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Playing by ear

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Davidoc, Dec 6, 2002.

  1. I've just started playing DB, and I have a big problem: Intonating. This probably has to do with the fact that I can't hear myself. I can play in tune by myself, but when I play with a group, I can often hear that I'm way off, but can't do a think about it because I simply can't hear myself.

    On the BG, I just turn up; I'm supposed to be loud because I have a distinctive line, but on DB, I'm just supposed to blend in, and it's hard!

    What can I do to solve this problem? (This is one question that "Get a Teacher" will not suffice as an answer.)
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    A teacher wouldn't be able to do much aside from patting you on the back for this problem.

    Hearing yourself is a chromic annoyance, especially with unfriendly rooms and unsympathetic bands. One thing I can tell you is that you kinda learn how to hear it after a while. I still get frustrated at not hearing myself.

    Two things that can help is a) play sitting on a stool, this way the bass is facing you a bit more, or b) playing the bass higher on the peg and leaned toward you will get the body closer to your ear. Don't put the bass in an uncomfortable position, though. Give priority to your body on this one.
  3. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Whether you like it or not, "get a teacher" is still a valid answer, the reason being that every single one of us at some point has to play in an environment where we simply cannot hear ourselves. That's when all the drills about shifting and intonation come back to save your a$$, because you're literally playing from memory of where the note is.
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Nothing is a substitute for getting a good solid acoustic sound. But if you amplify, position the amp so that the speaker is pointing as directly toward your head and ears as possible. This approach basically relegates the amp to the role of a monitor, which (whenever possible) is all that an amp should be doing anyway. Doing this will accomplish two things:

    1) You'll be able to hear yourself more directly, and thus will be able to intonate better under adverse situations;

    2) Since you don't want to blast your own head off, this will also keep you from using too much amp and help you blend with the group better. I ALWAYS do this (when possible) in amplified situations, and I NEVER have anyone I'm playing with ask me to turn down - only up, and not very often at that.

    The old school contingent may now begin fueling up their flamethrowers. :)
  5. MacDaddy


    Jan 26, 2002
    Provo, UT, USA
    I also had this problem for a long time in Chamber Orchestra. There was so many different melodies and harmonies going on it was hard to concentrate on all them and stay in tune. A couple of things helped this considerably though.
    Scales, Scales, Scales, Scales, Scales. Memorizing where the note is on the bass helps sooooooo much.
    Another trick I learned from my teacher is puting your ear to the side of the neck. It's actually mainly used in tuning, hearing you bass among the mass of sound, but I've seen many bass players in the local symphony try this trick throughout the entire performance. In fact, the principle bassist does it pretty much the whole time... and he's always in tune. Does put a cramp in your neck, twisting it all the time, but hey, if it works...
  6. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    This is the kind of logic that keeps Alexander Technique teachers in business.
    No way.
  7. Thanks for the help everyone! I'll try that listening close thing. I guess alot of it is just practice, and something that just comes with time.

    Also, I now have a pickup at my disposal...
  8. The thing that is beginning to help me is not so much scales, but short pieces and exercises based upon scales. That way it is easier for me to a) stay interested and b) to hear the scale within the context of music. This can be Simandl, Bach, whatever. And with a bow, there's no hiding from it. I think its helping.
  9. Even the best players in the world are constantly listening, constantly making minute intonation adjustments. It's something you will be concentrating on for the rest of your life. When I play jazz (I play DB in several genres) I use a tiny GK combo lying on it's back behind me. This is for me and the drummer to hear, it's a monitor basically.
  10. bassy18


    Oct 30, 2001
    i have that problem....i don't tune myself at all before hand....i have to tune as i go...its the only way it works...wood winds can be out of tune, but intune with each other, so sometimes just go with it.....you'll feel it soon enough

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