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how to do scales?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Kevin Gordon, Jan 17, 2003.

  1. I dont understand how to play scales or arpeggios if the hand hand only reach three notes at a time. I am another one of those lame electric players and I am used to having one note for each finger. Is it just a lot of position changes and streaching or am I missing something?
  2. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Well, it does indeed sound like you're missing something.

    First thing: I believe you'll get some advice here along the lines of working with a teacher. I myself am not the appropriate person to offer it, but the advice is excellent.

    Second thing: the second link in the newbie FAQ for this section will point you to Ray Parker's fingering exposition. Check it out.
  3. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    From the litte experience I have , I've learnt you should use the open strings as much as possible especially in lower positions. That's because:
    a) you don't have to intonate the open string
    b) it might save you a fingering shift.

    I will rarely stop the note at the "5th fret", on a double bass, instead use the open string. Consider a major scale starting on low G. You would have to do atleast two position shifts if you didn't use open A, D and G(octave).

    Of course in certain keys like Db major and B major you will have to move around since you can't use open strings......

  4. as lovebown says, you'll have to shift around to different positions in some keys. go get a lesson - seriously, it will make a huge difference.
  5. I do have a teacher but I just forgot to ask him about it. I've only had two lessons and have been playing just over a week though.
  6. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    By adding 'rotation' to your hand position (hand covers one whole step, but is able to rotate down on half step and up one half step), you can play a major scale with no actual shifts. By that I mean that the thumb will not change position, but the hand rotates up and down, using the thumb as an axis.

    Ask your teacher.
  7. I agree with Pacman that you should investigate the "thumb pivot" technique developed by Francois Rabbath, author of an excellent and very clear instructional CD-ROM and a 3-volume method called, "The New Technique".
    What is very cool is that you can use what Mark Morton calls "extension fingering" along with Rabbath's "thumb pivot" technique in the lower register and play scales similarly to a guitarist with a note for each finger. This requires some initial stretching on the double bass, but it is highly rewarding and it will help you really move speedily and fluently on the fingerboard.
    One example is the G major scale begining with your 2nd finger on the low E string for the G. Then play the scale from low G up to the 4th "C" above the octave in the following manner without even changing your basic hand position (E string: G (2nd finger), A (4th finger), A string: B (1st finger), C (2nd finger), D (4th finger), D string: (E (1st finger), F# (3rd finger), G (4th finger), D string: A (1st finger), B (2nd finger), C (4th finger).
    You will need to use some thumb pivoting as you move from the lower to the higher notes on each string. But as you use this same fingering up the fingerboard, you end up using less and less thumb pivoting.
    For example, try the C major scale at what Rabbath calls the "3rd position", where the thumb is in the crook of the neck and the 1st finger on the D string is in a natural position to play the "D": (E string: C (2nd finger), D (4th finger), A string: E(1st finger), D (2nd finger), F (4th finger), D string: (G (1st finger), A (3rd finger), B (4th finger), D string: D (1st finger), E (2nd finger), F (4th finger).
    You can now jumb to the thumb position with the thumb on the G and complete the 2nd octave by playing A (1st finger), B (2nd finger) and then to C (3rd finger). If you want to continue up one more octave, Rabbath suggests to shift the thumb now to the "D" harmonic on the D string, which he calls the "5th position" and play the following: (D (thumb), E (1st finger), F (2nd finger), G (3rd finger), A (1st finger, while the thumb still stays securely in place on the D below), B (2nd finger), C (3rd finger). This gives you a beautiful 3 octave C major scale by using an extension, where the hand in this last thumb position is stretched for an interval of a major 7th.
    Mark Morton's scale, arpeggio, and theoretical technique books are very helpful, and I believe beautifully compliment Rabbath's new technique in freeing us to play double bass more logically as fingerstyle or classical guitarists play the guitar and as cellists play the cello. Simandl and Nanny that have dominated double bass technique for so many years are more appropriate for players with small hands, where the hand stays in a lock closed-in formation and simply plays only 2 notes at a time.
    This classical traditional technique also has the idea that you should never use the "3rd finger" before the "thumb position", but only begin to employ the 3rd finger in the thumb position. I think the reasoning is that they believed that the 3rd finger is not as strong as the 1st, 2nd and 4th fingers. Fingerstyle, classical guitarists and cellists, of course, know that that is simply not true.
    Another traditional technique idea that Rabbath thinks is a real hindrance to a truly fluent, great technique is the rule that Simandl has that all the lower fingers should stay on the string that is depressed by the highest finger. For example, if you went from playing Ab to Bb on the D string, you would play Ab (1st finger), then keep the 1st finger down on Ab and press down the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers as a tight, closed-in claw hand formation to make the Bb note with the 4th finger.
    This rigid, little closed-in hand formation in traditional technique requires constant shifting of the entire hand in order to move up and down the fingerboard. Rabbath emphasizes that each time the hand makes a shift, velocity and fluidity is hindered.
    Rabbath and Morton, of course, have their differences. But both are very brilliant and creative and studying their two technical approaches together can bring about a totally new virtuoso level of fluent and free playing for the accoustic bass. I am trying to study with both of them at the same time, which is a little difficult, but highly rewarding in the above and manner other ways.
  8. Darth_Linux


    Oct 12, 2002
    Spokane, WA
    Approaching DB from the perspective of someone whos played EB for 16 years, this technique looks a lot to me like the same way I already finger scales on EB. You just have to really stretch the fingers out to do it on DB.

