Funny, Weird, Horrible Stories about the Double Bass!

Please send your story!

Duncan plays Somnambula twice a night!? When Duncan McTier, a British doublebass soloist, had a recital in Tottori, Japan, I also had a rehearsal in Osaka. Because that recital was the only recital I could listen to, I and my colleagues rushed to Tottori after the rehearsal. We drove very carefully but really fast with paying a lot of attention to a radar and police car. Unfortunately, however, we missed the Somnambula Fantasy by Bottesini which was played at very beginning of his recital. I was studying the same piece of music then, so that I really missed it. The whole story was told to Duncan by one of my colleagues, then he played the Somnambula once again in encore!!! The audience in Tottori was really confused but they were very pleased to listen to such a wonderful music once again. Me? Of course I was more than happy and very touched by his marvelous playing.

Gary, you are the greatest!!! When I was a big fan of Gary Karr, I was given a special permission to come to his two-day recording session at Vega Hall in Takarazuka, Japan. In the morning of the first day session, I asked him which music he would play for the recording. He then replied me, "I don't know..." I thought he was joking to me. But a recording director of King Record then showed up and gave him a piece of paper with a list of music, saying "Please record the music on the list". Then his accompanist, Harmon Lewis, grabbed a pile of sheet music (about 10 inch thick) from his bag and picked up the music on the list for Gary and himself.
Gary said, "They wanted me famous encore pieces." While they were doing the microphone test for less than an hour, Gary practiced several difficult parts and checked final fingerig and bowing. Then the session started! Nobody else except him in the world could do that! The recording is now being released as "Apres un reve ".

The Story by Mr. D of Swiss Romande Orchestra: When he was talking to his friend in a garage, he left his bass bow case behind on a car of his friend's. The next day he found it and went to the garage again. Then he felt relieved since he found his bow case on the car. But his friend told him, "What? Yesterday I was driving around the city of Geneva!" "Oh my God!!! @_@"

Mr. Nucketlunde again!: When he arrived at a recital hall in Osaka, he found an end pin screw of his double bass malfunction. Then a repairer from a bass shop came to the hall to fix it, but he diagnosed that he should replace the whole part of the end pin! That day was the recital day. He couldn't dissemble any part of his double bass because the condition would change so much. He then decided to play the double bass without the end pin. He prepared two pieces of block and covered it with a fine velvet and put his bass on the velvet podium. He played the double bass very straight not to slip it from the small podium. His recital was over without problems. According to the audience, he even looked very nice!

End Pin Drilling:  Ms. Nobuko Yamazaki, a famous Japanese cellist, and Mr. Kawahara, the principal bass of Cologne Radio Symphony were doing rehearsal for the Japan Octet in Takarazuka. Ms. Yamazaki couldn't fix her cello end pin on the stage properly because the stage was so slippery. Then Mr. Kawahara grabbed his Bergonzi double bass and dropped it at her cello place to make an end pin hole. "Everything is OK now." The Bergonzi was used as a drill!!!

Job or Phone???: When Mr. I of G Symphony Orchestra was a free-lance bass player, he didn't get much job. He thought that was because he didn't have a private phone in his room. He, therefore, sold his double bass (!) and bought a new telephone there. Unfortunately, that story became famous among the bass players, so that his work situation became even worse! (;_;)

Chicken or Egg???: Mr. Nucketlunde of S Symphony sold his double bass to study the double bass in Germany. He, therefore, couldn't practice the double bass at all for the first three months in Germany!!! (Why did he go to Germany???)

Double Bass on a River!!!: Mr. O, a former principal double bass of N Symphony, had a big wish to buy a wonderful double bass in a foreign country where he would study it. He, then, threw his plywood bass away on a river!

Story by Mr. Yamamoto in Yokohama: When I played the Beethoven 5th Symphony with an old Haefner double bass in Osaka, the very beginning long E flat tone was somehow out of tune. I wondered why? When I played the first repeat of the first movement, the wire at the tailpiece collapsed! The bridge was fallen off and the tailpiece was swinging. I just left the stage with the broken double bass. My concert was then over by playing just one page of the music. The orchestra proceeded the music without even noticing it. 

Wonderful Practice Room!!!:  Prof. E of a conservatory didn't like to carry lots of staff with him on the way to go to a concert hall to play the solo. He was already wearing his swallowtail and dress coat and the double bass had no cover on it. He took the Yamanote line and there is a rumor that he was practicing the bass inside the train! He once said, "Tapping your finger on the fingerboard hard enough is really important to make a good tone! That really makes a tone audible at very far place because I noticed that lots of people on the train looked at me!!!" (@_@)

Hanging a Double Bass!!!: A scroll of a double bass of Mr. M of K Symphony was accidentally hanged by a heavy opening curtain of a concert hall. Audience at the concert first saw a hanging double bass and a miserable bass player jumping to get it on a stage.

