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Rabbath's Six Positions

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Matthew_84, Aug 10, 2012.

  1. Hello,

    I recently started a thread inquiring about Rabbath's technique to use on a fretless BG here. But my copy of Vance's Vade Mecum For the Double Bass has arrived and it has a diagram showing the six positions but I can't understand what it's showing me.

    It shows a bass standing vertically in the centre of the page. On the right side it shows, I'm assuming, the ranges of each position using the notes on the G string as a reference, but the notes seem to go lower in pitch as you move to higher positions, and it shows a bass and treble clef but with different notes on each staff. On the left side of the page it shows three lines running vertical with the length of the strings. The first line has 1/3, on it, the second has 1/4 on it, and the third has 1/2 on it. These lines are broken up by horizontal lines. There are three gaps on the line with 1/3, four gaps on the one with 1/4, and two gaps with the one 1/2. I really have no idea what these mean. At first I thought they were fingerings, but that doesn't make sense, and because there's only three lines then it can't be the strings... I don't know. I'm just pretty confused.

    Can someone please help me? You can respond here or through a PM if you'd prefer.

    Thank you,

  2. eriksd


    Aug 9, 2011
    It's hard to say from the description, but I'd recommend looking at Simandall's diagrams, well charts really. Here's what I can say, upright bass is a different animal from bass guitar. When I play fretless, I play using all for fingers working through all positions. When I play upright, I use only pointer, middle and ring/pinky together for a third note through 4th position. Then I open up to 4 fingers as I move to thumb position, but that's ONLY because I have a shorter scale upright. The two apply to each other only so far. Maybe the scale charts in the back of Pattitucci's 60 Melodic Etudes would work better for you? It shows the notes for the scales and has the positions underneath. But for upright here are the notes in the positions according to Simandall:

    Using the G string as a ref point...

    1/2 Pos: (starting with the open string on G string ascending) G, G#, A, A#
    1st Pos: A, A#, B
    2nd Pos: A#, B, C
    Intermediate Pos Between 2 and 3: B, C, C#
    3rd Pos: C, C#, D
    Intermediate Between 3 and 4: C#, D, D#
    4th Pos: D, D#, E
    5th Pos: D#, E, F
    Intermediate Between 5 and 6: E, F, F#
    6th Pos: F, F#, G

    Then you move to thumb position which is not really applicable to fretless bass guitar. In summation, each half step up the chromatic scale is basically moving into another position.

    Hope this helps a bit.
  3. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Inactive

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    Simandl wont help him at all. Man Im glad i dont use that stuff anymore. If you have no familiarity with the Rabbath system then you are not going to be able to direct him. It has nothing to do with Electric bass and is a position system that is the exact opposite of simandl.

    Six positions just to get to the G harmonic? *cringe* I am thankful i dont use a horizontal divison of the bass anymore.
  4. Those are the ratios for the harmonics which are the basis of the positions: 1/2 is the octave (1st harmonic), 1/3 octave plus a 5th (2nd harmonic), and 1/4 two octaves (3rd harmonic).

    So that gives you:
    1: open
    2. "fifth fret" (stopping 1/4 string length)
    3. "seventh fret" (1/3)
    4. "twelfth fret" (1/2)
    5. "seventeenth fret" (2/3)
    6. "twenty fourth fret" (3/4)

    Does my paraphrase help? I apologize for referring to frets, but it gets the job done.

    The bass clef shows the fingered notes and the treble clef the sounding pitch of the harmonics.
  5. al808


    Oct 11, 2008
    You might want to check this series of masterclasses on YouTube,

    International Society of Bassists President and Ball State University Bass Professor Hans Sturm discusses Rabbath's left hand technique, pivot and position concepts ...

    DrayMiles and cjamunch like this.
  6. This information is not "useless", but it is severe distraction from where you can best get the information you need.
    Find a serious electric bass instructor, do what they say and stop thinking about double bass technique until you are ready to play double bass.
    Dabndug and DrayMiles like this.
  7. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz

    Simandl is wonderful on all horizontal basses, and I actually incorporate pivots into my playing on this instrument, and 3rd finger into the vertical bass.

    Fwiw I only play the fret less e bass these says when I want to randomly play notes horribly out of tune. Sarcasm, but let's please note how VERY FEW bassists have ever played the fless well. I can count em on part of one hand.
  8. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I agree somehow. Why would you want to learn the Rabbath positions on electric bass? The position name system for electric bass (and guitar) position is the easiest there is. Each fret is one position.
    I apply this system for myself on double bass as well. It is more logical than the Simandl or Rabbath position names (for me).
    But it doesn't really matter what system you use, these are just names after all. Doesn't make you play better.
  9. Right, there are still quicker paths. If he was looking to double it would make far more sense. I too am fretless skeptic!
  10. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yeah, just find some guy who rips at E-bass and do what he says.

    Fretless bass is a great long range weapon.
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  11. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    The key to the 6 positions in Rabbath is the harmonics. If you look at the Vance books (Progressive Repertoire Vols. 1-3) the student starts with the 3rd position D harmonic on the G string (7th fret equivalent on the bass guitar). The student then learns 1st position ( B harmonic or 4th fret equivalent), then 4th position (12th fret equivalent or G harmonic), 2nd position (G harmonic or 5th fret equivalent), then 5th and 6th positions and then 1/2 position. All of these positions are located via natural harmonics with the exception of 1/2 position. If you're attempting to use Vade Mecum on Electric Bass the main thing to be aware of is the pivot movement noted by the - symbol. As al808 noted the Hans Sturm video clips are extremely helpful. Personally, I choose to use 3rd finger on Electric Bass but not on Double Bass below 4th position.
    My experience with this is 38 years of Simandl and about 8 of Rabbath/Vance, which I find really valuable as an alternate way to deal with Double Bass technique.
  12. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I don't agree. I am a fretless and double bass player myself. It is much easier to play in tune on fretless bass than on double bass. There are more people that play out of tune on double bass. Many big and famous double bass players in jazz (don't want to name names) play out of tune but they compensate intonation with feel and creativity. Also there are many many fretless bass players that I like and play it well.
    Dabndug likes this.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Interesting debate - I notice this is sitting in Jazz Technique(DB) - I wonder if people think that Simandl or Rabbath is better suited to Jazz - obviously both were designed with Classical in mind - or is there no difference, as far as you have noticed?

