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Clear articulation of slurred walking shifts

Discussion in 'Ask Patrick Neher [Archive]' started by David Potts, Jun 10, 2012.


  1. Hi Patrick,

    Students of the smaller strings (Vln, Vla and Cello) are trained to articulate slurred passages very clearly as they walk/run/sprint up and down strings. Our string length is much greater and strings are heavier, with greater clearance from the fingerboard.

    Do you have any ideas, tips and tricks to share about how to teach and develop clear articulation of slurred passages when using walking shifts with faster notes, eg when playing any scale or arpeggio quickly over two or three octaves?

    At slow speeds, when the shift robs less of each note, it is still hard enough to join notes cleanly without extra glissando sounds. (for me coming down the string is the harder to be gliss-free!

    I found a copy of the April Strad. and the article by Eugene Levinson did not satisfy my quest. I am aware of the "hammer on" and the "pull off" promoted by some, perhaps trickling down from the higher strings' techniques.
    I have also just found 15 Double Bass lessons by Michael Klinghoffer on You tube that allude to this technique. He has written a book called "How to drive a Double Bass", based on Gary Karr's teaching. I am going to buy it.

    My LH approach has always been to shape the fingers like a pianist's and then raise and lower them by flapping from the big knuckles, not bending and straightening them. I try to have good alignment from elbow to fingertips, hoping to minimise pronation on the E string. Klinghoffer appears to advocate the opposite but I must say he makes an awfully good sound. Maybe he has the explanation for "pulling off."

    Cheers,
    DP
    (Remember the Negri score?)
     
  2. PNeher

    PNeher

    Mar 31, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    Hi David... I assume by the question that you speak/ask about clear articulation of changing pitches with the left hand, while under a slurred bow. Articulation is a bow problem first!!!! I cannot emphasize enough that people in general must consider sound production articulation... Because it is! If you do not have good vibration of the string, your left hand will not change the pitch, period. So the first thing to do is make sure all strings vibrate fully under a slur. See my Etudes for specific exercises thereof. Then, having efficient form and movement from the left hand fingers is critical to good quality of sound, because in fact the left hand, during a slurred bow, is interrupting the vibration of the string. How efficient that interruption is, determines the quality of the articulation or change or pitch. Rounded fingers, playing as close to the tips as possible...where the bone is closest to the surface of the finger, and therefor the hardest point to push the string into the fingerboard, will produce the clearest change of pitch, usually. I strictly avoid the use of pull offs as those only distort form and cause extra strain on the muscles of the hand and forearm. Rounded, forms-at-rest that are supported, will give your the best definition, generally. See previous forum threads on this. I have written extensively on this subject.
    Finally, it is bow control that gives the best articulation. It IS the sound creator. Focus on that when dealing with sound! Focus on the left hand when dealing with pitch.
    Best to you!
    PN
     
  3. PNeher

    PNeher

    Mar 31, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    One more thing
    Slapping or pull offs are extra energy users. Yes you can do it, but for how long? I am now in my 45th year of playing the bass! I do not advocate anything but the most efficient forms and techniques, for longevity's sake. But there are times that pull offs and slaps work well for the effect we are after in a particular passage. I wouldn't do it always though as it will slow me down. You want to see some excellent articulated playing, check out any or all of Hal Robinson's playing of Mozart or other orchestral stuff. Or Dennis Trembly. Both these guys are super players, but they use a lot more muscle than I do... That being said, F Rabath is the most articulate under slurs and he uses no pull offs and only occasionally slaps. Oh I suppose I could push some of my playing on YouTube too!
    Best
    PN
     
  4. Hi Patrick.
    Have just found this on Youtube under Bradetich lessons. I think it is 5/8 or 6/8



    He is hammering on and pulling off but doing lots of things with his Left Hand approach that are contrary to my understanding of bass technique. Not for one moment am I trying to denigrate his approach but I would choose not to use my left hand like his if I could avoid it and still get the same clear results when playing fast slurred passages.
    Cheers
    DP
     
  5. Hi again, Patrick
    I enjoyed checking out your playing on Youtube and, yes, you articulate slurs very clearly. I also found some good examples of Rabbath slurring clearly.

    In looking sideways at my fingertips each end pad has a slight flat spot between the centre of the finger print and the end. I have always tried to bisect this flat spot with the string when fingering neck positions. It gives me my best finger arch and greatest ease of rise and fall. Is this about where you describe above?
    Cheers,
    David Potts
     
  6. PNeher

    PNeher

    Mar 31, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    Yes, David, I suppose that is what I mean by finger tips. Basically, wherever, on your fingers, the pads are thinnest, and closest to the bone (which does not extend all the way to the end of the finger you know) will give the clearest articulation for a given amount of energy pressing the string down to the FB. Use a nail, a wooden dowel (pencil), a rubber eraser, and a piece of plastic to get the idea about what I am talking. The harder the articulation surface, the easier it is (the least amount of energy required) to push down the string. Now, there is NO WAY that for each finger and for every note on the bass that any finger will articulate in the same exact place on the finger. Allow a range of contact points. The angle of the arm-to-bass in various positions and strings changes so greatly that the contact point of each finger does also. Sometimes you'll play a note with the "flats" sometimes with the "tips." I generally shoot for the tips most of the time, so you will notice that arm angles are well-considered, as are ALL angles of approach (body to bass, bow to bass, hips and ankles to bass, etc).
    Best!
    PN
     

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