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Double bass positions

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


  1. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I think it works best for advanced players in general. I was referring specifically to beginners when I said it only works well with a great Rabbath Teacher as a primary method from the ground up. I spent time with a teacher two degrees from Rabbath in my 20s and It was great - after Simandl. Any advanced player can get a lot from the books and we should all have them. It is a more complex method and in some ways more self contained than Simandl.
    To get to the same place in 2017 I use Simandl, Petracchi and Bach, as well as other solos - I actually like having the "other opinions" and having a more open and modular system.
    Still, there are many great bassists who came up on Rabbath as well as top professional bassists who have added it.

    To move this back on topic, consulting multiple systems and have several fingering solutions to things is much better than thinking about positions.
     
  2. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I have only seen the first two method books of rabbath. But to me it is more or less the same as Simandl. Especially book 1. I have seen lots of videos and also have Rabbaths bowing video.
    Can you point out some examples of how the teaching is different? Cause from the first two methods I don't see so much difference in the basic Simandl technique.
    Maybe you can tell what the teacher you had did different?
     
  3. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    The bowing video is my favorite! There is the whole scales for two hours a day, the pivots and all that. I think the method being more musical and flowing is the reason you need to drill scales more. I don't find much similarity at all. The music is more complex and "better" out of the gate than Simandl. Simandl is more simple and oriented toward really working you out in a position than Rabbath.
     
  4. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I agree but the basic fingering system and technique in those first two books is more or less the same as Simandl. Not a radical difference . Guess I expected more pivot stuff and other different fingering ideas but that is not the case if I remember correctly.
     
  5. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    The musical content is super important, because Simandl is more rigorous and less fun it is a bit more potent. Rabbath students who are great really do a total immersion in it.
    The fingering ideas are less and more important at the same time - we need to explore all possible fingering ideas to have as many tools as possible to get the music at hand played. Being hung up on a bass method is unhelpful when it comes time to play music with others.
     
    gnypp45, CSBBass and Les Fret like this.
  6. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    I think we should all remember that a "Method" is a method for learning, not something to be thinking about while you're playing. The more fingering options we have, the more likely we are to make bad decisions! We all spend too much time focussed on the left hand anyway. Which hand makes the noise?
     
    damonsmith likes this.
  7. wathaet

    wathaet

    May 27, 2007
    You should try attending an Edgar masterclass or similar. All of the top players I work with have a multitude of options available to them. I see a few one-trick ponies around and they are more often than not deadwood.
     
    CSBBass likes this.
  8. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Yeah, the more the better, especially if you are playing a variety of music. The better you have your note locations done the less the options will trip you up.
    Fingering options, like reading multiple clefs are a fact of contemporary bass playing.
     
  9. Peaceful

    Peaceful

    Oct 8, 2006
    North Carolina
    OK. So where is the Intermediate position? Oh, wait there are four of them. I guess as I came to double bass from guitar and bass guitar I am just too set in my ways to learn a new system that, to me, just adds a layer of complication.
     
  10. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    True. I agree they are confusing. But forget about the position names. They are only useful when communicating with other bass players who follow the same position system or when teaching. I just call them by half steps for myself like on guitar and EB.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  11. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    Dead wood is a bit harsh. Just play the notes, the best way you can find, and stop worrying about this or that "Method". I have plenty of options without worrying about whose "Method" they conform to. Left hand is the easy bit. My bass - and yours - is made of dead wood too....
     
  12. When I first started learning the instrument, my teacher showed me the basic Simandl hand posture (i.e. 1-2-4), but he only named two positions, half and first. Beyond that, he simply emphasized that wherever I put my hand on the fingerboard, I should know all of the notes at that spot on the adjacent strings; the notion of naming positions was irrelevant.

    When I arrived at IU, that thinking seemed pretty much universal. I don't think I ever heard a professor refer to a position by name. I especially remember Stuart Sankey for his very liberal teaching on left hand technique. His approach was wide open to using any digit available at any spot on the fingerboard, if it led to your solving problems technically and musically.

    My favorite Sankey quote: “Fingerings are like toothbrushes—you wouldn’t necessarily want to use someone else’s.”
     
    Neil Pye likes this.
  13. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    I was taught slightly differently, but I suspect it had a very similar outcome. My teacher at the Royal College was very keen on recognising intervals and basing fingerings on intervals, not knowing the notes necessarily, but that's not a huge difference. Scales in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths were a staple part of practice routines back then. I'm a lot lazier now.....
     
    csrund likes this.
  14. CaseyVancouver

    CaseyVancouver

    Nov 4, 2012
    Curious if Murray Grodner used a particular method for studies. Any comments on his teaching of fingering, bowing etc ?
     
