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Fingerboard Markers(dots)For Upright Bass

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by terrymichael, Mar 8, 2010.

  1. terrymichael


    Dec 15, 2009
    I noticed Edgar Meyer uses fingerboard markers(dots)on his bass. I wondered what bass players think of this? Is this looked down on? It obviously isn't popular since I haven't seen anyone else who does this (I'm sure there are others out there)and Meyer is a great bassist. I wonder if Meyer used adhesive markers or if these are inlayed? I would love to hear what he says about this as well as other opinions?
  2. relacey


    Sep 18, 2004
    When you play as well as Edgar you can put any damn thing you want on your bass. He could paint flames on it and tack on a tambourine and nobody would say a word. At least I wouldn't. And if I thought that fingerboard markers would get me there, I'd paint them on in a NY second.

    But, the consensus seems to be that once you get a little experience you don't need markers for the normal stuff that us mortals play. I have some inlaid dots on the edge of my fingerboard. When I first started, they were handy to make sure I was in the right spot, but I never look at them any more. You learn where the harmonics are and where each position is on your bass. Some light pencil marks can do the same thing, and once you don't need them they can be erased.

    You should be playing with your ears and not your eyes. On a dark stage or if you've hit middle age and forget your reading glasses, you can't see them anyway so you might as well learn how to play without them.
  3. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Fishman Transducers, D'Addarrio Strings
    Mr. Meyer's markers are a topic of endless debate, on this website and others. He is not the only bass player with markers, but he is probably the most visible. I think that he's largely silent with regard to the dots. I believe that they are inlayed boxwood. I wouldn't begin to guess whether, or how much, he actually USES them.
  4. waleross


    Nov 27, 2009
    South Florida
    When I was playing Upright, I never used them or thought of using them. I agree Mr Myers can do whatever he wants. Being inlaid in the fingerboard it must look great.
  5. shadygrove


    Feb 14, 2008
    Marysville, WA
    This seems to be a hot topic today...


    +1 to what relacey said ...I used a couple of pencil marks on the side of the fingerboard to get me started, but it wasn't long before I didn't bother to mark them on there anymore and started relying on my ears.

    The problem with inlays is you better be durn sure your bridge doesn't move. Not just where it contacts the bass, but at the top too. If it does, then your dots will be in the wrong places. In an ideal world, bridges would stay horizontal and never get pushed out of place but that hasn't been my experience.
  6. In an story that appeared many years ago (possibly in the now-defunct Double Bassist magazine or perhaps in one of the ISB pubs, I can't remember), Edgar was taking questions from a student class. One student asked Edgar about the (inlaid) position markers. He replied simply, "those are just some of my favorite notes." Makes sense to him.
  7. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I just have a few tiny dots of "White Out" on the side of the fingerboard, easily removed if I need to remove 'em, and can't really be seen by an audience. They have helped me when I got "tangled up in my throw rope". I've only been on the DB for 11 months, and 40+ years on the BG. Yes, I still need a little guidance, and am not embarrassed to say so ... ;)
  8. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Fishman Transducers, D'Addarrio Strings
    I love that. Maybe not the clearest answer, but a great one!
  9. speedster


    Aug 19, 2005
    Ontario Canada
    I have put them on several bass's I've owned for a couple reasons. One is as a good reference when I get my mind wandering during the middle of a set.

    The main reason is that I can ensure the bridge stays placed where it sounds the best on the bass. Once I get that spot by experimenting I then mark the neck and then using a counter sink drill bit punch a small inlay and fill it with white two part epoxy.

    I really like good intonation as well and use them more than I think I am sometimes I imagine.... but maybe not as I don't think about it much, but they are there.
  10. I have three MoP dots inlaid on the side of my strange bass where the index finger would be for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd positions. Also, for use in "7th position" (I don't have any TPs at all), I have them on the top center of the fingerboard where the 7th, 9th, and 11th imaginary frets would be.

    Since I have no chops yet, I generally use them to take an initial finger position, and then try not to look at them after that until I can tell I've drifted off pitch. (Doesn't take long.) I'm hoping for a day when I won't need them at all, but frankly I'd be pretty lost without them at this stage.

    If some of you feel the dots are actually holding me back from that goal, I'll believe you. It's just that right now I can practice only a few minutes each day, and just trying to really learn the fingerboard well is a slow process.

    (16 more weeks 'til retirement. :hyper:)
  11. M Ramsey

    M Ramsey

    Mar 12, 2005
    North Carolina
    I scanned through the TV offerings tonight as I settled into the couch after supper. Not too much to choose from. So, I grabbed the Bluegrass Journey DVD from a few years back and slammed it into the slot.

