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I'm really stuck on which method i should go with.

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by orangejazz, Dec 20, 2004.

  1. orangejazz

    orangejazz Banned

    Dec 20, 2004
    My gripe is that all the method's sytems of fingering all suffer from a really hit or miss on perfect intonation. it's impossible to hit the string in the exact spot to produce a perfect pitch everytime on every note, no matter how skilled you are , just listen to gary peacock!
    I have therefore concluded the only sure way to reproduce perfect pitches everytime is to develope a system whereby u can be sure that the note is going to be perfect before you actually play it.
    i have looked at Simandl's, ray browns, Micheal Moore & Chuck Sher's but they all use a system based on Simandl's, although Chuck Sher's seems to be more linked to the bass guitar's.
    playing in the first position is fine, as probably is the second (its a small shift that u can programme your hand to remember), but then it gets dubias. Moore's system helps by thinking in terms of what note the first finger is over rather than what for example the 3rd finger is pressing, (ie the if you play C on the G string you think 'Bb' on your first finger (its a smaller gap to consider). this is okey until you get to 'D' on the g-string.
    Maybe im just being a perfectionist but is this the norm on double bass? bad intonation rules the day? Or is there a system for practising ie. to train your muscles in your body to move your hand and fingers of the exact spot that your minds ear wants you to play (after in fact you have trained your minds ear to hear in perfect pitch)??? surely not, help! :bag:
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Have you ever watched a very good concert pianist? While I have seen it thousands of times, I am always amazed when they fly to the top of the keyboard with an amazing two-handed crossing run and, then in perfect time, the player lifts his left hand in perfect tempo, throws it 2-3 feet to the bottom of the keyboard and drops it perfectly postioned onto three keys to form a perfect chord.

    Watch a PGA player hit a 5 iron, or a big league pitcher pitch a baseball?

    It seems amazing, but, if you have practiced, and practiced and practiced, etc. etc, it is really second nature.

    IMO, good intonation is more about hearing than anything else. The most important thing is having the ears to hear the pitches and understand what's going on. This is why I think there is at least some value in having started on slab. If you have played a fretted instrument for a while, at least you have some sense of what playing in tune should sound like.

    You just have to play. Technique helps and you have to develop it within a particular method, but if you are faithful with your practicing, it will come. No matter whose book you buy.

    Besides, perfect intonation is boring.
  3. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    So I guess that makes me pretty damn exciting :meh:
  4. That's what I tell people when my sitar goes out of tune.

    I am finding it a bit of a challenge switching from bass guitar to the upright. No longer having frets to "cheat" with, I have to really concentrat on my fingering.

    Just to make sure I am clear on the terminology... when one says "x position", is that equivelant to fret position? In other words, if you are talking about fifth position, is that where the fifth fret would be (if the DB had frets)?
  5. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Are you kidding? That would make waaay too much sense. :)

    With Simandl (many methods are simply variations of Simandl) when the first finger is in position to play the first stopped note (The Bb on the A) it's called "half position" - often noted as "hP." The second finger plays B, the fourth C.

    Shift to move the first finger over the second stop and you're in 1st position. On the A string, first finger plays B, Second C, fourth C#, etc.

    Then it counts in whole numbers. (Some original methods called the position by different names based on the key signature, but I think that has been abandoned)

    So, the second "fret" is 1st position, third "fret" is 2nd, etc.

    There are some methods that completely ignore Simandl's positions. Rabbath, for example, divides the positions based on the natural harmonic nodes on the fb, and rather than shifting to play every note, you "pivot" within the position.

    With Rabbath, the second position starts with the first finger on the fifth stop. (D on the A string, etc) Third is the seventh stop (E on the A) The octave harmonic denotes another position, etc.

    There are only six total positions in Rabbath.

    Practically speaking, I think the differences are more subtle than the methods suggest, but you go with what you know.

    In the beginning the value of the positions is understanding that they provide context to marked fingers. Otherwise you'll never really know where to start.

    These days, I am still enough of a noob that I mark up my own sheets with the fingerings within positions using the same idea that the method books use.
  6. All this talk about the ear being the most important to playing in tune, is true in a broad sense only.

    You can only use your ear (good or otherwise) once the note has been sounded (unless you are sliding into each note, which is of course much easier), by then of course it is a bit too late. It is true that you can eventually get very quick in your ability to adjust the sounded note, if it doesn't start out in tune.

