Did the old guys have technique ?

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by degroove, Mar 11, 2004.

  1. degroove


    Jun 5, 2002
    Wilmington, DE
    I asked my bass instructor today (lesson #3 for this newbie) how using Simandl Technique one would play the typical major blues arpeggio line using three fingers. Coming from electic bass, I am very used to four fingers, no shifts.

    I asked him if he though old guys like Willie Dixon used a Simandl Three Finger Method. While he was not familiar with Willie, he felt that most guys from the old era would be classically trained, able to read music, and most likely familiar with Simandl.

    My question is, Did the old blues guys like Dixon use this approach? I would expect it more from jazz guys, but I post the same question for the likes of Ray Brown, Ron Carter, etc...

    I guess the point of my question is...do I need Simandl to play these styles?
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The bass is the bass no matter what style you're playing.

    Major pent:

    1 2 3 5 6 1 -> degrees of the scale

    Parens indicate notes on the same string.

    You also may notice that a major pentatonic is the same as the relative minor pentatonic, i.e. a C major and A minor pentatonic have the same notes. This also demonstrates the fingering for the minor pentatonic.
  3. In his book, Milt Hinton tells a story about how Charles Mingus would try to top him with Simandl excercises from the back of the book. So, we know that at least two of the giants knew and used Simandl.
  4. Peter Dalla

    Peter Dalla

    Feb 2, 2004
    Ray Brown studied with the principal (Reinshaugen?) for the Chicago Symphony whenever he could, Ron Carter (you kidding?) is a product of of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Most of the jazz musicians of the 40s and 50s were well schooled by high school teachers like Walter Dyett and his counterparts. They were often gigging before college (and in place of college) but would study privately with legit teachers.
    the Ken Burns schlockumentary does explore the early days of jazz quite weel and one of the things that is pretty well covered is how the change in racial laws in Louisiana brought classically trained creole, octamaroon and other "racially mixed" (and formerly classified as non-Negro) musicians into the realm of the informal "popular" music players.

    And then once you get into the late teens, 20s and 30s, you have African Americans going into popular music (jazz at the time) because the world of classical music was closed to them. They had the training and the wherewithal, but not the opportunity.

    Blues players are coming mostly from a different bag and socio economic class. Duke Ellington came from an upper middle class family, most blues players did not. Jazz was a primarily urban music, blues was a primarily rural and agrarian phenomenon. Most jazz players had a formal or semi formal music educational background, most blues players had an apprenticeship with a more experienced player.

    So I would say probably not. Most blues bassists came to it from a pretty informal apporach, picking up tricks from other bassists or guitarists or pianists.

    As to whether or not you need Simandl, only you can answer whther or not you want the instrument to be an impediment to getting your musical ideas out of your head. Simandl is not the end all and be all, it's just a methodology for becoming familiar with your instrument, getting a good grounding in positional playing and for building a platform from which you can get deeper into playing. Other teachers may use other methods to get you to the same place. But building a relaxed and solid physical approach to the instrument should be the basis of ANY approach used. What is going to to give you a life time with the instrument, not just give you what it takes to get through the next gig.

  5. Reading between the lines here (which may or may not be accurate) it seems like you are seeking an easy way out. I can tell you from experience that if you want to develop some facility with the bass, you should learn Simandl or whatever system your teacher uses (mine focuses on Simandl with a little Rabbath mixed in). I started out on my own like a lot of guitar players trying to transfer that technique to the upright. It just doesn't work very well. Simandl is awkward as the dickens for a while but I guarantee that after a few weeks or couple of months the difference in your ease of play will be remarkable.

    Your patience will be rewarded.
  6. As far as Willie Dixon goes, his best bass playing was in the late '40s with the novelty band, the Big Three Trio. I've seen film of him playing and he uses a sort of hamfisted gutbucket left hand technique that involves a lot of shifting and use of the third finger; definitely not Simandl. He also used a lot of slap technique.
  7. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    Just read Pops Foster's autobiography, the first famous jazz bassist. He used a similar approach. Held the neck like a baseball bat. Liked the sound and made no excuses for it.