    I read Morton's description of his triangulized fingering technique and I thought to myself "I've been doing this for years on EB". Is it really *new* or is it just that the Simandl technique has so dominated things for so long that taking techniques of guitarists and electric bassists and applying it to DB is a "new to me" concept?

    I'm replying since I'm considering buying all of Mortons books and Rabbaths methods, and would hate to find out that I just spent a couple hundred bucks on methods that essentially teach me to finger on DB like I already do on EB.

    thanks in advance for anyone who can clarify this for me.

  9. My own bass teacher is a Simandl advocate, who feels that you should first learn the traditional technique before considering other approaches. He contends that the little locked-in hand position of Simandl covering only two notes per hand position and then shifting the entire hand for the next two notes is the best way to know where the right notes are on the fingerboard.
    Since, my main desire is to play jazz upright bass, my teacher continues to point out how the majority of the best jazz bassists all use the Simandl approach (Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Rufus Reid, Ray Drummond, Miroslav Vitous, George Mraz, Dave Holland, etc.).
    From my classical guitar background, I continue to feel that this just seems to be incorrect. I'd really like to know if Simandl had very small hands, since this is the only way I could see his approach being better than your way of playing scales on an electric bass applied to accoustic bass technique.
    I have found the most useful books of Morton are his theoretical book, "Concepts and Ideas", "Miraculous Scale Fingering" and "Miraculous Arpeggio" books and of Rabbath, his Volume 3 of his "New Technique" that summarizes his many different scale fingerings and his fascinating instructional CD ROM. Morton has an innovative approach to playing slow, legato with a "Giant Finger" (one finger plays while the other fingers support this one finger, which Morton claims creates a huge sound for the vibrato) and many other interesting unconventional approaches and Rabbath's innovative "Crab Technique" in order to eliminate ****ing in the higher thumb register is well-explained and demonstrated on his CD-ROM.
    Those two technical approaches would not be known to us from playing guitar or electric bass, and both Morton and Rabbath have much innovative contributions on bowing.
    However, I think our fingerstyle guitar methods should be more applied to accoustic bass, as in the major scale fingering example I gave in the earlier post.
  10. Huh? Doesn't Simandl use three notes per string per position? Maybe I've played the entire book wrong ;-)

    Also, there is an excellent range of notes in a single position - for jazz examples, lookit Ron Carter.
  11. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    Well, three *semitones* per position. Basically, Simandl playing states that the distance between your first and fourth finger is one whole step at all times.

    Darth, as Abrams pointed out, the technique has been used for guitar, obviously BG, as well as cello, so pivoting is really nothing *new*, but applying it to DB technique is a rather new concept.

    BTW, thank you Abrams. I've had a superstitious avoidance of Morton and Rabbath - at least until I could learn from someone well-schooled in the techniques. From what you described however, it appears I've been pivoting for years without thinking of it as anything "unorthodox". Perhaps some instinctual remnant from years of BG and cello playing? Or do most bassists wind up pivoting to some extent purely out of necessity?
  12. In response to lermgalieu, I made a mistake in writing that Simandl's little locked-in hand technique only allows one to play two notes before you have to shift the entire hand. I believe it is actually only 3 notes, because in the lower register Simandl only allows you to use the 1st, 2nd and 4 fingers (never the 3rd finger). Interestingly, Rabbath also seems not to use the 3rd finger in the lower register, but he uses the pivoting on the thumb, which allows him to reach many different notes beyond Simandl's 3 notes before having to shift the hand to a new position. I find Morton's approach advocating the use of "extended fingering" or what he calls "Simandl-plus" where he is stretching his hand in lower position and using all 4 fingers. Hence, I find that combining Morton's use of all 4 fingers with Rabbath's thumb pivoting allows you to reach a ton of notes per position, as we can do in fingerstyle guitar technique.
  13. In response to Shlomobaruch, I must reiterate that I have only been studying accoustic bass for a little over one year and I have attended one workshop with Rabbath and one with Mark Morton in Columbus, Ohio. So I am no expert on these techniques. I will try to see if I can get two bass professors to participate in this discussion who are experts in Rabbath in particular, George Vance at Un. of Maryland and Hans Sturm at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. From my own Simandl advocating jazz bass teacher, it may be that all accoustic bassists pivot a little only at the thumb in the crook of the neck position. What does anyone else think about this point?
  14. BassZen - When I made the switch to DB from EB, I couldn't get passed the idea that I couldn't use one finger per note like on electric. But I was young and impatient and attempted to finger notes the same way. It doesn't work! And no, I don't have small hands. Have you seen the hands on Ron Carter!! You would think he would use a four finger technique (like on BG) but he doesn't. Just bow down to the stick-o-pain and learn the way that well over 90% of DBers do it. Once you learn this way and have a solid technical foundation, feel free to experiment with other methods. Don't worry, you will learn how to do it. Just be patient and have fun!
  15. David, yeah I got you...I personally don't think the Simandl technique is inhibiting my ability to play what I need to, but I haven't tried other methods. My main problem is playing in tune, and I have found that a rigid diet of Simandl has been helping that problem.
  16. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ... just a little note here on language. It's a lot clearer to talk in terms of intervals (which is specific) as opposed to "notes" (which is not). So, "3 semitones", "a whole tone and a half", or "a minor 3rd"...