A late manager of T Symphony used to be a double bass player long long time ago. He forgot to bring his bass bow when he came to a school concert. He then borrowed a violin bow from one of his colleagues, but he played it so hard that the bow was broken. (A principal double bass, Mr. Otto Nucketlunde of S Symphony, also forgot bringing his bow at the rehearsal of the Trout Quintet. He then borrowed a cello bow and the rehearsal went on without any problem. He didn't break the bow at all! No boast please, Mr. Nucketlunde!)

Miserable...: An end pin of a double bass of Mr. F of O Philharmonic got stuck on a podium, He pulled it out too strongly... Then a big bang sound! His double bass collapsed with the pin still stuck.

Too bad...: A bassist at a Swiss Opera House always felt his bass too heavy to carry. He, therefore, always dragged his bass on the way to his home! A padded cover was worn out and the bottom bout of the bass changed its shape... (;_;)

Collapsing again!: When Mr. H of O Philharmonic checked in at an airline counter in Europe, he checked his double bass with a soft cover as a luggage. When he was waiting at the baggage claim, he saw a kind personnel bringing his bass, saying "Sir, is this OK?". He found the neck was separated from the body inside the cover!!!
(My Goodness!)

Collapsing again!!!: Another bass player was waiting for his double bass at the baggage claim. His bass unexpectedly appeared at the exit of a moving luggage conveyor with other luggage. Of course the bass was too big to clear the exit and its neck broke off!!! (Scary...)

Story from Mr. Tsubakihara of Osaka: When I was carrying my double bass on road by using a end pin wheel, I heard a heavy sound. A woman on a bike hit the bass. "Don't carry such a big stuff on road, you idiot!", she shouted and left there.

Athlete or Bassist?: Mr. Nucketlunde, the principal bass player of S Symphony, showed up the stage with his double bass. Audience gave him a lot of applause. Suddenly he found out that he left his music behind in his dress room. He left his bass on the stage and dashed to the dress room. The room was unfortunately two floor lower, but he kept running at full speed on the spiral step. He came back to the stage and played the Largo music very elegantly without even short breath!

Mishearing or What???: When I was studying Bach very seriously, I used to listen to and compare the continuo part of tens of different recordings of Badenelli of Orchestral Suit #2. Among many recordings, I found out one recording which had an ideal bass sound, very double bass tonality but clear and rhythmical. I also found the continuo player was not far from me, then I had a chance to ask him the story on the recording. He said, "At that recording, I forgot bringing my bass rosin and borrowed a violin one." He then continued, "I didn't even play all continuo tones written on the music..." (@_@)

Just an Accident...: A double bass section of an orchestra was proud of their quasi Berlin Philharmonic playing style. When Mr. N was playing ff notes with lots of bow like what in Berlin, he suddenly lost his bow control and the bow was stuck between strings! Unfortunately at that moment, the full orchestra was playing pp notes with violincelli and double basses (very last of the last movement of Beethoven 4th Symphony)!!! His bass colleagues swallowed laughing...

Play from Memory...: It happened at the encore of the concert of O Philharmonic. When Mr. S tried to put his music on a stand, the music fell off. Unfortunately the music fell into the bottom of the downstairs! The conductor already started the encore. He then played fake Toreador of Carmen with his bass partner.

Mr. Nucketlunde again!: He once used a bass chair, the height of which was adjusted by a screw. When his orchestra was on a climax at the Symphony Hall in Osaka, the screw was taken off and the chair height suddenly became very low with lots of noise. He barely held his double bass. The violin players saw him disappear suddenly behind the bass.

Disastrous...: Mr. T of H Symphony left his double bass on the side of a stage before the rehearsal. People were busy working to make a stage. Oh my goodness!!! A gigantic reverberation panel was lowering on his double bass!!! Nobody checked the stage at all...

Disastrous again...: After a chamber music concert, a manager of T Symphony was carrying off several double basses from his wagon. Another person helped him and he was taking these basses to a rehearsal room. A manager somehow thought that he finished taking all the basses to the rehearsal room. He, therefore, backed his wagon very fast. Then he heard a lot of noise which those double basses were producing.....(@_@)

"Overseas Episode!"
ĀöBackpack with a Big Tone?: One day when I was studying in Germany, a gatekeeper of my school stopped me and showed me a newspaper, saying, "Is this you?" I found a large photo of me carrying my double bass on back. I didn't recognize when the photo was taken. The title of the photo was "Ein Sack voll Toene (A backpack with lots of tone)".

