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Across the neck, vs. up the G string

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by turf3, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    So, my teacher tends to promote playing in the lower positions (like half and first) and then working up the G string, especially for scales.

    On the other hand, when I watch him playing either lines or solos, it looks like he plays more across the neck than up the G string.

    On the third hand, when I transcribe either bass lines or solos (I haven't done very many, so the experience base is quite small), it seems like the patterns I am transcribing fit very comfortably against an "across the neck" approach, with little half-step and whole-step shifts, and they don't fit very well against an "up the G string" approach, having lots of big shifts.

    I know the standard answer will be "it depends". I already knew THAT. But I would like to see if the experienced hands here could give some insight on what it depends ON, whether you stay in low positions and move up the G versus playing more across the neck.

    It seems to me that when I am making up lines on the fly, it would be easier to play the things I hear in my head if my fingerboard knowledge were internalized enough to be able to play them across the neck. Since I don't have that condition yet, I end up with lots of big shifts up and down the G string.

    For background, I have been playing just under three years, after 35 years on saxophone, and I do not play electric bass or even guitar so I don't have any prior basis for comparison.

    Any comments or words of wisdom?

  2. misterbadger

    misterbadger Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2012
    Northern California
    FWIW (and I've got much less experience than you with DB), my teacher pushed me into playing higher positions across the neck as soon as I had a minimal grasp of basic technique in lower positions. Walking up the G string seems to be reserved for the times when it's physically most expedient for getting to a higher position, or when one specifically wants that type of sound. YMMV...
  3. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz

    Playing across the strings in higher positions was very difficult on gut strings. Accordingly, most of our traditional pedagogy has us using the G to climb up, which is the lightest and easiest string to press down, for upper neck work.

    In the jazz world, guys start playing across the string more and more as we transition to steel strings and amps/mics.

    Check out Ron Carter and Israel Crosby for excellent examples of guys playing across the string on gut. Their choices are well informed and musical, and allow for a different approach in these cases than the linear, scalar sound of working up one string.
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    IMO, it's both across and along. You use every little thing you can get your hands on that will make executing lines as easy as possible, but teachers have their pedagogy they go by so that's what you're learning. I've heard teachers tackle thumb position with new students early on. There are several approaches out there.

    That said, I probably didn't venture much near the octave for the first 5 years of playing. Intonation is just very hard the further you get away from the nut. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't practice it. The only way to get good is to do it a lot, make the mistakes, fail and try again.

    My suggestion is to look at the stickies and threads related to intonation. The idea that you know what to "expect" out your intonation makes it far easier to get the right tones that are in tune. Moving your finger to approximately the right spot is not enough. The more i play in tune the more I feel like it's a mental exercise than physical.

    If you can sing the notes in tune without the instrument, I think you've already won half the battle.
  5. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    IMHO there are a couple of reasons for climbing the G string. The quality or timbre of the note varies on DB depending on where you play the note, this is especially true w/pizz. Once you get past the heel of the neck there is a distinct lack of note clarity/volume/sustain especially on the DAE strings, arco is much better. Then there is the physical challenge of playing across the neck since the width of the neck increases as you go up.
  6. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    The fingerings given in Simandl give you a good idea of when you might do one or the other. Sometimes it seems to suggest one approach when the other way is how I'd go for it on my own. Sometimes I do it my own way for a couple days while I learn to understand the melody and harder intonation situations, then get down to business with the written fingerings.
  7. SeaMist_au


    Aug 28, 2012

    My first teacher said exactly the same thing. 'You *can* play up the neck on the A and E strings but the tone will let you down.'
    Since then I have seen quite a few players play well up the neck at least on the A. To a lesser degree on the E too.
    Perhaps he meant players at my level lol.
    I suspect that as usual compromise rules all as usual. Sometimes you will go up the neck on the G and D. Sometimes, I think especially if you are already playing up the neck, you will play across.
    Whatever works :)