Kristin Mak Hei-ching pulls the bow and smiles. Her double bass dwarfs her, but the nine-year-old does not mind standing and holding the instrument. She does it for at least half an hour every day. Mak won the first prize at last month's BASS2010 Youth Competition in the nine-to-10 age group. The competition, held in Berlin, was divided into seven age groups up to the age of 18. Mak was the youngest of the 30 participants from Hong Kong. Judges in the competition commented that Mak was presentable and musical. She had good intonation, wore a good smile and was engaged in the music when she played, showing no sign of nervousness. Mak's parents have been playing all kinds of music to her since she was small - from classical to pop. When they took her to a classical concert, she was impressed by the double bass player, the only one in the orchestra who was standing. 'I like double bass,' Mak said, 'because it sounds like an old man.' The Primary Four student at Alliance Primary School in Kowloon Tong practises with the instrument for an hour every day. In the lead-up to the competition she practised for up to two hours a day. But she says she did not find these long hours of rehearsing too arduous, even though the skin on her fingers thickened from plucking the strings. Mak has studied double bass at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts for three years, reaching grade six. Her teacher, Edmond Cheng, said at first Mak did not seem much different from his other students. But her focus and concentration shone through later. 'When the others are playing around in rehearsals, she is always reading a book or doing her own thing,' Cheng said. Berlin was the second international competition for Mak. Two years ago, she played in the same event in Paris, but did not win a prize. Since then, Cheng said, Mak had matured, not only in terms of her musical skills but also in attitude. 'She cried all the way on the first trip, missing home,' Cheng said. But this time, Mak was not scared at all. She communicated with her parents while she was away through text messages. Her mother, Lee Chui-lan, recalled how her daughter had sent her a text when she arrived at the airport: 'I've arrived. Don't call me unless there's something urgent.' Her parents found out that she had won the prize through a text as well. Her seven-year-old brother has also studied double bass for three years. With two double basses and a piano, which Kristin has played since she was four, the children performed concerts at home. 'They made tickets and invited the neighbours to come,' Lee said. Cheng, who has been teaching the instrument for 12 years, said he did not push students too hard, telling his youngest - aged three to four - to practise for only 15 minutes a day. 'After 15 minutes, the practice is meaningless,' he said. 'They are not concentrating any more.' The competition is held in Europe in even-numbered years, and in the United States in odd-numbered years.