    The whole point of the Simandl approach (that my teacher uses) is to get your hand to become a disciplined and realiable measuring device. Once you get your fingers to consistently achieve and maintain a major second (two half steps) in half position (first finger on Bb for instance), all you have to do is train your hand to gradually close up the gaps between fingers as you progress to higher positions.

    With this approach you know that once your first finger is on Bb (A string) all the other notes that lie under the hand, on all four strings will be in tune. Then it is "just" a matter of training the movement of the hand/arm to arrive at the required note - say the C on the G string (you no longer really think of positions) and you know the D will be in tune, as will the A (on the D string). The only real "adventure" is the trip up to that C.

    This hand/arm movement really can be trained and your muscles will remember, but it does take constant practice.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Again, I don't think it's any one thing. Playing positionally is what gets you in the neighborhood, but having that "expectation of pitch" is what gives you the "street address".

    Given an instrument that is capable of intentional shadings of pitch, the use of a "tempered" concept of tuning is perhaps not the best model. I enjoy the potential of an instrument that can imply upward or downward movement by pushing the intonation on an ascending phrase or pulling it on a descending one.

    Additionally, I would say that playing "in tune" has as more to do with playing in a consonant and synchronous manner with those you are playing with than it does to a geographic spot on a piece of wood.
  8. Yes Ed, I agree with everything you just said, but I was speaking about the control, while you are speaking about what you can and should do with that control.

    In my orchestral section, playing with a non-tempered approach would not be well recieved, though in a solo piece I could certainly see it.
  9. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Broad? Yes, but I think it is absolutely the key. I agree with you absolutely that you will, overtime, train yourself to accurately shift into the correct position to sound the note accurately without "post audible" adjustments. And that a given method will aid in developing that ability.

    My point is, that every scale, exercise, étude, piece or anything else should be played with the primary focus on listening. How can you train yourself to shift to exactly the right spot if you don't pay absolute attention to where that spot is every time you go there?

    IME, if you focus on playing in tune and listen to yourself, much of the rest is fairly intuitive.

    I certainly don't want to appear argumentative. I guess I just have a huge aversion to becoming a "button pusher." The label that so many rigidly trained musicians carry. I have ran across so many players that have so narrowed their approach to a mechanical response to a printed note that if they get derailed in any way, they end up like sheep loosed from the pin. Some wander aimlessly. Others panic and others just stop and stare.
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Just so. The ear is mightier than the Simandl position, 100 times out of 100.
  11. Chasarms, what in my post lead you to believe I don't listen constantly and keenly to every note played, in any piece, excercise or scale? Otherwise how would I know if I ever got to the right place. If one doesn't listen then one runs the risk of practicing bad intonation.

    I thought I stated my case clearly, but to put it another way the discipline I was tought helps a player to get to the ultimate goal (consistently good intonation), a little more quickly perhaps (timewise not speedwise) and with more confidence.

    It is simply a method that is particularly suited to my personality. I have found it is particularly usefull when under stress, such as in sight reading and in very fast passages.

    You know little, if anything about me, or my commitment to my music, and I find "button pusher" an offensive term, because it implies a mindless and insensitive approach to music.
  12. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    I am currently working on getting my intonation back to where it was before.

    I find that any method, you need to get the muscle memory and ear working together as a unit. It does you no good really if you can hit a note dead cold, but you hit it consistantly # or b. you may be consistant, yes, but also out of tune.

    When starting out constantly checking intonation will pay off in only a few months as you develop the muscle memory and you hear the note before you play it. Not a pushing buttons method, but it just becomes second nature.
  13. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Hector, I can dig what you're saying. I don't think it's possible to get going on this instrument -- or perhaps playing it at all, even at the highest levels -- without playing "out of tune". Playing the DB is a continuous process of intonating, and probably one of the biggest criticisms players have of themselves is their ability (or not) to "play in tune". At any level.

    All of that puts me pretty much in the Ed / Chris camp of "hear it in tune, play it in tune, adjust", doesn't it? Yep. I just think that the sort of reliability you're after, Hector, is a perfectly sensible thing to practice and go after if that's what someone wants. As long as the playing of music (as opposed to practicing technique) doesn't suffer from this technical pursuit, what in heaven can be wrong with wanting greater certainty that, each time you go to produce a note on the DB, you're going to be nearer to on-pitch than not?

