Keep them fingers down!

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by SirFunk, Oct 15, 2005.

  1. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE

    I've begun to realize that one of my biggest problems as i progress is that I don't keep my fingers down behind the one I am playing. For example, if I'm playing an F on the D string and want to go to Eb, My index finger will be up, and then it will go down for the Eb. I think my mental process is "put down your index finger" not "pick up your pinky". I've been doing this for 10 years.

    This hasn't become too much of a problem until recently, now that i've been playing some more complicated and fast pieces (Dragonetti) It is becoming a REAL issue in thumb position. I know if i just sit for hours a day conciously thinking about it, playing things slow, I might be able to break the habbit.

    My question is: does anyone have any good hints/tips/exercises to do this faster?

  2. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    It might help to practice in a mirror. This way you can watch your fingers and make sure they stay in line...
  3. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    I think the fingers of the left hand should individually press the notes down. Using more than one finger to stop the note slows the process and decreases your dexterity.
  4. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    You'll get a few differing views on this one. . .

    My vote goes to keeping your fingers down.
    The way I think of it, when you set your fourth finger, you always have 3 notes down. You just lift your 4th to get the E natural, then lift your second to get the Eb. The other way, you have to lift your 4th, and then place whatever other finger you use down again. Less efficient by half.
    Also, you have set the 3 notes in tune when you place your 4th, no need to shift around for the E and Eb to get them in tune.

    I should note that I also use 4 fingers in that neck area, which might still be considered contriversial by some. ..

    There are a lot of ways to play the bass, and I think it is best to try them out for a long while before you choose. If you are studying, do it the way your teacher suggests, but be aware that you might flirt with other ways of playing, and make changes at some point.

    Your "Kilometerage" may vary. ..
  5. Eric_J

    Eric_J Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Flower Mound, TX. USA
    I find it hard to vibrato when I keep all the fingers down. So on log notes, requiring vibrato, I use only the one finger to stop the note.
    But in fast passages where I'm playing the next note lower with a finger that could be down, its down.
  6. TomGale


    Jul 31, 2005
    American School of Double Bass
    This is the modern thinking on fingerings. In the old set up - high action with gut strings - there was an advantage using all 4 fingers but that disappeared with the modern bass set up. Besides, vibtrato should always be done with the one finger in use - not 2 or 4.
    Tom Gale
  7. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    Thanks for all the replies guys. I think this has strayed a little from my original question.

    Obviously there are a few schools of thought on this. I guess I personally would tend to side with the, " keep fingers 1 and 2 (and 3) down when you are playing 4th finger" In my mind that would INCREASE dexterity especially if your are playing descending things.

    and yeah, i get that you can't have them down when you vibrate.

    My original question (i'll rephrase it a bit), however (I guess it kind of applies to the just one finger down method) was how do you stop your fingers from moving too much. I've noticed that all my fingers; especially my pinky, go crazy when i'm not using them. Is there any good method for remedying this, or just practice?
  8. Yeah, this is just one of those things that you just have to get in the habbit of doing. I will often have a similar problem. Nowadays I will sometimes even have the first finger down, then it will pop up for a split second before I hit the next note, even though I'm not shifting. Anyway, one method my teacher suggested is doing a pizzacato pull of, that way your first/second finger HAS to be in place in order for the lower note to sound. Other than that, doing it over and over again is the only answer, unfortunatly.
  9. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    If I understand you correctly then I would suggest that you always keep those unused fingers close to the string as possible. I've been taught this way as a means of economy of motion. Your fingers shouldn't have to travel far to stop the next note). If you press with the index and your other fingers are stick far away from the string, then you're wasting precious time and energy to get the back when it comes time to use them again. I think this applies to one or multiple finger methods and often taught to beginning jazz guitar players as well. IMO, it's a really hard habit to break and can be overcome with alot of practice in front of a mirror. Some jazz guitarists are a great example of this. Take someone like Wes, Jim Hall, or Russell Malone. Their LH fingers don't stray far from the strings. It's as if every finger is strike at any moment regardless of what's going on.
  10. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I think it's a combination of having a relaxed posture which includes your hands and your body combined with dexterity and conditioning that has accumulated from lots of playing.

    You can try playing a descending half step pattern in the half position i.e. on the G string Bb-A-Ab-G(4 2 1 Open) and Bb A Ab(4 2 1) use this model for the other strings as well.
  11. I agree totally with hdiddy. My teacher was strict about controlling the fingers from the beginning.

    When you practice, on scales or arpeggios, where you don't have to read, watch what your fingers are doing. Eventually you will feel it when they are in control. You must become self aware if you are to control and discipline your fingers. It becomes kind of a kinesthetic sense, that you develop, and eventually you will eliminate the bad habit.
  12. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    My teacher has been on my case about this for a couple of years. I have never really been able to placate him on the issue.

    At this point, I allow the trailing fingers to rest on the string, but I still don't actually use any pressure at all with them. I can't lift the leading finger and get anything close to a cleanly stopped note.

