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Arco-pizz switching strategies

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Steven Ayres, May 24, 2016.


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  1. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I work with a big band, and I find that some jazz charts call for the bow on certain passages. It's not uncommon to see four pizz quarter notes in one bar and an arco whole note in the next. What's your strategy for playing those transitions?
     
  2. When the changes are sudden like you're describing, I keep the bow in my hands while I play the pizz notes. It's not the strongest pizz tone, but I find that if I rest my thumb on the fingerboard when doing this (I play german) I can still manage to get some fullness in my sound.
     
    Seanto likes this.
  3. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Eugene, Oregon
     
  4. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I've tried the traditional bow-in-hand, where the bow is hanging down from the hand, but I find I'm faster with it up on my shoulder. Which way to you hold it? Hanging on your third and fourth fingers?
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2016
  5. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I hadn't seen anyone use that horizontal bow-in-hand, thanks Michael. Does this work as well with German?
     
  6. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Eugene, Oregon
    You'll have to figure out that one.
     
  7. I do use my third and fourth finger to hold my bow when not using it. I've never heard or seen anyone rest it on their shoulder though!
    When I played solely French for a bit, I could never get that technique solid. I think it would be tough on German, but I'm sure there's a way
     
  8. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I just gave it a try, I think my fingers are too short for most of it.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2016
  9. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    For playing pizz bow-in-hand, my options so far with German bow —

    Bow down, traditional with one or two-fingertip pull:
    Bow in Hand - Down.

    Bow horizontal, with one-finger side pull (really need the thumb on the side of the fingerboard for this):
    Bow in hand - Horizontal.

    Bow up in my unorthodox kludge, two fingertips:
    Bow in Hand - Up.

    Any other playing strategies?

    How about switching with the bow out of hand?
     
  10. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Eugene, Oregon
    IMO, the first option would be the easiest to use: a simple twist of the wrist. The other two look totally unusable, if speed of switch is your goal.
     
  11. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    As a German bow player, when I have a fast change to pizz, I "drop" the bow with all but my ring finger, and let the bow hang from it. My German bow hold has the third finger inside the throat of the frog so I do not need to reposition anything to make that happen, and you can actually turn your wrist a bit and slightly "throw" it in that direction if gravity isn't getting it out of the way fast enough. To switch back to arco, I swing the bow back to horizontal on that finger. The advantage being that all of your fingers are in a position where they don't have to move much to get from a pizz position to an arco position. This likely looks pretty similar to your first photo, but I can't really tell what's happening with the bow in that position.

    The second horizontal option seems like the least efficient option. While it may work on French bow, with the length of the German button I don't see how you could get your thumb back to an arco playing position quickly, which is the issue we are trying to address. The same holds true for the bow facing upwards, your thumb has a lot of distance to travel in order to get back to where it needs to be. You are also working against gravity to get the bow up there in the first place, which doesn't seem like a quick thing to do.

    I will occasionally catch the first pizz in a fast change with my thumb on an "up" stroke when I am switching to the position I was describing earlier. The bow still goes to to the same place in your hand, but as it is getting there you can stick your thumb out to grab a note before you plant it and pizz with your preferred finger(s). Other less desirable solutions involve a left hand pizz which is most successful on open strings but can be achieved with the 3rd and/or 4th finger(s) while stopping a note with your 1st finger, shortening an arco whole note enough to facilitate the down beat pizz happening on time, or omitting the 4th pizz quarter note to get to an arco.
     
    Jmilitsc likes this.
  12. I sometimes hang my German bow from my pinkie for short switches to pizz. I'm still working to keep it from occasionally knocking against the front of the bass (but am getting better).
     
  13. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    For each grip, my method involves griping the bow with my ring and pinky to free up both the index and the middle finger for fast pizz. I can switch pretty fast with either grip but I default to French grip for rapid arco/pizz changes, even though I use German bows.
     
  14. Ben B

    Ben B

    Jul 13, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    That's what I do too. I use a French bow. I'm not a very experienced arco player, so, I don't know if there's a better way.
     
  15. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    For german, bow hanging down with thumb, index and middle finger free. Never seen a professional classical player do otherwise in difficult switching passages like the Mahler 5 waltz. May take some practise to get stable, but it works fine.
     
    Randy Ward likes this.
  16. koricancowboy

    koricancowboy

    Jun 10, 2003
    chicago
    I was taught to just keep it in playing position and turn my hand.
     

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  17. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    All I can say is that hours and hours playing with the bow in practice, rehearsals and gigs making those transitions do get easier.
     

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