    There's an analogy in target-shooting. Playing on-pitch is the bullseye. The nearer to the bullseye, the more "valid" the note played (if you will; I'm bringing the notion of "valid" and "reliable" in from the field of measurement theory.) With DB-playing, I think the number one thing bringing about greater validity is the idea of "be the target; think the target; internalize the bullseye, grasshopper, and let shots flow through you." Or something like that. (Leastways, that's how I approach it. Most of my gross honkers are made when I'm not really hearing internally what the heck I'm trying to do. My constant out-of-tuneness is something that really only bugs me; my colleagues and audience folk don't hear the tiny details about the bass sound the way I do. Makes sense. I'm the bass player.) So, if over time I produce a reasonable spread around the bulleye, I'm doing OK. I'm playing with pretty good validity with respect to producing that note in tune. Reliability in this context refers to how tightly grouped your shots at the target are. Of course, shots can be very tightly grouped yet be nowhere near the bullseye; reliability doesn't guarantee validity in any way.

    I believe, Hector, that what you're talking about is a method for producing tight groupings, for increasing the reliability of instantaneously playing a note in tune. So what's wrong with that? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Provided that's what's needed to play your music and to turn your crank.
  14. Exactly what I was trying to say. For me playing in tune with a section of basses, makes increasing the percentages important. While I have gotten much better over time at instantly adjusting the note, there are many times when the notes are flying by way too fast for that.

    Hearing the note in tune is essential in order to practice the muscle memory you need. I am a little unclear about how hearing the note in tune before hand, helps you play it more in tune at first try without "adjustment".

    I have noticed that those passages that I know well enough to sing in tune, do come out more in tune when I play them.

    I think there are two situations that present real difficulty for me: passages that I have never heard before and non-melodic passages that keep jumping in and out of key.
  15. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    Sight singing is one of the most important skills any musician can have. When I learn new music off a sheet, My first attempts are without the bass, trying to sing the line as slow as I need to to get all the pitches. Then I play it, then sing, rinse, repeat. Dont get too hung up on the intonation of one note, focus more on the intonation of the phrase.
  16. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Yep I agree, it's all about "hearing" and "wanting" that in tune note.
    I don't really think muscle memory is the way to go. But if you hear the note in your head, then you'll find it. Savino is dead-on.

    I find playing in a section of basses is still a bit of a fight, sometimes. Intonation is ultimately just an opinion, but I like to think I'm right most of the time! There is something obvious about an "in-tune" note, it just sounds true and right. Knowing the "feeling" of that true note is more important than left hand mechanics, which have their place for sure.

  17. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Nothing. Nor did I accuse you of as much. But, if it was implied, I apologize.

    I wouldn't disagree with you. But, isn't that really that the goal of any "discipline" or method?

    My point, was meant to suggest to the original poster that getting hung up on a particular method defeats the purpose. If you are dedicated to becoming a better player, you can really reach that goal using any method. And with any, you'll use your ears more than anything else.

    Well, there is no doubt that certain methods are better suited to certain personalities. It's just that I'm not sure that it is a particular method that is serving you under stress as much as your past dedication to practice and your experience on the instrument.

    "Mindless" - I don't think so. Musicianship requires a great deal of concentration without regard to the approach.

    "Insensitive" - I wouldn't go there either. Although I fear that many I have performed with are more sensitive to their own execution than perhaps they are of conveying the expression of the music.

    It isn't in my nature to offend anyone here at TB (or anywhere else for that matter) but especially those who make every effort to make helpful and positive contributions to discussions.

    That's exactly what I was trying to say with the "Button pusher" comment. Though certainly in a bit more callous way. Again, no offense meant.
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Res ipsa loquitur. :)
  19. You've got me there...I assume you mean that I answered my own question, or proved your point.

    Well...I simply made an observation based on my experiences, I accept that there may be a connection, but don't really understand technically what the connection is.

    In case anyone is in doubt, I tend to be very analytical, I always want to understand how or why...it used to drive my teacher a bit crazy.
  20. At any rate, thank you all for your sincere advice and or opinions. Your comments have helped me better understand what you mean when you talk about playing by ear.

    I was under the impression that many who used that phrase were talking about exactly that, that all that was required to play in tune was to have a good ear.

    It seems to me now that you were talking about using your ear to guide you in developing the muscle memory needed to play in tune, and then using them again to "adjust" the note quickly if it was less than acceptable.

    This is has always been my understanding too. The only difference is that I place a good deal of importance on technique or method to support the ear in the muscle memory training effort.

    If I seem a bit obsessed with good intonation, I would say that it just too annoying, not to mention destructive of the beauty of the music, when I can't match the intonation of the other more experienced members of my section.