Jennifer recorded the Sarabande from the 2nd Baroque Suite by Jacques Vanherenthals:


For this concert in memory of Michel Guirlinger, who was the founder of this concert series, and who passed away two months ago. We will play Bach's Chaconne in a new arrangement for Viola d'Amore and Viennese Bass, and a new piece by Polish bassist and composer Michal Bylina. We also have the complete Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro, and Per Questa Bella Mano on the program, all played in duo-form.



Monday 23rd April, 10pm, Concert Hall of the Conservatory:

- Filippe Caporali with improvisation, own compositions, baroque and romantic music

- Charlotte Barbier with music by Adolf Misek, Bottesini

- Pasquale Massaro with Cimador and Dragonetti on the 3-string bass (gut strings)

- Jennifer Blom with Dittersdorf and Schubert's Arpeggione-Sonata

Friday 4th May, 18h, venue to be announced:

- Alessio Campanozzi with his non-stop recital of Berio, Koussevitzky revisited, own works, Hindemith (on gut strings), Ortiz (on violone), and more.

- Elias Bartholomeus with the complete Dittersdorf, a suite of orchestral excerpts, and more.

- Jordi Cassagne with the complete 3rd Baroque Suite by Jacques Vanherenthals (on baroque bass) and a Fantasia by Gabrieli (on violone).


Here is Pasquale's new website:


Alessio Campanozzi, who will present his final Master's recital later this year, is not only a talented bass player but also a gifted composer. Recently he impressed us all at the class concert with his "Three Miniatures" for bass and piano, but he also composes lots of other music. For the very beautiful documentary "La Casa Nuova" he composed a score full of variation, colors, and moods. Both the documentary itself and the music are highly recommended.


Old and new side by side: the NS Design EUB and the Domonkos Gellért Viennese Violone

The new bass has arrived. Packed in a box built like a tank, with plenty of padding. Unfortunately it was delivered at the wrong address, in another part of town, so i had to go and pick it up in a rental car, in the pouring rain, and i nearly wrecked the car in the traffic. But it was all worth it. When i unpacked it in the evening, in the presence of my Venezuelan colleague José Reyes of the Natalia Ensemble, who happens to be a great player, we had great fun taking turns at playing. First thing, straight away, was the complete Vanhal concerto with Haruko on Viola d'Amore. 

We decided that same evening that the world desperately needs a Bass Duo with Viennese basses... so there we are, a new ensemble is born :-)

José and i will play lots of original Viennese pieces (no original bass duets though, since there are none) but also our own arrangements of other pieces, all on gut strings and all in Viennese Tuning. My Polish bass friend Michal Bylina already sent us some of his own music (he's not only a great player but, like quite a few bass players, also a composer) and suggestions for transcriptions.

Still looking for a name, but that can't be a big problem. Suggestions are welcome. Stay posted for more news soon.

The instrument is at the conservatory now, its new home. We'll have to make room for it, our class 273 is already full of basses. Usually we have between 10 and 15 instruments there, not to mention 200 LPs and CDs with bass music, and around 500 pieces of bass music, a few hundred spare strings in steel and gut, repair tools, and a mountain of undefined stuff that needs to be cleaned up...


...and here it is, the new Domonkos Gellert five-string Viennese Violone after Stadlmann, that the Brussels Conservatory ordered a while ago. It will be delivered, straight from Hungary, in a few days. Gut strings from Nicholas Baldock, frets, Viennese tuning: ready for Sperger, Vanhal, Dittersdorf e tutti quanti. First serious job: Schubert's "Trout" Quintet. Its bass part was written with this specific tuning in mind.



