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David Heyes

David Heyes: Scaling the Heights | 24 Scale Studies for the Progressing Double Bassist

David Heyes: Scaling the Heights | 24 Scale Studies for the Progressing Double Bassist

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Origin Story 

I enjoy writing music for my students and many friends and Susan Hagen has been an amazing friend and supporter, as soloist and commissioner. The most recent commission from Susan is Scaling the Heights. The brief was for music that moved into and out of thumb position, always challenging for young bassists, and I realized that a short piece in each major and minor key would be the right approach - 24 pieces in all. I started with C major and went through all the sharp keys, then the flat keys ending with D minor, my favorite key.

About the Studies

I included musical as well as technical challenges and some of the pieces can be played on one string, or across two strings if you remain in thumb position. Each study is in a different style and finding the titles was often a greater challenge than writing the music but hopefully, the titles are accessible and effective, As I composed the set I realized that I was to write happy music for the major keys and sad music for the minor ones so decided to shake this plan up a little. G flat major is a Berceuse and the Burlesque in E flat minor is the happiest and most upbeat minor key piece I have ever written! D flat major is a Prayer and B flat minor, a quite dark key, is a lively and rhythmic Humoresque.

I loved writing the 24 studies and there are so many ways for an inventive teacher or student to use them. If the key or the look of the music is intimidating, then select one or two bars that you think you can play and work on these first. When you are more confident add a few more bars and you can do this with every piece to keep things interesting and moving along. You don't have to start at bar 1 and you don't have to complete a piece before moving onto another, they can be used in so many different ways.

I added a few scale studies at the end of the book, and scales, arpeggios alongside work in thumb position can easily be added to the mix. There are no fingering suggestions, which is intentional, but always keep in mind that the pieces were written by a bassist so they 'work' and the challenge is to find the fingering that the composer intended, although there are usually several choices." [David Heyes, May 2021]

"Whether I’m working with a student on 2 or 3-octave scales & arpeggios or an actual piece of music, I've noticed that the transition between the "Danger Zone" and "Thumb Position" is always a struggle. The left-hand challenges range from knowing where to place their thumb for each note, what to do with their elbow, and a myriad of other things. I have, for many years, wished for music where we can address these technical issues because once we get to this level of technique, the repertoire quickly becomes quite advanced and the student needs to feel very comfortable getting in & out of thumb position. 

Thumb Position Bundle

Select the 'Thumb Position Bundle' option and you will receive Aiming High and Scaling the Heights for 25% off.


David had the brilliant idea of writing pieces in each key where a student can learn the entire short piece or simply focus on a measure or two. Keeping the tasks small makes dealing with these technical challenges seem less daunting and the student has a feeling of accomplishment. It's a win-win for everyone!" 

Susan Hagen / Principal Bass, Boston Pops Orchestra / Assistant Professor, Berklee College of Music, Boston, USA

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