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Help Me, Please!

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by firstedition14, Jul 23, 2004.


  1. Hi. I'm new to the double bass forum. I need some help because I have some major technical problems in my playing that are hindering my ability to progress. They are the following:
    1. Bow technique- I play French bow. I have a tendency to spread my fingers out very wide across the stick making a death grip on it and locking my thumb. Consequently, the joints in my arms become stiff and i use the motion of my shoulder. Recently my shoulder has begun hurting while I'm practicing, and it is also very difficult for me to do quick notes and string crossings while the joints in my arm are locked. This locked position also makes me lose my musicality in fast passages because I am struggling so much with my bow arm. I have been told to play more on the side of the thumb and play like my arm is just swinging from my side and take that relaxed position and just place it on the bow. I have also done an exercise where you completely take the thumb off and support the bow with the pinky finger to try to get the feeling of a loose grip on the bow.
    2. I have a problem of lifting my fingers too high off the fingerboard. My bass used to have strings that were so high off of the fingerboard that I could slide my entire hand between the strings and the fingerboard. This is now fixed, but I still find my fingers lifting up the same distance they used to be required to.
    3. In thumb position, the joint in my finger collapses (also from the old setup). I've started to get better about this, but if I have to stretch for a note the rest of my fingers collapse or if I'm doing fast passages. My fingers then get locked in this new position.
    4.Vibrato-My vibrato is way too fast and tight (also from the old setup). I have subdivided the oscillations of the hand with the metronome at 60 making each oscillation a quarter note, then eighths, then triplets, etc. I find that I can do this exercise but when I actually try to vibrate it's still way too fast. Also, I can't hardly vibrate in thumb at all because of the above problem of fingers collapsing.
    Do you guys have any technical exercises that could help me with these problems? I really want to get better because I love the bass. Thanks! :help:
     
  2. Anonymous75966

    Anonymous75966

    Jun 29, 2004
    It sounds like you already have a pretty good idea what you have to work on, so you're already partway to a solution.

    The problems you're describing are really commonplace for new players, especially the left-hand ones. IMHO they're almost too broad to require specific exercises on their own.

    Possibly all you need to do is practice your regular material with extra concentration and patience for a while. Above all, don't get frustrated, stay relaxed, be patient. Many, probably even most players have trouble with this stuff and eventually figure it out.

    The problems with your bow arm sound little more serious:

    I have a tendency to spread my fingers out very wide across the stick making a death grip on it and locking my thumb ... the joints in my arms become stiff and i use the motion of my shoulder ... very difficult for me to do quick notes and string crossings while the joints in my arm are locked. ​

    Nothing in your bow arm should ever be 'locked.' You can use the motion of your shoulder and back and get plenty of power in your sound while keeping your arm loose, bent, and relaxed - but you need to get help from a teacher on this.
    I have also done an exercise where you completely take the thumb off and support the bow with the pinky finger to try to get the feeling of a loose grip on the bow.
    Wondering if you can explain this cuz I just don't get it.

    Finally - no amount of forum discussion can take the place of working with a teacher or section coach. However, if these discussions help a little to understand or conceptualize some of the stuff you're working on, so much the better. Following a teacher's instructions without understanding the concepts will get you just as injured - seen it happen, even with good teachers and good students.

    best of luck.
     
  3. You know your problems already. You need to take some easy beginner material and work with that. Really easy stuff. You may be able to play it just fine now, but that's a plus. You need something that won't tax your brain so you're free to pay attention to the things you need to work on. For the bowing and thumb position, a teacher is a very good idea (a teacher is a good idea even when you aren't having huge technical problems), but you should be able to lick the finger lifting on your own. It's a pretty simple problem; if you're lifting them too high, then lift them less high. Easy material will give you breathing room to fix it. You just need to get the feel of not lifting so high into your fingers. That's not to say a teacher won't help you with other fingering problems which probably also exist, but you can work on this aspect of it on your own.
     
  4. I'd like to know how you got to thumb position carrying all these flaws with you. When I got to Linda Mcknight, she made me start all over again, and I didn't advance a step until I mastered the one currently assigned.
    My opinion is that you're flying off in too many different directions. Get a teacher, and work on one thing at a time.
    Frankly, you're a prime candidate for the Alexander Technique.
    Your physical behaviors are classic consequences of not having primary control. I'll go further and say that you won't overcome them until you do.
     
  5. Thanks for the suggestions.
    I already do study with a teacher. We got sidetracked recently with some audition things coming up, but he says he's got plenty of excersises for me to work on. I've just recently caught the music "bug", and so now I'm trying to learn anything I can. I'm going through my parents old college textbooks, learning piano, started learning how to conduct, etc. trying to take as much as I can in. To answer some of the questions about my previous post:
    I have also done an exercise where you completely take the thumb off and support the bow with the pinky finger to try to get the feeling of a loose grip on the bow. Wondering if you can explain this cuz I just don't get it.

    This is a french bow exercise. Put your hand like you normally would on the bow. Take your pinky and move it to the other side of the frog (the side your thumb is usually on) just to help balance the bow. Then completely let go of your thumb, just let it stick up in the air or wherever just not being used on the bow. The idea of this exercise is to prevent the player from being able to grip up on the bow and saw away at the strings. All of the sound being produced is from the weight of the arm since in this position it is difficult to grip up. This loose feeling of the bow and the idea of the weight being from your arm should then be transferred back to your normal bowing. One of the problems I have with my bow is I have never had a french bow teacher, but I play french, so no one has really been able to guide me in developing a good bowing technique. My teacher encouraged me today after I discussed my concern with my bow to take some additional lessons with french bow players to help me develop good bowing technique since he only knows german.

    I'd like to know how you got to thumb position carrying all these flaws with you. When I got to Linda Mcknight, she made me start all over again, and I didn't advance a step until I mastered the one currently assigned.

    My problem was my first private teacher gave me absolutely no feedback. He'd give me a "that was out of tune" here and a "play that longer" there, but basically every step I took I made alone because he was refiling his paperwork while I was playing. He'd give me a tempo marking for a song, I'd work it up until I could somewhat play it, then move on to something else, so I've pretty much been starved of information, so I'm eating up whatever I can get. I'm sure if I had started with the teacher I'm studying with now, I wouldn't have a lot of these basic flaws, because he does a much more thorough job. I'm really enjoying studying with him. He, in addition to a few other local teachers, have given me exercises to do, just wondering if you guys knew anything in the way of finger or vibrato strengthening exercises. Thanks! I'm enjoying being able to talk with other bass players!
     
  6. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    If you can't find a teacher to help you with your bowing troubles, there's another option - find a really good pool player to teach you to shoot. Handling a que is good excecise for a bass or cello player who wants to loosen up and feel comfy with the bow.

    Seriously. (No, I'm not being facetious, now).
     
  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    I'll second that.

    Just starting bowing myself and totally made this connection tonight - I used to shoot pool alot as well. For once in my life, something that actually came easy! Only a few days of arco and I'm sounding less and less scratchy every time. I found that just trying to relax every single muscle while bowing open strings helps a bunch.