Pasquale Massaro: Zbinden "Hommage à Bach"
Charlotte Barbier: Bottesini Concerto B minor
Jordi Cassagne: Vanherenthals Suite n.3
Jennifer Blom: Guillemant Sonate for 2 Violones
Jordi Cassagne: Marcello Sonata n. 6
Fil Caporali: Mixed Suite
Alessio Campanozzi: Knapwik, Campanozzi, Berio, Koussevitzky
Jennifer Blom: Arpeggione-Sonata
Elias Bartholomeus: Orchestra Suite, Koussevitzky, Dittersdorf

A long Bass Day. Students from four countries. Three concerts. Four complete concertos. A complete Solo Suite. Two world premieres. Music from Baroque to 21st-century compositions and Jazz. Basses in orchestra tuning, solo tuning, Viennese tuning. Basses with steel strings and with gut strings. Basses with and without frets. Violones. Four-and five-string basses. French, German, and Violone bows. A Piano and a Viola d'Amore. Lots of talent and lots of fun.

Next concerts in March and in April...


When was the last time you had a chance to hear four complete bass concertos, and a few world premieres as well?

On monday 15th January we're having our first Bass Class Concert of 2018. Starting at 11 am in Room 274, we'll present three programs: 

Elias will play a "suite" of orchestral excerpts with piano accompaniment, and the first movements of the Kousevitzky and Dittersdorf concerti. Jennifer brings the Arpeggione-sonata, a Vanherenthals Minuet, and a Violone Duo by Pierre Guillemant. Filippe has concocted a suite that consists of his own (partly improvised) music and some Vanherenthals and Fauré, and Charlotte will tackle the Bottesini concerto in b minor.

Alessio will perform a longer program of his own work, the complete Koussevitzky, some Berio and Knapwik. Jordi brings the complete 3rd Baroque Suite by Vanherenthals, as well as a Marcello Sonata, all on the baroque bass. Pasquale plays the Zbinden "Hommage à Bach".

As usual, Cécile Mangeot will accompany on the piano.

Since the students have been working so hard for the concert, it's only fair that the teacher should thank them with a little recital of his own. So i'll perform with my Duo Sweet 17 (with Haruko Tanabe on Viola d'Amore and me on the Viennese Bass): the complete Vanhal and Dittersdorf concerti (which we re-baptized "Beatlesdorf" for the occasion - some Beatles melodies mysteriously found their way into this battle-horse of a concerto), in Viennese Tuning of course, and without cuts. Spoiler alert: Dittersdorf is a lot more fun than you ever imagined. It's not the serious, stiff, boring piece you always thought it was. Not by far. Re-inserting the humorous bits (that later editions left out) completely changes the work's character. Carl Ditters, as he was originally called, was actually a funny guy :-)

We'll play some Japanese pieces as well.

For the Viennese pieces i'll be using the new Charton "Suit Bass" (with gut strings and frets):

and for the Violone Duo with Jennifer i'll play the new Violone by Pierre Vanengeland, which i nicknamed "Angry Bird" (guess why):

Speaking of instruments, we're grateful to the conservatory for purchasing a new violone (by Pierre Vanengeland) and a five-string viennese bass (by Domonkos Gellert). The bass should be ready in a few weeks. I'm very curious. Here are some photos, first of the yellow ground varnish and then of a darker coat, prior to the final layer:


New CD releases from the students (who are accomplished professionals already):

Fil Caporali with "Fortune Teller" (Fil Caporali 5-tet):

...and Alessio Campanozzi with "Tender Krech" (Uzivati Trio):

In the meantime, our Bass Labs have started again: weekly collective technical/musical work-outs with all kinds of exercises for body and soul. 
On 15 January we'll have a class concert. Due to the large number of students, we'll have one concert starting at 11am, and a second one at 2pm. For good measure we will throw in a little recital afterwards, with my Duo Sweet 17 (Viola d'Amore and Viennese Violone). Everybody's welcome.


The new Academic Year is under way. Once again we have 10 bass students in our class. They're off to a good start, with Charlotte and Jennifer being selected for an audition at the Orchestra Academy, and three students taking part in the october audition for Tutti Bass at the National Opera here in Brussels. 

