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Jazz Technique

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Fudge, Apr 13, 2003.

  1. Fudge

    Fudge Guest

    Apr 13, 2003
    I play bass guitar in my school's jazz band. We went to the Maritime Musicfest in Glace Bay, Canada recently and we did a kick-ass job. We have a great rythm section ;). We got everybody groovin' with Channel One Suite by Buddy Rich and his gang.

    At the end of our performance, the ajudicator come up on stage and said that I was holding the bass wrong. I looked at him kind of funny.

    He said that my thumb on my neck hand was positionned improperly. I had it kinda' pointing up the neck like most rock bass players do. He said that I needed to place the pad of my thumb on the back of the neck. He said upright bass players do it so they have a better arch in the fingers and they are able to move up and down the neck more easily.

    You will find that this is true. However, my bass guitar is very different than an upright. It doesn't have that big, chunky neck. It's even way slimmer than the old p-bass necks. It might even be a bit slimmer than the fender jazz. When the thumb is placed on the back of the neck, the fingers arch but it is a hassle and causes strain to find a way to get them back down to that distanced fretboard.

    As for the up-and-down-the-neck-thing, I hardly ever go beyond fret #5 on the bottom three strings (when I say bottom, I mean low notes). On the top string I sometimes have to sprawl up the neck a bit to hit those D's and E's or maybe the odd F.

    So there's the scoop. I want lots of feedback--especially from you upright players. Opinions, facts, anything!
  2. Your bass guitar is very different than an upright but what he said is still true. If you place your thumb behind the neck your fingers will have a better arch, making it much easier to hit any notes that you may have to reach for. You'll also find that it's easier to play faster, cleaner and easier to make position changes.

    This technique is pretty much mandatory for classical guitar. An instrument that is also different than a bass guitar... yet similar.
  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    He's right. You may feel strained when arching your fingers because you're not used to it - learn to play like this, and relax while doing it and you'll have a far eaiser road.
  4. christoph h.

    christoph h.

    Mar 26, 2001
  5. logdrum

    logdrum Formerly known as noelpaz Supporting Member

    He's right -- but personally I believe more in the music that comes out more than anything else.

    I met this kid about 15 years old. He does the mitten hold on the bass. no arched fingers or correct thumb postion here. But boy he can play fast and clear and funky and in the pocket. He is getting hired, by a lot of cats in my area. He's got a cheapo bass and amp and completely self taught - but he is a really good player and these things cheap bass non fancy technique doesn't stop him from sounding good. Interesting thing - cause he has big hands he sometimes uses his thumb to finger his bass and extend the others for some wacky stretches and some left hand hammer ons and tapping. He is scary man.

    Anyways, if the thumb correct position helps you - use it. But seems you are already gigging and if what you do is working, it might not be much of a deal.
  6. hujo


    Apr 18, 2001
    Stockholm, Sweden
    I believe in the putting the thumb behind the neck.. Though, I've seen respected players like Alex Sklarevski do the technique you mentioned, but use it in addition to "proper" technique.. I really don't see technique as something that "if it works for you..", but something that's been tried and tested through hundreds of years... Proper technique will lend better results, and IMO should be used. However, that doesn't stop you from adding your own ideas in addition to that at special times.
  7. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    He sounds like the exception to the rule,and how many of us are like that?Proper technique and training are a must for all but the very few,to suggest otherwise is irresponsible.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Exactly right - and promoting anything else may also get someone "suing your ass off" when they get RSI or Carpal Tunnel from using bad technique!! ;)
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    My view is that if you are interested in playing Jazz, then you will need to improve your technique and are lucky that guy mentioned it - it sounds like you need some lessons with a decent teacher to address the problems you mention, in the part I copied above.
  10. I have to agree with everyone who has spoken so far - yes, there are exceptions to the accepted bass techniques, but they are simply exceptions. The odds are that none of us are and we're better off learning as correctly as possible. It will feel awkward at first while trying to play with arched fingers and your thumb behind your middle finger, however, in time it will be worth the effort. Best of luck,

  11. logdrum

    logdrum Formerly known as noelpaz Supporting Member

    Of course, I'd rather see bass players -- bass guitar and upright -- use the correct thumb position behind the neck and if possible behind the middle finger. Its the best thing for comfort. endurance, speed and accuracy/intonation especially if you are playing fretless - and should be taught whether you are playing metal or jazz. I've noticed that some rock bassists keep the bass guitar low - on the waist area almost and I think at that position, no sense of discussing the thumb location there :)

    I am not trying to promote bad technique - but if I hear a player is rythmically and musically good or exceptional on the bass - I don't think I would bother figuring out whether he's got the thumb in the correct location - for all I know he might not have 5 fingers per hand at all. In keeping with the title of thread, my 2 cents is if you are still progressing on the bass (I know I am - always learning) and would like to know which is the better of the two: the thumb behind the neck if possible in line with the middle finger or a mitten hold (thumb around the neck) -- the first choice is better for the reasons mentioned above and by everyone else. Even though the original poster said he rarely uses the 5 fret -- in time he might. The bass has a very wide range(if you include harmomics or play a 6/7 string) and it is very easy to go uo to the high G(12 fret G string) even if you are just doing walking bass lines. If you choose to play 5 string you may find that you like the tone of the notes on the B string - you could easily be on the 10 fret up and you would find it easier to navigate the fretboard if you had as technique foundation the "thumb" thing . And it you desire to play upright -- this is probably the foremost basic left hand technique that you have to have.
  12. chardin


    Sep 18, 2000
    The bass player from Mudvayne has a "different" left hand technique. The pictures of his left hand in a recent Bass Player interview made me cringe.
  13. Danksalot


    Apr 9, 2003
    Dallas, Texas, USA
    Endorsing Artist: SIT Strings
    When I was in my High School Jazz Band, we were pretty good as well. I had never had a lesson on bass guitar, so I wore my bass around my waist like every other bass player I saw. This worked fine for all of the music I was playing at the time.

    When I got to college and started taking lessons and playing more challenging music, my teacher told me to try wearing my bass a little higher. My hand naturally went to the "thumb behind the neck" position, and it was easier and more comfortable to play harder music like this.

    I don't know how high or low you wear your bass, but if it's low, try lifting it and tilting the neck up a little. This may make the "thumb behind the neck" position more comfortable.

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