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Rabbath Rocks

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by mike_odonovan, Jul 11, 2003.

  1. i have been using his books for a couple of weeks and delving into all three, kind of similtaneously and finding them a real revelation.
    one nagging thought thought:
    Rabbath advocates using a pivot to cover quite a lot of distance down in the lower position and playing walking lines a lot down there is the only place it feels a bit strange. when I am like on the low F my thumb is quite a bit further along the neck to previous traditional techniwue and i am kind of feeling some stretching going on.
    any jazzers out there encountered this?
    also like to here about any cons (left hand only) people feel there are with the Rabbath method

    ps. jeez its quiet round here. everyone away on holiday?
  2. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    if it hurts, move your thumb, especially if you are going to camp out down there, playing walking lines. Rabbath would be proud if you just moved your thumb. We are talking extreme anti-rigidity so just do what feels the best.

    (I am a jazzer with a Rabbath upbringing. If I just need to play one low f then move higher, I might pivot, whereas if I am going to play a lot of half position stuff I just move the thumb.

    His technique is pretty liberating, but it is easy to superimpose some ideas about how it has to be sometimes. If you get the chance to hang out with him for a little while, you will have a lot of trouble catching him being rigid.

    Good luck, sounds like you are on the right track.
  3. Speaking of Rabbath, has anyone checked out his CDROM? Worth the $$?
  4. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I have the CD Rom, it's awesome.
  5. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    amen, the cd rom is awesome
  6. Alex, I am really interested in knowing what Rabbath teaches regarding bowing techniques. His method books and CD-ROM only talk a little about bowing. So do you know anything about what he teaches in this area you could share with us?
  7. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I'll do my best.

    The first thing I did at one of those summer camps with him was to make big circles with my bow arm and make a very ringing sound on the d string.

    He goes for a very oval string vibration, very oblique I guess, flat to the fingerboard. This lets him get away with having low strings but a gorgeous tone. He uses those corelli mediums the tungsten/steel ones.

    After everyone in the room really got their bass to ring and resonate fully, like for 20-30 seconds after the bow left the string we tried the same thing, but with a e on the d string, first finger. This really opened up my eyes to how much I choke notes with my hand. the goal there is to have the same sound as open d, comparing the e sound to the open d string.

    more later.
  8. From the photos supplied with the book i can't really decide where Rabbath advocates placing the thumb. is it between the 1st and 2nd fingers and then pivot from there or is it in line with the first finger and then pivot from there? any more thoughts about Rabbath method?
  9. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Just between your first finger and second, then pivot with your whole hand to get the next note. be careful not to open up your fingers and stretch the joints- it isn't as efficient and also can cause misuse which could lead to tendonitis. (I'm not saying that this is a bad way to play, when done in a healthy way, it might be ok)
    Be careful also not to micromanage your hand muscles- Rabbath always relates his position to his arm/body relationship, not where his fingers are
    ask other specific questions
  10. I see where Rabbath's "thumb pivot technique" appears to be becoming more accepted, as you find it as a possibility for fingering in the "Thumb in crook of the neck position" in Dr. Mark Morton's method books and a half step thumb pivoting in Eugene Levinson's new method book, "The School of Agility" (Carl Fischer, 2002).

    However, I do not see others recommending or even employing Rabbath's Crab Technique as a way to avoid having to shift positions in the upper register. I find that perhaps the biggest problem for me in the upper register is pressing the note down hard enough with my left hand, so that it rings out clearly. With the crab technique, it seems even harder for me to press down the notes.

    Maybe it's that I do not really understand this crab technique. Do you feel there is an advantage of Rabbath's crab technique and do you use it yourself?
  11. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Yes, there is a time and place for the crab position, right after you can play everysingle one of those three octave scales in tune and with all of those bowings, and when you have your bass set up right.

    I use crab technique to have a reference point when I move around in thumb position, but I really don't think it's advisable to mess around with it if you just got the books. give yourself a couple years to work through that stuff.

    I don't see a lot of people using it either, I see Edgar meyer using similar ideas, I hear renaud Garcia-Fons on recordings obviously using it. I don't see anyone else really, and if you do, let me know.

    I'm also not sure how old that idea to play in thumb position down on the neck is.

    I would say not many people use this crab technique, and I would also say it can completely eliminate any shifting, and that is sometimes very advantageous.
  12. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I saw a picture of David Walter playing in what looks like thumb position way back somewhere around a 4th above the G string while I was surfing the net looking for clips of his performances. Pretty neat if what I saw is what I think I saw.
  13. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    that's probably what you saw, I know he taught Bert Turetsky, among other great bassists
  14. Alex Scott says that,

    Alex, could you give a couple examples how you use the crab technique as a reference point?