  15. Disclaimer: It’s been a few years, and I hated etudes and method books, so here’s what my memory hasn’t blocked out...

    Murray had a collection of go-to resources for studies. I remember a mixed bag of Simandl, Billé and Storch-Hrabe. Murray also authored (with Janos Starker) An Organized Method of String Playing, and I recall getting a lot of Xeroxed handouts of those studies. I do vividly remember that the first orchestral excerpt I was assigned was Weber’s Overture to Die Freischütz.

    I seem to recall that he wrote a lot of bowing exercises as part of the Organized Method, although when I search Google, I only find left-hand exercises. (Available to view on Vitto Liuzzi's site if you want to check it out. Interesting to note that on those pages, Murray does indicate left hand positions, but I don’t ever remember him referring to them by name in lessons.)

    Bow technique is what I remember getting most from Murray. (i.e. That was my weakest aspect as a young student, and it was one of his phenomenal strengths as a teacher.) All the strokes, articulation, rhythmic variations, musical phrasing, placement on the string, body mechanics... he was a master of the bow.

    The left-hand work with him that I remember most was shifting technique and shift preparation—learning to prepare the shift by pointing the hand and fingers before moving down the fingerboard. Another big takeaway for me was learning to make logical choices about which finger to shift from and to in order to optimize agility and speed, when you need it.

    Moreover, it was all about translating all of that into well-formed musical expression. I'd be short-changing the experience and raising the ire of my fellow Grodner students if I failed to mention that.

    After my second year, Murray retired and IU recruited Larry Hurst to take his place. Stuart Sankey subsequently left IU to take the job at U of Michigan that Prof. Hurst vacated. Bruce Bransby came from the LA Phil to take over Sankey's studio. It was an amazing time to be a bass student at IU! I can't believe I got to study with all of those guys.

    Murray published a new book in 2013 called A Double Bassist’s Guide to Refining Performance Practices that is a summary of his decades of teaching and orchestral playing. A lot of memories from my lessons came flooding back when I read that book. He’s now 96 years old and living in Naples, Florida. Quite a few of his students are reaching retirement age!
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018
    CaseyVancouver likes this.
  16. CaseyVancouver

    CaseyVancouver

    Nov 4, 2012
    Thanks csrund, that's interesting on Grodner :)

    As you know I purchased my Schicker bow from him around the mid '70s. Also around that time (maybe '78) I was vacationing in California and stopped to visit him at his residence in Sacramento. I pulled up in my noisy '66 Corvette and maybe woke up his very nice neighbourhood haha. I suppose he maintained two residences, one for Indiana and the California one.

    I recall that he had a number of fine old basses for sale at his Sacramento home. I think that is why I stopped in. Tried 'em out and he was very much a gentleman. Probably should of bought one (of course). Anyway, wish I knew then what I know now about Murray Grodner. A missed opportunity to learn, and discuss bass playing with him.

    Speaking of his students now hitting retirement age, local highly respected bassist Wilmer Fawcett actually took a year off in 1970 from a chair with the VSO to teach and learn with Grodner at IU. He accepted a TA position, graduate student, & played principle with the IU Philharmonic then came back to Vancouver to win an associate principle position that he held until retiring around 2004. He would of been a professional bassist studying with Grodner and helping with teaching duties. Among Fawcett's basses is a Pollmann designed by Grodner.

    Thanks for the heads up on the Grodner book 'A Double Bassist's Guide to Refining Performance'. I just ordered a copy.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018
    Neil Pye and csrund like this.
  17. Casey,

    Here's something else you might find interesting—an in-depth radio interview with Prof. Grodner from Indiana Public Media from 2014:

    Double Bassist and Professor Emeritus Murray Grodner

    Among many other topics, he discusses his relationship with Gunter Kramer and importing Pöllmann basses to the U.S. I've been trying to encourage Jason Heath to interview Murray for Contrabass Conversations; hope it happens someday soon.

    Enjoy!

    Chris
     
    CaseyVancouver likes this.
  18. CaseyVancouver

    CaseyVancouver

    Nov 4, 2012
    Sure was playing with the best players right from the start of his career. Crazy busy with performing in New York before going to IU in '55.

    He explains that in '79 he went to Sacramento for 3 years as principle of the Sacramento Symphony and taught at the local university, before heading back to IU. So it must of been '79 when I met him. Now I know where the Lemur name came from, a mix of his wife's name Lee and his name.

    Thanks for posting.
     
    csrund likes this.

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