Learning to relax and use arm weight

Discussion in 'Ask Patrick Neher [Archive]' started by danengland, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. danengland


    Jun 18, 2007
    Hi Patrick

    I have recently began lessons using the Rabbath endpin and I am trying to play in a more ergonomic way. I have always had a tendency to over squeeze with the left hand when playing pizz, particularly when playing live (amplified), with challenging on-stage sound and when trying to play with intensity.

    Do you have any advice or recommended exercises for training pupils to relax the left hand, or on learning how*to relax both arms to utilise arm weight rather than muscle squeeze? I appreciate that these concepts can take a while to learn, but wondered how you started working this into your own playing and went on to develop it to such a high level.

    I feel that I use effective left hand technique in terms of rounded fingers and straight wrist but that my playing would benefit from learning to relax and reduce tension with good body mechanics.*

    Many thanks
  2. PNeher


    Mar 31, 2005
    Bellingham, WA
    Generally my attitude towards all technique on the bass is to establish forms that are as close to relaxed-state shapes as possible. For both hands this means not to squeeze without rounded form. When the hands are not flexing, the fingers are moderately rounded, none of the knuckles are straight except perhaps the thumbs. None are concaved. So, when applying squeeze you want to take the same form and simply apply your weight or squeeze energy without distorting the form.

    Then, you must determine for each situation, how much weight or squeeze is required to get the string down to the fingerboard. The angles of approach by the arm, wrist, and fingers have great effect on the efficiency of the application of your energy, so analyze those angles with substantial scrutiny. Even how you hold the bass, what angles and so on, can effect how much energy you need to get a note down to the fingerboard well enough for the fundamental sound to be full and solid.

    While playing fortissimo with the bow, start from above the string with a finger then slowly place it towards the fingerboard, noting all the time the variety in sounds you get as the finger moves closer to having full contact with the string. Note that for pizz it might be different because the punctuation of the pizz moves the string with greater sudden velocity than the bow does.

    So you will establish for each note and each finger the most efficient amount of squeeze, or pressure, for the sounds you are after. And you will establish the most efficient angles of approach, and you will establish the most efficient forms. This three-tiered approach to efficiency should allow you to establish solid, clear and relaxed playing so that you can play all day without strain or pain.

    Hope this helps