    He's a great teacher, but sometimes you just have to be your own man.
  13. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Chas, you don't mute the string one tiny bit? I mean, if it works, why fix it? How much faster can you LH fingers be if they're already on the string!
  14. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    I guess I was ambiguous at best when I said "trailing fingers." I am talking about 1 and 2 when fingering 4 and 1 when fingering 2. My teacher has pushed me to use pressure on all fingers when stopping the notes. It's probably an oldschool thing as mentioned above. I used to let them fly everywhere and he rode me hard, but these days I keep them barely touching the string. As long as they are in the right place, he doesn't say anything.

    I have to admit, it is easier to stop the note and get a clear, ringing tone if you do what he says, especially in the higher positions.

    I may get there one day.
  15. I'll give you what I think is a good example of why it pays to be able to keep all fingers down.

    Try executing a mordant between fingers 2 and 4, or a trill between fingers 1 and 4.

    Yes, I suppose it could be done by lifting and droping each finger in turn, but it is so much faster, easier and better in tune if you simply hold down 2 and alternately lift and drop 4, or hold down 1 and alternately lift and drop 4.
  16. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Trills are key. It's the simplest form of pickin' em up and puttin' em down. Also practice them in rhythms, and in double stops. You can't do proper trills with sloppy technique.
  17. Stan Haskins

    Stan Haskins

    Nov 17, 2005
    NY and Miami
  18. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    I came up with an exercise that has helped me with this that was inspired by watching the Rufus Reid Evolving Bassist DVD in combination with my own method of creating exercises that isolate technical issue I come accross in my playing. Rufus talks about how the left elbow has to move out when stopping notes on the E string and then it gradually comes in (closer to your body) as you move accross to the A, D and G strings. He also stresses that when you are, for example, playing a G note in half position on the E string you should be able to also sound the open A string. So you should be able to stop that G with the 4th finger while having the 1st and 2nd fingers supporting behind it but do it in such a way that your fingers all come down on the E string but you could sound that open A. What I noticed in my playing was that when I crossed strings (e.g., in half position, going from playing a G on the E string to playing a Bb on the G string) the fingers supporting the stopped note from behind weren't always landing on the string acurately with all my fingers exactly where they were supposed to be.

    The exercise I came up with to address it is this:

    Start off in half position on the G string stopping the Bb note. Playing 1/4 notes in a medium tempo walking in 4 feel I'll play:

    G string - Bb, G
    D string - F, D
    A string - C, A
    E string - G, E
    A string - C, A
    D string - F, D
    G string - A, G
    D string - E, D
    A string - B, A
    E string - F#, E
    A string - B, A
    D string - E, D
    G string - Ab, G
    D string - Eb, D
    A string - Bb, A
    E string - F, E
    A string - Bb, A
    D string - Eb, D
    G string - Ab, G

    Then I'll move it up to the next position and do the same thing, alternating with the open string, etc. I've found that the open string gives me a little bit of extra time to take care to land all fingers perfectly in place to stop the note.

    I also noticed that I was having the same problem landing accurately in position when changing positions so I'll use a variation of the same exercise but instead of changing strings I will change positions on the same string so I might play something like this shifting between half and 2nd positions:

    G string - Bb, G, C, G
    D string - F, D, G, D

    Every once in a while I'll stop on a note on the E, A, or D string and make sure I can sound the open string on the next string so I can make sure I'm following Rufus's thing. :) I'll also switch it up so that, in the exercise that stays in one position, I'll switch the fingers I'm stopping with - something like this:

    G string - Bb, G
    D string - E, D
    A string - C, A
    E string - F#, E

    Can also do the same thing with the exercise that changes positions. Or I will do the same exercise in one position but jump accross strings (e.g. G to A to D to E).

    I'm also focusing on keeping the fingers ahead of the note I'm stopping (e.g., 2nd, 3rd & 4th fingers when stopping a note with the 1st finger) as close to the string as possible so they don't have to move far to stop the note. For some reason, this part is trickier for me because my 4th finger wants to come away from the string when fingering a note with the 1st or 2nd.

    Granted, the lines I come up with are not the most musical sounding things I've ever heard but what I do to keep it musical is really focus on getting a good swinging walking feel when I play them so that keeps it fun and really focus on good technique and making the note as legato as I can. It's also good playing those open strings because it's easier to stay in tune having every second note an open string.

    What I've noticed about playing the exercises for a while is that the technical things like using my back muscles and moving my elbow to cross strings and such have really started to come together. I'm staying more relaxed and not stressing my left hand thumb.

    EDIT: I'm using the Simandl fingerings. All fingerings below the 6th position assume that the 3rd finger always supports any note stopped with the 4th. I haven't tried moving this exercise into TP but when I go to the 6th-7th positions I use the 3rd finger instead of the 4th.
  19. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Or you could just work on your trills. :)
  20. As I always say: Keep them suckers cocked and ready!