Reconsidering the Role of Instrumental Technique in Creative Process: The ‘Canadian School of Double Bass’ Applied to Jazz Performance

Samuel Dobson

Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Context 47 (2021): 39–55.

Published online: 31 Jan. 2022


Contemporary research exploring embodiment in music has suggested that creative musical thought is directly linked to a performer’s learnt physical techniques. Within this discourse, it is understood that an improvising musician’s embodied physical techniques play a primary role in informing their creative processes. This view suggests that subsequent changes or developments to a jazz musician’s physical technique may fundamentally influence the ways in which musical ideas are conceived while improvising. This article begins by unpacking a cross-section of literature in support of this claim, before presenting the results of a practice-led autoethnographic experiment exploring the relationship between instrumental technique and creative practice. In this experiment, I transition to a new way of playing the double bass, informed by Joel Quarrington’s The Canadian School of Double Bass, and observe transformations in hand frame, use of vertical shifts, use of register, feelings of tension and overall dexterity, all of which appear to influence my creative decision making. The results highlight how this reformed technical approach affected the physical accessibility of certain intervallic options, and appear to have fundamentally impacted my conception and construction of melodic content on a cognitive level.

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