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how does Rabbath do it

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Herbet, Apr 5, 2014.

  1. Herbet


    Mar 2, 2013
    Toronto, Canada
    I am starting to go through the exercises in first position on Rabbath's first book and his sound in the accompanying CD is so beautiful and clean. it has no grainniness for lack of a better word, like he is playing harmonics in each note. I know he does advocate for little to no rosin. is that and arm weight what makes the difference? does he angle the bow to reduce the amount of hair or uses full hair?
  2. There are a number of Rabbath experts on this forum that will hopefully respond. I'm certainly not one of them but I'll share a few points I've picked up from his "Art of the Bow" DVD (It's expensive, but well worth it).
    . In nearly all cases, Rabbath advocates the use of full hair. The exception would be when he is trying to produce a very thin, light tone.
    . The position of the bow relative to the bridge is very important and each note has its own sweet spot for production of the best tone. As you move up the fingerboard the bow has to move closer to the bridge. Rabbath handles this by maintaining the relationship between the bow and his chest. As he leans forward to reach the higher positions the bow naturally moves closer to the bridge by the correct amount.
    . He uses a very relaxed bow hold and a supple wrist with the pressure on the bow coming from the weight of his arm. One reason he uses the angled endpin is to make use of his arm weight. He doesn't use a lot of pressure, but he uses the correct pressure for the speed of the bow. The relationship between pressure and bow speed is critical.
    All that said, it's difficult to describe what he does in words. Your best bet would be to find a teacher that is a Rabbath expert or get a copy of the DVD.
  3. There are many, many factors contributing to the tone you're describing. Technique, equipment, recording technology, lots of practice, and no small amount of talent.

    On the equipment side, it's worth remembering that he's using a very fine, old bass strung up with custom-made strings and some of the best bows in the world.

    He uses more rosin than you might think, but less than your average orchestra player. I believe he still uses Pops.

    This is one of the defining characteristics of FR's playing. The concept is called son premier, or "primary sound." The idea is that a bowed string's best sound comes when it is vibrating as openly as possible. According to Rabbath, this is best achieved by placing the bow near the 7th harmonic partial closest to the bridge for the given pitch. For example, an open G string would be played with the bow placed on or near the high F-natural harmonic at the end of the fingerboard. One whole step higher, the A in first position, would require the bow to move one whole step closer to the bridge (meaning the G, which would be the 7th harmonic partial for the "A" string).

    That might sound like gibberish, but it totally works. The technique does require you to use a slightly faster bow than you are perhaps used to, and a lighter touch so as to not grind out. Put very simply, Rabbath plays closer to "sul tasto" than most other people.
  4. phill321


    Oct 27, 2005
    I do not mean this is any way sarcastic or mean spirited, but when it comes to sound do not underestimate talking to a good violinist. If you look at all the "methods" for bass that have been developed in the last 30 years, the are basically everything violinists have been doing for a long long time.
    An example, the concept of playing on the 7th harmonic partial; go talk to a violinist about contact points. They will practice a passage with 5-7 different contact points. Bassists do not think like that, but we should. I'm not putting anyone down, just trying to point out that if we turn to the violin masters we can learn a lot. That being said, it's hard enough using our own bass masters as measuring sticks to what is great playing, let alone to then start using Heifetz. If you talk to a violinist, try to apply it to the bass. I'm not saying it's easy, but it IS string playing, and they have been doing it at a higher level then us for a long time. Sometimes I think we bass players are trying to re invent the wheel. Again, I only meant this post in a positive way.
  5. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    IMO, you'd be better off talking to a good violist. The viola shares most of the acoustic problems of the DB, like unwieldy size and tone production problems.
  6. phill321


    Oct 27, 2005
    Actually I agree. i just read a great article be Michael Tree, violist from Guarneri Quartet. Right from the beginning he pointed out that he advocates for violist to use all the hair of the bow and that that is the biggest difference of sound production from viola to violin.
    When I mentioned violin above, I was thinking along the lines of all the literature available as well as people to talk to.
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Yes this is what I was surprised about in the DVD. Wandering if most of you here use full/flat bow hair and why? My teacher doesn't advocate this.
  8. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    If you want the Son Primer you have to use all the Hair. It is how you get the weight, speed and placement right.