    It had been a while since I watched this DVD and with the upcoming release of the long awaited book, "Still Inside. The Tony Rice Story" I watched for the segment where he plays solo at the GreyFox Festival.

    Prior to that piece, there was a performance by Nickel Creek. As I watched the beautiful videography scan by, I noticed a closeup of Byron House's Eminence bass and lo and behold, there they were, for all to see.

    MARKS on the front of the fingerboard, down over the extension what looked to be grease pencil or chalk or some whitish-looking position marks. I backed up the DVD to make sure it wasn't just a glare unerneath the lights of the stage, but it weren't.

    I wonder if I should call the position marker or the dot police?
  12. relacey


    Sep 18, 2004
    What's a bluegrass bassist doing playing notes up there anyway? You should call the bluegrass police! I bet none of Bill's bassists ever played a note above the C on the G string. Shocking!!! :eyebrow:
  13. M Ramsey

    M Ramsey

    Mar 12, 2005
    North Carolina
    With all due respect, you ain't never seen old video of George Shuffler playing bass. That was his first instrument (and his instrument of choice over the guitar) when he first went to work for The Stanley Brothers.

    George would regularly visit the fingerboard extension, often times hitting harmonics and playing constant 4/4 walking bass, hammering it hard and regular.

    His younger brother John (who also played and recorded bass with The Stanley Brothers in the early 50's) could do the same thing.

    Their view of bass rhythm was sort of like Tony Rice's rhythm on guitar. There's lots of other places where the rhythm can lay in music, besides the 1 and 3 beats (regular bass beats) or the 2 and 4 beats (mandolin chop).

    To quote Butch Robins (one of Bill Monroe's best banjomen IMHO) "I used to love to get to jam with John Shuffler, since he can walk that bass so good he can drive your A$$ up a wall."

    It ain't everybody's cup of tea with regard to bass playing, but it helped to define The Stanley Brothers early sound.

    And if you ask Tom Gray (long time bass player going back to the early days of The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene) who his bass heroes are, he'll tell you in a minute that it was George and John Shuffler.
  14. relacey


    Sep 18, 2004
    Mike, I was being sarcastic. I know that many of the bluegrass bass players are outstanding musicians. I play bluegrass and though I'm only mediocre at my best, I can appreciate what the greats have done and can do. Just another example of what I hear in my head not coming out clearly through my fingers. I meant no disrespect.

  15. M Ramsey

    M Ramsey

    Mar 12, 2005
    North Carolina
    And I wasn't trying to be the all-seeing all-knowing Wizard of Oz. :smug: Just trying to sling out a bit of historical info so that others that may not know, may have the opportunity to increase their knowledge, or, go digging through the internet for it.

    We cool.
  16. relacey


    Sep 18, 2004
    We're very cool. One of my pet peeves is the assumption that the bass is the easiest instrument in a bluegrass band, and unfortunately, at the amateur level you sometimes see the weakest musician put on the bass because "it must be easy" which just perpetuates the myth. Sure it doesn't have the flash of the mandolin or the cry of the fiddle or the ear splitting din of the banjo, but a good bass player can make a band and a great bass player can carry the band.

    BTW - I'm a big Tom Gray fan.
  17. Mike, good to hear from you again man. I asked about John Shuffler a few years back and like I said then, alot of people don't even know or believe george had a bass playing brother that was "that good."

    My dad knew both of them and played with both of them during the farm and fun time days in Bristol Tenn. He also told me that one of them used his Craftaman (Kay) bass on an album with the stanley's in the early 50's.

    Danny S.

    Sorry to get off subject, But I did install some dots and marks for my son while learning. I don't see what it would hurt to leave them on there and use them, nothing wrong with being exact.
  18. Show me a band with a weak or bad bass player and I'll show you a band , I don't want to hear!
  19. Show me a band with a weak or bad bass player and I'll show you a band , I don't want to hear!
  20. AMEN! George Shuffler set the standard for modern bluegrass bass....not all this 1-5, 1-5 junk, or standing up there holding the instrument and plunking a few notes, or choking it like a chicken, or just landing a spot in the band because you sing good or are Leroy's cousin, (or sister, with great legs) or because you drive the bus and are a good mechanic. Way too much of that in BG music.

    Walk on, bluegrassers....learn that fingerboard, learn those intervals and harmonics.....THAT is the real professional tradition in this music.