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Jazz Pizz Questions

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Johnny L, Dec 20, 2005.

  1. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    My pizz on doublebass has been just carryover from the electric bass...alternating first and second fingers throughout, with the only disruption being the rake. I learned to do that from a Bunny Brunel book I checked out from my local library that was my "teacher".

    But I just recently snagged the Rufus Reid DVD (and book), and I see that Rufus uses his index finger almost exclusively...bringing in the second finger only where required. The rake option is still used though.

    I was experimenting with it last night trying to get a better pizz sound (what I'm doing now is not very good sounding to me), and with the index finger wrapped around the string like Rufus does it sounds a lot beefier than what I was doing before...plus I'm going more across the string rather than down on it like I do with my "electric bass" hack pizz and so I don't get so much rattle it's a lot cleaner sound too. I like it a lot, but I'm having a hard time breaking old habits and so gotta work slow right now.

    Is this the standard jazz pizz technique to play it the way I'm describing Rufus doing it? Does anyone bother to do the alternating finger thing on the double bass? Man I hear some of you guys complain about 230 bpm tempos but never caught on...are you trying to play quarter notes at that speed pulling the string with just your index finger?!?
  2. bfitz


    May 18, 2005
    lorain, ohio
    i'm not great at it by anymeans but that is generaly how i play. instead of just the index finger sometimes i will pluck the string with my index and middle at the same time. this work better for my on the g string because i have stubby fingers and it seems to give me better volume. as far as speed it just takes practice. i studied with a guy a few years ago who had little problems get up to around 200 pbm with just one finger. i can't, but hey.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Just so.

    I don't know that there's a "standard" way to do it, but I learned my pizz technique from Rufus, and it's been working so far.

    Sure - there are times when it makes sense, and other times when one finger seems like a more logical choice. It all depends, as FOGHORN likes to say, on what's going on and what you're hearing as the sound you're going for.

    Sometimes. I think it's important to understand that you're actually playing with your whole arm rather than your finger, and that the faster you play, the smaller your arm motin becomes. Sometimes at REALLY fast tempos, I can get the most consistent speed by playing with only my middle finger (less friction) and making a motion almost like shaking a hand that has fallen asleep. Experiment with different playing styles and record them if you can - what works should become more plain on playback.
  4. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Thanks, Chris!

    Yeah I haven't been playing with my arm at all just my fingers a la electric, but it never seemed to be a problem until I finally recorded myself and realized all the noise I was making.

    I'll keep working that and getting comfortable with it I already like it better but yeah I do need to record myself more often and strive for the sounds I want to hear on tape.

    So when you're burning through the faster tempos I take it you don't still have your thumb planted on the side of the fingerboard?
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    It stays put, and serves as a fulcrum for the motion of the arm. The trick is to lighten the downward force of the finger into the fingerboard and keep the wrist and elbow loose...this helps a very small motion from the body transmit to a very fast motion on the string. At really fast tempos, you can use one motion of the chest shoulder to produce 2, 3, even 4 notes, with the accent falling on the "arm weight" note.

    I'm sure others will weigh in with other techniques, but this is what works for me.
  6. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Well I do catch the part about being loose and not letting tension rob me. I'll experiment more when I get my hand trained to stay on the index finger and just using the second finger where absolutely necessary to keep the lines in time.

    Still, Thanks! :bassist:
  7. I love the feeling when I’m all warmed up and can do fast walking patterns and can get sounds out of the up stroke in addition to the normal downward press with the index. I have to be warm and really feel the groove.
    It’s funny how my right hand style will change depending on the song/players/mood. Samba/swing/bossa and even flamenco I like to play with index/ring fingers. Ballads and half-time stuff I play with the index only but like I said when I’m warmed up that finger can move.
    I’m not too concerned since all the younger first call guys I see seem to smoothly move from one finger to two and back and they sound good.

    Mingus did the fight song one fingered… course he was Mingus.
  8. TomSauter


    Dec 22, 2004
    Kennesaw, GA
    In my opinion, when you're walking it's best to play almost everything with one finger (or two fingers together). It's easier to get a consistent sound from note to note, and my pulse is steadier when I use one finger. I think the same goes for any rhythmic figures that you use when you break up the time--they will almost definitely be more even sounding and likely more swinging if you can play them with one finger. Obviously this isn't feasible all the time, because as you move up the metronome, it doesn't take long for 8th notes or triplets to get really hard to play on one string with one finger. Another plus to playing with one finger is that you're not so prone to accent 2 and 4 in your lines.

    I just watched a couple of videos to see what some of the greats do. Ray Brown used one finger for everything, even soloing. He occassionally used two fingers during solos if he was repeating one note really fast. Ron Carter uses one finger almost exclusively while walking. Every now and then his second finger jumps in there. It's amazing how relaxed he is (and how beautiful his lines are) even at super fast tempos! I don't have much video of Paul Chambers, but I'm pretty sure he used one finger even during his solos. I watched a Phineas Newborn video with Al McKibbon on bass and he used one finger for all of his quarter notes and most of his rhythmic figures. Dave Holland does a good bit of alternating, but mostly when he is frequently breaking up the time. On long passages of quarter notes he seems to use mostly one finger. NHOP is similar to Dave Holland in this respect. Bob Hurst plays with one finger (two fingers together) while he's walking. Charnett Moffett uses one finger almost all the time while he's walking. Sometimes he alternates 1-2 and sometimes 1-3, and sometimes he plucks with three fingers at once.

