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Pizzicato Long Tones

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by David Abrams, Mar 1, 2003.


  1. Classical pizzicato technique seems to be generally a lighter pizzicato with a shorter sustain than in jazz pizzicato, probably because of holding the bow and plucking with the index finger at the same time.

    Clearly the king of pizzicato long tones in jazz is Ray Brown. Ray explained that he was influenced by hearing Jimmy Blanton with Duke Ellington playing with very large, sustaining tones. He has a wide variety of marvelous, singing long tones, which he seems to have been the one to bring to their highest level in jazz bass playing. When Ray left Oscar Peterson's trio, Oscar said that he despaired being able to find another bass player, who could play such beautiful long tones.

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to play with a strong, very clear and beautifully sustained long tone when playing pizzicato?
     
  2. The sound of classical pizz has to do with the mechanics of the stroke. Classical pizz is performed differently than jazz pitch to achieve a different style of note.


    The quality of tone of any note ( in terms of strong, clear, sustain, focus) is all about the left hand, not the right. Naturally the bass and set-up determine how hard the hand has to work to get that sound, but it's in the left hand.
     
  3. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Dunno if this is how others do it, but I get the long tone, or what fretless guys call "mwah", by backing off slightly on the pressure in the left hand. The note just swells and sustains for years if you do it right.
     
  4. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    . . . although it helps if your fingerboard is planed right, and the bass is set up right, and if you're playing growly strings . . .
     
  5. ". . . although it helps if your fingerboard is planed right, and the bass is set up right, and if you're playing growly strings . . ." (Samuel)

    Samuel, could you provides some details? Are you suggesting that a flatter planed fingerboard provides better sustain? Do higher strings allow for more sustain? Are you recommending Thomastik Spirocore Weich as opposed to D'Addario Helicore strings, for example? I'm just guessing and wondering about your recommendations. Thanks.
     
  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Samuel, could you provides some details? OK

    Are you suggesting that a flatter planed fingerboard provides better sustain? No. The arching of fingerboards to achieve appropriate growlitude is like emergency mental health exams: "The First Two Hundred Are The Toughest." Hie thee to a bass luthier. No matter whether your bass is spiffy or a mere Bass-Shaped Object, the money you spend getting your FB set up is worth it.

    Do higher strings allow for more sustain? Not really, unless the strings are too low and they're choking. Higher strings make more volume, and mo' bettah tone, until things get too high.

    Are you recommending Thomastik Spirocore Weich as opposed to D'Addario Helicore strings, for example? No, I can't comment or recommend. The only strings I've ever used are Spiro Orchs. I like the sound and feel on my basses, even thought they're a challenge to bow on.

    Ultimately, David, physical balance, tonal sonority and musical approach are things which take time and experimentation, both guided and otherwise, to achieve. Are you working with a teacher?
     
  7. I've told students to think of playing a seamless legato bowed passage, with the left hand making all the attendent technique adjustments to do so. Clunky shifts and poor/illogical fingering choices can make the notes sound short and thumpy (I know because it happens to me on a regular basis.)

    I've also found that the use of vibrato greatly extends note life, but this is practical pretty much only on ballads.
     
  8. To Samuel's question, "Are you working with a teacher?": Yes. However, I hope you do not mind the length of my answer below:

    I have played classical guitar for many and used to give many classical guitar concerts on a fairly high level. Then I decided to switch to double bass, primarily because I love jazz and I do not like the sound of jazz on the classical guitar, which is the best guitar sound I love in music. I also can play electric bass to some extent, so I mistakenly thought it would be a fairly easy switch to play acoustic double bass with my classical guitar background on left hand and right hand plucking techniques. As I am sure everyone here knows, playing the double bass with a beautiful, expressive tone, good intonation, and swinging beat is extremely difficult. The three biggest problems I have found are these:

    1) The basic guitar hand positions for most scales only really work in the crook of the neck position on the double bass, and when you try them elsewhere, you tend to go out of tune and have to make all kinds of adjustments to standard double bass technique, such as thumb pivots and lifting the lower fingers on the string off the string as you play with a higher finger on the string (which seems to reduce the strength of the tone).

    2) Classical guitar right hand technique has the hand held with the wrist exactly parallel to the strings and the hand slightly bend to the right. Then you pluck with a small part of the finger nails, either tirando (straight up for very fast or tremolo passages) or apoyando (with the finger slightly bend to the right and the finger rests on the string below right after the stroke, as in double bass plucking technique, for a strong, clear sound).

    It seems to me that by unconsciously applying the classical guitar apoyando technique to plucking the double bass 3 highest strings causes me to get a "metallic, slapping" sound, as I mistakenly hit the top of the string. I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that jazz bassists slant their hand vertically downwards with their index and at times middle finger in a more parallel to the string position. Then they get under the string and "pull" the string, so that it vibrates sideways, rather than up and down, which will make the string hit the fingerboard, causing the "metallic, slapping" sound, as Chris Fitzgerald recently explained to me here on talkbass.com.

    3) In right hand fingerstyle guitar technique, your right hand stays in the same position and you pluck with your finger moving from the joint at the knuckle. Acoustic double bassists, my teacher explained to me, pluck using the weight of their entire arm for a very relaxed, wide, big sound.

    I continue to think that the use of a small amount of fingernail would add a contrast to double bass plucking technique. However, the most beautiful acoustic sound appears to be by using the flesh of the fingers only.
     
  9. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I see that my question was imprecise. David, are you working with a double-bass teacher?
     
  10. To Samuel's precise question, "David, are you working with a double-bass teacher?," I can now answer succinctly and economically, "Yes."