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Gripping the neck

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Michael Case, May 30, 2003.

  1. I can't seem to fully get out of this habit, especially in the lower register. I've talked to my teacher about it and he has helped me with it, but I am wondering if any body else might have some advice.
    My teachers advice has more to do with practicing, taking time out to work on this aspect alone. Is there anything else I can do to make this more a part of my playing?
  2. I've only been playing bass for a year, so others have a lot more knowledge and experience, but I've found that I tend to grip the neck when I'm trying to hold up the bass with my left hand while I play.

    If you sit when you play (which I do), if you make sure the bass is well balanced against your knee or leg, it's easier to "let go" (at least for a newbie like me).

    If you stand when you play, perhaps you're gripping at times when you haven't got the right "balance point" for supporting the bass?

    Just a thought, it may not apply in your situation but it's been an issue for me.
  3. I stand when I play, I've been thinking about getting a stool to practice on. I hear ya on the balance thing, but it's more an issue of pressing the strings down. If I'm real concious I can keep it from happening, but on a gig sometimes gripping the neck is the least of my concerns.
  4. Is your question that you use your thumb more than your back to pull the strings down.
    If so its a hard goal, coming from BG maybe even harder at least for me. I start using my back but loose track and start using my thumb. What I have been doing is stoping as soon as I notice I am using improper style and then get back on the boat.

    Granted this will not work at a gig.
  5. That's what I'm trying to get to, I feel like the things I work on in the shed don't come out so much in "real time". I'm wondering if there is some way I could ingrain these things to the point where I'm not thinking about gripping the neck too much.
    All I can do right now is practice and hope.
  6. jimclark68


    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    My problem is not so much "gripping" the neck (although I do cheat sometimes when playing bluegrass), but rather my double-jointed thumb flattens into an 'L' when I play, instead of the tip touching the back of the neck. But it's similar to your situation in that it's probably going to take lots of deliberate practice for us to work out our kinks. I have found that what helps me most is lots of long slow scales with the bow so I can focus on my left-hand technique. The problem is getting better, but I've still got a long way to go.
  7. Yeah, I guess the main point is long SLOW practice. Like my teacher says, what else are you going to do with the rest of your life.

  8. Pretty much the answer for all of us.
    Habit can be a gift sometimes.
  9. For the past few days I have been working on Simandl exersizes in the half and first position, both pizz and arco, with the metronome slow, and concentrated on my left hand. As the death grip on the neck gets loosens I turn the speed up and play with the same focus. It's been pretty helpful.
  10. One thing that helps a lot of my students in this area is encouraging them to play with very curved fingers (rather than letting them flatten out). This tends to focus more weight down on top of the strings. Also, at times, you could try playing with your wrist at a higher angle (i.e., have it come a little further around the neck than normal) which again will help to focus more weight downward on the string. The more weight you get down on the string, the less you'll have to 'sqeeze' with the thumb.
  11. This may sound a bit strange, but keep your elbow up. Your left arm should be pretty much at 90 degrees to the neck. Makes keeping your thumb behind the neck feel more natural, makes it awkward to grab it with a fist. If your arm is at 45 degrees to the neck (elbow down), the reverse is true- the fist feels more natural.
    Getting proper left hand technique ingrained may be difficult at first, but pays big dividends in the long run.
  12. Mike:

    Good luck in working out the gripping problem. I've been playing for 20 years, and I almost have that one licked. It really only shows up (ironically) when I'm playing fast tempo walking lines.

    I went to a hear a band on Sat. nite, the young bass player definitely had the C-clamp going on, his thumb planted firmly alongside the E side of the neck. Problem was, he was making an a$$load of music, so it was hard to diss him. It got too painful to watch him, though, after a while. I just hope he's still able to play in 5 years.
  13. I´ve been working a lot with my elbow angle, and seem to have worked it out quite OK, but there´s one exception:
    when I play bluegrass, I start with my elbow at the perfect 90-degree angle, my fingers curved and neatly supporting each other, my wrist completely relaxed and the big muscles in my back comfortably tranferring their natural power straight to the strings through my fingertips.
    I play first four notes taking care of all this, and thinkin´ that this time I´ll play this way all night through. After the fifth note or so, or latest in the middle of the first chorus, the Good Ol´Baseball Bat Grip returns. And it wont´go away.
    So, I play 2 different things, Double Bass and bluegrass. I`m schitsofrenic, and so am I.

  14. I believe (many will likely disagree) that certain styles such as rockabilly and bluegrass do not need a conventional approach to left hand technique. I play jazz, and my elbow comes up and I'm on the fingertips. I also play country, blues, Irish and rockabilly, and I find the jazz approach to be a hinderance (I'm generalizing here). In fact many rockabilly players only use first and second fingers combined with a baseball bat grip.
  15. I'm glad someone pointed this out. Sometimes the only way to get your desired tone is by really gripping the string with a lot of meat.
  16. stuie86


    May 9, 2003
    mckinney, tx
    i never had that problem, ive always kept my thumb on the back of the neck but ... i think it has something to do with my small hands... maybe.

    so i may just be talking out of my a** but i told my best freind (who just started playing bass) the same thing, relax your hand and reach farther up the front of the neck

    this helps him keep his thumb from "gripping"
    ...... it my help you, but its diffrent foe everyboddy
    thanks for agreeing me. I´ve always thought there are certain music styles, in which the conventional technique ( or any that even "looks" professional ) really does not seem to enhance the playing.
    If it did, many folk, country, bluegrass,
    ( Finnish folk, Bulgarian dance, Eskimo wedding...) players wouldn´t get around.
    Looks bad, sounds right.

  18. "Proper" left hand technique involves spanning a full tone between your index and little fingers, and getting the half tone in between with your middle finger. Your hand stays in this shape, and you close up the span as you move up the neck where the playing positions get closer together. This is efficient and actually becomes quite natural and comfortable after a while.

    Observation: Many 'thumbwrappers' don't use their little finger. You can't reach a full tone from index to ring finger this way, so you shift more. Shifting is much stickier with your entire palm against the neck. I'm convinced you will ultimately achieve better tone and intonation, with a more relaxed hand, using "proper" left hand technique.

    Exception: If you are a bluegrass or rockabilly player that plays slap bass, you pretty much have to use the fist method for slapping. If you're into slap, check out '70's and early '80's Country Gazette albums- Roger Bush was (is?)one of the best. Him and Jimmy Stoneman, and they both use the fist.
  19. Rob W has it right, as does Eric Jackson's first post. He loses me on the second.
    As for the justifications offered for poor technique when playing slapabilly, they're pretty flimsy. Proper technique is easier and less tiring, and produces accurate pitch. But if that's not what you're after, I stand corrected.
  20. Could you stand to be corrected and still accept a different technique?
    It's a different technique, not necessarily poor. It is appropriate for certain tone and projection and should be part of a doublebassist's arsenal.
    Please note Bertram Turetzky's analysis of this technique in the introduction of Pops Foster's autobiography:
    Turetzky gives a more detailed analysis of this technique and Foster speaks of it as well. It may also be noted that many other bassists, past and present use(d) it to great effect.
    When you need fast wheedle-deedle, the arched fingers and parallel forearm is called for, but when you need powerful tone "you got to grip those babies" as Foster said.