    Sometimes it's painful to watch musicians translating for each other. Especially when it's a theory-challenged horn section trying to work out an arrangement in rehearsal and you're sitting there chillin' still after an hour of this... 'nother story though.
  17. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    I learned on Simandl, and still stick with fingers 1,2, and 4, but after studying with Lynn Seaton, I see nothing wrong with using Rabbath's pivots by rotating down or up a half step.

    We are doing Copeland's Rodeo, and it makes the formerly tough lick in Buckaroo Holiday easy by playing it in one position as a maj up to the 9th using a pivot. At tempo, this was tough to do without pivots and going up the string made me less than secure that I would nail that long E with good intonation.

  18. MacDaddy


    Jan 26, 2002
    Provo, UT, USA
    Woah, I strongly disagree with that. First off, it's much easier to punch down a string on the cello then on the bass, width and all. It's not the 3rd finger you need to worry about, it's the 4th. I don't know about you, but my pinky is dang weak for punching down a fat E string at A. Only goliath could hit that well enough for it to sound good. Another thing you need to consider is using just your 4 finger to do some wide vibrato will prove extremely difficult. In your technique you might discover that you slide your third up in helping out your 4th. Another thing to notice is in the standard hand position your 2nd and 3rd fingers are much closer together than 1st to 2nd and 3rd to 4th. That's why you really have to force yourself to stretch your 2nd and 3rd fingers in bass guitar. The reason why you start using 3rd finger in thumb position is because it is extremely awkward to use 4th. You really have to drop your wrist considerably to hit it. I strongly recommend beginners use the Simandl technique as it's the least cumbersome so you may easily learn positions and notes. It'll bless you in the long run. I used Simandl when I was beginning out and it has helped me out immensely. In fact, even after 10 years of playing I still go back to Simandl (Book 2)for guidance.
    In discussion with being able to play a certain amount of notes per shift, in thumb position, using Simandl, you're able to play 4 (G, A, B, C) Next position, 4 more (D, E, F, G (harmonic, but you can still play it)) next shift on G harmonic and you can play the remaining notes on the fingerboard, different on every bass (B-flat on mine). Currently, in addition to Simandl, I use George Vance's book for an additional opinion (Volume 3 has some good treble clef peices to imploy thumb position).
  19. It is true that Simandl's exactly same locked-in hand formation for each position helps intonation for beginners. It is also true that once you've mastered Simandl, you can move fairly fast, as we know from watching the classical orchestra players and jazz masters like Ron Carter, Ray Brown, George Mraz, or Rufus Reid (who were Simandl classically trained). However, Ray Brown and Rufus Reid took lessons with Rabbath and Rufus Reid is now reaching the highest notes more quickly and easily, because of recently starting to use Rabbath's bent end pin as well as Rabbath's fingering approaches.
    The best example I can think of is the one I gave above of the 3 octave C major scale beginning with the "C" on the E string and in one hand position playing the scale up to an interval of an 11th ("F"). Then you make the 1st shift to the thumb position on the "G" on the D string and play up to the interval of a 4th to "C". Then you make the 2nd and last shift to the thumb on the "D" and play up to the high "C" (interval of a 7th in the same position by keeping the thumb remaining on the D) by playing up (E--1st finger, F--2nd finger, G--3rd finger), then play the lst 3 notes (or intervals) the same way (A--1st finger, B--2nd finger, C--3rd finger).
    Think of how many shifts would be required using Simandl's technique for that 3 octave scale. Rabbath illustrates this fluently on his CD-ROM.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Wow - this is a really interesting thread and I was nearly convinced on buying the Rabbath CD-ROM. But I had a look at a few reviews first and they mentioned it does cost $130 - plus I couldn't find it anywhere on the web for sale?

    Any ideas or failing that books?