Fingering notation in plain text

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Stefan Boeters, Dec 6, 2000.

1. Stefan Boeters

Nov 3, 2000
Mannheim, Germany
Is there any established shorthand notation for describing fingering in plain text? In another thread in this forum, I asked lermgalieu about his fingering of the opening phrase of "So What" -- and now I'm looking for a simple way of talking about alternative fingerings.

Say I begin the phrase with playing the 'd' with the first finger on the A-string, then play 'a' with the fourth finger on the d-string. What do you think of this shorthand:

d: 1(A), a: 4(d)?

Is there an established alternative notation?

Stefan

2. lermgalieuSupporting Member

Apr 27, 2000
Mill Valley, CA
I've never seen DB transcribed in plain text myself. I actually didn't have time last night (mixing, takes FOREVER) to play that classic line and see how I finger it, but, yeah, I think your transcription idea might work - it doesn't convey time or anything, but its perfectly acceptable to convey fingering. For that line, its something like G: 0(G), A: 1(D), B: 2(D), C: 4(D) ....then some other stuff (i think back down to A: 1(D), then up a fifth and back or something)!! Haha! I can't quite remember off the top of my head. Its all in those positions tho - just moving up to the G string for parts. I say positionS because that's the rub - I originally was kind of anchoring myself on that A: 1(D) and not actually moving up half step with my position to grab the C. I think. Again, when I get time I will play it again and see - a pretty simple line, but it leads to some good thoughts on positioning.

3. reedo35

Jul 29, 2000

Say I begin the phrase with playing the 'd' with the first finger on the A-string, then play 'a' with the fourth finger on the d-string. What do you think of this shorthand:

d: 1(A), a: 4(d)?
Is there an established alternative notation?
Stefan

[/B][/QUOTE]
There's nothing wrong with that, if it works for you. The way I usually see notation in classical literature is something like this, using your example:
III II
1(D) 4(A)

4. Stefan Boeters

Nov 3, 2000
Mannheim, Germany
reedo35 -- I understand that every notation might work, if it's consistent and unambiguous. But my main point is about communication. I would be quite difficult to exchange ideas about fingering when everybody uses a different way of writing it down. So I would like to have an agreement right from the beginning. (Maybe this is a typically European way of thinking -- anyway.)

I have difficulty understanding your alternative. You write (slightly rearranged, because I can't produce exact columns with this fond):

If I see it correctly, the roman numbers stand for positions. But in my example, I play both 'd' and 'a' in the same position: III. Is that just a typo (II instead of III), or is there a clue I don't see yet?

Another question: When we write down the notes we play in plain text, which name do we use? For instance the open D-String: In musical notation it is 'd' (as I wrote), but it sounds 'D' (as you wrote). (Or are there international differences in naming the low octaves? I know it like this: c' -- one octave lower: c -- next: C -- next 'Contra'-C [don't know a shorthand for it, maybe C'?]).

Stefan

5. lermgalieuSupporting Member

Apr 27, 2000
Mill Valley, CA
I don't see the need to notate the position since the finger used for the note implies the position, right?

6. reedo35

Jul 29, 2000
Another question: When we write down the notes we play in plain text, which name do we use? For instance the open D-String: In musical notation it is 'd' (as I wrote), but it sounds 'D' (as you wrote). (Or are there international differences in naming the low octaves? I know it like this: c' -- one octave lower: c -- next: C -- next 'Contra'-C [don't know a shorthand for it, maybe C'?]).

Stefan

[/B][/QUOTE]
It's kind of hard for me to explain it in words without
actually showing you, but here is the way it would look according to Simandl:
III (Pos)
______o_
________
___o____
________
________
1 4 (Finger)
And Contra C would be CC.What is H again, I keep forgetting?
Lerm: A lot of the Music I've seen will show either the fingering used or the position,usually only method Books show both, and some publishers just let you figure out what works best and write your own.

7. john turnerYou don't want to do that. Trust me.Staff Member

Mar 14, 2000
atlanta ga
a tab discussion over HERE? in the DB side? yikes!

next thing you know you guys will be trading koRn tabs.

sorry for the interruption, just thought i'd share my amazement.

