the 3rd beat and the very last note) If you find it silly then don’t do it.Bach-on-Bass-Suite-II-Allemande-download