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Bach transcriptions for bass?


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Anyone know whether there are transcriptions out there of Bach cello suites rejigged for bass?

my soon to arrive NS is a 5-string, so I'll have a bottom B but will need to transpose down a semitone to take advantage of open strings (where possible).

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Cello's tuning is in fifths CGDA rather than the bass's fourths. Generally playing cello you avoid open strings... but it's a complex subject... In baroque era it was more acceptable to use open strings, but that was partly because they played on gut strings which do not ring the way metal strings do, and the bow and bowing technique were different... 

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Posted (edited)

There are two other transcribed versions. The one by Josquin des Prés, mentioned by @Dad3353 is indeed interesing.

This one by Bruno Tauzin (let's call him the humble French Scott Devine) that covers only the 3 first cello suites, but it's really well transcribed (text is in French) : https://www.play-music.com/fr/product/bach_basse_cd.html?ref=ivevixiw

Then, there's this one that covers all 6 cello suites, but I don't know if it's good or bad https://www.halleonard.com/product/123294/bach-cello-suites-for-electric-bass

Edited by Hellzero
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Thanks - incidentally, for further evidence of how amazing a double bass pizz version might sound, it's worth listening to Christian Roderberg playing the cello suites on a marimba. All the space!

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Posted (edited)

I have a couple of sets transposed specifically for double bass (I'm a cellist too) - this one has all of them except No6 (which was written for a 5 string cello and near impossible for mortals on even a normal cello)  IBAN83-224-2584-8.  They are in different keys to the original to avoid the notes below E. 

There are some Duncan McTier transcriptions that I don't have .. but I'm betting they're pretty good as McTier is just brilliant (despite being a pedo)

The best way to play them IMO is to have a 5th string to get at the correct notes.  However, I watched one of those on line double bass lessons to see how the teacher fingered the prelude to suite 1  and .... !£$% me, she played it in the original key AT PITCH putting the whole thing in thumb positions.  Like so:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCV2ZH5BJxU

Second best is to pick a few movements from the "proper" 'cello transcription (eg sarabande in suite 2 ... which sounds better on a bass than on a cello I reckon) and just play those an octave down (ie in bass pitch).

BTW the idea that you should avoid open strings when playing these is debunked (according to my Dad who is a retired pro cellist); Bach knew where the open strings were and included them on purpose, gives a particular resonance to the performance,  Sadly the open strings are different on a DB so it doesn't work.....  Hey Ho.

There is a great Pizz version of the suite 1 prelude that I one saw a ballet dance set to ... I''ll post when I track it down.

Edited by NickA
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There is some (unsubstantiated) debate as to whether Bach might have had a 7 string bass viol (i.e. french style) in mind for #6...

As I said, baroque composers tended to use open strings, later composers didn't (I outlined in previous post possible explanations, but as ever, unknowable really).  

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On 30/05/2021 at 12:27, mybass said:

This is 1 2 and 3........4 5 6 are in n another book.....

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I have this version, but won't be buying the next one for a while as it is quite a challenge and keeping me busy, in between all my other projects, despite having more time to practise this year. Definitely a good technical exercise and a good left-hand workout. I am playing these arco, but I imagine it would be more difficult to play them all pizz?

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I mean I'm going to have to make my own adaptations to make it doable, because of course it's harder pizz. And I'm not expecting to make anything perfect. For now, the only one I know off by heart already is the Prelude to the third suite (I actually learned it on a marimba 15 years ago), so I have some kind of head start there!

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I've been trying to play them on the cello for 45 years.  Still a challenge.  "Selected movements" only on the bass ( easier on electric .. specially a 5-string. )

No3 prelude will be MAJOR endeavour on a double bass ... all those spilt chords. My book of bass transcriptions doesn't even include that one!

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I practice them as ‘studies’ on electric bass as my DB arco playing is not up to scratch so it’s more an exercise to keep my sight reading going.

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If you want a real challenge, play them "at pitch". Certainly the first three are doable, (prelude to 3 is tough if not played in thumb position) and your thumb technique will definitely improve. Some of the intervals are actually quite a lot harder if played down an octave, and there are some string crossing issues (arco players) which are much more easily resolved in thumb position. They make great studies for electric bass.

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