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Rabbath/Vance method for Electric Fretless BG Player

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Matthew_84, Jul 29, 2012.

  1. Her DBers,

    I apologize mods, this probably should be over in the BG side, but I just thought that I would get better answers over here.

    I was reading an article with Esperanza Spalding in Bass Player magazine and she mentioned how using the Rabbath method on DB really influenced her fretless approach. She says, "Rather than mentally trying to play in tune, (Rabbath) feels it's all about your hand learning the distance between specific pitches and knowing how to get there in a specific time."

    I have a lined fretless and when I played that I really just listened to the note I was playing and adjusted it to be in tune. I just got an unlined fretless and would like to work on my muscle memory so that it's more of a systematic approach and thus a more reliable one.

    I've been looking at getting some of the Rabbath or the Vance method books, but everything I read on TB seems to suggest that they're not too detailed for self-study and it's best to learn the method with a teacher who's well-versed in them.

    I do plan on getting a DB in the future, and will get a teacher then, but right now, for financial reasons, I'd like something that I can study and work on by myself.

    Can anyone recommend which book I should get first, or is there any other material (books or even DVDs) that would be more beneficial to me?


  2. ruifgalmeida


    Jul 29, 2012
    hello Matthew

    First of all Rabbath and Vance method are very specific for Doublebass, so I dont think that it is the right method for you since you only play freetless bass.
    My advice first use the Rabbath in doublebass them try to transpose is ideas to the electric bass.
    Definitely not a method to be learn without a teacher.
  3. Okay. Thank you for your honest response.

    The problem is that there doesn't seem to be any systematic approaches for the fretless bass guitar. While there seem to be a lot for the DB. I was hoping that something would be able to transition well... I may just have to develop my own.

    Is there any book that shows good fingerings for scales and such? I do maintain a 1-2-4 method when I'm below the 4th position.
  4. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Watch Rabbath's Art of the Bow video to start and see if his ideas appeal to you. What he's doing is about much more than just fingerings or posture. So many people have adapted Simandl to the bass guitar that it doesn't seem at all untenable to do the same with Rabbath.
  5. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    I use Rabbath's pivots on the EB, but don't play the fless in public. Ever. Unless you devote some serious time to the fless, it's main advantage over the fretted version is its extraordinary ability to play things out of tune.

    What is your concern? Intonation? Do you practice with a pitch reference?

    The two basses have a lot to teach one another. More and more, I'm using the third finger on the upright and 124 on the electric... :)
  6. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Yes I also don't see how especially the Rabbath method will help your fretless playing as opposed to other classical methods. Being a fretless and double bass player myself. I think every method can benefit your playing but I would suggest a four finger system for the fretless. When you play in the lower positions you can also apply a 1-2-4 system like Simandl. But when playing faster passages the 1-2-3-4 approach also works better in the lower positions most of the time.
    When your hand position is settled in all positions your intonation is also much better. The ears will do the rest.
    Also it doesn't really matter if you play an unlined or lined neck because you work with your ears.
  7. MostlyBass

    MostlyBass Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    I agree. Before studying Rabbath, I would study Simandl. It's very systematic and very boring but it will get you in tune. I'm not a huge fan of the Vance system on upright but I can really see it being useful on electric as he tends to use the higher positions and use all the strings in that position which is much more 'electric - like'.

    So I would get "New Method for the Double Bass" book 1 by Simandl and a Vance book. Do a LITTLE bit a day as the Simandl is very dry but VERY effective. USE A TUNER AT ALL TIMES.

    BUT. When you shift DO NOT ADJUST your pitch. I know this goes against what you think.... BUT when you shift and hit the next note, STOP and evaluate. Flat? In tune? Sharp? Then fo back and do the shift again. Evaluate. Do it again. Evaluate but DO NOT CORRECT. You want to train the hand to nail the pitch - like hitting keys on a piano.
    If you 'adjust' when you shift you are training your hand to have a warble. The audience will get the out of tune note first then a smeary fix. Repeat the shift until you can nail the note. Play it correctly and 4x as many times as you played it incorrectly. Why? Well if you play it wrong once and correctly only once, you now have a 50% chance of playing it correctly. Not very good odds. This is from an article in American String Teacher by cellist Mathias Wexler. It's a tough way to practice but extraordinarily effective.
  8. ruifgalmeida


    Jul 29, 2012
    The only thing in the Rabath method that you can use for the fretless is the thumb pivot, where rabath divides the doublebass in 6 position.
    As for fingerings forget it ,doublebass fingerings dont work on a fretless bass
  9. Thanks everyone. I tried finding some youtube videos for The Art of the Bow, but only found a 3 minute clip. I didn't check it out though, as it was getting late. I will look at it tonight.

