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Elbow pivot for intonation adjustments?

Discussion in 'Double Bass Pedagogy [DB]' started by tlhettema, Feb 3, 2016.


  1. tlhettema

    tlhettema

    Apr 28, 2007
    I came across a bass lesson of Luke Macintosh on effortless intonation (well: who does not dream about that?): Effortless Intonation - Lesson 1 - Become A Bassist. See also . His basic idea is: when a tone is false, one should not shift the entire hand, nor expand or extract the hand. But one should raise or lower one´s elbow and pivot around the left thumb in order to change the placement of the fingers. So: if a tone is too hight, you raise the left elbow, and make your left hand lower along the strings by pivoting around the thumb. If a tone is too high, you lower the elbow and pivot around the thumb, so that your fingers go a bit upward. Please see the video if I am not clear.
    This seems strange to me. I subscribe to Luke's idea that a movement should start with the larger muscles. So a correction of the intonation should not come from expansion or contraction. But I should think that a note should be lowered by lowering the entire hand a tiny bit, controlling the movement from the upper arm to the fingers, and not by using arm and elbow as a hinger.
    I am curious how the teachers in this forum look to this matter.
     
  2. neilG

    neilG

    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Spend more time learning not to miss and don't dwell so much on the on-the-fly correction. We don't need an entire technique for that. I wouldn't suggest anything in this video, except the use of drones (and German bow :) ). Small movements of the fingers and hand for correction are all that is necessary.
     
    DrayMiles and Don Kasper like this.
  3. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I was really put off by the hyperbole, ("...intonation is super important...!", "...perfectly in tune without having to think...", "...laser focus it....!", "...in tune, every time!"), and LOL shocked by the bizarre concept of using the elbow to correct poor intonation, ( "...it's all in the elbow..!")
    As for the use of drones - I think any serious discussion of drones/intonation must include "singing" as a (or the) primary component of any intonation regimen.
    My $0.02.
    IMHO.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Luke was a graduate student of mine a few years ago. He's a wonderful young musician and a great guy out of Queensland, AUS who is marketing his online instruction course toward young bassists who are just getting started. Obviously, as in much teaching, the motions he is showing here are greatly exaggerated so they can be easily seen on the video examples. The technique he is showing here is his own invention, but is an extrapolation of a common adjustment technique where an intonation adjustment is made by rolling the finger north or south rather than sliding the hand or using lateral finger motion to correct coming in high or low.

    The version of that adjustment that I use and espouse is based on an intense awareness of how everything the left hand does is connected to a much larger lever in the overall chain that goes finger-->hand-->wrist-->elbow-->shoulder-->spine-->hips. In improvisation or performance when landing on a note that is not perfectly in tune *, I believe the smoothest adjustment is a gentle rolling of the finger north or south to nudge the pitch toward the center of where it needs to be. Making this adjustment involves a turn of the wrist. This can be accomplished by a simple rotation of the forearm with a stationary elbow, or by a very small movement of the elbow up (to roll the finger gently toward the scroll to lower a pitch that came in sharp) or down (to roll the finger gently toward the bridge to raise a pitch that came in flat). My personal preferred method is to make such adjustments as far up the chain as possible, so I use a tiny motion of the elbow (as in vibrato but not back and forth) to roll the finger in the direction it needs to go to better center the pitch.


    * (obviously, as bassists we all try to hit every note perfectly so no adjustment is needed. But since most mortals do not play perfectly in tune all the time, when landing on a note - especially a long accented tone - that is not perfectly in tune, we are left with two choices: leave the note out of tune, or fix it.)
     
    doublebass77, tlhettema and Reiska like this.
  5. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Yikes!
    I remember sitting about ten feet from Mingus in the Five Spot. When I saw him sliding his fingers to adjust, on ballads, in the third position on the A and E strings. I said , "Thank you, God."
     
  6. statsc

    statsc Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2010
    Burlington, VT
    When talking to a classical violinist about this, he said, "We solve this problem through the use of vibrato!"
     
  7. Fixed that for you.
     
  8. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Edit: Joel Quarrington

    Chris Fizgerald, too.

    Sorry and thanks, Reiska
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
  9. tlhettema

    tlhettema

    Apr 28, 2007
    Thank you, Chris, for this explanation. Rolling the finger for correcting intonation, and starting this movement in the large muscles, through the elbow to the fingers. That makes the idea logical for me.
     
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Good - glad that rather long winded explanation made sense. It always feels a bit like "dancing about achitecture" to try to explain an organic motion in words. :)

    My greatest teacher and mentor (a pianist, but the concept is equally valid for any instrument) would always follow advice like this with an invitation to follow the source of the motion from the elbow to the next place up the chain that it came from (in this case, to the shoulder, then to the back and down the spine to the hips). She was amazing, and hearing the enormous sound she was able to pull out of her tiny frame made accepting this invitation very easy. I hope I live long enough to be able to trace this kind of motion to the hips as a feeling - at this point I can feel it in the upper torso, but lower than that still eludes me. Nice to have something to shoot for, though! I have no doubt that master musicians like Hal Robinson and Lynne Arriale and Bonnie Raitt are drawing their sounds from the central core. Hearing is believing.
     
    Reiska likes this.
  11. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    In modern skiing pedagogy, they teach that faster movements are always done with the smaller joints first. Ankles rotate before knees. It's the only way to ski bumps.

    I'm curious as to why you're focusing more on the elbow than the wrist? This is what I've come to automagically learn to do on my own.
     
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I like the balancing motion of the elbow and feel like it moves a small amount when I rotate my forearm anyway, so it's comfortable for me to move that way. Best I can explain it, but I could show you what I mean in person in 2 seconds!
     
  13. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I think this is a real backwards way of getting to it, it isn't wrong but ("You're not wrong, Walter...").
    I don't argue that it is all technique or muscle memory or any of that - what I argue is most people hear pitch well enough that if they develop good left hand habits then just drilling scales, etudes & singing will get you there.

    Most people I've met lack ear training in terms of advanced harmony, but not for finding specific pitch.

    I wouldn't worry too much about correcting, get comfortable with blowing clams on stage and try again next time!
     
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    So you've got a long tone in a piece, you come in sharp or flat and just leave it there when you could fix it?
     
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  15. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I mean, sure but I wouldn't build a methodology on it.
     
    Remyd and JoeyNaeger like this.
  16. doublebass77

    doublebass77

    Mar 25, 2009
    Louisville
    I like Luke's ideia, even though I knowhe had to exaggerate a bit for didactic purposes. I know him personally. He is a great player.
    I personally don't believe in string musicians that play in tune; I believe in string musicians that play '"tuning". Having said that, imho we should stablish the ear as the #1 tool to make adjustments. Of course elaborating on mechanical aspects of the motion is crucial for those who teach the instrument, but, this could not be considered a trick like: "Kids, here is what you can do if you are out of tune!"
    Couple things that are proven to improve intonation:
    Play with the bow
    Play classical chamber music
    Practice with drones on the formation of intervals
    Understanding the concepts of tension and relaxation as it relates to functional harmony (in thesis, intonation should be different when playing with tempered or non-tempered instruments).
     
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.

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