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

by Mark Elliot Bergman

5. Practice-oriented applications: bow strokes (see Appendix C)

The third artifact I collect helps students develop a basic vocabulary of bow articulations. Using the bow effectively is fundamental for double bass players learning to be musically expressive and contribute to an ensemble. Ed Barker, Principal Bassist of the Boston Symphony, said, "it has to be understood that the approach to articulations has to do with the way we approach music and phrasing in general. The articulations aren't necessarily an end in themselves, but they are a means to creating and producing very, very sophisticated musical phrasing" (Heath, 2006, 22:18 – 22:43). Rabin and Smith (1991) concur in observing "Bowing styles and bowing strategies are keys to a musical and stylistic performance" (p. 1). Building bow articulation skills as a core element of musical phrasing and expression for developing double bassists is essential. As Hickey and Webster (2001) observed, "In refining a philosophy of music education with creative thinking in music as a core element, teachers should combine skill building with creative thinking" (p. 22).

I encourage my students to develop seven basic bow strokes, starting with four on-the-string strokes. This approach is highly influenced by Ed Barker, who noted that on-the-string strokes include "articulations like legato, marcato, portato, some aspects of the detaché and a lot of the accented gestures" (Heath, 2009, 24:50 – 25:26). The off-the-string articulations include the "carried detaché," martelé, and spiccato. According to Barker, the carried detaché "is essentially an off-the-string bow stroke . . . where the movement for the bow stroke starts in the air, not from the string. This carried detaché is essentially like an airplane landing and taking off" (Heath, 2009, 31:50 – 32:26).

While building these skills with students, it is important to clarify instructions for employing these strokes and emphasize the goal of enhancing creativity and expressive playing. Developing fundamental skills is in the service of more expressive playing and a more robust contribution to performing with ensembles. As Kim and Yazdian (2014) noted, "to create student learning portfolios, teachers need to identify instructional goals and communicate these to students" (p. 222).