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'Crab Claw' left hand technique?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Jleonardbc, Apr 7, 2005.

  1. Jleonardbc


    Nov 12, 2004
    Have any of you heard of this? My bass teacher is teaching me to keep my left hand (most of the time) in such a position that the distance between the first and middle finger is a half step, and the distance between the middle and pinky is a half step. In the lower positions, this means you press down on the strings with the side of your first finger rather than the tip. It looks somewhat like a crab claw, with the pointer forming one 'pincer' and the other three fingers together forming the other. Are any of you familiar with this? Do you use it? It seems like it would have solid applications but it isn't as natural as having the middle two fingers fairly evenly spaced between forefinger and pinky, and playing with the side of the first finger seems unnatural...any thoughts?

    Thanks for your time, guys-
  2. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    As far as I know, the proper way to play is with the half-step between the index, middle, and pinky fingers, outside a few circumstances. The ring finger is seldom used and the thumb is kept center to the middle finger, or at least that's how Paul showed me, and I'm not gonna argue with 50 years of genius- seems to be working well ;)
  3. Jleonardbc


    Nov 12, 2004
    That's what I said..but keeping an entire half-step between the index and middle fingers is a lot and requires the technique I described, especially in the lower positions where the reach is greater.
  4. The usually accepted technique these days is the first, middle and pinky finger method, like that taught by the Simandle method. There are other methods that make use of the third finger, like Bille, and even some techniques that use all four fingers like a cellist would. I know many people here are familiar with Glen Moore; he uses and teaches a method like this and includes the thumb. It may seem tough at first, but with use all of the fingers and the thumb can be used in any combination, and it opens up many possibilities in shifting and playing intervals as well as developing more muscles in the hand and arm.
    Mike_1978 likes this.
  5. Jleonardbc


    Nov 12, 2004
    I did not say anything about using all fingers. The crab claw technique is keeping a halfstep distance between pointer and middle, and a half step distance between middle and pinky, so the middle, ring, and pinky are a group covering one half step. In this hand position, to play C C# D for example, you would finger 1 2 4. My bass teacher would use this technique with Simandl. I think what most people do is to shift a little when playing the 2 to shift it into position; with this method it is already in position, but the first finger is forced into an unnatural position and you have to play with the side of it to stretch enough to keep the half step distance between it and the middle finger...
    I need to find a picture.
  6. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Paul who? :bag:

    or; Okay, fifty years of genius, but what about the other fifty? :bag: :bag:

    Oh man, I think I'm going to pay dearly for that.
  7. Marcus, i'm gonna put this on the back burner for now......but, indeed, you'll pay when the time is right :eyebrow:
  8. Me too
  9. Unless your bass has an unusually long strings length or you have exceptionally small hands there's nothing difficult about maintaining a 1/2 step between your first and second and second and fourth fingers in any position. 1-2-4 is how it's done, no little shifts, sides of fingers, or cheating of any sort. Anything else is a recipe for playing out of tune.
    Mike_1978 likes this.
  10. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    I don't understand the bit about playing with the side of your finger. Like David said - small hands? big bass? I don't get it.
  11. I think the idea of using the crab claw image is not about spanning intervals. As several folks have noted, 1-2-4 is pretty much the Simandl standard. The claw image is more about helping to maintain an arch in your fingers. Keeping your fingers arched focuses pressure on a smaller area of the string and enables you to use less effort in fingering notes. It also makes it easier and quicker to shift notes and positions.

    I believe the Rabbath method refers to crabs but I think that is more about movement between positions rather than between notes. However, I don't really know enough about it to make an intelligent comment. Maybe a Rabbath user can shed more light on it.
  12. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Sorry, Paul, I think I was channelling Buono there for a minute ;)
  13. Jleonardbc


    Nov 12, 2004
    I've been playing bass in school for about 9 years..my impression has been that the usual technique is to play with the tips of all four fingers, with the first and fourth finger spanning a whole step and the second and third fingers falling naturally in between. However, the reach incurred to keep the middle finger a half step (a couple inches, at the top of the neck) apart from the first requires you to use the side of the first finger (and develop a callous there as was said) rather than the tip, which would seem more natural. I just want to make sure this is correct before I develop an unnatural technique that would be considered a poor habit. Thanks for your input guys, I appreciate the community here. -Dan
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I don't know, hold your hand a little closer to the screen so I can get a better look.

    Not trying to be mean, but why exactly do you think that typing to a bunch of strangers who can't see you is going to give you a better handle on physical approach than asking someone standing in the same room, i.e. your teacher?
  15. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    Just using the term claw makes me cringe, but hey . . .
    The term claw sparks an image in my mind that is rigid and tense. No matter how you space your hand, as well as your wrist (and entire arm, for that matter) should be loose and supple. not CLAWING down on the neck.
    Someone referenced Rabbath's claw method which is an entirely different thing. This is a technique that enables smoother shifting mainly in thumb position, where in which your fingers "walk like a crab"
  16. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    That's what I thought it was as well...either a crab-like walking with the left hand in thumb position, or with the thumb stationary in thumb position (as a point of reference) and opening your hand outward, like opening a claw.
  17. Jleonardbc


    Nov 12, 2004
    I don't have a digital camera, if I can find a picture of what I'm talking about I'll put it on here.

    I've been trying to describe what I mean to you guys because I know what my teacher thinks and am trying to get a "second opinion" (from other people I've talked to, he's somewhat unique in his Claw approach or at least in his broad application of it- also in keeping the left hand finger position somewhat rigid while shifting to stay in tune, which I think makes sense). So I have asked my teacher and just wanted to know what you guys thought. I guess I'll keep with his advice until I hear otherwise. Thanks, Dan
  18. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I used to be more of the 'rigid machine' left hand -- relaxed, but in the right shape to hit all the notes without moving the hand or changing its shape from note to note. Now am firmly against it (she said). To describe my alternative would be exhausting in print, but keep the hand loose and natural in size and shape. Finger-placement works best when ear-driven and part of a fluid (constantly fluid) motion that goes all the way back to your spine.

    Yes, the 1-2-4 thing is the most common approach and you'll get mega-mileage from the technique. I have a huge fingering thread listed in the Newbies Section that might be worth your perusal.
  19. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Listen to your teacher.
  20. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    Ray you need to write a book bro.