Need Some "Hearing" Advice

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by timidbassist, Mar 9, 2006.

  1. Well I started my first week of upright bass lessons this past week. My story is a lot like others I guess....I have played bass guitar for about 6 years now and going into college I want to play in the orceshtra and I needed an instrument so I decided to start lessons this year to give me a headstart on learning the instrument so next year when I start college I will have a 6 month head start on the instrument instead of only starting then and hopefully be able to join soon after. Well anyway, I obviously know the strings and general where-abouts of notes from bass guitar so transposing isn't too hard for me, but I have another problem. I always thought I had a pretty accurate ear while playing electric, but know having to tune every note by ear and rehearsing with a college music professor I realize I am not as sharp as I question is this.

    What can I do to train my ear more and more on hearing pitch? Is there anything specific or should I just keep playing and listening and close as I can? It is kind of difficult for me to hear the tone fast enough to hit the pitch right away if I am off and I need to know what the best way of training my ear is. I am already catching on to the bowing technique, and the fingering is changing over slowly for me since it is quite a transition from 4 finger bass guitar to 3 finger upright bass. The physical transition should go ok for me, but I need more ear training, especially since my plan to major in music. I am sure this stuff is taught in theory classes and stuff, but would like to get a head start on it since I am trying to do that with everything possible.

    Sorry for the long post and thank in advance for any help!!
  2. barthanatos

    barthanatos Insert witty comment here

    Feb 8, 2006
    South Carolina
    Take singing lessons.

    I always wanted to be able to play songs that I heard on the radio by listening to them repeatedly and was never able to until I did this. Great feeling when it finally happened for me. Also tremendously helped my music/song writing.

    Also, record yourself singing and play it back.
  3. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    Take bass lessons - with someone who will play along with you. Do a lot of playing, learn to make your left hand a "bracket". That is, position your 1, 2, and 4th fingers like they ARE the frets, very exact spacing from the nut at the g string - play g#-a -a# w/ those three fingers with a consistent space between them(always check intonation). Repeat on the other strings. Learn to balance the bass so you're not holding it in your left hand,keep the elbow up, arch your fingers and play on the tips. Use the big arm muscles, not the little ones. Get the Bille book one, learn to get a nice healthy bow sound where the pitch stays consistent, and work on the interval exercises from the very first one. once you get the hang of it and PRACTICE at least an hour daily(more is better, jazz too)you will soon be well on your way.

  4. Eric_J

    Eric_J Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Flower Mound, TX. USA
    I practice with a drone.

    I have a tuning CD produced by one of the local school band directors. I assume that it is simular to the comercially available tuning CD.

    Most tuners can produce a pitch for you.
  5. Try to hear the pitch before you play it. If you're reading new music, work it out on piano, and learn to sing it in tune with the piano. Then, when you play it on bass, have the next note already playing in your mind before you play it, and if you miss the note, correct it. Also, getting professional recordings will help you to do this too. And everything already stated, practicing with a drone, bass lessons, and (probably more so than anything else) singing lessons. Oh yeah, if you're in an orchestra, listen to everybody else and play in tune with them....don't try to stand out, try to blend in.
  6. I would recommend for you The Basic Rudiments course, by Don Hermann,available from Lemur music. It is a set of CD's with scales, intervals and arpeggios in all keys, with piano accompaniement. It has scales in whole notes, Half, quarter, eights, and sixteenths. It has been a great practice tool for me.
  7. Kam


    Feb 12, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN

    This CD set rocks, it is well worth the money. It improved my intonation by leaps and bounds. It is also a good way to try different fingerings, playing scales completely on one string, etc. Other than the other good advice that has been mentioned, i.e. hearing or singing the pitch, playing in an orchestra will get your ears tuned up as well.

    Who are you studdying with?
  8. Anon2962


    Aug 4, 2004
    i found that getting a really clear bowstroke really honed my tuning. how can you hear the notes easily, if they're not clearly sounded?
  9. dperrott


    Oct 3, 2005
    Ahhh ear training. There is many levels people “hear” as there is many different ways to work on it. I think the most important aspect is being consistent. I have done a lot of different methods but often lacked consistency. You have to work on it everyday. I think singing is the best. It’s not about the quality of your voice but a way to tell if you can hear it. As “they” say if you can sing it you can play it and if you can’t sing it… Start off singing scales, triads and sight sing. Sing the music you are working on. Use a piano to check yourself. Don’t play along with your singing but check needed spots.
  10. fcleff


    Apr 22, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    O.K. This is going to sound really goofy but, here I go. Post #2 recommends singing lessons. I think this is a good idea but at the very least you should learn how to sing solfege. You know that movie 'The Sound of Music'? It has that song, "Doe (do), a deer, a female deer. Ray (re), a drop of golden sun." in it. You should learn how to sing ALL of your scales using a solfege system. I was taught using the 'movable do' system so that the starting pitch (tonic) of any scale is sung as do.

