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Play past the end of the fingerboard?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Tom Lane, Jun 25, 2014.


  1. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    While practicing today I wanted to play a couple of notes about a 5th beyond the end of my fingerboard, arco. The tone almost started to work, but not quite. I've played a semi-tone beyond fairly frequently and found that as long as my thumb was solidly on the fingerboard, I could get an acceptable tone. I experimented for 10 minutes or so - heavier bow, lighter bow, faster, slowly, nearly right on top of the bridge but, it all sounded bad to me.

    Is this doable with good technique or just a fool's errand? If so, what's the proper technique, light, slow bow as close to the bridge as I can get?
     
  2. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Try getting on the side of the string and pulling outward. That's how I saw Edgar Meyer do it.
     
  3. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    With your left hand, pulling the string to the side instead of trying to press down usually gives better results. With your bow, you want to find that sweet spot of close to the bridge but not too close that it is ugly. Try to keep the bow as natural as you can up there. Quite often when you aren't getting the tone you are looking for, it is because your bow arm is tense.

    On the other hand, you are asking 4-6" of bridge cable to sing like a violin... so there is a chance you are not going to get an absolutely wonderful tone. The guys that do get it up there like Edgar have both fantastic instruments and amazing technique. For us mortals, maybe coming down an octave is worth considering.
     
  4. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    You mean pizz? I was trying for a good tone with the bow. Still, interesting, I haven't found a satisfactory tone pizz in that octave, period, much less beyond the fingerboard because the note decay's so fast that it's very hard to hear and not a good tone to my ear. Still, I'll experiment with that a bit, thanks.
     
  5. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Thanks Mike. Sounds like it is attainable if I'm willing to work at it long enough and my bass is up to it. Both are questionable! Still, I appreciate the input and I'll give it some more effort. BTW, it was while I was playing My Funny Valentine in thumb position and I decided to go up a 2nd octave above the score for the finale. Sounds great to me if I can get a decent tone. Otherwise, another student's failed attempt. Sigh, that's how we learn, no? Regardless, thanks again for the info, much appreciated.
     
  6. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Edgar Meyer and Joel Quarrington both play some stuff up there arco that still sounds pretty fantastic. Both also have rather long fingerboard extensions, but they will sound like themselves regardless to what instrument they play on. Edgar Meyer has a recording of the Bottesini concerto where he plays a cadenza he wrote possibly in high school. I don't have the liner notes anymore, but they read something to the effect of "I wrote this cadenza as a younger man, and would not make the same artistic choices now" It gets extremely high, and seems to be stopped notes instead of harmonics. Both of them have fantastic and very contrasting recordings of that concerto, and I would strongly recommend listening to them even if you were not curious about high notes.

    If you can find a way to still be relaxed when you are stretched to the limits of getting to that part of your instrument, that seems to be the key.
     
  7. Anonymatt

    Anonymatt

    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I am always amazed that pulling the string to the side works as well as it does. Even in the low registers I get a lot of bang for my buck if a position change accident has left me between strings.

    I read one of those Indiana University books with profiles of string players, and they had a thing about this giant Russian guy from mid-20th century that pulled the string to the side for just about every note. But then he had giant hands and even added weights to his bows.
     
  8. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    It is my understanding that with old basses with gut strings a mile high you almost had to play of the side of the string when going to the nosebleed section. Tried it on my gut bass and had far better sonic results than otherwise.
     
  9. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Sure enough, a side-stop works much better than pressing down. Still some work to do to get it consistent, but it's definitely doable with some practice. Thanks guys!
     

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