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Bowing technique?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by deathboy97, Jul 29, 2000.


  1. deathboy97

    deathboy97

    Jul 27, 2000
    I have recently gotten back into playing upright after a long stint with electric. I purchased a student level instrument and have been pretty happy with the instrument tone overall. However, I run into problems when playing arco that I don't remember encountering when growing up. To be more specific, I'm having much more difficulty vibrating the string with a bow than I remember. Even when I really dig into the strings I will occasionally get a loud raspy tone. This issue doesn't seem confined to any particular string or spot on the fingerboard. It most often occurs when crossing strings to one which isn't already vibrating. Is this issued caused by my technique? Or could it be due to the type of string I'm using (which came with the instrument originally)? Any insight would be much appreciated as the current situation dampens my enthusiasm considerably.
     
  2. deathboy97

    deathboy97

    Jul 27, 2000
    Come on now. Somebody must be able to give me some insight. Don't let my username scare you away. I am a serious bassist.
     
  3. It's probably your technique, which is not a sin, and it can be helped. But there are many possible contributing factors which have to be sorted out. Describe the strings. Steel? What color are the windings at the tail piece end and the scroll end. Describe the ball end which keeps the string in the tail piece. This helps identify the string. Is the bow horsehair? White, black, or mixed? What kind of rosin? You may be using too much, or too little. Do you clean built-up rosin from the bowed area of the strings?
    After you answer these, we'll discuss a simple exercise for bow angles. It's best to address one problem at a time
     
  4. deathboy97

    deathboy97

    Jul 27, 2000
    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Don Higdon:
    It's probably your technique, which is not a sin, and it can be helped. But there are many possible contributing factors which have to be sorted out. Describe the strings. Steel? What color are the windings at the tail piece end and the scroll end. Describe the ball end which keeps the string in the tail piece. This helps identify the string. Is the bow horsehair? White, black, or mixed? What kind of rosin? You may be using too much, or too little. Do you clean built-up rosin from the bowed area of the strings?
    After you answer these, we'll discuss a simple exercise for bow angles. It's best to address one problem at a time
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Let's start with the first question: steel strings, silver ball end - cylinder with rounded edges and a hole in the center, red windings. scroll end has multiple colors. Second question: bow is (unfortunately)synthetic. Pop's rosin. I do clean up rosin build up on the strings.
     

  5. Assuming it's your technique and not one of the other things Don mentioned, there are a few possible sources of the sound. You'll have to examine when it happens and stop to see what you were doing right and what could have been wrong.

    On a string crossing, you may very possibly not be adjusting the bow plane enough to be adequately prepared for the crossing. Prior to sounding the note on the next string, the bow plane should be moving toward the next string so that it is riding the string you're crossing to before you actually sound the note. This is the other half of "bow-to-destination," the other half being the stroke and length of hair used to be properly set up for the next note. When crossing strings you have to move the plane of the bow in accordance with the arch of the strings. For instance, when playing a note on the G string, the bow should be practically on the D string. If playing a note on the D string, the bow should look like it's on the G or the A depending on which string the next note is. "A Contemporary Concept of Bow Technique for the Double Bass" by Fred Zimmerman has almost 300 hundred pages of string crossing exercises.
    The rasp could be caused by the downward motion of the bow to the string if the plane
    hasn't been adjusted in preparation of the crossing.

    Uneven bow pressure, or simply putting too much energy into the bow could cause a raspy
    sound.

    Your left hand arriving a little too late could cause a raspy sound. A big shift would
    be a common place for that too occur.

    Also, your bow may not be perpendicular to the strings.

    Any one of these could be the culprit or some might be happening simutaneously, compounding the problem.

     
  6. David: Would you agree it's a little early for Zimmerman?
    Death: Try this simple exercise to get bow planes (angles) into your subconscious:
    open D and A; alternate down bow string crossing (D to A) and up bow crossing (Ato D). Gently, two notes per second, down D,A, up A,D, down D,A, up etc. Relax. All you care about is your bow arm. Think about the items David mentioned. Do it until you get nice notes. Then G and D. Then A and E. Don't look at the strings. Do this in the dark. This lets you focus on the crossing and develop your bow arm without confusing things by involving your left hand. Do this every day as part of your warm up. After you get clean crossings on open strings, go to 1st position and finger the D string 0-1-4, as in D,A/A,D/E,A/A,E/F#,A/A,F#. Then D,A/A,D/D,B/B,D/D,C#/C#,D. Then on to the other strings. Don't be in a hurry. In each case, don't move on until you get nice notes where you are.
    This simple exercise was given to me by Zimmerman's last protege. It works by isolating and teaching the right arm. Long, slow scales in F,G, and C will do wonders for your tone.
    Does anyone recognize the strings Death described? Tomastik has red tail windings but not mixed colors at the scroll end. That's more like D'Addario and Pirastro, but they don't use white metal stop balls. Death, Popps has it's fans and detractors. The rosins that get the most approval are the Swedish- Carlson or Nyman.

