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DB technique

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Clef_de_fa, Dec 16, 2017.

  1. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    I'm normally on the BG side but I did play DB a few years during my music degree in college.

    I always cringe a little when I see a BG player put their fretting hand thumb over the neck or even touch the E/B strings ... To me it is a sign of not so great technique and makes for a lot of unnecessary hand movement but it is accepted.

    On DB I learned to play classical and my teacher told me to keep my thumb on the back of the neck, not a problem from me since I also do that on BG. But then I see a lot of punk, rockabilly and sometimes jazz player wrap their thumb around the neck ... and I cringe a little their too.

    I was wondering how the DB community see those technique.
    rwkeating and Leo Smith like this.

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    New York
    I see what you mean. I do that some times when I slap, and sometimes even use my thumb to fret the e string or simply mute it and it does work. I know that it looks weird though.. but that's about it. I started taking classical guitar lessons, and by nature my thumb is always behind the neck.
  3. HauntedDave


    Mar 7, 2016
    Houston, TX
    Having started with classical training, it is so embedded in me to have my thumb placed behind the neck, I don't even attempt any other method.
  4. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    For rockabilly and bluegrass it is some times correct to do that to really hold down the strings when slapping. It is called fisticuffs or baseball bat technique.
    Some jazz players that do it have terrible technique, others are in hour three of a four hour gig.
    I studied classical technique and can get a bit hung up on it. I play free music which means I can switch to something I can do properly when I get tired. Bassists with "assigned" roles have to get through it however they can. Once I realized all that I was able to have more compassion. Not, however, with jazz bassists who don't have other options.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  5. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Thanks guys for the answer. It gives me an idea of your point of view.
  6. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I do this when i am playing alot of droning root-five in lower positions. I can't really explain it, but it seems to be more comfortable for this style of playing. When walking, never. I wouldn't say it is wrong to use this in certain situations, but if you are using this technique while walking all up and down the neck, you have a problem.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I don't do it and don't advocate it, but you see great players like Charlie Haden and Ben Allison who do this and manage to both sound great and also stay healthy, so.... With my students, I emphasize that there are more efficient ways to hold the string down and try to focus on those. If I had a student that did those things and sounded like Charlie or Ben, I'm not sure I'd spend too much time harping on it.
    DrayMiles, Joshua, oren and 2 others like this.
  8. Reiska


    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Edgar Meyer uses this kind of approach a lot too, very relaxed and allways sounding great. I play a lot of root-fifth kind of stuff with a bass that`s set up for acoustic playing and have found strictly simandl-type of approach not beeing the most economical technique for that, I`ll wear out quickly and start to hurt. Then again, it sort of feels stupid to practise the baseball grip as it is widely judged to be a bad habit. This is why it`s great to see accomplished teachers approach on it. My own teacher uses it combined with traditional simandl technique.

    Great finnish bassist and composer Teppo Hauta-aho uses a version of this, as his left hand thumb tendons got messed up in an operation in the 80`s. His thumb is not around the neck, but on the back of it pointing upwards.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  9. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Whatever works for the demands of the music, and gets you around the bass the way you want, IMO. That being said, with students I always discourage the baseball bat grip, as it can cause technical limitations when faced with demanding music. The pros that use this technique obviously are to the point where it works for them. I've also seen many who use a combination of thumb placements in their playing.
    Reiska and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  10. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    I completely agree with you....

    But... ;)

    If I’m doing a gig that is ridiculously long, and I’m playing more than 3 or 4 sets, then my philosophy is...

    Anything goes.

    Successful completion of the job is priority number one. If proper technique suffers, so be it...

    Sometimes the expectations are beyond reasonable, even if you accept it, so you have to get Malcolm X on the gig... Meaning...

    By any means necessary.

    damonsmith likes this.
  11. Josh Kneisel

    Josh Kneisel

    Jun 17, 2016
    Being completely self taught I am sure I do this occasionally despite my best intentions of having good technique. I find it's usually because I am tired (think 3-4hr sets) or it's the easiest way for me to make the note happen. I find that when I start focusing too much on technique (during gigs) is when I tend to play poorly because I am too wrapped up in making sure I am playing 'properly' to relax and focus on what I am playing and hearing (ideally the technique is there without thinking). I bet that most of those you see with poor or questionable technique never had the money or opportunity for a teacher to tell them they were doing it wrong early on. I still want to get an upright bass teacher (I have been playing EBG for 17 years and UB for 6 years) since I am at a point in my playing where I don't know that I can go much further without one, but I can't afford it in addition to knowing they would have to be willing to put up with a few of my bad playing habits.
  12. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Haden is not favorite of mine, but I love a good portion of his work. These two are good examples for how I feel about the question at hand. Even though Haden often has lazy technique, I feel like he is able to communicate a real love for the instrument and music through it. Haden was a truly great player - overrated in relation to his peers, but his peers were absolute giants of the instrument and the music. This, warts and all, is pure gold to me:

    Allison's dull "Dockers ad" style music doesn't move me at all, and he just seems like he couldn't care less about the bass in every case when I've given his music a chance. His playing is adequate at best. I don't have any issues publicly criticizing a person that basically just blows off the instrument all together.
    To me this says he spent more time thinking about his shirt than the instrument that day:

    DrayMiles likes this.
  13. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Well, I think after watching that guy hump his bass for 8 minutes I am going to go find a video of Israel Crosby to watch, to cleanse the palate.
  14. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Mingus would have gone after him with a fire axe! Mingus never tolerated anyone shucking on the music.
    gerry grable and damonsmith like this.
  15. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    And, for that matter, the guitar players with their official "oh my god I am working SOOO HAAARRD to play this solo" facial expressions; someone ought to pass the word, that stuff went out of fashion decades ago. Listen, I've played electric guitar, it just doesn't take that much physical effort.
    DrayMiles and damonsmith like this.
  16. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Yes that was painful for me to watch...but to each his own..i guess?
  17. Joshua

    Joshua WJWJr Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 23, 2000
    I'll stand against the tide, sign me up for my Dockers. I liked that cut a lot.

    I also didn't bother to watch the video, only listening to the audio. Did the same for the Haden cut, and liked it a lot, too.

    I believe it was Duke Ellington who said; "the only yardstick by which the result should be judged is simply that of how it sounds. If it sounds good it's successful; if it doesn't it has failed". And if it's attributed incorrectly, I still like the quote.

    Not that I'm discounting technique, I just don't consider it more important than the music.
  18. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Right, I think the Allison line would sound a far better played by someone who can play - the dude has certainly done well for himself and got himself into some very serious settings. For me the sound suffers due to firstly a lack of technical skill but even worse, a lack of interest in the instrument altogether. There is no commitment in his playing at all.

    Haden's solo is pure conviction with an original sound and music that could come from nowhere else but him.
  19. Joshua

    Joshua WJWJr Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 23, 2000
    I'll admit that I'm just a random dude who loves listening to and playing music so my ear is certainly lesser developed than some, but I just don't hear what you're hearing.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  20. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Well, he has his fans!

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