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Noobie Question Regarding Location of Notes on Neck

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Bin Son of Bin, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. So, I finally got a chance to play a double bass for a little while and I discovered that the notes are further apart than they are on your standard electric bass, or at least it seems that way.

    So my question is: On a standard 3/4 DB, where are the notes located? By this I mean, is there a standard measurement chart saying "The G on the E string is located 5 inches from the nut" or do you find it by ear? Sorry if this is a bit too bassic (pun intended) but I wouldn't ask if I knew. :)

    Coming from the fretted world to the fretless is going to be a bit of a shock to the system. As soon as I can afford it I'm going to find a teacher, at least for the formative months of playing.

    Also, if I play a note and I'm off by just a half finger length or the like, does it affect the note dramaticaly or do you have some forgiveness before you are playing a different note?

  2. You really need to get a teacher. The double bass is a completely different instrument from the bass guitar, and requires a vastly different technique and a more advanced skill-set.

    (I daresay) I had mastered the bass guitar before I took up the double bass, and I found the learning curve very steep. Not much of what you know on the bass guitar is going to transfer except the music theory. Some things that are immediately executable on the bass guitar can take an experienced player a lot of practice to play perfectly on the double bass.

    You gotta take at least a few lessons to get started. Expect a long journey ahead of you, but the rewards are proportional to the work you put in.
  3. periodical


    Apr 4, 2008
    Newton, MA
    There is a lot of ear training involved in the note finding in addition to physical concerns, but ya finding a teacher is the way to go. Let us know where you are located, and we can probably recommend someone for you (speaking for the TB brainmass).
  4. You've got basically no tolerance for error... the ideal is to nail it exactly, every time. There are a few things you can do to adjust, at a level where the audience won't notice, but it's never a good idea to rely on that. The actual tolerance... less than a millimeter in the low positions, about a tenth up high, and even less for the very highest notes. Given enough practice, this is actually entirely doable.

    So, how do you find the notes in the first place? Well, by ear, and by using the harmonics of the strings as landmarks; the 2nd, 3rd and 4th harmonics are most useful for this, they let you find what BG players call 2nd, 4th, 7th, 9th and 12th 'fret' positions (plus a whole lot more up high), and from there you can work out to all the rest. It helps a lot to spend a week every now and again with a strobe tuner critiquing your intonation on every note (needle-type tuners aren't accurate enough, you can do better by ear, whereas a strobe helps train your ear).

    Every bass is different too, so there is another skill: rapidly adapting to a different bass. Again, learnable, but you have to play a few different basses from time to time to get the hang of this one.

    So, you need a teacher ASAP. Not because of that question, which is perfectly reasonable, but because if you use the hand shapes and fingering patterns you are used to, you are going to hurt your hands badly, and hand injuries suck. Learning a physical approach to the instrument that works for you isn't something you can do on your own, unfortunately.
  5. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Good advice you gave... but why do think "needle tuners" aren't accurate enough? I find them to be both accurate and precise. Even tuners like the Snark will quickly show whether you're just a few cents off. I agree that a strobe display is very intuitive as you can quickly see the shift in either direction.
  6. Clarkybass

    Clarkybass Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2010
    This will get shot down by the traditionalists, undoubtedly, but for the very early stages of learning I would get a Snark tuner (or similar) and use it to help put white adhesive dots down the side of the board (on the E string, say at G, A, B and the octave). Use these as visual aids for intonation to begin with. Once your hand is more used to the larger distances involved (than an electric bass) and you develop muscle memory, then remove the dots and use your ear. And definitely get a teacher.
  7. Actually, I feel there's more wiggle room in the lowest positions on the E string because those low tones are harder to hear with their thick overtones.

    Personally, I've gotten to the point where I believe that it's key to learn how to make musical mistakes, because the whole process is impossible to perfect. Yes, practice is very important and nailing more notes than not is what you need to shoot for, but you also need to be able to immediately know when you're off, and how to correct it in such a way that it adds to the expressive nature of the instrument. Also listening to how you're blending with the rest of the band and not being afraid to utilize just intonation when it works. Trusting your ear more than any other feedback you're getting from your hands or eyes...

    It's a life-long pursuit, right old guys?
  8. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I certainly think it is.
  9. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I'm a traditionalist and I agree with you! Although I dislike the use of visual aids for the long-term, especially because one shouldn't be looking at the fingerboard or fingers, I think it's a fine approach for a couple or a few weeks.
  10. Needle tuners tend to be slower... but the main point is, you need a really good tuner to beat just doing it by ear, for bass, and most cheap tuners aren't good enough. The cheapest thing seems to be the Petersen strobe app for the iPhone, if you have an iPhone to start with.
  11. what the pluck

    what the pluck

    Oct 13, 2010
    Little tip with the Peterson strobe app. In noisy environments plug in the white earbuds and throw the right earpiece that has the mic under it on your f hole. This helps me tune in a noisy venue.
  12. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Since you have not had a lesson yet I will say that it is really difficult learning the UB using a tuner and approaching it as a bigger EB. There are methodical systems like Simandl that break down finger placement, finger shifting and interval relationships based on precise fingering and not visual reference like dots. The physical aspect of Simandl has an ear training component by hearing proper pitch (an a bow) versus looking at a tuner - a tuner is essential but learning to hear pitch is important - you can't look at your tuner while playing music. For now, before your first lesson using any tuner try doing chromatic scales w/a metronome set on 40 quarter note beat. Start on each string w/a open note and walk up to the heel of the neck - on the G string go to D, D string to A, A to E, E to B. You are only going to use 3 fingers - 1, 2 & 4 skip the third or ring finger. This is the beginning of a Simandl approach
  13. Thanks everyone for all of your thoughts and opinions and advice.

    To be certain, I /will/ be getting a teacher. Without a doubt, but due to a limited budget I'll be learning a fair amount on my own as well.

    I admit I think putting the dots on the side of the board for the first month or so is a good idea. I am also writing down the names of authors that you are suggesting to help with studying so I will be looking out for them.

    When I tried the DB for the first time last week I was surprised that I could find the notes as accurately as I could, so it gave me hope for the future.

    I'm so excited to be joining the DB world.

  14. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Try pecking out stuff like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or any song where you're like absolutely positive how the tune goes.

    When you have sung, in the past, do people look at you funny and joke about how you "can't sing" or are "tone deaf"? Probably not, I bet. You may be a decent judge of how in tune you are when it comes to familiar melodies. This sense will grow finer as you progress.

    If you know you can't even carry a tune like "Happy Birthday", then maybe the dots or the tuners and stuff might help you get your bearings at first. If you look at a beginning bass book, they'll tell you what notes you play when you pluck the open strings. It will be easier to do stuff w/ the tuner if you are coordinating w/ some graphical input. At first it will be kind of like walking around a new city w/ a map.

    Definitely get a teacher ASAP. It's fun to have somebody to help you deal with this stuff. Really, don't delay. Don't let money be an issue. Get creative and figure something out.

    In the meantime, I think it's okay to try to figure some things out on your own. If your hand hurts, stop. If your brain hurts, keep going!
  15. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    It's good that you're committed to getting a teacher because that's a critical step in your journey. Playing DB is difficult but less difficult in the long run if you can get help on the physical approach from a good teacher.
    One thing that might help you on your left (fingering) hand is to think of the neck of the bass as a soda or beer can. Place your thumb in the center of one side and your fingers directly opposite but in a straight line from first to fourth finger. The fingers should only contact the can at the fingertips. Do not let the palm of your hand touch. That is the feeling you want when you play the bass.
    I have no problem with markers on a temporary basis.
    Play chromatic patterns starting on the E string. E, F, F# G. Move to the A string: A, Bb, B, C. Do the same thing on the D and G string then go back to the E string but move up half step to F, F#, G G# etc on all strings. Move up another half step playing F#, G, G#, A but play the A on the open A string. Check that pitch against the note you were in a position to play on the E string. Continue that all the way up the neck, always checking against the open strings.
    For the forseeable future, your third finger is only used in support of your fourth. You can wrap tape around the third and fourth fingers if it helps to see how they function as a team.
    I'm a proponent of the Simandl method. Some methods allow the use of the third finger and I will occasionally use it myself but I think it's best to learn 1 2 4 first before complicating things.

    Now get a teacher. :D
  16. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    On the issue of tuners, I have a small clip on tuner that works well when clipped to the bridge. Something like that might help in training the ear. I've seen that some beginning students need a bit of help at first in reinforcing their ear training.
  17. Hi.

    Since the scale lenght is different, the notes are relatively in different places in DB neck when compared with a BG neck.

    They are however in the same exact places in relation to the scalelenght, obviously.

    Unless You have a 1/8, and the scale lenght can be 34" that is.

    If You wish to find out the locations easily, do go to this site: http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/Fretting/i-fretcalc.html , measure Your scale lenght and input that onto the calculator.

    A painters tape with "fret" positions on the side of the DB FB is frowned upon for many good and more not-so-good reasons, but it's Yours to mess with ;).

  18. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    ah, young Jedi. Trust your ear you must.

    Personally I never had any luck with tape and tuners and all that. I'm kind of a hard ass with my students and don't really allow them to do markers. My reasoning is not a traditionalist old guy thing. We are dealing with ears here. Ultimately you need to HEAR it. I've found with myself and with students that visual aids have them more depending on what looks right rather than what sounds right. This is NOT a statement about markers in general. Just for students that are learning the bass. That said I've had students say things to me like "I'm right on the tape, why doesn't it sound right?"

    Ultimately all a teacher can do is communicate what has worked best for them. Finding a teacher that jives well with you is the way to go.
  19. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I agree w/Marc. If you are concerned about looking at the neck you are not totally focusing on what your ear is hearing and where your hand is. Knowing when you are sharp or flat is an important skill to develop since you will eventually be playing w/others and need to correct in the moment. If you pursue lessons that involve sight reading you cannot read music, listen while watching your hand and tuner. The beauty of the Simandl system is that you will learn where notes are based on positioning, note intervals and finger relationship. If you want to be proficient at the DB find a teacher that knows both classical and jazz.
  20. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    My first teacher who gave me a great foundation was all about harmonics and open strings when I first started. You can play in tune with these aids. Use a bow so that you can hear your pitch and the overtones. Man, as much as it might suck since you already have a musical background, SCALES SCALES AND MORE SCALES will get your intonation going real fast. As an electric player you know where the harmonics are so use them.

    Welcome to the club!