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How much classical training for Jazz?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by bdengler, Sep 9, 2005.


  1. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    When I first switched to double bass, my jazz bass teacher told me to take classical training and use the bow for intonation. Well, I've taken 5 years of classical training, even played in some community orchestras, and now I've decided its time to go back to learning jazz. How much classical training do I really need? If I focus on jazz playing, should I keep up my "arco" chops? If so, how many times a week? What type of arco exercises? The arco work is killing my left hand. Many thanks for your suggestions.

    Regards, Brian
     
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Could you be specific about the arco killing your left hand part.

    I like to start with bowing scales before practicing jazz. I'll also bow anything where my intonation is suspect. A little every day goes a long way.
     
  3. Pcocobass

    Pcocobass

    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    I used to get left hand pain from playing with the bow, too. You most likely need to adjust your hand position or playing stance to get rid of that pain, but it's something to think about.

    As far as arco goes, I practice scales arco and pizz every day. Remember that many of the best jazz bassists use the bow quite often (Paul Chambers, Christian McBride, Ray Brown, Slam Stewart, etc.) No need to abandon it altogether!
     
  4. I read an in interview with a noted bassist recently. He was asked if he thought that a classical education was necessary to play jazz. He said no, but then offered no alternatives. Take a book like Simandl Book 1 for instance. The book starts with various exercises to learn the "positions" on the bass, along with various fingerings. This is very cool, and helpful for better sightreading. The next great thing about the book is the interval exercises. Whether you're getting this information from Simandl, Ray Brown, of Rufus Reid, this is fundamental to learning your instrument and a necessity. I think all these books agree on this.

    Ramon
    www.ramonpooser.com
     
  5. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Brian,

    It sounds like you've had lots of background with years of lessons and playing in community orchestras. That gives you a huge advantage in playing bass in other settings as well. I'm not sure why the LH would be causing pain more with arco than with pizz -Possibly your right hand tenses up with the bow, causing the LH to follow suit?

    To other readers -my general take on this, is that technique is technique. . . If you learn from a "classical" bassist, you'll gain the advantage of years and years of experience with the instrument.

    Intonation and sound production are only some of the things that you can improve by practising arco. When you study, you'll also learn about articulation (the many varieties of long/short note lengths), shifting, string-crossing, dynamics etc. Lots of areas that translate to any style of music. Most famous jazz players had serious training in classical bass playing.

    The only advantage I can see to NOT learning arco and taking lessons is that you get to brag - "Never even had a lesson!". But why not learn all there is to know about the instrument? (Not meaning to sound argumentative. . .)


    best,
    Laurence
     
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Brian and everyone else, a Bowed note keeps you fingers pressed down for much longer than a Pizz note. The Bowed note is even pressure on your finger not including Dynamics used. A Pizz note has an Attack and a Decay. This also depends on Volume.

    Many athletes lift weights to get stronger for their sport. This incluses female Golfers as well. The stronger the muscles are, the better 'Use' you will have with them. Since you need good muscles in your fingers to have stamina, Bow practice is essential.

    I am playing in 2 Orchestras now and I can't tell you how much better my left hand has gotten in just a few years after not playing DB for 15 years. Practice at home is the main workout. The Orchestra is the Venue to perform as well as the selections to workout on. I also work with all my old books from my younger years and then some as I am going deeper classically that I have ever gone.

    I just returned home from a Jazz gig and I believe it is my Classical Training, practice, and performance that gives me the abilities I have. We did a few up tempo things and as I recall from 20-30 years ago (1968-1988 was my Pro period), I used to struggle and get tired from the ultra fast 4/4 stuff. Now it just heats up my right hand a little and I have no problem at all connecting the Chords and passing tone in the walking (running!, lol) Bass lines with my left hand. One point is that I am not playing a sloped shouldered 3/4 Bass with Flexible Jazz strings and low action. My Jazz Bass is my English Gilkes with medium-high Orchestra 'action', Flexocor Starks, and Cello like shoulders with 8" ribs to get around. That can be a workout in itself!

    Bow All that you can find. It will only make you better!!

    Brian, on another note. What happened to your Testore? Sounds like a Bass for life to me. I had an old Italian myself for 20 years and only sold it after I retired from playing to buy a house. Maybe your story is similar but either way I would be interested to know and if possible see pics of the Testore.
     
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The other argument for not playing arco, of course, is the idea of time being limited. If you only play pizz, why not spend what little time you have to practice practicing what it is that you actually do for a living?

    Also not trying to be argumentative, but this is my scenario. I would love to play arco someday - maybe in retirement, maybe sooner - but for the time being what I do doesn't call for it, and I'd rather spend my limited practice time working on the things I get called to do on a daily basis.
     
  8. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    When I was 18 I studied with Reggie Workman in Brooklyn. We worked with the Bow and Simandl first along with the Zimmerman Duets. Jazz playing came 'after' the Bow/intonation warmup.

    Oh, and did I mention that practicing with the bow promotes better intonation? Well.. It Does!!
     
  9. First let me say I agree totally, that the disipline of classical training and the regular use of the bow are both valuable.

    I have been training classically for three years and playing in an orchestra for two of them, and just this summer I "took off" to study jazz (pizz) only. Well let's say I'm playing the standards with a jazz feeling (I have never played an improvised solo).

