neck markers for beginning students

Discussion in 'Double Bass Pedagogy [DB]' started by Seth Shonefeld, Aug 6, 2020.

  1. Seth Shonefeld

    Seth Shonefeld

    Oct 14, 2016
    I have been playing double bass now for a couple of months. I recently bought the Tonal Energy App for iPad for both tuning help and to watch a bit while I practice scales and arpeggios. Granted, the app measures semitones in 100ths (and even 1000ths?!?!), an extremely high measurement. Still I'm shocked at how infrequently I'm actually playing the notes correctly. It's very humbling.

    The higher percentage I'm off is that I'm flat. I guess this is understandable considering that it's probably better to be slightly flat than slightly sharp. Slightly sharp often has a distinctly unpleasant sound, while slightly flat is easier hidden.

    I'm thinking maybe it's good for me to put note markers on the bass where the frets would be. Any advice on this point would be greatly appreciated. I have a teacher; bbut probably not for much longer.
    basspraiser likes this.
  2. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Put the tuner down and walk away. Use your ears, dots or not, to tell you if you're in tune. Many of us have learned without the dots, but in the same breath we have to say that some really good players have dots on their bass necks.

  3. nogbert


    Jul 18, 2010
    Denver, CO
    another thing to keep in mind is that equal temperament can sound out of tune to some people. if you follow your ear you'll likely be closer to just intonation (assuming you have OK ears). if you want to practice scales with a tuner you're in luck because tonal energy has just intonation as a setting, just make sure you're playing in/selecting the right key!
  4. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    IMO, since the OP is new to the bass, anything that sounds like the right note is better than trying to play a D and having it sound like a C# or Eb. And good enough for now.

    longfinger, Dabndug, lurk and 2 others like this.
  5. Seth Shonefeld

    Seth Shonefeld

    Oct 14, 2016
    I'm looking for the 'intonation' setting for Tonal Energy. I don't see it. I have been using the chromatic wheel. Under which tool would 'intonation' for playing scales fall?
  6. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I agree with @Steve Freides that you should probably put the tuner down, at least for now. I found it very helpful to play scales and arpeggios at 60 bpm, whole tones, with my bow, along to a piano recording of those scales. Nothing like matching the correct pitch to teach your ears to hear it, IMO.
  7. Seth Shonefeld

    Seth Shonefeld

    Oct 14, 2016
    Piano recording of scales. Hmm, hadn't thought of that!!
  8. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Once you get the knack of it, you can switch to just a drone. A fun exercise - much later - is to sing the drone yourself and then play notes with the bow. Takes much more focus. Record your practice to keep yourself honest.

    I can't take credit for the idea. I got it from David Friesen, who's still offering private lessons if you're interested.
    M0ses likes this.
  9. nogbert


    Jul 18, 2010
    Denver, CO
    it should be in the upper left corner.

    another really useful tool on that app is a setting that listens to tones you are playing and then plays the nearest pitch out loud as a drone for you. it works best with headphones. turn it on by tapping the button with a mic and two eight notes on it and select the "u" (for unison)
    Seth Shonefeld likes this.
  10. bengreen


    Jan 26, 2016
    San Diego
    For intonation practice with that app, I'm more drawn to the sound page. You can give yourself a drone to play your scales against.

    I think there's a way to kill the smiley face in settings. I find it really annoying. Don't recall just now how it's done though.

    To set up a drone, hit the sustain button and then whatever notes you want in it. I usually use tonic and 5th together as a minimum. Sometimes I add a third tone as well but then it helps to space them out over more than one octave because they can sound muddy if too close together.

    Hitting any note (in it's original octave) a second time toggles it off again if you want to adjust the chord, but usually it's just easiest to hit the sustain button again to shut off all the notes, then start over.

    Cool thing about this: because you can select any combination of notes, you can even help tune up atonal passages.

    For my personal taste, the French Horn gives me a drone I can listen to for a reasonable time without driving me nuts. And I usually use a bluetooth speaker.