    I mean, I know that most of the Jazz greats were probably growing up with Simandl or were self-taught - but that's a matter of history. If we're talking about somebody starting now who wants to play Jazz - which method would you think is best suited?
  14. Hey everyone,

    Just thought I'd chime in. I've done a lot of reading up on this technique and I don't really feel that it will be that helpful to me on the fretless. My curiosity about this method peaked after I read an article from Esperanza Spalding where the Rabbath system helped her transition from DB to fretless. It got me thinking that it could be beneficial to me as well, but I don't think it will. I have some exercises from the Vade Mecum book and from users on here to improve my intonation, which is what I wanted initially. My intonation is improving and the 1234 method seems to be the best right now. I am still somewhat debating 124 in the very low positions but I think I'm just going to develop both and use either/or when it feels right.

    Thanks a lot everyone,

    darqmatter likes this.
  15. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz

    124 is vastly superior in lower positions on ebass for groove playing unless you have hands like a Sasquatch.

    Les- physical positions plus years with the bow make the upright much easier to play in tune. Plenty of people play notes out in jazz on the uptight but the nature of the instrument makes these notes far less obvious than on the upright. Worthy of note- very very few including the great deified one played true improvisation on the feet less successfully. There's no established pedagogy and the lack of bow equivalent makes intonation highly suspect for the VAST majority of people who play the instrument. Of course, everyone here is one of the exceptions... :)
  16. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    IME (Simandl player who added Rabbath) the Rabbath concepts make for nice fluid soloing and Simandl results in nice, strong, in-tune bass lines. So, I use both FWIW.
    darqmatter likes this.
  17. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Again I don't agree. Talking from own experience coming from the fretted bass I played in tune on the fretless bass after only a very short time. Not to say I am a genius but it felt very natural for me. Whereas on double bass it took some years and I am still practicing on intonation everyday.

    I am a big fan of: Jaco, Mick Karn, Percy Jones, John Giblin, Kai Eckhardt, Pino P. Just to new a few great fretless players.
  18. I don't know if I agree with all of this. I'm not a DB player so I very well may not know what I'm talking about, but, the "lack of bow" argument for intonation doesn't hold much ground to me. I always thought the reason that playing arco helped with intonation so much over picking is that, when the bass is bowed, the notes sustain much longer and are maybe even clearer to hear, whereas when a bass is played pizz, the notes have very short sustain and it is more difficult to properly hear if they are in tune or not. There could very well be other reasons for this, this is simply my understanding, a non-DB player.

    On an electric solid body fretless bass guitar, the sustain is so much higher. I could play a note and let it ring for a whole measure. It is so much clearer to me, as the highs and mids can be more present, making it easier to determine if a fretless is out of tune as opposed to a DB.

    I do agree that the lack of an established pedagogy is an issue, hence why I was looking at other methods, and I do feel that is is easier for fretless players to be out of tune on the initial attack then it is for DB players, but I feel that it may be easier for the fretless players to slide into pitch. Plus, I actually love how this sounds. It's what attracted me to fretless basses in a first place. If I wanted the note to be perfectly in tune from the get-go 100% of the time, I would simply play a fretted bass. Granted, I do want to be able to get the note perfectly on pitch 100% of the time, and slide into pitch when I want to artistically, but if I don't I'm not too upset, because it still sounds good to me. Would be a bit a different if it happened every note though, LOL.

    Again though, I'm not a DB player, so my view is clearly one-sided but I hope at least a bit accurate.
  19. Chris Symer

    Chris Symer

    Dec 13, 2009
    It's not just the length of the note when playing arco on the DB that makes a difference, but the increased harmonic content that is generated with the bow that helps to clear up intonation. Shifting is also brought into focus when playing multiple notes on one bow. Yes, you can still play out of tune even when you practice with a bow, just as you can learn to play with very good pitch without one, but IME the bow makes most technical issues easier to identify.
    Depending on how a DB is set up at any given moment you can also generate quite a lot of sustain on pizz notes. It is not the sound that I really prefer at this time, but I can easily have my bass sound like a giant frettless when amplified and have plenty of mids and highs if I wish. Refining your ear to the point that you can hear pitch clearly and accurately when playing a dark sounding bass with relatively short sustain is not easy, but to many of us is worth the effort. Playing in a section and blending your sound with everyone else while still hearing enough of yourself to play in tune works wonders for some perspective on that. And there are hundreds of orchestral players that do that daily.
    Finally, although at this point I don't play nearly as much fretless as I used to, at one point I did play quite a bit and again IME, I always found DB easier to play in tune than the slab.
  20. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz

    We're all different. I went cello- guitar- ebass- upright, and from my own professional experience playing and teaching, the upright is a lot easier to get pitch solid on. Again, this IMHO is due to lack of bow, lack of standardized pedagogy, and the tonal differences between the two... A big midrange-y fless reveals pitch discrepancies much clearer than gut on an old Kay.

    FWIW, I have a similar list of fretless players, but also include Alain Caron. His pitch on the fless can be a little squirly, but it's so pretty, and he is blowing bop, so we should all be forgiving. :)

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