    While I do not feel I understand Simandl or Rabbath's methods adequately, it seems that their concept of "reference points" for intonation are very different and intonation is one of the major difficulties on the double bass due to the relative absence of stable reference points, such as frets, and the huge length of the strings. Simandl appears to me to provide many useful reference points for intonation:

    1) Simandl shifting usually keeps the whole hand and fingers just above the strings, which is an advantage in hitting the correct notes.
    2) The Simandl approach of keeping the lower fingers also pressing down on the string further supports the power of the finger playing the note to be able to ring the note out more fully and clearly with better sustain.
    3) I believe Simandl usually requires that you keep the first finger or one of the fingers on the string as you shift to higher notes, which can serve as a reference point and become a portamento, if you wish to play it as such.
    4) From Rabbath's CD-ROM, it seems that he uses a "space-movement-speed" reference point for intonation, which I really do not understand. So maybe you can explain this a little more?
    5) The main advantage of Simandl for intonation, as I understand it, is that you maintain the same basic shape of the hand (with the same basic positions for fingers 1, 2 and 4 or 1, 2 and 3) as you shift the whole hand up or down.
    6) Simandl, then, has the distinct advantage of helping intonation, because you can better hit the correct note with the shape of the hand and position of the fingers as your reference points.

    Since I do not really understand Rabbath's "space-movement-speed" reference point for intonation approach, it looks to me that Rabbath's crab technique for the highest register as well as his thumb rotation approach for the lower registers make it harder to hit the correct notes, because you lose the reference points of the "locked hand shape and basically stable finger position" reference points for intonation in Simandl shifting. Can you enlighten me more on this difference?
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification

    I don't see this the way you do. Since the size of the space between notes isn't constant (the notes get closer together the further up the neck you go), how can keeping a constant hand shape help?

    Granted, I'm not experienced enough to make any claims as to which one is superior, I just don't see your logic.
  16. From the photos supplied with the book i can't really decide where Rabbath advocates placing the thumb. is it between the 1st and 2nd fingers and then pivot from there or is it in line with the first finger and then pivot from there?

    is it on the CD rom?
  17. Pacman, I am sure you are much more experienced than I am, and I have a huge problem with intonation. I wish there were more stable reference points on the double bass, other than the natural harmonics and thumb in crook of the neck. So I hope Don, Chris, or one of the other more experienced bassists would comment on this Simandl versus Rabbath discussion.

    You are certainly correct that you have to gradually contract the left hand shape as you move up the fingerboard with Simandl technique, which I should have mentioned. However, maintaining the basic hand shape and the same relative position of the fingers, I think, does facilitate hitting the correct notes when you shift to another position more than when you are rotating on the thumb to move the hand to a lower or higher position in Rabbath's method. Do you think that is the case, and, if not, what reference points are there in Rabbath's method that I do not yet understand? Or what reference points for intonation do you yourself use? That last question is probably a good one for a separate and much needed thread on talkbass.com.
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    In my opinion, playing in tune has more to do with hearing in tune than how you hold your hands. When I play in "Simandl shape" in half or first position, there is still a small amount of motion of the index finger sliding up the string as I play the whole step above. Since the power to stop the string comes (roughly) from the shoulder, I think of the fingers as just being roughly spaced extensions of the arm. The "shifting" that occurs even between notes in position is a natural extension of the transfer of weight from one fixed point to another, and the thumb just helps gauge the distance.

    As always, YMMV.
  19. Since discussing Rabbath is so important, I created a separate thread for this question of "reference points for intonation". I am, myself, fascinated with Rabbath's innovations, but as a relative beginner I continue to play out of tune and my teacher is a Simandl traditionalist. So he wants me to work on the Simandl positions and how they help as "reference points" for intonation.

    On Rabbath's CD-ROM, Rabbath talks about the reference point of the relationship of "space, time and speed", which I do not really understand. I think he demonstrates by playing the "A" above the G octave on the "G" string, and then he suddenly zips back down to the "A" in the half position below. I think Rabbath then compares this snapping gesture of the hand and arm to the motion and speed and space when you flick a stone across the water. What does he mean by this?
  20. Chris Fittzgerald writes

    I just came back from the Francois Rabbath summer Bass Workshop at the University of Maryland, which was really fantastic! Rabbath is really a genuis teacher, inventor, innovator, and philsopher. He gave a concert one evening, which was very intimate and deeply expressive. There are really no adequate words to describe the emotionally moving experience of hearing him play. I wish we could figure out a way to get him some more concert gigs, so he could give a tour of more concerts than only one or two a year in the United States and Canada. The title of this thread is definitely right on that "RABBATH ROCKS"!

    One of the many fascinating points he made during this week of master classes and lectures was what Chris said above on using the weight of the left arm to play the notes. Several times, Rabbath stressed that as you use the weight of the right arm to make the sound with the bow, you use the weight of the left arm to play the notes on the fingerboard. You do not "press down" on the string with the muscles of your hand and forearm, but rather let the whole arm "flop" down on the notes you want to play with the weight of the whole arm. I think this is going to take me a lot of work to try and "unlearn" the other way of squeezing the muscles in my hand and forearm to press down as firmly as I can to play a note with good sustain. I asked him about holding down an octave of say lowest "F" on the "E" string and "F" on the "D" string. He took hold of my forearm with his thumb and middle finger and asked me to keep these muscles totally relaxed, while showing me how to drop my left hand down on these two notes without squeezing the muscles in my hand or forearm to play this octave, which before always felt to be straining for me to hold down.

    The set up of having a bent endpin, the posture of standing to play the instrument, holding the bass inwards against the chest and turning the bass so that it points forwards like the way a cello is played are also very important in his approach to playing, so that both arms can "flop" down totally relaxed like dropping down two dead weights as one plays.

    In this way, Rabbath explains that, "Then you always play the bass without using any muscles."