Week 1 with the Shen SB180 Double Bass

I've had the bass for a week now.

I finally made time to watch a DVD I bought: Essential Techniques for Acoustic Bass. I added pencil marks this afternoon to help me to navigate and learn the distances between notes. The first 2 marks I added are equivalent to the second and third frets on a Bass Guitar.

Unlike bass guitar, which often employs 4-finger-to-4-frets, most of the methods I have looked at use three fingers over three "frets" because of the extra distance. At least until you get up higher.

I definitely think this will help me to develop muscle memory. I spent far too much time hunting for notes before.

This week, I bought rosin and a stand for the bass so I don't have to lie it on the side all of the time. I am only playing it a tiny bit every day because it takes a lot of stamina. No problems with calluses or blisters just yet.

And sometimes my noises sound musical too.


Franco’s First Double Bass

On Friday I took a half day from work to go out to The Plains, Va to pick up this bass from Thomas Andres Wolf. It’s a Shen SB180 3/4 Hybrid bass.

I asked Mr. Wolf to choose strings to set it up for Jazz (although I will be a while before I feel like I can take it out. He replaced the stock bridge and strung it with Pirastro Perpetual strings. I also asked for bumpers on the side so that I can lay the bass down and a Fishman Full Circle pickup.

I’m now trying to build up some new calluses and learning to use a bow for the first time in my life. Hoping that the bass lesson I scheduled for next week gets me on onto a good practice program.


Sunday Gigs - Franco On Bass

From a couple emails I sent to my personal email list:

6/30: Gig @ Olney Farmer's Market with Sisters Uke and Friends

Sunday **morning** I will be playing with Sisters Uke and Friends at the Olney Farmers Market.

Sunday 6/30/2019 at 8pm: Franco @ The Jazz Workshop Performance Set 2

For those who don't already know, my music education program presently includes being a student at The Jazz Workshop

I've been in the Monday 615p group since October or so and this Sunday we will be one of the featured groups that get to perform a set.

There are usually 2 performance sets on the last Sunday at Epicure Cafe.  7pm is the first set, but my group's set is at 8pm!

The music is Jazz in a small-group combo, all instrumental and heavily improvisational. If you're a swing-dancer it's way more bebop-y than what we're used to on the dance floor and the songs run a bit long for dancing.  (also note, Epicure isn't setup for dancing, it's more of a listening/dining room)

Our lineup is:

  • Steve Halter on Trumpet

  • Patrick Fazzone on Mandolin

  • Mark Glassman on Guitar

  • Larry Smith on Piano

  • John Goss on Drums

  • Franco on Bass (me)

If you're from town or in-town, this is a good chance to come see what I've been working on!  Message me if you have any questions.

Private Practice Before Private Lessons

Someone asked me if I teach private lessons after my volunteer ukulele teaching gig the other day. It was really flattering. I said, no, I don’t but that private lessons won’t matter unless you can find time to practice at home in the first place. I said that I was happy to send her home with the music we already played and a homework assignment.

We live in this fantastic internet age where you can get lots of beginner lesson material for free. All you really need to start learning an instrument is:

  • lead sheets for a couple of easy tunes you want to learn

  • some basic technique practice patterns

  • commitment to practice regularly

By “regularly” I mean multiple times a week and at consistent days/times. Ideally, this is first thing in the morning during the first 3-12 weeks that you’re trying to add a new routine or habit to your life.

I do have to applaud the person who asked if I teach private lessons for being willing to spend money on it. For some people, spending money helps to ensure commitment. But in my own experiences, spending money has never guaranteed my own commitment so I don’t take for granted that it is enough.

One must first establish a regular pattern of musical practice. Only then should one seek out instruction. Because what are we seeking after all, except feedback on what we ought to practice?

Franco's Jazz Picks - May 2019

I pulled together my "get off book" practice list for May 2019.

  • Don't Get Around Much Anymore
  • I Thought About You
  • Invitation
  • Lady Bird
  • Nica's Dream
  • Recorda-Me
  • Someday My Prince Will Come
  • Tenderly
  • Yesterdays

Some of those are new tunes, some are ones that I need to refresh/maintain. The objectives for this list are as follows:

Be able to...

  • memorize the common key(s) for each tune
  • sing the melody, bonus points if I can play them.
  • move through root motion on the tunes without a chart
  • play any intro sections and codas that are special
  • execute trades without chart open
  • take a solo that I like the sound of
  • bonus points: write out the chart from memory, with chord qualities

Double Bass Shopping, Epicure Cafe, and... The Kensington Day of The Book 4/28

What I've been up to lately.

This weekend I spent a lot of time at Foxes Music checking out double-basses. Unfortunately for me, the one I love is more expensive than a couple of my most expensive electric basses put together. Also, I'm not certain that I'm the right caretaker for a fine instrument at this point.

They say your first motorcycle should be something used because you will probably drop it, crash it, or do something otherwise foolhardy that will make you glad it wasn't new. True for expensive instruments? I don't know.

Last I got to hang out at Epicure Cafe for the 3rd Sunday Jam run by Jerry Bresee. It was sparsely attended, probably owing to Passover and Easter. But I liked how friendly and casual it was. I got into longer conversations with people than usual and found 3 music educators in attendance. Very cool!

I had the chicken kabob for dinner! It was good!

On 4/28 at 11am I will be joining Sisters Uke and Friends on Bass to play at the Kensington Day of the Book for a couple sets on the porch of the Sweat Shop.

I met Liz Brinker and Cinda Smith a couple years back at the Strathmore Uke Fest and they have been really great musical collaborators. It should be a good time!

Sisters Uke and Friends - Kensington DOB Flyer.jpg

Franco Jam Sighting: 4/7/2019 at Minton's Academy of Music

I played at the Jazz Jam yesterday at Minton's Academy of Music in Ashburn - there was FB live video. I rotated onto the stage a few times:

  • 00:14:50

  • 01:34:xx

  • 02:35:xx


It's really nice to get to play jazz in the daytime while I'm mentally sharp.  And the other bass players, Fernando and Zack, were really inspiring to watch and listen to!

The next Minton’s Jam is on Cinco De Mayo… who’s bringing the margaritas?

Big thanks to Minton’s for being a great host! Check them out here: https://www.mintonsmusic.com

Franco's Jazz Picks, April 2019

An important part of how I organize learning and internalizing Jazz tunes is to try to spend time with a set of songs each month. I assemble a playlist with many versions of those tunes and listen a lot. I assemble a playlist in iRealPro and use it for practice.

These are tunes I will be spending time with in April 2019.

Top 10:

  • There Will Never Be Another You (Eb)
  • Have You Met Miss Jones? (F)


  • I'll Remember April (G)
  • Well You Needn't (F)
  • Whisper Not (C-)

Medium Up:

  • Best Things In Life Are Free, The (C)


  • Girl From Ipanema RB, The (F)
  • Watch What Happens RB (Eb)

Blues and Rhythm Changes

  • Anthropology (Bb)
  • Mr. P.C. RB (C-)


  • Bluesette (Bb)


  • Star Dust (Db)