    As for Vance books, is there any you can recommend?

    I guess I'm looking for something that introduces the 6 positions and the thumb pivot method Ruifgalmeida mentioned above.
  10. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Say what? :eek:

    Yeah they do.
  11. I've heard the opposite. By correcting, muscle memory helps realising how much wrong you are. Next time, you will be closer. Rinse, repeat, bam.

    Personally I think both methods work, as long as you do it right. I practise both ways. Also, singing the note you're going to take (to get your head to figure out what pitch you really want) and then shifting is a practise method I find useful.
  12. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Steve Bailey has a book that is geared towards fretless. I have never worked from it before, but when I first started playing worked from a few of his books. Just a thought.
  13. jweiss

    jweiss Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2007
    Park City, Utah
    Steve Bailey's book (simply called, "Fretless Bass") is fairly good, but most of the exercises beyond the basic ones require very big stretches. Even if you have giant hands, you will still struggle with many of them. I think he must have enormous hands.

    The book comes with playalong tracks.

    A major part of the book it devoted to exercises that address intonation.

    There are very few methods books for fretless electric bass. I'm interested to hear about any others.

    Regardless of what fingering method you adopt, it really helps to work with drone tones for a few minutes at the beginning of every practice session.
  14. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    That is because the technique and fingering is essentially the same as for fretted bass. Besides the slides and the intonation of course. But there are also very little double bass books that address the intonation issue. Just use your ears and listen to as many good fretless players as you can. You don't have to follow a specific method or a book.
  15. Thanks, I would say that the technique for fretless and fretted are very similar, but in my opinion, muscle memory is a lot more crucial with a fretless, as well as a 1234 method in the first position on a fretted isn't such a problem because you don't have to make the full stretch and to be in tune and you don't have to be as accurate. But on a fretless, you have to make a decent pivot and stretch to hit the pitch. That's why I find 124 to be a bit easier on the hands and for intonation. But then again, there are more shifts, so it's hard to say which method is better.

    I actually already have the Steve Bailey book, and it is great for working on intonation, but he doesn't have many recommendations as per technique. Just exercises to follow. He kind of recommends 1234 all along the board, but I found my hand hurting in the lower positions doing the octaves and fifths with 1 & 3, or 2 & 4, especially when doing doublestops. This is when the 124 idea starting coming up.

    I have ordered Simandl. I don't know how much help it will be, but one day I will be getting a DB, so I might as well get it now. I'm still curious about Rabbath's technique however, and very curious about his pivots, and how they're situated, and how he builds the muscle memory. Is there any single book that pretty much covers all of this stuff?

    I do like the idea that MostlyBass posted, and when I finally attach the unlined neck I will try it out.
  16. jweiss

    jweiss Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2007
    Park City, Utah
    I use 124/Simandl up to 7th "fret" on fretless. I really feel that it helps with hitting the right pitch the first time.
  17. ruifgalmeida


    Jul 29, 2012
    Doublebass use a finguering of 124 or 134, for the freetless bass 124 finguering will work but it will be very limiting, for fretless the right tecnique is 1234.
    Please explain what is your tecnique and why do you use it?
  18. I'm really not trying to start an argument here, but I am curious about something. In traditional DB technique, players switch to 123 in the 6th position, at that point, if the 3rd finger can play a whole tone, then wouldn't the pinky by able to play a semitone above that? My logic, even though I've never played a DB, believes that it could be possible. But if so, why don't people do this? Also, I'm still very unsure whether the right technique for a fretless is 124 in the lower positions, or 1234 all along the board. Now I know there's a difference in the strength needed to stop a string, but isn't it the larger gaps in the lower positions that require 124? A Fretless BG is obviously physically easier to play and a smaller scale length, but wouldn't the player benefit from the same technique? Wouldn't it also be just as limiting as doing 124, or 123 on a DB when you could shift more and do 1234?
  19. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    I use 124 fingering on the electric bass because
    A) I spent many years using it on the double bass and it's comfortable and familiar
    B) even on a 34" scale it causes much less physical stress.
    It's quite commonly used by some very good electric players.
  20. I'm thinking out loud here regarding 124 on an electric, and I don't really think it's all that limiting - other than it's a technique I'm not very used to, but to go from 1 to 4 on an electric in the lower positions, I have to shift, or pivot anyway. So the 124 for the whole tone is more comfortable and requires less stretching, the only limiting part, may be going up to the next semitone, but that is something I can work on to build muscle memory.

    I bought a Vance book, the one with the different title, Vade Mecum, or something like that, as I heard that one seems to reference Rabbath's technique a bit more and is a good introduction. I'm not very sure if it has many exercises in it though.

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