    Dotting the fingerboard: Silver Sharpie. Easy to see, fairly durable. If you change your mind, acetone or nail polish remover will take it off right away (though if you finger that area a lot it'll eventually just rub off). I keep one in my gig bag.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
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  11. nogbert


    Jul 18, 2010
    Denver, CO
    another good trick is to mark note positions on the side of the neck with pencil. it'll rub away with use/as your muscle memory develops
    Seth Shonefeld likes this.
  12. Seth Shonefeld

    Seth Shonefeld

    Oct 14, 2016
    I think I'm gonna go with the silver sharpie recco from Ben Green. I can always take it off with a thinner. Thanks, Ben!
    nogbert likes this.
  13. Seth Shonefeld

    Seth Shonefeld

    Oct 14, 2016
    I just marked the side of my fretboard with a sharpie. I think it may be the best thing I have done for my bass playing in the last two months. I played and sang Nature Boy ... in tune. It felt amazing.
  14. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    I like those little stick on dots from the office supply store. They come on and off easily on the side of the neck or on the fingerboard up high. Use them while you are learning something, then take them off and rely on your ears, then put some back on where you really need it. If you get the red dots, people can't even see them on an ebony board from more than a few feet away.
    Bass4bros and Seth Shonefeld like this.
  15. Seth Shonefeld

    Seth Shonefeld

    Oct 14, 2016
    Yeh, great. I'll try those out. I guess there's lots of different things you can use. I'm putting white out on the side of the fingerboard. I have red sharpie at the moment and I can only see that if I'm standing next to the bass holdiing it. That might actually do. But while I'm getting up to speed, I'm not too proud to use every advantage available. I don't even really care if I look like a student, since that's what I am.
  16. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    In my experience, good intonation comes from hearing the pitches in my mind's ear before I play them. The more accurate my mind's ear, the better my intonation. And yes, there's some micro-adjustment of my finger placement but if I'm confident and accurate about the correct pitch, I adjust very quickly.

    Try this as an exercise: Find a short melodic fragment and play it on the piano. Sing along with the piano until you can sing the fragment easily in tune. Now go to the bass and play the bass as you sing the fragment. I find that I quickly find where to place my fingers and my accuracy quickly improves; Placing my fingers becomes the easy part; hearing the pitches clearly is the hard part. Once you get that, move it to other octaves on the bass such as thumb position. It's not too early for you to start playing in thumb position if your goal is to master the DB.
  17. I suggest using the notes of First Position (Simandl) on the D and G strings to examine intonation and simple intervals. You can play and carefully examine the first six notes of the D scale and their intervals as a separate task away from any pieces or exercises.

    I liken good intonation to accurately throwing darts at fine pencil lines on a wall. Those fine lines could be the "frets" where you place your fingers. First use a tuner to ensure that the strings are well in tune then perhaps try the following approach

    (1) play open D and the octave D harmonic (by halving the string length) and RALLY HEAR what is an octave
    (2) play open D and copy the sound of the harmonic G by fingering it on the G string (1st finger and thumb behind in base of the neck. Experiment with centering the octave G by sounding the two strings both together or separately. Observe the effects of small adjustments up and down.
    (3) Now take open D and A, the 5th note of its scale, on the G string. Sound the D and the the A, both together or separately, and make small adjustments until the double stop makes a really sweet sound (a Fifth interval). See how a small adjustment either way can turn this "sour".
    (4) Compare D - G with D - A ( a 4th with a 5th)
    (5) Play and examine D and B, then D - A - B
    (6) Next is D and F sharp ( a 3rd) then D - F sharp - G
    (7) Then D - E - F sharp and D - E - F sharp - G (the D tetrachord)
    (8) Then D E F sharp G A B

    You can see a simple pattern of approach that uses open strings, first and fourth fingers. Finally add the C sharp and octave D to complete the scale. The second finger can easily be added in later

    My own personal salvation with intonation is to accurately hear a scale as two groups of four notes (tetrachords) that each have the same structure, Tone-Tone-Semitone and Tone-Tone-Semitone with a short pause between, eg D E F sharp G (pause) A B C sharp D. Then I hear the same structure carefully applied to E flat scale or any other scale. Think 1 2 3 f o u r, 5 6 7 e i g h t. Also applied to both forms of minor scales later.

    But start with hearing that D tetrachord as a foundation

    Best wishes and stay safe!
  18. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    When I am having trouble with a passage, my teacher asks me to sing it, then play it. It works.
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  19. 9Thumbs


    Jul 3, 2013
    Near Boston
    Gollihur Music sells a sweet set of stickies in a few different colors for a few bucks. They look right
  20. Papageno


    Nov 16, 2015
    Do not put marks for every "fret". A mark on the harmonics at 7th and 12th "fret" should be enough. You may use tipp-ex white dot. Easy to place and remove once you don't need it anymore.

    For accurate intonation, a solid hand shape (Simandl 1-2-4) is of primary importance. Forget about tuners and apps. Close you eyes and listen. Use open strings and harmonics as references.
    StyleOverShow and Fretless55 like this.
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