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Double bass positions

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by t-bag, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. t-bag


    Oct 21, 2008
    I have three books describing double bass positions but each of them are different. ‘York Studies for Double Bass’ describes second position as first finger on B flat, on the G string. ‘The Study of Orchestration’ (Samuel Adler) describes second position as first finger on B natural. ‘Practical Tutor’ (Adolf Lotter) has explanations of ordinary position and medium positions along side traditional positions. I was wondering what, if any, systems of left hand positions to use. I have not been playing long and my teacher uses Simandl technique so Rabbath’s positions are not an option for the time being.
    I realise that any of these systems can be used if you are consistent with their application but is there one that is more popular?
    Thanks for any help.
  2. thewhale


    Feb 28, 2008
    north carolina
    A rose by any other name still won't make it easier to play in tune.

    The only positions people commonly refer to by name are half (1 on Ab on G string), first (1 on A on G string) and third (1 on C on G string). "Thumb position" starts at the octave harmonic halfway up the string if you want to define it. Other than that, the lines blur.

    I personally don't like to think about positions, but patterns. Does it matter whether first finger on Bb is 2nd position or 1.5 position? Bass isn't as clear cut when it comes to positions. Just figure out where notes are in tune and put your fingers there. Play scales using different fingerings. You'll figure out different common patterns quickly, not necessarily positions.
  3. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I only use 1/2, 1st positions as labels. After that, I think "put your first finger on C#" etc.
    mjt0229 and SteveC like this.
  4. TomGale


    Jul 31, 2005
    American School of Double Bass
    In the older method books, when your 4th finger fell on a natural - B, C, D, etc, it was a numbered position. When it fell on an accidental - Bb, C#, etc, it was some form of a half position. Thusly, when the 4th fell on C (G string) it was 2nd position BUT a half step higher - 4th on C# - it is 2 and a half position. When I wrote "Practical Studies for D.B.", I decided to eliminate one mental step. 1st Finger on A is "A position" - not, 'it's 1st position therefore the 1st finger is on A'.

    And players - as they move forward - will think less and less about position numbers and more and more about the first finger and what can be covered in that position.
    Tom Gale
    ASODB.com :bassist:
    Super Iridium likes this.
  5. penguinbassist


    Aug 16, 2008
    i always learned to play the notes, not positions. like thewhale said, its the notes that count. Positions are just markers, like the little black dots. try scales in all -possible- fingerings, it'll make it easier when you're playing something unusual.
    steve_rolfeca likes this.
  6. bcarter


    Sep 11, 2008
    Cleveland, OH
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I all previous threads I've read around here over the last 8-10 years, it was Simandl which was seen as the "Bible" for this subject and very few people have dissented from this, who are also successful players..?
  8. TomGale


    Jul 31, 2005
    American School of Double Bass
    How about Eb position? - open hand?

    C C# D D#
    F F# G G#
    Bb B C C#
    Eb E F F#


    And when you add the thumb under the octave, all kinds of fun happens!


  9. Peaceful


    Oct 8, 2006
    North Carolina
    I first played the guitar. I still tend to think in terms of frets. This drives all my teachers crazy. (Except the one who plays guitar). This so confuses me that I go back to the notes in the scale (The good ol' tetrachord thing) and just holler them out: A, B, C#, D, E F#, G#, A. My first bass teacher (the guitar guy) taught me the forms of the scales (without much use of open strings), e.g. for an A scale:
    E string: 2 4
    A string: 1 2 4
    D string: 1 3 4.

    Beauty of this is it makes key changing easy - just move the 2 finger to the tonic.
    Plus on my 5-string bass guitar I can do two entire octaves with one whole note shift - go figure it out!
  10. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    The bottom line is that if you play in tune it doesn't matter what fingering you use. I've had students come to me and say, "sometimes I do this and sometimes I use that." My reply is invariably, "yeah, and SOMETIMES you play in tune, which means that whatever you're doing isn't working, is it?"
    My advice is to pick ONE system and stick with it.
    Dogbertday and SteveC like this.
  11. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Yes, it doesn't matter how you name the positions.

    I think the most logical thing is to name the position after where the first finger is (like they do on guitar or electric bass). So first finger on C on the G string is 5th position etc.

    BUT since I have to communicate with other people and my teacher I also follow the Simandl position numbering. That still is the most 'common' system. Although the Simandl positions names are not logical to me.
    IamGroot likes this.
  12. BRUTAL!! Funny, but brutal. Good thing you don't live in a concealed weapon state.
  13. G-force


    Jul 1, 2004
    oslo Norway
    Nice ! I just usually put my finger where the tape is. And if it is still out of tune , I take my finger and bow off the string.
  14. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    You see, you figured it out! Do you use the silver shiny tape or the multi-colored stuff? :)
  15. Tom Gale

    Tom Gale

    May 16, 2009
    See my reply of July, 2005. It still stands.
    Tom Gale :bassist:
  16. OK this is really messed up. For positions refer to the teachings of Franz Simandl Book 1. And never ever ever ever ever use 3rd finger before 7th position.
  17. You again? :eek:

    Right. Tell that to all the great players who use the French techniques.
  18. dchan


    Nov 19, 2005
    Bethlehem, PA
    I think what the esteemed Mr. Warburton means to say is that there are no "right" and "wrong" techniques.

    I mean, what would you tell a player who has absolutely enormous hands, who can easily play all of half-position with his pointer, middle, and ring finger? Are you going to going to tell him that he absolutely must stick with the Simandl method even if he has the capability to play cello style in the lower positions? (and if a person really does have such large hands, let's hope that it's a he and not a she :eek:)
  19. You have to learn the rules before you can break them. Once you have the positions learned, you are free to add stretches or even 3rd finger; whatever it takes to play the excerpt well and in tune. And forget tapes on the fingerboard, unless you want to look like a 5 year old Suzuki violinist; just put a dot of Whiteout on the side of the fingerboard facing you.
  20. echiampas10


    Oct 27, 2009
    Does anybody else use the old Montag and Streicher books anymore?? He used the I, I/II, etc method of notating positions, and the books are as hardcore as they come. I use 4 of his exercises for my warm ups or "vitamins" everyday and I was wondering if anybody else touches these books

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