    Full Hair = Full sound.
  9. Sometimes, especially if I'm trying to be loud and articulate.

    Using flat hair lets you use the camber of the bow more effectively for leverage, strokes, and general articulation. Done right, it's a fatter, cleaner sound.

    However, I don't think it works for everything. I get a better sautillé when I tilt the bow slightly. In high registers and on harmonics, flat hair can be overkill (imagine a violinist using a bass bow). Brush strokes get way too bouncy with not enough body.
  10. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    thanks! I have a hard time getting flat hair on my G string all the time. I am not sure if Rabbath intended it to be flat all the time and on all the strings for the son premier? On the low strings it is more easy.
  11. Herbet


    Mar 2, 2013
    Toronto, Canada
    the bent endpin helps me to get full hair on all strings.
    trkkazulu likes this.
  12. That's the classic problem, particularly when sitting down to play. You have to wrap yourself around the instrument. Lean forward and twist your torso to the left. Can you reach?
  13. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    If you want to understand his system, you can't just borrow parts of it. You really have to do it all. The Bent Endpin, a bow with a different balance, The Son Primire, Full hair on the String, ect.

    Every thing he figured out helped him get where he was, and helped him get further on his instrument. You need it all for it to work.
  14. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Yes I always sit when bowing. When sitting the bent end pin is no use I guess?
    I would like to try a bend end pin one day. But then you have to drill an extra hole in your bass. So I first want to know if I like it before I do any drilling in my bass.
  15. Kc strings makes a wooden box that simulates a Laborie endpin without the need to drill a hole. Seems like a good way to give the Rabbath style a try.
  16. That's surprisingly militant, and Rabbath himself wouldn't even agree with you. To quote him directly, "You must try everything! And if you like something, you took it!"

    Rabbath technique is not a house of cards where one missing piece results in everything you know about the bass collapsing. It's a series of tools. Some tools have broad applications, others only work for specific things. If you don't understand crab technique, I don't see how that stops you playing with flat hair. To suggest otherwise is absurd.

    I use a very short Laborie pin when I sit. I think it makes my bass louder.
  17. Paul, I have begun studying Rabbath's technique with my tutor and I have become quite interested in it. For all of us here that want to experiment with a Laborie Endpin, would you recommend getting the KC String attachment that replicates a Laborie Endpin before deciding to drill a Laborie Endpin hole?
  18. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Eugene, Oregon
    As a less expensive experiment, why not try a bent endpin to simulate the Laborie endpin? Many threads here about it.
  19. No, but it's not a bad idea. If you really hate the idea of drilling, the attachment is the best alternative I know of. It still adds mass to the instrument, though not nearly as much as the metal Egg-Pin. The angle on the KC saddle is not adjustable, unlike the Egg-Pin, so you can't experiment with it to find your ideal set-up. This is especially important if you're not sure if you'd prefer the pin be set straight back or tilted slightly toward the G-string. In general, if you are a particularly tall person, you will probably prefer an 8-10 degree tilt, but it's not for everyone. Rabbath insists it should be straight back, but, hey, what does he know?

    It also costs $100, plus the cost of new endpins. If you're planning to drill later, that's just $100 you didn't need to spend.

    Unless your end block is especially small or otherwise compromised, there's really no harm in drilling. If you hate it or want it adjusted, filling it in (and re-drilling if necessary) is not a problem.
  20. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Paul, you said you use a small Laborie endpin when sitting. What are the advantages of that? is it just the weight?

    Is the bent endpin just as good as good as the Laborie endpin? I wish there was a Rabbath student or teacher in the Netherlands on who's bass I could try it. The kc endpin will cost me 200$ including installment and shipping etc. and I am not sure if I will like it. So in that case it is lost money and time if I don't like it in the end.