Help me help my cutie pie

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Markse, Apr 11, 2014.

  1. Markse


    Dec 9, 2011
    Sacramento, CA
    My almost 11 year-old is the bass player for her school Dixieland combo. It's a great learning experience and she seems to enjoy it too. She hasn't had any trouble keeping solid time on two-count songs (root, rest, fifth, rest), but an up-tempo four-count tune, Jump , Jive, & Wail, is causing her problems. Because she doesn't know how to put a walking line together (yet!) the band director has her doing root, root, fifth, fifth throughout. She starts out strong but by the end she's behind the beat. The problem is that her hand is getting tired. I've had the same problem on songs with a repetitive bass line. We'll bring it up with her teacher, but he's not available until the end of the month. Any suggestions?
  2. zongo


    Jan 17, 2006
    Santa Rosa, CA
    The tempo may be a bit too quick for her ability at this stage. Work up to it. Builds confidence and strength. Gradually increase the tempo at regular intervals.
  3. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    +1 this is the best advice she'll be there in no time and she's already doing better than me :)
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Hand strength takes time. How long has she been playing?
  5. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    It's good to hear that your daughter is having a good time with it. Based on your description, it sounds to me as though she needs to gradually increase her hand stamina. A big thing that would help, and really, her teacher should walk her through this, but, since it'll be a while before she sees him next, I'll try to describe it. Instead of her squeezing the strings down between her fingers and thumb, she'll gain more stamina by using the weight of her arm. Doing that, requires holding the bass in the right way and keepingg her fingers arched. It's tough to describe the right way to hold the bass without being in the same room with her, but, the best I can think of for a written description is that the bass is at a pretty significant horizontal angle away from her and she should stand more behind it than on the side of it, so that it's tough to see the G-string. With that, an exercise I've found helpful is to have students play without their thumb. Finger the notes but leave their thumb on the side of the neck rather than underneath it. It's just an exercise to get them used to using their arm weight instead of squeezing.
    One other thing that might help her is to move her fingers more with more notes in her bassline. Describing how to play a bassline is too much for a simple forum response, there are many good books, but instead of just root-root-five-five, she can try *the box*. Which is pretty much what it sounds like. For the 2nd root note, play the note on the string below a 4th higher, then the 5th and for the last note of the measure, play the note one string lower, the 2nd. So, in the key of C, that would be C-F-G-D. It's a very common bassline in blues and rock.
    Hope that helps.
  6. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    How's the setup on her bass?
  7. bass81800

    bass81800 Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2011
    San Diego County, CA
    A bassline 1-2-3-5, i.e. C D E G, has more of an inherent swing feel than 1155 1155, Also CDEG can easily connect with FGAC. Would it be possible to start teaching that to her? You want closely connected bass lines with economy of hand motion. Or, instead of 1155, assuming she is playing a fifth up, teach her to play 1155 by going down a fourth to the lower string, i.e. CC on the 3rd string to GG on the 4th string. Less hand motion. Otherwise, I also think it would be a great idea to check out how her bass is set up. Really, I am not a strong person, I am a female lefty who plays right handed, have less strength in my right hand, but I can play fast because my bass is set up right for me with low action and easy to use strings (Spiro Weichs) and I also learned to put my arm weight into playing, thank, to a great teacher.

    Finally, better to play fewer notes and play them in tune and in time then play too many notes. If 4 beat is too much for her, then it would be best for her to play 2 feel in time until she develops the skills to play faster.
  8. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Hi Mark,

    There are 2 issues here. Regarding the right hand, there's a video here that may help: The only caveat is that there are many ways to put your finger to the string. The way in his video is the one I basically use, but there are guys who play with 2 fingers as if they were one, play with one finger on top of the other, etc. A lot has to do with the tone they're going for and each person's physical attributes. But what they all have in common is pulling from the arm, using your arm weight. To play fast, you just have to stay relaxed and lighten up a bit. Easier said than done, I know! I recommend avoiding the playing style alternating 2 fingers, because usually this is less coming from the arm/body. I can play VERY fast with one finger, I'm sure it's fast enough for your daughter. I think it's also a good idea to watch videos of great players, to experience how they do it. Watch Sam Jones or Ray Brown walk, and you'll get a feel for how great bassists relate to the instrument. I think it'll help immeasurably, and she will also get to see some other choices of how to put your fingers on the string.

    About the left hand and walking. The advice about using your arm weight was correct, watch how Chris F does it in the video link. He's not clamping down on the neck at all, but gets a clear strong sound. Hard to explain in words, but maybe easy to see if you watch great players carefully.

    Jump, Jive and Wail is a tune from the early Rhythm and Blues/Rock & Roll era. It was done by Louis Prima, who was sort of a guy who followed whatever musical style was in fashion. Anyway, there's a typical bass line that's stylistically correct here. If the first chord is Bb, you play Bb-D-F-G-Bb-G-F-D meaning low Bb up to Bb on the G string, and back down. In other keys, you might want to vary the line to make it easier to play. If you send me or post the chart, I'll write a bass line for it. Or rather, do enough that she can get the idea and figure out the rest for herself. It won't take but a minute. (If it's copyrighted, PM or mail might be better..) Anyway, playing 1-1-5-5 is going to make things hard, because her hands will get locked up, and she'll be thinking 2 beats at a time instead of 2 bars at a time. With a proper line, she'll be less likely to drag, and it won't be as physically tiring.

    Best of luck,
  9. Lot's of question here:
    1. What instruments are in this combo? You can't slow down the train to where a wind player runs out of fuel.
    2. The set up COULD be a problem, but what size bass does she use.
    3. Does she bring the bass home to practice? We're not talking clarinet here.
    4. What is the teacher's background? Is he/she state certified? Knowledge goes a lot further than feel good.
    5. A 10 yr. old can really HURT themselves in left on their own.
  10. squirefan


    Nov 22, 2009
    Lansing, Ks.

    This is along the lines of what I was thinking, but better detailed.
    Add intervals into it (even if it's just 1-3-5-3) to dissipate energy into into a range of motion rather than confining it to a constricted finger movement. For instance; 1, slide up to 3, then 5 on the next string, back to 3, then down to 1.
  11. Markse


    Dec 9, 2011
    Sacramento, CA
    Ultimately, I really like the idea of helping her with a sort of simple walking line such as 1353, 1235 , or the 13561653 pattern that Brent suggested. I think she could pick these up fairly quickly. I think these would let her move around enough to keep her hand from locking up without losing time jumping all over the place. These will be good things to go over with her teacher. He's a jazz guy, so this stuff is right up his street.

    For her next performance (tomorrow afternoon!) I'm going to suggest that she alternate between a four-count and a two-count. Better, as Bass 81800 suggested, to play fewer notes in time and in tune!

    To answer your questions:

    She's been playing for about a year and a half.

    The combo is your typical Dixieland band; clarinet, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, banjo, drums, and vocals.

    I think the set-up on both her bass and on the instrument she uses at school are Ok. The action on the one at school seems a bit lower but she likes to play her own more. Both are quarter-size Kays.

    Thanks for all the suggestions, keep 'em coming!
  12. squirefan


    Nov 22, 2009
    Lansing, Ks.

    I must apologize! I was browsing 'New Posts' when I came across, and posted, on this thread. I didn't notice it is in the DB forum. I have no qualifications on DB.:oops:
  13. mtto

    mtto Gold Supporting Member

    May 25, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Some good suggestions here.

    A great way to build endurance and tone is long tones with the bow. My guess is a little will go a long way for her. Brief periods of practice followed by relaxing to let the muscles recuperate.
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