“No one likes to play scales,” Maurice Todd states matter-of-factly. The College-Conservatory of Music master’s student should know—he teaches scale lessons to all undergraduate and first-year graduate students in the CCM double bass studio, under the direction of associate professor Albert Laszlo. But even though these pupils may not like scales, they do like Todd. Words such as “rewarding” and “exemplary” run through the recommendations that helped him earn the Graduate School’s Excellence in Teaching Award.
Standing aside the richly stained poplar body of his instrument, the bassist admits that he was in a similar place to these students ten years ago. “I realized that I wasn’t getting any better and that I had to incorporate scales,” Todd says, “but I had to do it in such a way where I was paying attention and was in the practice session the entire time.” To that end, he developed a series of practice exercises he called the “72s and 88s,” named after the metronome markings at which he played them.
Todd’s routines worked because they combined the notes of the scales with changes to bowing and articulation. “With each rhythmic value I did something different, and I was listening for something different,” he explains; this variety encouraged him to stay constantly involved while playing. By taking better stock of his technique and questioning himself on how best to improve, he was again able to make progress on the bass. Todd now teaches using these exercises, and the hard-earned lessons of working through them help him dissect the performance of