    You can use this system to sing chromatic, major, natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor scales. Heck, even pentatonic, whole tone, church get the idea. This is a great way to develop your ear. Besides, they're going to make you do it in college. Might as well get the jump on it. :bassist:
  11. I played upright bass before I played electric. I think, in a perfect bass world, that is the ideal way to go.

    But to offer some input to your situation, left hand position is crucial. If you learn your positions and proper hand structure, intonation is much easier to manage. And how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice... Use the harmonics to orient your self every so often. Practice your scales in as many positions as you can. All of these exercises will benefit you not only on the upright, but on your electric too! Understanding proper fingering and positions is an amazingly liberating thing!

    Oh yeah - another really great thing - develop a strong vibrato! It allows for a little 'play' in your intonation where your fingered note may be a little flat or sharp, a strong vibrato will make it presentable. Now this is no substitute for accuracy, but it helps.

    I played violin then upright bass throughout high school and into college and played in a 'melodic heavy metal' band at the same time. I had tons of bass players in other metal bands asking me, "What the heck are you doing with your left hand when you play? What's with all that shaking back and forth?" It was because I had developed such a strong vibrato from playing upright that I unconsciously did it while playing my electric. It did not really alter my tone the way it did on the upright, but my technique unconsciously made me do it anytime I was sustaining a note longer then an eighth...

    Good luck! Playing orchestral string bass is a really fun and rewarding thing to do. I miss it dearly.

  12. Anon2962


    Aug 4, 2004
    Respectfully, I'm not too sure that having a strong vibrato will help you to play or hear more accurately. I think the opposite is the case. Vibrato is an expressive tool, it shouldn't be 'automatic' or uncontrollable. I think to use vibrato correctly it should be measured and centered exactly on the note.

    With a strong vibrato and inaccurate intonation i think your problem may seem to be temporarily 'masked', but i can definately hear when people are vibrating like crazy around an out of tune note.

    I'd try to avoid using vibrato as much as possible while settling your intonation. And it will take a LONG time, it's an ongoing process. For me, 11 years and counting! :smug:
  13. fcleff


    Apr 22, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    I agree with that. I am of the opinion that vibrato is very overused these days. I try not to use it when learning a new piece, then when my intonation is set I find tasteful spots to use it. And even then I try not to use too much.

    When I listen to and watch Edgar Meyer play I find that he uses very little vibrato. His intonation is so spot-on it is scary. But it makes the lines sound soooo good. And yes, it takes lots of practice.
  14. This may seem like silly advice, but try to really listen to yourself while you're playing. Concentrate and listen to every little nuance of sound coming out of your instrument. If a pitch sounds off (and you should notice after playing electric for so long), then fix it. Just test the note with an open string or harmonic, and adjust the note accordingly. You should be able to find a way to be able to test nearly every note on the instrument.

    If you're concerned about how fast you should be fixing pitches, just keep on practicing and you'll eventually get it down. Your ears take time to develop just like your left hand technique would.

    It's really great that you're addressing hearing problems early. I can't tell you how many musicians I know would immediately improve if they just listened to what they were playing.

    Don't be too concerned about it right now though. Just hammer out all of your technique. Your ears will naturally become better the more you play, but you technique won't unless you really work at it.
  15. Try running slow scales/arpps in the dark with a drone... I have done this numerous times, it's sorta zen like, but just really listen to yourself and the drone pitch... I usually drone the fifth... I recommend a Dr. Beat, excellent metronome, but it also drones pitches... you can get it from Lemur as well...
  16. Hey thanks a lot for all of the advice! It sounds like singing helps a lot so I will work on that, and I will also just keep working on my technique and see if the hearing starts to become more natural. I will try to find myself some tunning cds to pound scales/arpregios into my head.

    Thanks all of you very much!
  17. Tyler_W


    Jun 15, 2005
    Woodbridge, VA
    Well, I have perfect pitch, I guess im just lucky.

    but you can do this:

    Get a guitar tuner and tune the open strings, try to "memorize" the pitch thats most in tune with the tuner for each open string.

  18. I would imagine perfect pitch to be a less than lucky thing to have. Doesn't it make it difficult to listen to music from other cultures where their instruments are tuned to a different pitch than the standard 440 A? I've heard of professional orchestras which tune to 443....I'm just curious if this presents any difficulty in enjoying the music? Simlilarly, some modern music even makes use of quarter tones, I'm wondering if those are difficult to hear?

    I consider myself lucky in that I am not blessed with perfect pitch, but I have been able to develop a stronger sense of relative pitch. And, it's one of those things I work on to improve every day.
  19. Hearing "Perfect Pitch" it reminded me of the advertisment I see in all of my Bass Player mags.....has anybody tried the Perfect Pitch program? Anybody know anything about it? Should I give that a try?

  20. Kam


    Feb 12, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    I believe it's just a "do it yourself" aural skills lesson plan with tools. If you use it regularly it probably does get you to the point of excellent relative pitch. I don't think you can learn perfect pitch though.