This and next year we have a total of six Master students, all of them with fascinating personal projects, ranging from improvisation in various music styles (from Baroque to Contemporary),  to the different three-string basses of Dragonetti and Bottesini.

Bass Student Fil Caporali


My book "Meta Hodos" is nearing completion. It should be available in January 2018. So far, there are 320 pages: another 200 or so to go. The Japanese translation will be available at the same time as the English version.

Summer 2017

Updates have been rare and far between lately, sorry. The exams went well for all, with some excellent results. Fil Caporali graduated in his Postgraduate year, with the outline and start of a new Bass Method that will focus on the use of the bow in jazz. Very promising. Actually, i feel that his Method will benefit classical players as well as jazz bassists.

Two new students will join our class after summer, and we have another entrance exam scheduled for monday 4 september at 9.30, so new students are still welcome.

Louis will spend next year at the Lyon conservatory to study with Cédric Charlier (Erasmus exchange), and Alessio is coming back from an Erasmus in Italy.

In the meantime, luthier Patrick Charton is very busy working on the new Suit Bass that i ordered from him. It's even more revolutionary than the B21 i own: he has taken transportability to a whole other level by cutting the bass in two along the ribs, and by slipping one half of the bass into the other half for transport. 

This will be the first 5-string version of the Suit Bass that Patrick has made. It will sport gut strings in Viennese Tuning and frets. I thought of trying to fit Haruko's Viola d'Amore in the bass during transport, but although a Viola just fits, the Amore is slightly too big. That's OK, i can still leave my bows and my music inside the bass i guess.

I opted for a version with plywood back and sides: plywood is both lighter and stronger, two great advantages when travelling. The top is made of first grade spruce. The final colour will be tending towards black, as a kind of echo of the many Viennese basses that have turned black over the years.

Building an "open" bass has a few other advantages apart from ease of transport: repairs will be very quick and cheap (no need to unglue the top or back and to glue it back on), and the installation of a pick-up or microphone, or even a sound processing unit inside the instrument, opens up new amplification possibilities. To see the instrument, click here:

I played a couple of concerts this summer with my Duo Sweet 17 partner Haruko Tanabe (by the way, we're looking for a new name so if anyone has a good idea...). One concert presented an ambitious program of three world premieres: Bach's famous "Chaconne" arranged for Viola d'Amore and Viennese Bass, Jacques Vanherenthals's Third Baroque Suite (originally not written for the Viennese Bass, but i did play it that way), and the complete Vanhal Concerto re-arranged for our two instruments. The bass here is the Charton B21:

Last week we played another concert at a benefit happening for the Fukushima orphans, with an all-japanese program:

In between, i had great fun playing all kinds of guitars and ukuleles in two concerts of songs by Viola Le Compte, who happens to be my daughter and a bass player herself.

What bowing school could this be?

4th April 2017

Here we are again... it's been a while, and many things have happened. Before memory starts to fade, some highlights:

First thing that comes to mind is the inspiring Master Class of Maestro Enrico Fagone last december. Enrico was with us for two days of teaching, listening, talking, and playing.

His down-to-earth approach fitted perfectly in the way our Bass Class functions, but we also had many moments of a more philosophical nature: building bridges between the world of deep thinking, emotion, and sharing values on one hand, and the reality of a hands-on, no-nonsense way of tackling problems and of finding intelligent solutions - that's how we like it.

All of the students had the chance to play for Enrico, and his unmatched musicality and his sensitivity and kindness made for truly touching and inspiring lessons for everyone involved, players and listeners alike. I, for one, have the feeling there was at least five years' worth of material to work on and to think over, and i have adopted many of Enrico's ideas into my own practicing and playing.

One of the most amazing things to witness was how Enrico managed to play every student's bass as if it was his own. No matter how big or small, how high on its endpin or how low, whatever the set-up, sitting or standing, he played beautifully and perfectly in tune every time. I can't even do that on my own bass :-(

(Funny also how he surreptitiously included a few bars of Metallica in the Koussevitzky concerto, as he accompanied a student on the piano. That's what happens when you're coming from a Rock-guitar background...)

