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Karr for French Palyers?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by SirFunk, Apr 19, 2006.

  1. SirFunk

    SirFunk Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Topeka, KS
    Hi there,

    I recently watch the Basically Karr video and have been trying out some of Gary Karr's techniques in my practice. First off is the way he holds his bass, basically stright up and down, resting the lower bout on the leg, and the upper in the hip. I find it much easier to balance my bass this way, I can hold it no hands for like 30 seconds. The neck feels a little far away but i'm sure that's something i can get used to.

    The problem i'm experiancing though, is my bow arm. When you position your bass like this, it is basically parallell to your body (or out at a 180 degree angle, or however you want to describe it) The bass itself feels freer and more lively like this, however with a french bow, i feel like i have to really sort of crane my arm around the bass to get the bow on the strings. After practicing like this for about an hour or so, my wrist was aching. I'm not sure if it's just because it's a new position or if i'm doing something potentially harmful.

    So my question: Anyone ever tried Gary Karr-esque technique with a french bow, how'd it work out, did you get any pain from it?
  2. Anon2962


    Aug 4, 2004
    The way I play is completely opposite to what you have described.

    I play sitting, with a stool at the same height (real low in my case) and with a spike holder which keeps the bass in the same position each time i play. Sitting low changes the angle of the bass to a more horizontal position rather than vertical. I found this really helped me to release the full weight of the bow arm when playing. I try to avoid doing exactly what you are forced to do - crane the neck, reach 'over' the bass. I think the more natural your position is the better, and for me, that's sitting.

    I don't think it's ideal to model your technique on a German bow player when you play French bow. Why not try german bow if you're convinced this is the way for you? That said, things can be learned through seeing how things are done on the dark side (German bow).
  3. sibass89


    Jan 29, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    When I studied with John Schaeffer, he taught with almost the exact same position of the bass, and Schaeffer is a very famous French bow player.

    The only thing I can think about is that you are maybe exaggerating the position a little too much and turning the bass out instead. It is hard to tell though without seeing you play.

    One thing to know is the physics of it. The way you balance the bass is that the knee is pushing the bass foward while the weight of the neck is coming towards your body. You should not have your legs very far apart and your weight should be even on both feet.

    Also, the upperbout of the bass shouldn't be on the outside of your hip, it should be more towards the center. Between your hip and your stomach there is a little cove that is created where the bass fits perfectly. If you do this, it should make the bass closer for the bow.

    One more final thing. Never move your bow arm to adjust to the bass, move the bass to adjust to bow arm. If you need to play on the E string, push the bass out a little with your knee, so that the position opens up and if you have to play on the G string, move your knee back a little so the bass closes off.

    I no longer play this way (after I started studying with Levinson), but I hope this tips help you out.
  4. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Hiya. I began my studies of double bass with Leland Tolo, Gary's right-hand man, and got to hang with Gary when I was a kid. That was over 25 years ago and even though I don't practice as much as I should and my posture is a lot sloppier than it was, I have avoided wrist injury. Thank you, Tolo! Thank you, Gary!

    I've only played French -- Tolo played French, for that matter.

    Yes. Ergonomics is the essence of Gary's approach. Spend as little energy as possible holding the bass so that you can spend as much energy as possible making the music. Also, keep your carpal tunnels open so that you don't get hurt. But bear in mind that it's not just balance, it's also height and the physical angle of the bass to the body (which you are having trouble with).

    Not necessarily. See below.

    You CAN turn the bass. You want to turn the bass so that when you're playing low on the G you're making that beautiful C-clamp, and the top of your left wrist is pretty much flat. At that point your carpal tunnel is open and your bow angle should allow you to bow with ease.

    Well of course you're not sure. You've just radically changed your physical approach to the instrument. So, WHAT DOES YOUR TEACHER SAY?

    You can't just watch videos and poke around at this stuff and then stop when it hurts, Jeff. You need live help post haste!
  5. SirFunk

    SirFunk Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Topeka, KS
    Thanks for all of the feedback everyone, it's greatly appreciated.

    I used to play sitting, I was never able to get completely comfortable. I've been standing for a while. Recently i've been trying out new techniques, there are a lot of things i do like about Gary Karr's technique such as how well the bass balances. I'm trying to figure out if there is somethign I'm doing wrong making it uncomfortable.

    Yeah, i thought about it more, and it's not really 180 degrees out, it's more like 120 or so. I used to play at a similar angle, maybe slightly less but with the bass slanted more into my body than upright... i never really had this problem, atleast not as much.

    Yeah, actually that's where I have it. I'll try playing around with it a bit more though.

    How do you play now?

    Hmm, i havn't paid much attention to my left hand. I'll check that now and see how that is holding up, that might show that i'm doing something else wrong.