Seat Reservation Please!: It happened when Mr. Nucketlunde went to Italy to take part in a competition. Typical European long distance trains have compartments with six seats. If you want to bring a double bass on the train, you have to occupy all the six seats. When he wanted to carry his double bass by train, the train was unfortunately packed with lots of workers from Greece and Turkey with big luggage. The luggage was so huge that he couldn't even walk through the corridor. He then threw his double bass into a vacant compartment from one of the train windows. He reserved whole compartment anyway! Other passengers hesitated to get into the compartment because of the big double bass. He then got into the compartment and reserved all the seats for himself!!! (^^;;;)

Erlkoenig???: When F. Schubert composed a famous song "Erkoenig" at the age of twenty, his friend sent his hand written music to Breitkopf, a famous music publisher in Europe, asking whether the music could be published or not. Now the story begins. The publisher somehow returned this music to F. Anton Schubert, a composer and double bassist in Dresden. Then Anton got very mad about the music because he thought that somebody intentionally used his name to compose such a mediocre cantata. Is the song, Erkoenig, cantata? Is such a wonderful song mediocre???

Student Follows Mentor: This is a story that happened a long time ago at a summer double bass school in Sienna, Italy. Mr. Miyake, the principal bass of Kyoto Symphony, Mr. Brown, the principal bass of Bavarian Radio Symphony, Prof. Siebens of Brussels Conservatory, and I were having lessons of Prof. F. Petracchi. (When the hell was this story???) One time we decided to earn some money by playing double bass quartet. We played famous "Strauss in the Dog House", "Brumby", "Rauber", and so on in the downtown of Sienna. People threw a lot of lire bills on our double bass cover on the ground. We found out it was a good business, then played several times at different places. Of course we had a really gorgeous dinner that night! But... The next day all of us were called to Prof. Petracchi's room and he was really mad about what we did and we got called down, "Do you understand what you did? All of you would be kicked out from the school!!!" Well... then we were all depressed.

The story is not finished yet! We later heard that one year before Prof. Petracchi did the exactly same thing we did. He also severely got called down by his school like, "It a shame that our Professor did such a thing!!!". Well, we are saved!

Good News for Frequent Travelers!: When I went to the airport to meet R. Zepperitz, the former principal bass of the Berlin Philharmonic, I expected him carrying his double bass with him from the exit. But he just had a neck of the double bass with a cover. He explained me that he had a compact type of the double bass, the body and the neck were dissembled by screws. He also told me that the only one end of the sound post was glued to the body. "Now I can assemble the bass only in five minutes!" He boasted. Why is he doing such? Because the body part is fit into a suit case and you can check the luggage without any excess charge, but when you check the whole double bass, they will charge you enormous amount of money!!!

Streicher and His Lemboeck: A story about Mr. Ludwig Streicher, the double bass living legend and the former principal of the Vienna Philharmonic. I heard this story when I did a translation for him.

   When the World War II was almost over, he was living in Krakow in Poland. There was a rumor that the Soviet Army would come to the village and get whatever they think valuable. Then he hid all of his family valuable stuff, including his double bass, inside a cellar. He even put a cover with brick at the entrance of the cellar and glued it carefully. As all of you know there is a hideous humidity in the cellar. After the War, he opened the entrance to the cellar to get his double bass back, but the high humidity there ruined the glue and the bass was totally dessembled. He collected all wooden pieces in a bag and put the bag in a loft to dry them. Then there was too much dry there and all the bass wood got warped! When he started his solo activity, his double bass repairer really had a hard time to assemble his double bass again. That is the Vienese old instrument, Lemboeck. (The instrument photo can be seen in his double bass methods. If you carefully look at the photo, you will find the instrument surface very rough!)

No Joke Please...: Mr. R, principle bass of a major opera house in Berlin, was on a tour in Israel. When he was at a hotel bar, he made a signature of "Adolf Hitler" on a check. (He thought that was just a joke.) Of course that became a serious diplomatic incident afterward, The whole tour was canceled and all members of the orchestra had to leave the country. He was kicked out from the orchestra and even lost the right to receive his pension. He could have had a little more brain to think about the delicate relation between Israel and Germany.

Cosi Fan Tutte...: It happened at the final of the International Double Bass Competition in Markneukirchen in Germany. There were three finalists and one of them was a female bassist. When she was playing at the final, the audience believed she would win the competition. However, she suddenly stopped playing in the middle of the music and she was about to cry. The screw of her bass bow was broken!!! Then all the judges rushed to the stage. Some asked the audience for the alternative, some tried to fix her bow, there was a panic on the stage. Finally she continued her playing with the other bow and won the competition! All of the audience was wondering what'd have happened if a male double bass player had had a same accident... She deserved the help because she was a nice blond German babe!!!

[to be continued]

Century Orchestra  Osaka