Rehearsing Passione Amorosa with José as a stand-in for Enrico...
what a wonderful musician.
Louis watching, always eager and interested.

Handel, both with gut strings. First time on gut for Enrico.

Master Classes
Pasquale Massaro

We rounded off the Master Classes with a concert, the first part of which presented the students, and the second half consisted of some bass Duets, a Trio, and a few solo pieces: Bottesini's "Passione Amorosa", in which Enrico modestly offered to play the 2nd bass, a Handel Sonata (originally for two violins) in which we both played on gut strings and with baroque bows (which was a premiere for Enrico - quite impressive to witness what an incredibly fast learner he is), Piazzolla's "Kicho", and more. Throughout, we were accompanied by Cécile Mangeot on piano, organ, and harpsichord.

After the Master Classes and the concert, Enrico gave us a lecture on bass technique and on his teaching method: just like we do in Brussels, he borrows from all the great bass players and musicians past and present. A very eclectic mix of influences and ideas, very inspiring and stimulating. No single "school" here, but the best ideas from all different schools. Different bowing styles, fingering systems, and musical ideas.

After the lecture, Brussels historical bow maker Jérôme Gastaldo showed us some of his work. He's one of the world's finest bowmakers, and having him here in Brussels is quite dangerous: every time i visit his shop, he's got something new to show me and often, after trying a new bow i end up buying it... They're just unbelievably good.

In November, Patrick Charton came to Brussels for a couple of days. Patrick is the luthier who made my beloved B21 "Basse-Partout" double bass. This time he brought a traditional lion's head bass that he had built. A truly impressive-sounding instrument. He also gave us a very interesting lecture on bass construction.

Early sketches for the B21 bass...

...and the finished instrument.

The new Lion Head Bass

Checking out the ancient 3-string bass

In January, i gave a lecture at the HIPP-department (Historically Informed Practice and Performance) about the ongoing silk-string research we're doing. Having found another silk string maker in the person of L.P. Kaster, i was eager to test his new strings alongside the ones made by Rakov, and to finally play on silk in a public performance. In order to make it more interesting, i asked Pasquale Massaro, who is doing his own Bottesini-project, to join me in (again) Bottesini's "Passione". He played his three-string bass with gut strings, i played mine with silk strings, and Sayuri Nagoya, a fantastic HIPP keyboard Master student accompanied us on the pianoforte. 

If there ever was any doubt whether this whole silk-string story had any value, we can now say with certainty that the solo-bass with silk strings is indeed a viable option. Comparing gut and silk side-by-side in a real concert setting was the one missing element in our fascinating voyage. From here on, we'll just do more experiments with string gauges, instrument set-up, etc but yes, the silk sound is absolutely beautiful. We may never really know for sure if Bottesini used silk at some point, but at least we do know that from a musical and technical standpoint it's not impossible.

On the left, Japanese silk Koto-strings. On the right, the new silk strings from LP Kaster. Underneath, different types of gut strings.
The twisted string is by LP Kaster, the top two are by Rakov. Only the 4th string is steel, but i don't need it in Bottesini.

Fil Caporali, the jazz student who studies classical bass with us (the last few weeks he's been studying Dragonetti's "Andante and Rondo", and Schubert's "Arpeggione"), has recently been the recipient of a couple of Jazz Awards. He's now finishing a post-graduate project centered around the use of the bow in jazz. Since he's a composer as well, he has written a few pieces which will present his research, but also a number of very interesting technical bowing exercises with a jazz-feel. His final exam will be in a couple of months. One part will be a live concert, the other will be a presentation of his bowing method.

Fil Caporali

José Vilaplana, our ex-student who performed at the Academic Opening in September, has moved from the National Opera, here in Brussels, to Wellington, New Zealand, where he is now co-principal. We wish him the best of luck!