8. lermgalieuSupporting Member

Apr 27, 2000
Mill Valley, CA
Actually, we were trying to talk about how we can converse about fingering, not how we can play the latest Yngwie Malmsteen record without learning how to read music or play by ear...

If that helps clarify...

9. lermgalieuSupporting Member

Apr 27, 2000
Mill Valley, CA
Whatever, I don't think its a 'bad' thing. You can read music in a book can't you? When there is a common vamp for a song, and its notated, I assume you play it or at least look at it before improvising because it's as identifiable with the song as the melody. So what the heck is wrong with conversing about it? Is it bad because its not formalized? Or are you saying its a shortcut to something? I think tablature, just like written music, is only a tool. I was using this 'tool' to talk about different approaches, and possibly iron out some common problems that don't seem to common as you are in the midst of them. This might not happen too much with you, but you definitely have been playing longer than me. I utilize all tools in the chest, no matter how idiotic they might seem to someone....

So in short, I am both answering to your question about 'what good is it' and responding that its neither good nor bad, tho believe me I understand where the negative connotation comes from.

10. reedo35

Jul 29, 2000
Hey,Hey, FUNQUA and JT,That was just an example! If I could write a staff with normal notation, I would! Anyway,In answer to your question ,yes and no. In my first post I stated my original standpoint that whatever works best for you, IS best for you, because whatever way you finger them,
THE NOTES STAND IMMORTAL.. I have however, had teachers and section leaders that would insist that you use their fingerings to maintain Uniformity in the section.Also I feel that each string has its own Sonority, and the fingering you use depends on the context of the phrase, and the sound you want to get,i.e., fingered D on the A string sounds darker than Open D, nowutimeen?

11. David Kaczorowski

Unless you're discussing advanced extended left hand technique, I don't think hand size is much of an issue, and we'll all be using the same kind of thing. D vs. Eb neck is only about a reference point, I've never heard of it being factored in to a fingering equation.

To the cat asking about "So What": I think most cats play the whole thing right up the G string with the exception of the D and the Eb that start the phrases respectively. You might play a couple notes across the strings between the G and D strings, but definately not any on the A string. That's lame and you'll get laughed at. I'd offer a fingering solution, but it's been ages since I've played that and I don't feel like having to think about it right now.

I've never seen a short hand for discussing fingerings. Personally, I don't see much use for it. 99% of bassists
will know what you're talking about when you tell 'em open- one- two- four, one- four-, four- one.

12. Phil SmithMr Sumisu 2 U

May 30, 2000
Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
Though it's true the Paul Chambers played the tune open D, A on the G string, playing across is more efficient and probably more Simandl-ish. As for some one being laughed at, I saw Buster Williams play it across at Symphony Space about 2 years ago, in NYC during a "Kind of Blue" tribute with Jimmy Cobb on drums, no one was laughing at him.

Phil

13. Phil SmithMr Sumisu 2 U

May 30, 2000
Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS

A[III-1]
(A string 3rd position 1st finger)
D[III-4]
(D string 3rd position 4th finger)
G[II/III-1][III-1][IV-1][IV-4][III-1][III-4]
(G string intermediate position between II and III 1st finger, etc...)
D[III-4]

A[III-1]
D[III-4]
G[II/III-1][III-1][IV-1][IV-4][III-1][III-4]

A[III-1]
D[III-4]
G[II/III-1][III-1][IV-1][IV-4][III-1][III-4]
D[III-4]
G[IV-4][IV-1]
D[IV-1]

The roman numerals are Simandl positions.

14. Don Higdon

Dec 11, 1999
Princeton Junction, NJ
Jeeezus, Phil, I'd rather you just show me the goddam music.
When Zimmerman fingered the Beethoven symphonies, he just wrote 1,2,4 (and 3) over the notes where necessary. The player figures out what position and string by inference (with occassional exception). The player is not excused from the obligation to think.
In certain orchestras, protocol is to go down, not across, for the sake of better intonation. That gets weighed, of course, against the inefficiency that shifting can bring.

15. Stefan Boeters

Nov 3, 2000
Mannheim, Germany
Lawrence -- I can see your point:
This might be more about logic than music, but it's interesting anyhow. For any note we play, there are four pieces of information: (1) the pitch, (2) the string, (3) the position, (4) the finger used. Of those four, any three are sufficient to say what we do, the fourth can be inferred from the three others. And so my question about a convention can just be understood as a question about which piece of information to leave out.

