On methods for double bass

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Nov 23, 2017.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Hi there

    without wanting to turn this into a Simandl vs the world contest, I am interested though in finding out if with your students (or in hindsight) you'd have preferred, as a beginner, learning small tunes / etude (think Rabbath, Bille) versus more traditional approaches (Simandl, Harabe etc). Fully understand that there is room for both, and that Simandl did develop etudes as well, but I guess never as a 'starting" point, which some other methods do - the latter an approach I tend to favor.

    Regards to all
  2. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    I’m using the Vance/Rabbath method. I like things about Simandl too, but am really enjoying learning more about the Rabbath approach, and so are my students. Bille works well for some too, but if you’re not playing in tune with those fingerings I think it’s better try another method.
  3. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    But does playing a simple tune gives you a better idea of pitch (again I am talking beginner here) - a la Suzuki method - as opposed to a whole set of intervals?
  4. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    I think it's different strokes for different folks. Most kids like to play tunes, but it's a good idea to mix some less "fun" stuff in to encourage the development of a bit of discipline, and the understanding that NOTHING is all fun.

    Where adults are concerned, I think it's down to the teacher to determine. Some adults react best to a strict, formal Simandl - ish approach and want the visible structure to their learning, others want to learn in other ways. I personally favour a mix of Simandl and the Bottesini and Sturm studies, both of which have enough tune to keep most people happy. Add in a few duets and ensemble playing, after all that's the good stuff, even for beginners...
    mtto, Groove Doctor, Les Fret and 2 others like this.
  5. Bisounourse


    Jun 21, 2012
    Gent, Belgium
    When I started (cello as a 10 year old, and DB when I was 14) it always was a mixture of children's songs/tunes/the occasional orchestral work, etudes and scales when learning a new position.
    Material came from a variety of sources: the books by Emery Yorke (Bass is Best), Nanny, LeLoup, ...
  6. Dbass926


    Jun 20, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    I think the Rabbath/Simandl dichotomy tends to come up more in terms of discussions of the merits of the two approaches, not so much here where we are debating the delivery system. Simandl's pedagogy is sound and I think there are extremely compelling arguments for introducing a highly systematic structure to the left hand before departing into more free-form and loose approaches that favor low-tension hand postures.

    What I don't think is a matter of debate is the fact that our understanding of how young people learn has changed immensely since Franz was a teacher, and that methods like Suzuki and Vance (which is heavily informed by study of the Suzuki system) are far better at introducing new skills in a digestible and captivating way for young players. The ear training aspect of Vance alone makes it a superior means of conveying information, regardless of whether it espouses traditional 1-2-4 half step playing or not.

    I am eager to see someone integrate the structural learning of Simandl with the modern pedagogical understanding reflected in Vance, Suzuki, and most other modern string method books.
  7. hhalt

    hhalt Hans Halt

    Nov 26, 2010
    Reno, Nv
    I learned on Simandl but as a teacher especially to younger students, I prefer the Vance method. The pivot techniques in Vol. 2 can be problematic though without a solid left hand foundation. This is when I introduce the Bille method-in particular, the firm hand exercises. The fingerings are not a problem if one simply substitutes 2 for 3.
    Les Fret likes this.
  8. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Do you have some specific examples of both the Vance pivot techniques and the Bille firm hand exercises? I am not familiar with those methods.
  9. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    If you are really enjoying the Rabbath approach, then ditch the Vance books and go straight to Rabbath's Nouvelle Technique. Vance gets conflated with Rabbath because of similar fingerboard geography and the positioning against so-called traditional approaches (e.g. Simandl, the favorite whipping boy). But if you compare Rabbath and Vance books, the former trains you to be a virtuoso and the latter is more about getting the student to like bass playing.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  10. hhalt

    hhalt Hans Halt

    Nov 26, 2010
    Reno, Nv
    Here is the pivot concept in Sakura. I'll need to scan the Bille examples later.
    Les Fret likes this.
  11. hhalt

    hhalt Hans Halt

    Nov 26, 2010
    Reno, Nv
    I agree, the Vance books, especially Vol. 1 is geared toward very young students like Suzuki. I don't think there is anything beyond 2 sharps or flats in the first two volumes.
  12. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Thanks for the example. Basically I don't see any real difference between Vance and Simandl. I don't consider those 1,5 steps as real pivots. I don't see 2 step pivots or anything. Maybe they come later in the method? Same kind of fingerings and positions are in Simandl.