José (Pepe) Vilaplana 

We also had a Master Class a few weeks ago with the Italian bass teacher Rinaldi from Bari. Unfortunately, i was absent most of the time due to a death in my family, but for the students it was very interesting to experience a different approach. In fact, teaching is all about opinions and preferences, and not so much about "facts". Being confronted with a different set of opinions and with a different way of teaching can be very beneficial for a young, aspiring musician. Incidentally, our student Alessio Campanozzi is in Bari now on an Erasmus scholarship, studying with Maestro Rinaldi.

Alessio Campanozzi

20th October 2016

Lots of news these past few weeks, little time to update the Blog... But here comes:


Claire-Sarah and Louis played in the co-production between the conservatories of Brussels, Antwerp and Maastricht, together with Opera colleague Martin Rosso.

Before rehearsals started, i had a suggestion for the students, in the Sacre du Printemps. There's one passage that many players deem "unplayable":

I would suggest a little trick:         

Put the thumb on "C" on the IV-th string, and leave it there as an anchor. There's enough time in the preceeding bars to prepare. So basically, the whole passage is in a kind of "extended" thumb position.

I admit that the last stretch, from low C to E on the II-nd string is, well... a bit of a stretch. I can just reach it (and i don't have big hands), but anyway, in the apocalyptic soundscape that's happening right there, it doesn't really matter all that much if the intonation is less than perfect. Then again, i prefer to slide the thumb a little bit out of position there, and i slide it back to Home Base immediately after the "E".

Alternatively, it would of course be possible to use "normal" thumb position, provided you had a 5-string bass with the low C (personally i vastly prefer the low C over the low B), but the other fingering, with the C on the IV-th string, sounds better.

At number 78, Stravinsky actually writes a divisi for two bars, with one player doing the trills and the other just continuing the same figure, albeit in straight 8-notes this time. He must have been aware that otherwise these two bars would indeed be impossible to play. 

Bass Lab

We've taken up our weekly Bass Labs again.

Frankly, i have never understood why music students are only given one single lesson per week. Just one hour, that's it. I can't imagine any university where your main subject is allotted just one hour. Anyway, since there's not much i can do about that (apart from stretching the hour when necessary), i have decided to organize collective lessons for all the bass students.

In this Bass Lab we work on physical "maintenance": body posture, relaxation, breathing. Essential for all musicians, but probably even more so for bass players.

We also discover the "tricks of the trade", healthy warm-up routines, scales as a technical and musical tool. We never separate the technical element from its musical context for more than a few minutes: we always put the music first, even in exercises that seem purely technical.

Our first Bass Lab was attended by eight students, three others couldn't make it but they will be there next time. It's always nice to have a big group like that.

On this occasion, we started with relaxation exercises (which sounds like a contradiction in terms, come to think of it), then we moved on to open string bowing and to exploring all the bowing parameters that we can use to influence sound: bow pressure, speed, location, angles, hold, placement on the string, etc. 

When asked to come up with more possibilities, the students had several suggestions, like holding the bow at the tip instead of the frog. Crazy, no? That's what we need: crazy ideas. There's a lot to be learned from thinking round corners. And in fact, part of the Suzuki violin method consisted (or still does) in playing a given piece exactly like that: holding the bow by the tip (with a German style bass bow however this might be too much of a challenge). 

Another idea was to alternate overhand (French) and underhand (German) bow grips with one and the same bow. In my own warm-up sessions i do precisely that. It helps me to concentrate, it keeps my mind from drifting off. But a bigger benefit of exploring many different ways of playing is to be found in the fact that it stimulates the brain by creating new connections. We need to avoid staying in the same rut forever.

The whole point of the Bass Labs is to steer clear of purely technical skills without any musical connotation. I don't believe in "technique first, music second". It doesn't work - at least if you want to be a real musician. I don't think the music world needs more technicians. Both elements should be taught and practiced together, with the main focus on musicality.