We already tried three of the four possibilities in this thread: In my original posting, I used (1), (2) and (4), and left out (3). reedo35 in his proposal left out (2), the string, and Phil left out (1), the pitch. We have all necessary information to translate any of these in every other.

However, I still tend to prefer my original variant, because (a) I have difficulty remembering the numbers of the positions [although I studied some Simandl, I rarely used those position numbers for communication], and (b) I myself use some un-Simandlian fingering in the upper positions.

So, back to music. My own fingering for the phrase we're talking about is:

d: 1(A), a: 4(D), b: 3(D), c: 4(D), d: 1(G), e: 3(G), c: 1(G), d: 4(G).

This is very similar to Phil's (and laughed at by all open-string-starters?), except for the third and fourth note, which I play on the D-string in extended fingering.
I figured out this fingering simply by minimising position shifts -- but I'm not too self-confident about such an approach. And so I asked for alternative views.

reedo35 -- "H" is German (and maybe in some other European countries) for "B", and "B" denotes "Bb". So Bach's "BACH" is rendered "Bb-A-C-B" in English.

Ed -- I agree that different fingerings might be best for different players on different instruments. (At least in jazz.) I started this thread just to find alternatives that could be worth a try.

Phil -- I'm happy that you also support the view that going up and down the G-string is not the only reasonable possibility (though it certainly is one of them). But I'm puzzled by your use of "1" for three consecutive notes. You really do this? Seems more natural to me to use "2" for "c".

Stefan

16. David Kaczorowski

"More Simandl-ish", or formal technique-ish in general is to play shifting up the string, not across. I don't know anything about Buster Williams aside from his reputation and what I've heard on the radio, but I'm suprised he played it across. Playing across the strings maybe more efficient for the left hand, but it's also less musical sounding and more difficult to play in tune. Guys coming from a bass guitar background always want to play across. I did too until after I'd been studying for a while and I realized, while there's a time and place for it, playing across the strings ain't something you want to be doing a lot of. It doesn't sound good and it's bad technique.

17. Phil SmithMr Sumisu 2 U

May 30, 2000
Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
There's more than one way to do something...

I don't think it's any more difficult to play in tune across than playing linearly down the string especially if your lateral playing incorporates the use of open strings, your intonation or lack there of is determined by your ability to hear, your technique and the more subtle vibration of the string under you finger when you play it.

18. lermgalieuSupporting Member

Apr 27, 2000
Mill Valley, CA
So how would you finger 'Crazy Train'? JUST KIDDING!!

19. lermgalieuSupporting Member

Apr 27, 2000
Mill Valley, CA
You know - kind of an aside, kinda not, after looking at Phil's transcription I agree with Don, its really painstaking and would take less time to just give some hints on a couple of notes. But there are several pieces of software, such as Band in a Box and Cakewalk which at the minimum will chart out notes on a staff and which will at maximum allow you to score several intsruments in an arrangement. I don't know how useful it is for sheerly bass (the best way to use these things, even if charting a bass line, is to input it with a midi keyboard).

The other thing I am not sure about is how much you can add to the staff with these things in terms of annotation.

I also must just clarify and say that IMO all written music is an approximation, or guideline from the composer. Your first challenge with written music is to figure out how literally the composer intended what he/she wrote. In jazz, its pretty obvious when someone wrote Ab7 that you aren't supposed to play that chord's notes all together on each beat for the measure. But in more formalized arrangements, these questions of author's intent become much more interesting...

20. rablack

Mar 9, 2000
Houston, Texas
I don't have any brillant suggestions. I agree that tab is just a tool and that notes on the staff with occasional fingering suggestions is a better option. However, the original inquiry was:

"Is there any established shorthand notation for describing fingering in plain text?"

I think what Stephan was inquiring about is whether there is a way to communicate fingerings in the context of a bulletin board discussion. If we all had compatible scoring software and could post questions and fully notated responses we wouldn't be having the discussion. Until someone comes up with a way to do that we are limited to alphanumeric exchanges.

Now, does anybody know where I can get tabs to the latest Rage Against the Machine album?