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Positions For Arpeggios

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by rasbass, Dec 29, 2012.

  1. rasbass


    Dec 29, 2002
    Upstate NY

    I am a self-taught, jazz player on upright. I am wondering if I can play arpeggios smoothly without shifting positions, such as, how to play the "5" of a m7? (Please excuse an lack of clarity regarding terms like "shifting" and "positions"- on only know this from the internet).

    For example, if I were to play a Dm7 arpeggio, I might start by playing the D on the A string, (2nd position?) then the F on the D string (2nd position). The C on the G string is fine (also 2nd position), but where is it best to play the A? On the G string? (shifting to first position?) Or should I try to play the A on the D string, in 3rd position?

    Thank you.
  2. I would say that you could also play open D, F with the fourth finger on the D string (half position), A second finger on the G string (again half position), then shift up and play the C on the G string with the fourth finger (Second position).

    Now I will say, the best thing you could do is get a copy of Simandl book I and find a teacher. Simandl is the go to book for double bass and will help you discover the best fingerings for you. A teacher will help you develop the technique to prevent injuries.
  3. Bill Harrison has some great online lessons for this:

  4. rasbass


    Dec 29, 2002
    Upstate NY
    Thanks for the info. Those Bill Harrison videos are quite clear and well put together.

    As I see the video, it seems that Mr. Harrison teaches to use open strings when available. I am curious- somehow I learned to play without open strings, for the most part, primarily on my fretless BG. That was so I could generalize patterns and play them in different keys.

    Is it better form to use the open strings as often as possible? Does the benefit to intonation outweigh the benefit from generalizing patterns?

    Input is appreciated.
  5. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2004
    The fingering you choose is going to depend on where you started, where you are going, and what is most comfortable for you personally.

    So if you are playing that arpeggio, starting from the open D and the next note you are going to play after it is B on the G string, I would usually play 2nd finger F on the D string, 1st finger A on the G, shift to 4th finger C on the G, then 2nd finger B.

    On the other hand, if I was already playing 4th finger E on the A string for some reason and I wanted to play up to the E on the G after the arpeggio, I would do 1st finger D on the A string, shift to 2nd finger F on the A, 1st finger A on the D, shift/pivot to 4th finger C on the D, 2nd finger E on the G.

    So you can see that the fingering used varies depending on the situation. I would recommend practicing arpeggios with a number of different fingerings and positions. This is good practice for your arpeggios and is also helpful to get a firm grasp of where all the notes are on the fingerboard.
  6. Bass guitar teaching says avoid open strings. Double bass is different, the fact that the distance between notes is much larger and the three finger fingering system all make open strings just a part of playing the DB. I can't stress enough the importance of finding a teacher, even if it's just for a few lessons to get your technique together.
  7. rasbass


    Dec 29, 2002
    Upstate NY
    I appreciate the comments. I will try to work those open strings into my practicing and playing.

    I did take two lessons from a great teacher a while ago. I am still trying to implement the basics from his instructions (I almost always remember to hold the bass on my left side, tune strings in fourths, etc.). Seriously, he showed me how to hold the instrument, hand position, finger position, etc., but we did not get to work on the details of fingerings, arpeggios, patterns, etc.

  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    The open strings are your best friends when playing DB!! :p

    Seriously, they are incredibly useful and also the kind of pattern playing you mention on BG, is a trap best avoided in Jazz, as it can lead you to get locked in to bad habits and not making music.
  9. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I make myself play things every different way. It seems different when improvising than when playing something planned (where there is an optimal route thru the music, for your hands).

    Open strings are good for keeping your intonation in check at first. They don't sound as wack on DB as they do on EB, but eventually, you will make artful decisions on the fly about their use. The same goes for whether lines should continue onto the G string or be played up the other strings for a fatter and more balanced sound.
  10. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    If you look at the Dm7 chord tones D, F, A (C), you have many ways to mix and play these depending on the sound you want and where your going on the bass and in the chord progression. A common mistake is to only ascend from the root (D). For example you can play an open D, F (first finger) on the E string, open A, open D again - you can also add the C (b7) (second finger) on the A string like a passing tone. This pattern also allows you an opportunity to relax your left hand and there isn't a problem w/intonation w/open strings. Another pattern would be open D, first finger on F (D string), fourth finger on A (D string), fourth finger on D (G string), then descend by shifting on the G string - fourth finger on C, then first on A, second on F (D string) followed by the open D. The cool thing about great jazz bass players is they can take these 3 or 4 notes and apply them to create a specific sounds/vibe. A general rule is to play either the root or fifth on beats 1 or 3 (strong beats). Learning Simandl technique would really help
  11. No, not if you are using standard Simandl style position playing near the nut of the bass. We can only play 3 tones per string, a semi-tone apart. With a bass tuned in 4ths, there are always gaps in the notes between strings, when hopping over to the next string. Open strings can fill some gaps, and position shifting will fill the other gaps.

    Summary: You have to shift, and/or use the open strings, to play triads and 7th chords.