After the bowing explorations (how much emotion can you put into bowing a single open string?), we moved on to elementary scale work. I will have more to say on scale practice for the double bass later on in this blog. 

Suffice it to say, for now, that i have a preference for one-octave scales rather than two- or three-octave scales. In bass music you will rarely find those, if at all. 

I think bass players could benefit from the realization that the bass is not a violin nor a cello, and that we really don't need to follow exactly the same path as the other string instruments. This applies to technical things such as scales or orchestra bowings, but also to our repertoire: why on earth should we feel obliged to play Bach cello suites at the original pitch on a double bass, only so that we can take ourselves seriously as musicians? 
Just asking.

The system i use is called "progressive scales" for the obvious reason that we play one octave on each step (progression) of a given scale:

At the end of the page, we just repeat the whole thing in reverse order till we come back to low F.  There's a fingering system that comes with this type of scale (one of many that i use, including extensions - but for starters i use a simple basic system), which i call "duple shifting". 

Duple shifting means that you play an even number of notes before you are allowed to shift. So you play 2 or 4 or 6 notes. Or 8, if you play everything in one position. Never an uneven number. The easiest way to make sure you're doing it right, is to slur the notes in pairs: always two notes to a bow.

The second element is never to cross strings with more than a semi-tone to shift. All string crossings should involve no more than a semi-tone shift. This allows you to stretch the left hand towards the next note on the neighboring string.

Example, bar 35, imagine a fingering as follows:
Note:    G - A,     Bb-C,     D-E,     F-G
Finger:  4 -  0,     1  - 4,      1- 4,     1- 4
String:  IV- III------------------------   II---

Here you have a string change from III-rd string to II-nd string between the E and the F. This is a semi-tone in tonal distance, but it is a whole tone shift for the left hand. Exactly the kind of shift we want to avoid. The small semi-tone shift i advocate isn't really a shift at all. I just kind of "stretch" the finger across to the adjacent string. This makes for a very smooth transition.

So, two rules:

1/ Always an even number of notes before we shift
2/ Organize your fingerings in such a way that, when crossing strings, you never have to move the left hand more than a semi-tone away.

This basic scale pattern is very useful because it allows you to concentrate on a single octave at a time. Concentration will be a lot better than in a two-octave scale, especially when we start applying all kinds of different bowings, because that's where it becomes interesting. The bowing combinations are endless, from very smooth legato one-note-per-bow to mixed legato/staccato, flying staccato, triplets, you name it.

One variation i like a lot is when we play one octave up and down again, and then we repeat the "downward" octave once more, before moving on to the next octave of the scale: 

// G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G // G-F-E-D-C-B-A-E / G-F-E-D-C-B-A-G //
// A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A // A-G-F-E-D-C-B-A / A-G-F-E-D-C-B-A //

It's harder than you think. It's all about focus. As always.

Before Bass Lab: suggesting fingerings for Louis' orchestra project

How to make a reference
"drone tone"
for scale practice
Using the Bass Cube as a metronome
(latin, blues, rock...
the rhythm box makes scales even more interesting).
The organ provides a solid drone. Always good to
have a reference for scale intonation.

Relaxing routines

Ramon, Han, Federico, Alessio, Claire-Sarah, me, Louis, and right in front,
with his back to the camera, Jordi.
Jérémie came later. Fil, Pasco and Charlotte couldn't make it.

José (Pepe) Vilaplana

Our colleague José Vilaplana played at the Grand Opening of the conservatory's Academic Year. In fact, he opened the event. Before any speeches or introductions, he calmly walked onto the stage, waited stoically for silence to descend, and gave a magnificent performance of Wolfram Wagner's "Kyrie" that moved several listeners to tears.