    Also in the first two Rabbath books I don't see anything really different than in Simandl as far as fingering is consernd.

    The only thing that is different is that the Vance method has some real music and nice little pieces and Simandl's examples are not nice to listen to. Vance seems more musical.

    Too bad the Vance books come in separate volumes. Would be nice if they were bundled in one or two books. For beginning students I think these books are more fun than Simandl.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
  13. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    There's an industry of - admittedly quite often great - educators who make a career and a living out of describing a slight tweak to traditional approaches in completely new language and presenting it as a radical departure. When you get down to it, there are a very limited number of ways of playing the bass efficiently. Using Simandl certainly doesn't preclude the use of pivots. Rabbath is really not very far from Simandl at all.

    Bisounourse and Les Fret like this.
  14. the_Ryan


    Jul 10, 2015
    Bronx, NY
    Generally agreed.

    In my experience the Rabbath method is (in the left hand) a system of organization and weight transfer; while his fingerings are sometimes similar to traditional ones, the method itself runs on a different operating system. Instead of keeping a rigid hand position (a la Simandl) he generally uses a more relaxed hand shape and rotates his arm weight for every note. I also think that for beginners, Rabbath's 6 positions are easier to understand, particularly in the higher register because it organizes the thumb position using landmarks as opposed to calling the whole thing thumb position. In addition, I really love the idea of starting students in both first and fourth (thumb) position at the same time; in my own teaching I've found that my students are less afraid of and are more comfortable in the upper registers.

    Now, I don't claim to adhere to the Rabbath method 100%: I don't like how in upper positions he teaches a lot of stuff by keeping your thumb on harmonics as I believe that by doing that you lose a lot of sometimes better options in favor of what's more comfortable. I also generally avoid using as many 2-3 fingerings in TP as he does; while I think they teach you how to transfer weight really well and it's a valuable tool to have, I find that +-1 and 1-2 generally feel better for half steps and +-1, +-2, and 1-3, and sometimes 1-2 (though this tends to be more out of tune) generally feel and sound better for whole steps.
    Chris Fitzgerald and coldtrain like this.
  15. warx


    Sep 13, 2010
    Marin, CA
    I'm still a beginner - I'm curious about which modern books follow which method (if any). For instance, I have The Jazz Bass Book and The Evolving Bassist.
  16. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    Not sure that Simandl demands a rigid hand position, but anything that makes TP less scary for beginners has to be good. That said, all of that really is tinkering with nomenclature rather than any radical departure. Plus ca change.....
  17. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    The best thing to make TP less scary is to teach it early on and not call it scary (you didn't say that). I use Simandl, but introduce upper positions ASAP. Even if you just have them play by rote fingering or by ear without full understanding the fingerboard, it will be better when the light bulb goes off later.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
  18. If we are talking about what "tunes" build intonation I say Simandl hands down. I use his etudes in different keys, fingerings and registers. The musical language of his method is way under-rated and in my opinion is the best thing about it.
    Neil Pye likes this.
  19. Also, with bass methods the "more musical" argument is the dumbest ever. A method needs to be judged on how effective it is at getting you to play the music you want to play. None of them are as musical as playing music well.
    If playing music would do the trick we wouldn't have bass methods to begin with. We would just play Bach. My feeling is the"more musical" methods glaze over important issues and ultimately take longer.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
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  20. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    I tend to agree with this. Simandl etudes are pretty much scale, arpeggios and sequences. If a student can't make sense and/or music of those, they're not ready to move on to more complex music, IMO. If the occasional more chromatic etude bugs you, don't have them play it until they can make sense of it. The pages of the Simandl book turn in both directions
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