    There were some really up tempo tunes on all of the videos I just watched, and it doesn't seem to affect whether or not they use one or two fingers very much. Everybody except Ray Brown used two fingers a little bit more often on the fast tunes, probably because of fatigue.

    I would appreciate it if anyone has some other videos or can watch some great players live and ask them about their right hand technique.
  9. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Thanks Tom for the info.

    You reminded me of a Stanley Jordan concert in Montreal I got the chance to see a long time ago, and Moffett was the bassist. During one of his solos he did a fast repeating pattern in thumb position, alternating his right hand index and ring fingers. But I didn't know how to spell bass then.

    Oh yeah and when I saw Lynn Seaton at UNT several years ago, I remember for the song he played when it came time for him to solo (well, he led the song and it was a small chamber orchestra supporting him), he was alternating his fingers there for maximum velocity also...and alternating between the bow and pizz.

    Ah so much to learn still :hyper:
  10. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    Its worth pointing out, seeing as the person who asked the question seems quite unexperienced, that a lot of bassists alternate right hand fingers most of the time. I'm not saying you should if you don't want to, but as most of the people who've posted on here are 1 finger types I thought I should balance the argument.
    I tend to use 2 fingers alternating when walking, unless its a very slow tune. In my experience of watching bass players, I reckon at least 50% of bassists I've seen do the same, and both of the teacher's I've had do.
  11. I just recently saw Rufus (he is a member of a teacher at my school's quartet), and he actually used both fingers a lot of the time. He was, though, heavily amplified so he could afford to do that. Anyway, I think you can still get a real big sound out of alternating fingers if you angle your fingers down and use your armweight. That said just go for what sounds good and always make sure to experiment: in the course of a minute I may go from using both fingers together, to just index, to alternating turned down, to electric style all subconciously, based only on what sound I want. I would advise against getting too dogmatic (ie one finger for ballads, two for solos, whatever) and be able to play in all styles whenever you want.
  12. bolo


    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    I tried to watch Christian McBride's right hand technique really closely once when he appeared in Raleigh. I even used binoculars to focus in exclusively on his right hand for extended periods of time.

    I observed that he alternated all the time between using index only, middle only, index and middle alternating, and index & middle closed together. He would change up multiple times within a phrase or even a single measure. If memory serves, he relied most heavily on index only and index & middle closed together.

    That's what BassZen's post reminded me of.
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Good question.

    I'm just making the leap from electric too and I've found, as has been posted above, that playing with index and middle together, or just index, just above the bottom of the fretboard, is best for walking because of the consitancy. I just cant make play the notes as solid with two fingers

    That said, if I'm soloing or playing a melody, usually with quavers, I sometimes move my right hand up the fretboard and pluck using two fingers.. it's an entirely different sound, and isnt really suitable for wakling because it's not as strong, but allows me to play 'more notes' without my arm dropping off :meh:
  14. I've seen Andy Clyndert do this (UK bassist). I did it in front of a bass teacher and got told off, but in my view, you'll never produce the full quality of a note a high speed - it can't develop and tends to be more percussive, so playing higher up seems to work quite well. Having said that, this perspective could be a product of my fairly high string hieght.
  15. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I figured that to play faster you need a lighter touch and you can make the strings move more using a lighter touch higher up the neck.
    I've briefly played basses with lower action and I found it sounded more like a fretless electric than upright, which is cool of course, but not my thing. I saw a guy called Paul Morgan play recently, absolutely killer tone, and a wonderful player, but he did have a very fretless electric sounding tone, to me at least
  16. TomSauter


    Dec 22, 2004
    Kennesaw, GA
    If you play higher up on the fingerboard, you lose a lot of definition, and I think it is harder to play there because the string is not as taught. If you pluck the string near the end of the fingerboard, you can play lightly and still get a nice attack, which is really important on fast tempos. The other members of the band listen to the bass to hear the tempo lots of times, and it's much easier to hear ding-ding-ding-ding than woo-woo-woo-woo. Also, the weight of your arm doesn't factor in as much when you move higher up the fingerboard, so you may end up working harder to get a sound.

    I pretty much agree with you on the super low action/electric sound, but sometimes it doesn't work this way. Charnett Moffett's bass has the lowest string height of any bass that I've ever played, and he has one of the biggest sounds I've ever heard. Maybe it varies from instrument to instrument?
  17. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    O.K. back from vacation...whew!...but I took my laptop with me to do some work and watch Rufus do his thing on his DVD on the side.

    There's a part in that DVD where he discusses exactly this issue and recommends (for himself and the sound he desires) to use the index finger with as much "meat" as one can dig in with...pulling the string and releasing it rather than "plucking" the string (oops yeah and do the chicken-wing thing, right!).

    Yeah I sent a poop demo to Damon for Ed to heckle and I did not like my pizz sound at all...well, didn't like the flat Eb I tried to pull up to but didn't quite make and all the other mistakes and note fishing failures either LOL but those things I understand and know what I have to do to fix those sorts of problems. But all this time I thought pizz was something that sounded fine no matter what until I heard myself and went "no way is that what I want to sound like!".

    Yeah Rufus gets a great sound and I want to give the listener all the meat I can extend...so...back to the woodshed...sigh... :bassist:
  18. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Folks, I do indeed have a sample from Johnny L -- please bear with me whilst I procrastinate further dealing with some computer hardware difficulties. It's gonna take a couple of hours and I'm still feeling the glow of holidayization...