Arriving at the Conservatory
early in the morning
On stage, time to unpack and
set up the sound system

Warming up...
Dialing in the right amount of amplification (next to nothing) behind the screen

From last year's exam i knew that a single solo double bass doesn't have the power needed to fill the big concert hall. José's bass has a huge tone, but one has to be realistic. If you want to reach the last row and all the balconies, you need some help. So i brought my Bose Compact p.a. and an old GK amp, connected to an Ehrlund bass pick-up. I dialed in the volume to almost nothing - just a little support, no more. If you can hear the loudspeakers, you're using too much. But it made a big difference in those hard to reach spots. Using the GK as a subwoofer seemed to work out nicely. I usually put the amp with its back towards the audience because the sound then becomes less direct, rounder, and warmer.

We don't care too much about purists when it comes to amplifying classical instruments. There's nothing wrong with some discreet, unobtrusive amplification. In the end, it's always the communication of emotion that counts. If technology can help in creating a beautiful experience for the audience, we have to use it.

After the ceremony, the attending new and old students came along to Le Pain Quotidien (The Daily Bread) for coffee. A great start of the new academic year.

Coffee time

Brahms Concert

For the Monnaie Orchestra's Brahms concert (Symphonies 1 and 4) i invited our students Louis and Charlotte to participate, as well as ex-student Natacha. We always need extras. Our bass section started out with 9 players back in 1980, but we're down to five now. Crisis? What crisis?

Anyway, this gives the students a chance to acquire some chops and to put into practice what they've learned in class. I ran through both symphonies with them, pointing out the tricky bits and working on both the musically and technically challenging passages together.

One interesting example is this:

Of course you can use one of the traditional "Simandl"-style fingerings here. But i always try to expand the student's technical and musical vocabularies a little - and my own as well. So here i suggested a fingering with extensions, with no breaks within the short musical phrase segments.

This is a general approach i always use in our Bass Class. I always urge the students to look beyond the immediately obvious solutions. In the case of fingerings we always go for a musical fingering first, not for a convenient one. If the musically "ideal" fingerings (or bowings) don't work well enough, only then will we try something more practical. But musicality comes first.

Of course there is some overlapping between both approaches: a convenient fingering will often give you a better chance of playing in a more relaxed way, thus leaving more focus and energy for musical playing. The bass is a fascinating instrument in this regard. I love spending lots of time on figuring out the best musical and technical solutions for any given passage. This may look like a waste of time and energy to some players, but the knowledge and insight you gain by taking the long road will prove to be extremely useful later on. It builds a huge vocabulary of possibilities that only comes from the "close encounter" with the instrument.

What many players usually do, is to be content with the first fingering that comes to mind. If it doesn't really work well, they will (in the best of cases) keep practicing this first idea a few hundred times, maybe with the help of a metronome, until it works somehow - or until it's "good enough".

My approach is the opposite. I will spend time figuring out the best way for each case. This is no more time-consuming than the repetitive system of the player mentioned above, but it's a lot more fun. It's stimulating, it's creative, and it massages the brain in at least two ways: musically AND technically. Once the best solution has been found, it takes a lot less time to make it close to perfect.

Working hard on any instrument is often a form of mental laziness. It's not much use repeating the same passage a few hundred times in an un-focussed way with your thoughts wandering from "what shall i have for lunch today" to "i shouldn't forget to call Jim", or whatever pops into your mind. This i don't call practicing. It's just a waste of time and energy. You can't honestly say, afterwards, that you've been working for an hour. You haven't. You may have destroyed more than you have improved. 

So, back to Brahms. Two great symphonies and a very nice bass team. Having this kind of experience is of the utmost importance for a serious student, and i'm sure most professional musicians have memories of precisely such decisive moments in their careers. I know i do. The moments when you realize what it means to be part of a professional group, what it does with you to play truly great music at a high level. The moment you really understand that this is what you want to do all your life. 

This concert was a chance for me to test the new D'Addario Kaplan strings i got last week. Playing alone, i was knocked over by the quality of sound these strings produced on my guitar-shaped bass, and by the ease of playing, the dynamic range and the bowing response. So i was curious to know how they behaved in a real concert situation. 