    One thing really suprised me about the transition. In order to get a clean, full, powerful accustic pizz sound, I found myself actually having to apply more force to keep the strings solidly stopped. It was as if pulling the strings strongly with my right hand fingers, to get a loud sound, made the strings much harder to keep cleanly stopped.

    It was not until I had learned add arm and back force to my left hand finger strength, that I was able to get a clean, loud sound. So you could say that I found it harder on my left hand, playing pizz.
     
  10. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    That is my experience as well.
     
  11. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    I sold the Testore about two years ago after my family doctor told me to stop playing. Keep in mind it was a Testore made by the last bass-making generation of the family (Paolo Antonio) rather that Carlo Guiseppe (sorry if I mess up the spelling). I basically sold off my basses except one...and that morphed ultimately into the Paul Bryant bass that I currently own, which is a small 3/4 with a 40.5 inch string length. I had the neck trimmed a bit and I put light gauge strings on it. I went to a hand specialist last week who said I had a touch of arthritis and stretched ligaments in the left index finger knuckle. He told me to keep playing, so I will, and I plan to go to our community orchestra rehersal on Monday.

    Brian
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've met a few, very good pro Jazz DB players in the UK, who don't really play arco and who don't practice it..although they still got started on Simandl! :)
     
  13. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    I'm in total agreement about using classical technique for warming up/practicing bass in conjunction with practicing jazz. But if you want to play both styles you need to actually practice both. To be versatile means more preparation. It's like using both sides of your brain; the practical side and the creative. For me, it's the ideal combination of things.

    As for the transition and being sore in the left hand during pizz, your hands tend to want to work together - one starts to work harder, the other wants to also. Try this - on the pizz hand, play more efficiently by pressing down on the string(toward the FB) at a 45 degree angle while pulling at the same time. Release the string as before. This way you're not pulling the hell out of the string(merely sideways) and getting a nice punchy sound while allowing the left hand to work in a more normal fashion. let me know how that works(or makes any sense).

    Ike
     
  14. I can't agree with this any more. Much to my amazement, spending a lot of time arco has not detracted from my RHs bility to play pizz but IMHO added extra finesse and control.

    As for the left hand and intonation, it has helped enourously, but that is not the whole story.

    It has also helped in three other important areas:

    1) in balance of the myself with the bass - as the bow is floating there is not the bass anchoring movement into the body that piz brings - I know you play sitting - it may not be an issue

    2) in sound - the sound of good arco brings out all the richness of the bass - this has made me want to hear the same in the piz, sounds I would otherwise have not looked for or heard.

    3) Better LH technique brings better sound. Strange but true. Don't ask me for any explanation - I can't give one but abandoning all flat fingered floogie and doing it the classical way which for me is best worked out with a bow works wonders.

    I know TB has had long acrimonious discussions about this but it's horses for courses and this donkey thinks arco is indispensible no matter how little the time. This doesn't mean everyone has to do it this way to succeed.

    IMHO its the bow (whadda poet) that's responsible for some sudden progress I've made of late. Can't reccomend it too highly.
     
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Just want to make sure it's clear that I'm not advocating that anybody else forgo the use of the bow - I was simply responding to a post which said, "The only advantage I can see to NOT learning arco and taking lessons is that you get to brag - "Never even had a lesson!"....my response was given to show that this is not the case. Sometimes, it's a matter of time.
     
  16. err yeah - apologies - my taking your quote which ignores the quote in your original post kinda distorts things unless people read the whole thread. I'd still reccomend the bowing. Takes time (as in time after months of application, not time in a day's practise) but the results do come. You just take more convincing than most Chris, but hearing your sampler (I haven't been able to until very recently) I can hear why you're in no rush! Top stuff.
     
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Naw, he has a hard time rushing cause he sits when he plays.

    As the seldom to be found Don Higdon always says, every legit lesson he's had makes him a better jazz player.

    DURRL - you, of course, are free to do whatever they haven't gotten around to making illegal in a red state. But, I would suggest if you DO want to work arco into your routine, start by using the bow to do all scalework, arpeggio, melody work, playing transcribed solos etc. It's like everything else; if all you have to devote to it is 15 minutes a day, but it's 15 minutes EVERY day, progress happens...
     
  18. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Hi Chris,

    I should have said, "The only reason I can think. . . of is to
    be able to brag etc etc. . ."

    I hear you about not having enough hours in the day ( -Kids, gigs, teaching, TalkBass!). Then again, take away 10 minutes of "Stella" or transcribing some Sam Jones, substitute some nice open slow bow notes, and badda bing. . . Which reminds me, I have work to do!!!

    P.S. Do you know a drummer, Benji? He was at my College last year, and I when I mentioned your playing his eyes done lit up like a. . . Well something about "possums", or "bloodhounds", or sumpin'! :hyper:
    (Please forgive the gentle ribbing, the southern accent is a rare and exotic thing up here in Canuck land. No diss intended.)

    best regards,
    Laurence
     
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Wayull, ah cain't say as ah know any "Benji" off the toppa mah haid...whut's the rascal's laist name?
     
  20. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    I reckon he's sayin' "Bohannon"
    y'all. . .

    (The plural of which is "all y'all") :hyper: