Odd overtones: new to arco

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by chuymatt, Jan 24, 2009.

  1. chuymatt


    Jun 23, 2008
    I am auditioning 4 bows from shar music and while I have nearly chosen a Pernambuco one, something is bothering me all together. While playing, there is a point where the high harmonics overtake the core bass note. If I wanted a cello register, that is what I would have picked up. I have been told that my form is rather good by my on again off again teacher. I have 4 month old helicore hybrid string on the bass and it is a chinese hybrid instrument. With pizz she sounds great.

    anyone have a clue why I would be having so much high octave coming through when playing?
  2. wilsonn

    wilsonn Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    New York
    insufficient rosin? when i get those tones it's usually a bow that isn't really rosined up properly.
  3. That's called 'falsing' or 'falseing'. Why it's falsing is anyone's guess without seeing you play.

    Play around with bow position between bridge and fingerboard, bow speed and pressure (including the whole shape of the start... the first eighth of a second sets the tone pretty much for the whole note), and rosin. Some combination of those variables will get the real tone of the instrument coming out, and it's a really good exercise to explore the whole space.
  4. Does the same thing happen with each bow, or only the pernambucco bow you've "nearly chosen?"
  5. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    This sounds like it is caused by too little friction:
    Possible reasons include:
    -bow too fast
    -not enough rosin
    -hair too tight
    -bow too close to bridge
    -not enough weight in the string
    -Maybe something you change in the middle of your stroke, like removing the weight from the string
    -hair is not good, too old, synthetic, etc.
  6. chuymatt


    Jun 23, 2008
    IT happened with every bow. The one I have had the least of the harmonics. I have rosin flying off of it and it is still having the issues. I am wondering if it is my setup or strings now.

    or just me...
  7. More than likely it is a technical issue. With bow speed, pressure and other factors you can access both higher and lower partials.
    I realized at a certain point that my extensive study of all the possible sounds the bass can make also helps me to purge those sounds when I want a clean, pure tone.
    Kind of a "know your enemy" sort of thing.

    Each pitch needs a slightly different pressure, speed etc. to get the optimal sound. With practice it will come. Lessons with a teacher grounded in classical technique will make it come faster.
    If arco was super easy it would not be so hotly debated.
  8. 'rosin flying off it'... probably too much of the wrong kind. That's probably the only gear issue you need worry about... the rest is feeling out the space of possibilities with the bow and finding the ones that make useful tones.

    Systematically vary pressure, position on the string, and speed. Make sure you have all the combinations... but only work on one volume to start with. Play long notes because that lets you get past the initial attack. Once you can find the right combination for long notes, start working on the attack, and again systematically make variations to that till you get a nice start; work on somewhat accented attacks first. Then work on reducing the accent a bit, to the point where the note 'just starts'. Then start working on dynamics, so you can some variation.

    You ought to be able to find something that doesn't false at a reasonable range of volumes in about a week's worth of practice, but keep trying variations every month or so till it becomes absolutely second nature to pick the sound you want... this takes years.
  9. chuymatt


    Jun 23, 2008
    Thanks for that. I have naturally tried some of that and am probably going to move off from Pops rosin to something different.

    Thanks for the knowledge.
  10. Pops should be just fine to start with, and wouldn't cause something that extreme. Your best course of action is to check in with a teacher.
  11. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Damon is dead on. It's your technique. If you can't start a note and sustain it through the bow length without the extra sounds then you need to go to your teacher and begin there. Doesn't sound like a bow issue at all and, if you know how to bow, you would immediately recognize and fix the issue. Don't misunderstand, I'm not trying to be harsh, just straight up. It's kind of like, you'll know what I mean later when you really know how to bow. The good news is, you're taking the steps to learn and getting yourself a decent bow and stepping up to the challenge. Cool! At this stage you might take the bows you are most serious about to your teacher to try and see what he/she thinks is the best one. (All this is assuming your teacher has solid classical training). I can't tell you how rewarding and useful it is to know how to bow well. There are debates, as Damon mentioned, but to me it is a non-issue, bowing is one of the greatest forms of expression on the doublebass (it's what it was intended to do). It takes real effort to get to that point, many, many hours of work, but it is soooooo worth it. And even in the most unexpected recording sessions or gigs, a tasteful use of the bow can make an entire piece of music come to life and you, a much higher regarded player. Good luck!
  12. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    LOL...yup, proper bowing technique sure does require a hell of a lot from us! Chuymatt, if you want to work on the nuances of getting a consistent and even sound across the whole length of your stroke then you might find this exercise helpful.

    Focusing completely on your bowing hand, the speed, pressure, and placement on the string, you can learn to pull one pure, even note from tip to frog if you pay attention to the change in force that is required when you approach the tip, while maintaining the proper speed and placement.

    Keep all that in mind, set a metronome to 60 and play in front of a mirror. Play a down bow on an open D for 1 beat, then reverse direction and play the open D for 2 beats...then reverse and add another beat, and again. Do this every stroke. Add a beat till you can bow that open D and hold it for 12 beats of more with a consistent sound from frog to tip (some guys can do 30-50 slow beats with an even sound with only one bow stroke!).
    Hint: As the number of beats increases, you will need to move the bow closer to the bridge little by little, apply a bit more weight, and reduce the speed. The tone will change drastically as you get closer to the bridge, but don't worry about that. Just try to get an even sound through the entire length of the bow throughout a single stroke. Many people have a problem with the tone thinning out at the tip and then becoming heavier at the frog. Focus in, be (very) patient, and work on keeping the sound steady before you add the other hand into the equation.

    Your body will learn ALOT about sound production by doing this and it makes a nice, easy warm up.

  13. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Just to be crystal clear on this point, what you're experiencing is what all of us experienced. Good bowing technique takes practice, practice, practice. If you're getting the same thing on a variety of setups, then it sounds like it's you and not the bow that's the problem, so practice, practice, practice, and things will get better. I humbly suggest a not-too-expensive bow until your technique is sorted out enough that your tests will let you hear the difference between the bows - when I have wanted to do this sort of bow comparison, I have asked my friend Sue Williams to come over and do it with me because, quite simply, she plays much better than me, and it also lets me listen to the various bows I'm considering while someone whose technique I know is good is playing them on my bass - that is, after all, what you're after, listening to various bows on your bass.

    Hope I don't sound too judgemental but I think most of us who've taken up string bass as adults have experienced what you're experiencing, and I think looking for a solution in a different piece of hardware is the wrong place to look.

    Did I mention that this still happens to me sometimes? Well, it does, and I've had my upright for about a year and half now.

    Best of luck with whatever you decide.

  14. Menacewarf


    Mar 9, 2007

    "We're talking about practice~!"

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