What can i say? Best strings i've played in 40 years... and i'm not getting paid to say that. 

Before the rehearsal
Copying bowings. Not necessarily the same as the celli...
The bass is a very different animal.
Louis trying Korneel's bass and the Kaplan strings.
Bass sectional. Always a great pleasure.

Bass cases lined up at the concert venue, a nice photo by Geert Dedeken.
Louis's case, in front, was made by his father, who is a maker
of baroque oboes.

Martin Rosso

Today, 7 September, our colleague and friend Martin Rosso played a try-out of his program for the Prague Bass Convention: Argentine music for bass and piano. Wonderful home-made transcriptions that he would like to publish some day, played very beautifully and delicately with profound technical mastery, and accompanied with verve and virtuosity by pianist Dagmar Feyen

It's a great pleasure and a privilege to have such outstanding musicians in our bass section. 

Warming up before the concert

Friends and colleagues, after the recital

Fil Caporali, one of our students from the Jazz Department, was a recipient of the Toots Thielemans Jazz Award for his end-of-year project. He is continuing his classical bass studies with a project around the use of the bow in jazz. Looking forward to exploring the possibilities with him.


Some very interesting footage from the ARD Music Competition:

Belgian bassist Wies de Boevé is in the Final round. He played the Vanhal concerto in Viennese Tuning, a pleasure to watch and hear, especially since he's using some nice, intelligent fingerings :-)

Also in the same competition, our wonderful Opera colleague Agnès Clément, harp, won First Prize, the Public's Prize, and the Prize for the best performance of the new harp composition...

2016 - 2017


Another academic year... How time flies!

We're happy to welcome five new students: Claire-Sarah Fouché (France), Federico Stocchi (Italy), Alessio Campanozzi (Italy), and Hsieh Tsung Han (Taiwan) for Modern Bass, and Jordi Cassagne (France) for Violone and Baroque Bass. They will join Pasquale, Louis, Charlotte, Filippe, and Jérémie, who were already there: an international bass class with three French students, three Italians, a Brazilian, a Taiwanese, and even a few Belgians thrown in for good measure...

We had literally hundred of strings lying around, gut, steel, and nylon.
It seemed like a good idea to clean, sort and pack them before we start the year.
Here's just a small part of our collection.


Our dear friend and colleague, the extraordinary Enrico Fagone, will give a two-day Master Class for our students at the Brussels Conservatory.

Dates: tuesday 20 and wednesday 21 December 2016


2017 will see the publication of a new Viennese Bass Method, written by Professor Korneel Le Compte (yours truly). Not exactly the first one in the history of the double bass, since dr. Igor Pecevski published an online method a few years ago (during the heyday of Viennese Tuning, in the 18th century, not a single V.T. Method was published). Unfortunately, to my knowledge, it has become impossible to find since his website was discontinued. This new Method however, with as its working title "Meta Hodos", will be the first one ever to be available in printed form.

Korneel Le Compte's Method will be much more than just a traditional practical manual: it will include historical background, parallels with modern bass playing, the use of historical instruments, bows and strings as well as the practical application of viennese tuning in a contemporary setting and on a modern bass with steel strings and without frets, many musical examples, fingering suggestions, explanations about the importance and the musical/emotional meaning of the original articulations, tuning subtleties and temperaments, the use of other tunings (such as gamba tuning) on the bass, photos, a DVD with direct explanations (much easier to understand than written instructions) and with a historically informed version of the Vanhal concerto... all of this and more, to be expected before next summer.

For more Viennese Tuning information, please check my other blogs:

1 comment:

  1. Waw, Korneel, dat is echt super hoe jij je basklas omarmt en leidt... Als ik kan, spring ik misschien eens binnen in één van de masterclasses met Enrico Fagone volgende week, maar... is een cellist ook welkom om te komen luisteren???