Songs in the Key of Corona, Part 1

These have been strange times. Our artistic lives have suddenly been stopped dead. Lots of us don’t know when or even if our careers will resume at some point. Some people are getting entirely out of the music business and orienting their career paths in completely different directions, because they see no other way forward.

Some of us have also been directly affected by the coronavirus. I’m one of them.

I got COVID-19 symptoms at the end of March, just after I returned to France from New York, and I was quarantined for more than 3 weeks, until April 24. I was so happy to be back, and I couldn’t wait to start playing again.

Things didn’t work out that way, though.

After my long quarantine, I found myself completely devoid of any energy. There was no way I could even pick up a bass, much less play it. My first week post-quarantine was spent sleeping an enormous amount, and trying to get my strength back by eating properly. It took a little more than a week to even think about playing again, but then the moment came when I could finally give it a try.

So, the question was this: after a total of about five weeks without any kind of playing, and feeling like you’ve been run through a cement mixer, what’s the best way to get going again and get yourself back into shape? I started out by just playing whatever popped into my mind, just to get a feel of the instrument again, without being methodical about it. But then I came to the conclusion that I should use the opportunity to do this properly, refresh my technique, and clear out a bunch of cobwebs. I went right to Volume 2 of the Hause method, which contains 90 exercises. They are short, concise, and very helpful studies, and they were exactly the exercises I needed to get back into it. Then I needed something a little bit more technically demanding to solidify my foundation, before moving on to other more musically enjoyable projects. I thought about my days of studying in Hannover, in the late sixties and early seventies, and dug out my old book of Simandl’s 30 Etüden and went through a few of them. Simandl etudes are underestimated, in my opinion; they highlight different technical matters you need to be aware of, and these seem to flow naturally by working through them with the help of these etudes. I decided that this was a good way to advance, so I ordered Books 6 and 7 of Simandl’s method, which contain 10 smaller and 9 larger etudes, respectively. Simandl developed his method, which was first published in 1874, on the foundation that Hause had laid out. Thanks to Hause and Simandl, day by day, things began falling into place again, my strength was improving, and I was enjoying myself!

(Fun fact, while we’re at it: Simandl wrote piano parts to all of these etudes, the publisher has those books as well!)

That was the beginning of my way back. Part 2 will tell you about the next steps, it will be up soon. Watch this space!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *