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Double bass positions

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


  1. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    We're all probably past the stage of actually thinking in positions when we play, but for teaching and communication purposes (for example within an orchestral section) it's far better, in my opinion, to have a "standard" nomenclature to use, and Simandl still does this best. Again, in my opinion
     
    SteveC and Fabio_MIJ like this.
  2. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I have never seen a position notated in anything but a method book. Is solos I have only seen the the note and the string notated with the letter or Roman numeral - which is the same thing as I said. The primary reason for it is that positions have never seemed to be agreed upon.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
  3. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Positions. Half, First, Thumb.
    Cello is worse, with upper 2nd, lower 2nd, on and on.
    I don't worry about positions as much as patterns and playing in tune using a fingering that makes sense. There's almost always more than one way to skin a cat.
     
  4. Fabio_MIJ

    Fabio_MIJ

    Feb 3, 2016
    back home
    As a student I find it useful to annotate the postions alongside the melody as a reminder, especially if it is a long one and you can play it in different positions. I did the same for guitar, in orchestral stuff it was useful.
     
  5. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    People are free to use them. I certainly do not hold back the information if the student wants it. One more thing to think about is not helpful when it comes to making music, especially when other musicians are involved.
    It is better to get to the note and get to work placing it with the other musicians, shaping it, etc.
    If you are amazing at dividing your attention and can deal with information on the page, from other musicians, the conductor, etc. and still get to your pitches and shape them into something beautiful and or interesting then they may be worth it.
    If not, they should be the first to go in terms of streamlining the thought process.
     
  6. Fabio_MIJ

    Fabio_MIJ

    Feb 3, 2016
    back home
    What you say makes sense, but you know sometimes, if I have a long line written to play, I don't remember where I do have to play it on the fretboard. Of course I can play it in different positions, but sometimes it is better to plan it for economy/sound decisions. At this point I prefer to write it down instead of trying to remember it. It is also a good reminder about the whole piece structure, like you just look at the position annotations and you recall the different parts of the piece. Well it is just my approach... of course I would not do that for straight-ahead jazz walkin'
     
  7. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    When you have responsibilities like concerts, recitals or recordings, you need to do whatever you need to get the music played.
    I would, however, try to purge this way of thinking from your practicing.
     
  8. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Right...one doesn’t need to “think” of positions once you learn them. It’s a process for learning the instrument.
     
    the_Ryan likes this.
  9. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    I disagree. Simandl is good but outdated. Rabbath/Vance have figured out a better way, in my opinion. I don’t disagree that Simandl is the tried and true method that most folks use...but I would hesitate to call it “best”. It certainly helps to know both methods for fingering purposes...when you are playing you don’t really think about that anyway. Personally I use a combo of both methods, but I’m more interested in Rabbath for pedagogical purposes and my own personal improvement.
     
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  10. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Simandl is more consistent. Rabbath works really well with a good teacher, but can really go south without proper guidance and I will never believe collapsed fingers are great.
    Simandl is actually less outdated than the instrument itself. A thinking teacher and student will get great results with Simandl and updating a fingering here and there is just common sense. I have studied Rabbath, Simandl and Petracchi with teachers and spent time with Billie on my own. I think Simandl and then Petacchi is the most solid route.
    Also, due to simplicity, Simandl is best if you don't have a teacher, BUT, we should all have a teacher and use the method they use. The "more musical" argument is a bad one. Methods prepare you to play music. Work out of a method and play the music you want.
    A serious bassist will have all the method books they can find and spend time with all of them. Etudes are only a few minutes long, it is a long life.
     
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  11. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    As far as I can see, a lot of Rabbath seems to be about formalising and making legitimate all the tricks and short cuts we all use because we don't have the discipline - or skill! - to apply Simandl strictly.

    That's a generalisation, I know, but go back and look. You'll see there's some truth there....
     
    neilG likes this.
  12. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    The only thing that will ever work is any bass method + common sense. The methods get you started and keep you on track, they don't babysit you at your gigs.
     
    CSBBass likes this.
  13. CSBBass

    CSBBass

    Sep 21, 2013
    I think part of the problem problem here is that Simandl and Rabbath are not just different position systems, but different systems of playing. Some are arguing for/against the position system while others are arguing for/against the method, and it's true that they're not fully separable, but with this conversation being about position systems specifically, I think debating the merits of the whole method is somewhat counterproductive. While one could maybe try to make an argument that one position system is objectively better or worse than another for whatever reasons (I wouldn't, but I could see it being done), no one can effectively make such a claim about a different method of playing because the way we all play is subject to countless personal preferences. If you're not incorporating pivots into your playing, Rabbath's system of naming positions is functionally useless in the lower positions (at least, in my opinion). If you're using pivots regularly, Simandl quickly starts to feel cumbersome. Either way, they're only as useful as they are relevant to how you play.

    You have a point, but the thing I'm not sure I understand is the thinking that those things are "tricks" and "shortcuts", as if it's somehow a cheat that is part of illegitimate, dishonest bass playing. It's not like we're athletes using illegal steroids to improve our performance, we're just using a method of navigating an instrument that is rather large and unwieldy in a way that works better for us. And, given that you say "we all use" those techniques, I'd go so far as to say that statement suggests that it's flat-out more efficient, otherwise we wouldn't be using it mostly in the places where our skills using Simandl don't quite cut it. What's wrong with normalizing that? Why should we treat any aspect of bass playing that doesn't injure the player or create a bad musical result as fair game?
     
    the_Ryan likes this.
  14. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Both methods work. Both use positions. They are the two most common in the US.
    Numbers positions are useful for beginners, not useful to play music.
     
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  15. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    Two minor points. First: no-one uses the position numbering systems to play music. We do use them to communicate effectively about fingerings and shifts.

    Second: apologies if I gave the impression that I was denigrating Rabbath. I really wasn't, but I do think that IF I were able to play all the time strictly according to Simandl, I would be a much better player than I am. I think a system is important for many reasons, I'm not a fan of "whatever works is right"
     
  16. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I think there is enough logic there to update when needed to modern music and instruments. I do think it is good consult a thumb position method like Petracchi or Rabbath for the upper register, Book II is where it falls off for me. Petacchi's logic is very close to Simandl's and I love doing Simandl book I etudes up an octave with Petracchi fingering.

    This where an alternative for position thinking comes in. Doing your exercises in every possible location and transposing. It gets you a way better understanding of the instrument.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
    Jeshua, CSBBass and the_Ryan like this.
  17. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    The most simple way to name positions is to name the position after where the first fingers is placed. So one position name for each chromatic step. 1st finger on C on G string is 5th position. Second finger on C# on the D string is 10th position and so on. Just like on guitar and electric bass. It can't be more simple than that. Now if we can all agree on this system this becomes the new standard and all our problems our solved! :)
     
  18. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Both methods work. But I’m just tired of hearing people say “this one is better”, and I didn’t say that myself. I was brought up with Simandl but around the same time one of my most influential teachers was learning about and studying with Rabbath. So he introduced me to the method and over the years I’ve incorporated it. I have found it to make playing the bass much easier to understand...although to be clear I understood the bass long before Rabbath method. It’s taken me to the next level.

    Regarding the pivot, this is less useful in the lowest positions due to the space between the notes, so knowing Simandl helps. Where the pivot is really useful is in Rabbath’s 2nd and 3rd positions, so from the B to the D on the G string, and from the crook of the neck to thumb position....this is where it’s most useful.

    Regarding the collapsed fingers in thumb position...I don’t recall anywhere in the Rabbath method that says you have to do that. It is how he plays, but you don’t have to do that...it’s nice to know you can if it makes it easier to play, but personally I don’t collapse mine. Rabbath positions in thumb position help you to find the notes easier by using the harmonics...very useful.

    Both are good methods. It depends on the player and what you like and your body. Don’t go blasting the one you don’t use...different strokes for different folks.
     
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  19. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    The fact is Simandl gets good results across the board. Rabbath gets best results when added to a Simandl background or when you study with one of the few great teachers who really know the method.
    In those circumstances it works great. In others it doesn't work well. It would not be a great method at all for a beginner with no teacher. Where someone taking the un-recommeded route of not getting a teacher should at least get Simandl book 1.
    So, that is the reason recommending it in the abstract is met with caveats.
    Further, adding an additional position system whether better or worse is unhelpful outside the method.
     
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  20. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    This makes me curious. What exactly is it in the Rabbath that can not be be learned without a teacher as opposed to Simandl? Can you you new a few things in details? I don't mean for pure beginners but for advanced students/players.
     

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