Volume 18, February 2024
E-portfolios as Learning Tools for Applied Double Bass Study; a Research-Based, Practice Oriented Approach

by Mark Elliot Bergman

3. Practice-oriented applications: The "basic bow stroke" (see Appendix A)

As a double bass educator, I endeavor to keep abreast of current educational developments and trends including the appropriation of e-portfolios as a learning tool. Emphasizing the language of basic musicianship to my students is also a priority for me. To that end, I begin each semester working on the detaché bow stroke. This bow stroke is described by Elliot (2017) as "the basic bow stroke when you play with separate bows" (00:14 – 00:18). Rabin and Smith (1991) emphasize the requisite tone in describing this stroke as incorporating "alternating bow direction with a smooth, connected stroke and evenness of tone" (p. 7). My students practice the detaché stroke using three segments of the bow; the lower third near the frog, the middle third, and the upper third near the tip. I emphasize developing an even, warm sound with smooth bow changes. To complete the unit, the student records two-octave scales (C major, A melodic minor, G major, E melodic minor) at quarter note = 60 and posts the video to their electronic portfolio where we can review it together.

The recorded video (due within the first few weeks of the semester) becomes the first artifact curated into the learner's e-portfolio and confers strategic and pedagogic advantages. Firstly, specific moments in the video can be referenced and reviewed in slow motion. If the learner experiences challenges maintaining an even tone or other issues emerge, individual moments can be isolated and reviewed with the student. In my experience, referencing a specific comment tied to a specific timing in the video focuses the learner's attention in powerful ways. When the learner is not focused on playing, they can focus their total attention on observation. Having the teacher serve as a guide is crucial. Laurel (2016) summed up the importance of this process by noting "Many students don't even notice such sound variations in their strokes and bow changes until someone points them out or they record themselves-they're too focused on the next notes of the passage to finish listening to what they're playing" (p. 23).

Secondly, the artifact becomes the focus of studied reflection. I ask my students to provide brief written commentary after reviewing the artifact by answering the following questions;

If this is your first time completing this assignment, answer the following questions. Feel free to use creative language. How does your arm move? What did you do to improve your tone quality as you worked on your recording? What did you learn during your practice? Were the videos helpful? Why or why not?
If this is not the first time you have worked on this assignment, answer the following questions: What improvements have you made in mastering the détaché. Describe any changes in your conception of this stroke. Reflect on the fine motor skills required to make a smooth transition between the upbow and the downbow. How do the fingers, wrist, and forearm work to ensure a smooth, even stroke?

The learner must retain the artifact so they can document progress over time, fulfilling an e-portfolio's potential to "demonstrate knowledge, skills, and growth" (Roanoke College, 2022, para. 1).