Rabbath? Simandl? Vance? Grip it & rip it?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by tb-player, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. tb-player

    tb-player Sarcasm intended... always! Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    Since the first of the year, I've been attempting to learn bowing/arco. I've messed with everything from an old Essential Elements book I had laying around (surprisingly helpful) to Simandl to Progressive Repertoire. I'm finding that there are a lot of different approaches and theories. I'm leaning toward the Progressive Repertoire book coupled with Jason Heath's "Beginner's Orchestral Bass" course on Discover Double Bass.

    Before I picked up the bow, I was firmly in the "grip it & rip it" school. It did the job, even if there were moments I was hanging on for dear life. But with a bow, I don't believe that is an option. I need an approach that works for me.

    FWIW: I'm considering finding an instructor. I met with the low strings instructor at the local university. He plays cello and was helpful. He just doesn't do any kind of private lessons, especially for DB. I joined the ISB. The closest teachers in their directory are 2-3 hours away (that may be an option?). I'm also checking into Skype teachers. But I'm thinking I'd like to find someone who will support the Rabbath/Vance technique I'm learning from Discover Double Bass.

    I'm curious. What do system do you ascribe to and why?

  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    There are pros and cons to any of them. I suppose I use something of a modified Simandl, although I don't think about his position names at all.

    I would certainly recommend contacting an instructor on the ISB website. Find one that teaches via Skype (or Zoom or whatever) and describes an approach that you would like. But if you learn the Simandl approach, that will not prevent you from learning Rabbath/Vance in the future. They're all building blocks and tools in the box.
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  3. Dogfightgiggle


    Mar 4, 2020
    I wouldn’t worry too much about the school of playing, I would just find a teacher you trust and get to it.
  4. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I wouldn't recommend any of the methods you listed for developing your arco chops. For me, I found a few lessons with experienced and thoughtful teachers taught me the basics, and then this book, by John Goldsby, gave me the exercises I needed to develop some technique.


    It, plus about 4 years of consistent practice, have clearly worked. I have two bows. A "good" bow and a "better" bow. The "better" bow is ready for a rehair so last week I got out the "good" bow to see how much of a compromise it was going to be while the "better" bow was being serviced. In both cases, I selected the bows based on how they improved my playing at the time. My playing with the "better" bow was clearly more expressive with fewer unanticipated sounds than the "good" bow when I bought it. No longer. I prefer the "better" bow slightly, but just barely, and now I find that the "good" bow has different strengths but I'm pleased with its tone in all registers. So, give John's book a try and remember the old saying "that you'll get out of it what you put into it".
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  5. gogogergie1


    Oct 22, 2020
    A teacher is going to be the best route to learn bow chops (or any bass chops in general). You can work through any of those books on your own, but a teacher will point out flaws in your technique and help you correct them. Otherwise, you're on a path towards teaching yourself bad habits.

    I have a great teacher who does zoom lessons. He helped me through vol 1 and 2 of the Vance Progressive Rep books- PM me if you want me to connect you with him.
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  6. If you have a teacher that is versed in Rabbath or Vance then those are solid methods. If not then Simandl all day long. Simandl is still the most proven and solid so that makes it the most common. So, you will be ready for the most common method an instructor might use.
    Most pro teachers will be familiar with Simandl even when they use a different method. Less so for the other methods.

    It is great to get with a couple teachers over the years and work through a couple methods. For jazz, a grounding in Simandl will really help you figure out a lot of what the early greats did since so many of the best players used Simandl.

    Also, any modern method is a reaction to Simandl at some level, so Simandl will actually make those others make more sense and is important for a historical grounding.
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  7. tb-player

    tb-player Sarcasm intended... always! Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    PM sent!
  8. tb-player

    tb-player Sarcasm intended... always! Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    I knew you’d have an informed opinion on this Damon. Totally makes sense. Thanks.
    damonsmith likes this.
  9. The thing to look out for is people who use other methods for good reasons or if they use them as a work around in relation to Simandl.
    Lots of great young players have come up on Vance, so that is solid evidence. Katie Thiroux is a great example as an inspiring player who came up on Vancem for a great example.