    Yeah, my teacher has some kind of obligation this week, and he was sick last week. I don't have a lesson until next monday, and i have one next tuesday too (that won't be much help)

    Really why i'm doing this is i've havn't yet found a way of holding my bass that i'm completely comfortable with. The way i used to hold it I found it hard to bow at right angles because the bass was slanted soo much in towards me. I really like how the balance feels with Gary Karr's technique. I think the root of the problem i'm having with it is how far over i have to reach to, say, do a downbow from the frog on the G string. A few of the pices i'm playing now are really lyrical slower things that need full bow on the G string.. gotta get to that frog.
  6. GirlBass


    Jul 31, 2005
    New York
    Gary also has his "karr kamp" every july in Canada. It's a month long and and then you could get advice and lessons from the source, if that's the direction you want to take your playing to. It might be too late, but it's worth a shot to see if you can go. I think "shmelbee" went last year?
    Good luck!
  7. SirFunk

    SirFunk Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Topeka, KS
    I think i finally figured out the main difference in my normal technique and garry's. I used to lean the bass into my body a lot more than Gary, I also used to lean over the bass. This allowed me to get a lot closer to the strings so i didn't have to reach my right arm forward as far. With garry's technique, if i'm correct, the bass is basically vertical and you are supposed to stand more or less straight up and not lean over the bass at all, correct? When i do that The G String feels very far away and uncomfortable to play near the frog.
  8. I think Gary is great, but his technique just doesn't work for me. For one thing, while Gary sounds absolutely incredible, he seems a little stiff, and almost too formal. When I play, the first thing I do is get comfortable, and I move around a lot when I play. Unfortunatly, I couldn't get much fluid body motion going while trying to balance the bass almost straight up. I really don't think it should matter that you're a French player at all....in fact, I think it should probably be a bigger stretch to reach the G string for German players than for French.

    If Gary's technique isn't working for you, try something else.You need to be comfortable before you can make music.
  9. SirFunk

    SirFunk Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Topeka, KS
    Yeah, i guess for now i'll go back to my former technique and all it's shortcomings. I'll ask my teacher about Karr's stuff whenever i have another lesson. And myabe someday i can get a laborie pin or an eggpin and try out some Rabbath technique.
  10. sibass89


    Jan 29, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH

    I play with a much higher bass than Karr uses and a more comfortable (atleast I feel so) position. I play with the bass much higher than I used to and lean it into my body more. The way I balance the bass is with my body and my left hand. My thumb and fingers no longer clamp the string, I apply weight from left hand and let it hang in place (the thumb is just a reference point and there is no pressure on it). With myself hanging my arm weight and my body pushing the instrument foward it is very balanced.

    I feel so much more comfortable this way and I can feel the instrument open up when I am not leaning on the instrument. Also, I now play German (it's so much better than French). I feel more like myself when I play German and I love my sound so much more, and its more relaxing.

    I also agree with ClassicalBass, just play the way that you are comfortable. Its not worth playing uncomfortably because its down right frustrating.
  11. Anonymous75966


    Jun 29, 2004
    Remarkable though Gary is, I've never been able to get into his technique either. I've actually done a few master classes with the man, and I think he's a very entertaining guy and a great motivator of students. Working with him helped me develop certain things - getting a penetrating solo tone, bow control, playing close to the bridge. But I play French bow, keep my right arm loose, and lean the bass way back.

    Everyone's got different equipment - different bodies as well as different instruments. No one school of technique is guaranteed to give you all the answers - you just have to figure out what works for you. And of course, PAIN IS BAD.
  12. jfv


    May 5, 2003
    Portland, OR
    The laborie endpin is great, but Rabbath's technique is not
    just about your bass endpin :) Its about your body and how
    that 'hardware' functions when you play.

    I first bought George Vance's beginning technique books, and
    then realized that there was WAY too much stuff hidden
    between the lines, as it were. I emailed George and he was
    kind enough to give me Audrey Wang's email, she teaches
    a Rabbath technique here in the Portland area.

    Rabbath is about stance, its also about bow hold, and then
    about the motion that makes possible, and I would NEVER
    be getting this stuff without a teacher that could physically
    postion you, hold you, and slowly help your body to learn :)

    BTW, I highly recommend Audrey if anyone in this area
    is looking for a teacher.

    I switched to french bow because of my interest in Rabbath,
    I've been really happy with the results so far. Watching
    'Art of the Bow' will help anyone thinking about it to get
    an idea of whats involved, get your hands on it if you can.

  13. rprowse


    Dec 17, 2005
    Wellington NZ
    I've never seen Gary's video, but will certainly try to correct that in the future.
    I don't claim to be an expert, but, over the years, have evolved into the position that you say he teaches (bass straight up).
    The big thing that I get from this position is a great flow up and down the string(s).
    I find that, when the bass is on more of an angle, there is a tendency to lean on it... this seems to cause a jump between the first and second octaves on the string... stops me flowing up and down the string.
    I have played both French & German with no problems.
  14. Michael Binder

    Michael Binder

    Oct 29, 2005
    How do you play in the high positions???
    I am interested in changing my way of holding the bass,but still not found the best way.
  15. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I studied with a woman who studied with Karr for a short time. She played French actually. I used French for the lessons.
    I use the Rabbath concept of neck on the shoulder arms free for the upper register, but with a straight pin.
    Overall, going whole hog with Rabbath pedagogy works best for playing like Rabbath which is admittedly awesome but not always practical.
    So, I would suggest some balance with other methods and ideas.

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