    [This message has been edited by Don Higdon (edited July 31, 2000).]
     
  7. deathboy97

    deathboy97

    Jul 27, 2000
    Thank you, gentlemen. Your input has been most helpful. I have been practicing slow, steady scales to get back in the swing of playing with a bow and it is proving helpful. Over the last 6 or 7 years, the thing that has changed the most for me has been my writing and playing style due to picking up electric bass. My compositions are much more quick and aggressive than they once were on upright and it has become apparent that my abilities on upright have not followed suit (obviously due to my lack of playing). While my left hand is still very quick and articulate on upright, my right hand skills are horribly out of practice and behind in ability. Slow steps seem to be the order of the day - scales, simple crossings, etc. - until I can get consistently good tone, and then onto something like Zimmerman.

    I would still like to identify my strings, if only to begin a mental catalog of likes and dislikes. If it's any help, the instrument is made by Hermann Beyer and the strings are their stock issue.

    [This message has been edited by deathboy97 (edited August 01, 2000).]
     
  8. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Don Higdon:
    David: Would you agree it's a little early for Zimmerman?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I don't know, Don. I wish I had gotten into it sooner than I did. When I practice that stuff, the patterns, I apply it to scales over the full range of the bass and work on getting the tempo up, etc. But I don't think it has to be done that way, a beginner could certainly practice it the way it's written at slow tempos. Similar to the way Gary Karr's books start on harmonics, it's easier to get a decent sound up in whatever position that is than on open strings. It has those diagrams, and I think the way the very first thing in the book is double-stops really makes a point. Besides, Deathboy isn't actually a beginner, he's just coming back from an over-extended lay-off and needs to be whipped into shape!

     
  9. deathboy97

    deathboy97

    Jul 27, 2000
    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by David Kaczorowski:
    Besides, Deathboy isn't actually a beginner, he's just coming back from an over-extended lay-off and needs to be whipped into shape!
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Boy, have you got that right!

    Thanks again, guys.
     
  10. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Don Higdon:
    &lt;snip&gt;...Try this simple exercise to get bow planes (angles) into your subconscious:
    open D and A; alternate down bow string crossing (D to A) and up bow crossing (Ato D). Gently, two notes per second, down D,A, up A,D, down D,A, up etc. Relax. All you care about is your bow arm.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Hey, what a coincidence! At my last DB lesson, my teacher showed me more or less the same thing, however he did this by placing the bow in a position where the string crossing was executed by just tilting the bow slightly with the pinky (German bow), so that the line of the bow didn't really change, but the angle to the strings did (slightly). Starting and stopping on the string, so that each note had a definite beginning and end, concentrate on the arm, and reduce unecessary movement so that eventually you use just the wrist and fingers. I thought the technique to be mighty cool (well, when he did it anyway!)

    - Wil

     
  11. Wil: I see Jerry Bruno listed on your profile. Would that be Jerry of the 3 bass playing Bruno brothers (Sam and Al), who now lives in Ft. Lee, NJ ?
    David: I meant only that the Zimmerman exercises should be preceded by remedial work on the right arm, in isolation. Once the planes are set, he can move up to more complex exercises. If problems reoccur, the reasonable assumption is something else needs attention.

    [This message has been edited by Don Higdon (edited August 01, 2000).]
     
  12. Part of the issue may also seriously be the equipment...

    I also went through a stage where I had Tomastik strings, a fiberglass bow and Pops Rosin...

    Much better results can be found in rosins like Kolstein "soft" or Carlsson's rosin, decent arco strings (D'Addario makes inexpensive and quality strings) and a real pernumbuco bow. A lot to spend, perhaps, but double bass study (and music in general) is first about making the sound you want, when you want, and pleasing yourself.

    Start checking out equipment at a violin shop (not a "music store"), and call Lemur Music for a free catalogue of "all things bass." (info at web site; do a search...)