Padawan of the Double Bass, Part 1: Catching the Bug

Well, for starters, my name is Ben Huff. I’m 20 years old, and am currently attending a community college in the Chicago-land area. I’ll be finishing up this spring with an Associates degree. The path that led me to being a double bass student is kind of unusual, and I haven’t heard of many players spinning their tale quite like mine.

I started playing in the 4th grade, having technique classes with the orchestra conductor and playing in the school orchestra . From the 4th grade up until about my Sophomore year of high school, playing the double bass was something that I did for fun (and still is!), but I wasn’t remotely serious, and my bright orange, plywood rental bass from Quinlan and Fabish stayed in the case for roughly 7 years, gathering cobwebs and dust.

But on a rainy Sunday afternoon in April, I (as my first double bass teacher Phil Serna would say), ‘Caught the bug’.

My high school orchestra conductor, Gwen Armwood, took my Dad and I, along with a number of other bass students and parents, up to Evanston, Illinois to visit Steve Reinfranck’s bass shop (SMR Double Basses). At the time, his shop was being run out of his basement, and I can remember being shocked at the number of basses he was able to squeeze down there, which must have been at least 25. Basses of every kind were present: old and new, plywood and carved, cheap and expensive, etc. Students and their respective parents began to carefully navigate their way around the large, delicate instruments. Some of the students would pick up a bass that struck their fancy, only to put it down once their parents saw the price tag dangling from the bottom of the scroll. After an hour or two, all of the students and parents had left, but I was still sawing away on these wonderful instruments Steve had so graciously allowed to play with. It still brings a smile to my face when I remember my dad telling me on the drive up to Evanston,

“We are NOT buying a bass! It’s not happening!”

Hours later, my dad and I, along with the help of Steve, managed to squeeze a Samuel Shen bass into our tiny, 2-door Saturn. It was a tight fit, but I was happy to be crammed between the passenger side door and this marvelous block of wood. With my face pressed flat against the cold window, I can remember reciting to my dad all of the details Steve could give me about the instrument:

“It’s the best bass ever, dad! Steve told me its got professional level strings on it! Helicores! Dad, are you listening? Dad?”

“What? Oh, yes. I’m sure it’s magnificent. Mm-hmm.”

Giving me an encouraging smile and nod to let me know he was listening, I continued on my bass-geek rant.

Thinking back, I’m sure my dad was preoccupied with the daunting task of paying off such an expensive item. Thankfully, with the combined financial efforts of my parents and grandparents, we were able to pay for my first instrument.

My family purchased the instrument for me around the end of sophomore year, and I can remember practicing for at least an hour a day for a number of months (which at the time seemed like an astronomical amount of time). At a certain point over the summer, I can remember hitting a brick wall in regards to technical progress. Sure, I thought I was pretty good, with my technical arsenal of 3 or 4 major scales, but I wanted to explore new possibilities.

–As a side note, I want to let readers know that Steve Reinfranck was very accommodating in regards to the financial matters of paying for my instrument. He also gave me a great deal on my first bow that same day, as well as a free cake of rosin that I still have. I highly recommend him to anybody in the Chicago-land area. You rock, Steve! Check out his website at: www.smrdoublebasses.com

This is the first of 3 autobigraphical posts I’ll be putting out in this series.

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~ by benjamin86 on November 16, 2007.

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