    Rabbath is basically a solo method so if your "Rabbath" teacher is not ripping AND if they don't recommend do two hours of scales a day I would avoid them!
    You rarely get anyone who has actually gone through Simandl who doesn't recommend it - though some feel Vance is easier to engage with students and other reasons.
    Anyway, keep your eyes open!
    tb-player likes this.
  10. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    I went with the french bow and Edouard Nanny Method book
    and a good DB teacher.
  11. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    Congrats to you for embarking on a very arduous and also beautiful and rewarding journey. I got serious about arco and Simandl in December 2018 and it’s been tremendous, but also very daunting. The right hand/arco side of it has honestly been the most challenging. This past July I switched from Spirocore to Evah Pirazzi strings (way more bow friendly when learning) and a better quality German bow. I’m still seeing the bow hold change slightly week to week as the whole thing becomes more natural and the sound improves. I might recommend Dennis Whittaker’s incredibly useful exercises and David Moore’s German Bow course on DDB. I can’t recall if you said you play German or French. Anyway, I’ve fallen in love with arco playing this year. And as my teacher (at a Jazz conservatory) said, the double bass was intended to be played with a bow. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
    AGCurry likes this.
  12. +1 According to my calculation, there are doubt 35,460 hours in a year. So if you practice a little less than 1/4 of the time, you'll have your 10,000 hours in about 4 years...
    Tom Lane likes this.
  13. paulunger

    paulunger Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2002
    Fort Worth, Texas
    +1 on starting with Vance. You must have a teacher who understands what skills each piece in Vance teaches. The book itself doesn’t provide that information.
    tb-player likes this.
  14. If you don't skip days, understand the difference between practicing and playing, and do at least 20 minutes of actual practice everyday in addition to "playing". You will see progress pretty fast AND you won't hate music at the end of it! Clearly, you will want to regularly practice more most days, but set that 20 as a bare minimum you don't ever skip.
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  15. tb-player

    tb-player Sarcasm intended... always! Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2019
    I actually found a teacher who teaches those books. We’re starting in a week or two. Cant wait!!
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  16. Ryan in PDX

    Ryan in PDX

    Jan 14, 2020
    Teacher. Teacher. Teacher.

    A method book can't do much for the nitty gritty details of your bowing. Zoom/skype lessons are good enough for a teacher to catch my posture or bow angle slipping, and even to notice if my bow hold isn't relaxed enough. An instructor will help you learn where to put your bow on your strings on your bass, and how much/which part of that bow to use for each note, and how to start and stop each note. Your instructor will also watch your left hand, fingers, and thumb, and catch potential injuries there.

    My instructor recommended Simandl, so that's what I'm using. The "atonal grinding" of the first few sections is rough, maybe even emotionally draining, but after putting in the days (not just the hours!), I can't imagine NOT going through that. My pitch and muscle memory improved tremendously. These leaps of improvement keep happening every time I move into the next position. In the higher positions, Simandl gives options for "half shifts" and my understanding is that this is the basis for Rabbath's pivot system. You'll note that nothing in this paragraph has had anything to do with the bow hand!

    I spent a couple of weeks reading reviews and talkbass success stories about Simandl/Rabbath/Vance. I really wish I'd spent those two weeks with my instructor instead!
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  17. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    I’m intrigued with this “don’t ever skip a day” idea. I heard a guy on Contrabass Convos say he takes one day a week off and doesn’t touch the bass. I’ve been doing that since the summer and in general I think it works well for me. I also have a habit of hitting a wall maybe once every ten days or so when I just don’t feel like there’s any music in me that day. I’m curious about the benefits of mandating a day off versus forcing myself to do a daily bare minimum as you suggest, twenty minutes or so of just “musical hygiene”. What’s your rationale for not scheduling a day off? I know athletes who purposely take a “rest day” every week. Why not musicians? Or more specifically, why not you?
    AGCurry likes this.
  18. I no longer 'skip' days. There are days when I cannot practice because I have other obligations that make it impossible, but I never purposely miss a day anymore.

    Even when I am exhausted or really 'don't feel like it,' a few minutes of scales or other such exercises usually lead to me wanting to practice more. If I am really not into it, i just stop after the technique stuff.

    I hate myself when I haven't practiced 20 minutes in a day yet found time to peruse Twitter or Talkbass...
    Admiral Akbar likes this.
  19. What I don't skip is the basics that take no inspiration - which has been important for this year! If I teach I might skip practice and if I play a gig I might skip as well.

  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    When all goes right, I exercise and practice every day except Sunday. Sunday is for relaxing and recharging. A normal Sunday looks like today: Grocery shopping-->Laundry-->make lunches for the week-->go for a bike ride with a friend-->dinner/hang with my wife.

    Although today I will probably do a 30 minute calibration session on the bass before the bike ride because yesterday was too busy and I didn't get to play at all.
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