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I’m on a Bach kick again.  They say if you learn to play Bach you can play anything on your instrument.  I learned to play bass guitar by studying Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.  It kicked my butt, but I improved a lot and went form zero to pretty good.

I was inspired by finding that Youtube video I posted yesterday of the bassist playing the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.  I never thought that was possible.  I have no hope of ever being able to play that piece, but I feel it’s time I move beyond rudimentary exercises on the double bass.  I could play the Cello Suites, but I am interested in something new, and from what I understand, it’s recommended bassists play the Cello Suites an octave up so they are in the same range or tessitura as the cello.  I’m not ready to start playing up there, as I’m still working my way up the fingerboard and haven’t explored much beyond V position (and not at all in thumb position, which I would need to play the Cello Suites).

I started combing through the solo violin literature and came upon an old friend- the Partita No. 3 for Solo Violin (BWV 1006)- in particular, the gavotte en rondeau.  You’ve heard it, even if you don’t know the title.  I was surprised to find no one had posted or published a transcription for bass, except for one that changed the key- and I didn’t want to do that- so I set out to do my own arrangement, by hand, note for note.

I had a few decisions to make along the way.  I removed double stops (two notes playing simultaneously)- they sound good on a violin but not at the very low pitches of the bass.  When there are two separate voices, I made concessions and hinted at one voice while continuing the main voice.  One interesting feature I like about this is that while the entire range of most of the piece is about an octave and a half, I hit a D# at the beginning of measure 86 that is too low for my bass to play.  I could either play the D# an octave up and drop down an octave to play the rest of the scale, or I could stay up there, which I did.  The result is a Mannheim rocket-like run that takes us up to the high C#, which is about as high as the instrument can play without playing harmonics.

I got no business even looking at this, but I’m going for it.  I’m going to be at this for quite a while, but I’ll be a lot better for it.

Here’s the current draft of the arrangement.  I haven’t proofread it note-by-note, but I’ve listened a few times and it sounds right.

Gavotte en Rondeau Bach Partita 3 for contrabass