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gripping the neck

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Steve Killingsworth, Dec 17, 2002.

  1. Let me preface this with this statement. Yes, I know I need a teacher but if you look at some of my previous posts, I live in a rural area and thus far have located no one closer than 140 miles.

    Now for my question. When holding the neck of the bass is it better to cradle it in your hand or just have the thumb in contact with the neck (like a BG)? I have tried it both ways and found that cradling the neck is more comfortable but just touching with the thumb makes fingering easier. It this a personal preference thing or should I concentrate on one method?


  2. I am not a DBer, but I remember Percy Heath saying that only guys with huge hands, like Oscar Pettiford, could easily wrap their thumb around the neck. Heath, OTOH, needed to use a more "classical" approach due to his smaller hands.
  3. MacDaddy


    Jan 26, 2002
    Provo, UT, USA
    When I was a little dude learning bass my teacher had me stick a broom handle in my palm and then grip the neck to get the feel for the handle. There should be a big empty spot between your palm and the neck. Just put your thumb smack in the middle of the neck so that when you look at the front of the bass from a viewers perspective you should not be able to see your thumb. Practice in front of a mirror.
  4. Celarier


    Sep 5, 2002
    Washington, DC
    I am new to DB also and I also need a teacher. Fortunately I have found a teacher being in the city and all. BUT I am most unfortunate in that only after several months of playing the DB I sadly have been forced to take a break before I start lessons. The reason is I have already strained the ligaments/tendons in the nuckle of the thumb that braces the neck. I have trouble bending it in and the real scary part is that I never felt any pain while I was actually playing. Worse than that I only imagine the neck or back pain that could happen due to improper posture/technique. Horror stories I am sure you have so wisely already read.

    Before DB, I have played the 6 string guitar for 20 years and never had any incident like this. I never knew how hard an instrument DB is to wrestle. Obviously, no need to get involved in the teacher vs. do it on your own arguements. I only write this as one anecdote about hand positioning. I know the lessons will be hard for you to get. Just be careful dude.

    If anything starts to hurt, stop for a while and listen to those little pains. Your body ius telling you something. I know I will be picking up an Alexander Technique (AT) book in the next day or two just to get a head start. Because if I do not, I will have to give up what has been a great but shortlived hobby and sell a beatiful sounding instrument.

    Good luck
  5. Yeah, gripping the neck in any way, shape or form pretty much goes against the current pedagogy, and against just about every other known natural and man-made law (I think it's even mentioned in the U.S. Constitution somewhere).

    Gripping the neck certainly inhibits finger movement, shifting, vibrato, etc. Plus, I suspect, it may contribute to injuries such as those described by Celariar.

    I don't use a stool, but a lot of folks do, there by avoiding the temptation to hold the bass with your left hand rather than placing the weight of the bass against the body.

    I occasionally take students, and they always get annoyed because I spend the entire first two lessons just showing them how to hold the thing.

    Of course, forget everything I just said if you ever go see Charlie Haden play.
  6. Charlie Haden's twisted, crippled form when not playing should serve as a lesson on the importance of good technique. The guy's spine looks like a quarter rest.
  7. JazznFunk


    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    Charlie also dealt with polio as a child... perhaps this is also part of it?

    His technique is certainly unorthodox, but my goodness can he play... One of the most spiritual experiences I've ever had was seeing Charlie play with Kenny Barron. Changed my playing forever, but not my technique. :)
  8. One childhood bout with polio surely cannot equal the effects of wrapping one's self around one's bass for fifty years.
  9. I know of a few bassists who have developed functional scoliosis as a result of their playing habits - ouch!
    Mr. Goodbar brings up good points about the grip thing. It's desirable to use the weight of your arm to pull the string to the fingerboard and is absolutely necessary for accurate intonation through fast passages.
    Watching a video with Slam Stewart I noticed how his thumb hooked all the way around the neck almost to the D string, and he played with such ease and facility.
    My playing style requires me to lay some meat on the strings sometimes, so I do what is necessary, depending on the music.
  10. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I disagree on both counts. There are other physical/ergonomic approaches which people succesfully use to avoid harm, and play accurately even at fast tempos.

    In other words. "Your milage may vary. Consult your instructor. Not available in Newfoundland or Guam." ;>