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Reference Points for Intonation

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by David Abrams, Jul 22, 2003.


  1. What are the "reference points" in order to hit the correct notes in double bass technique? Of course, I realize that first you have to get the open strings in tune, and then you have the natural harmonics of the 4th, 5th, and octave intervals and the help of placing the thumb in the crook of the neck for that position.

    I heard that Edgar Meyer had little metal circles installed in the neck of his bass to help him from playing sharp in the upper register. However, the contract I have for the bass I am renting forbids placing any tape on the bass. Since the double bass strings are so long and the instrument has no frets, what other ideas do people here have in order to have reference points for good intonation?
     
  2. http://www.urbbob.com/gale.html

    It will give you a Ballpark idea. I dont anything helps as much as Scales over and over and over and....well you get the idea. I got this from All Hail Bobs site.

    Dave
     
  3. If I'm getting ready for an entrance in half or first position, I always touch the nut with my index finger first as a reference. I don't need to do it, but I think at this point its an ingrained behavior.

    I think it's been addressed in another thread, but Meyer's neck dots mark the position of the harmonics rather than the stopped notes.
     
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    When I have to jump to some place in the middle of the neck, I'll often use the inside of my forearm or wrist as a reference against the heel. Having said that, I firmly believe that maintaining a consistent position of holding the bass - whether standing or seated - is probably the best reference of all. It's amazing how closely the human body can judge distance even from the lower extremities up to the hands. Ever see Marcus Roberts play the piano?
     
  5. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    here you go..

    how about 1st position, shouldn't be too hard, you can check fifths across open strings, d to a c to g etc, across all stings.

    from c to d on the g string, I'll go with chris on letting your palm hit the crook in the neck ( which can usually be used to get a d out, regardless of the e-flat or d neck and whatever it is you think you have.

    then your thumb in that crook, you can get d with your first finger, e with 4th, pivoting up to g with third finger, and beyond depending on hand size.

    then your octave harmonic can be the reference for your 1st thumb position up to d if you open up your hand, but also 1st finger a 2 b 3 c, getting half steps off of those.

    then your d harmonic will get the rest, similar method, if you want to compress things, you can use the thumb on the next g harmonic, especially when playing harmonic passages.


    Once you get a real solid base in these reference points, then you can relate other seemingly unrelated things to them and the whole thing gets a lot easier to understand. basically 5 positions gets you to the end of your fingerboard.

    Thank you Mr. Rabbath
     
  6. imo, the biggest key to intonation has to do with listening and hearing intervals and feeling vibrations. I've spent quite a bit of time reading, singing and playing intervals, and have found that it helps a lot. Also, try working on pitch exercises, trying to be able to sing various pitches in tune without a reference. One thing that helped both of these quite a bit was a class I took about sight singing and ear training. Basically they teach you to pick up a piece of music and sing it without any reference or accompaniment.I think also that after a certain amount of time playing a particular instrument you get to know where the notes are in relation to each other, and also how the instrument feels when notes are in tune.
     
  7. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    yes of course you have to hear that your intonation is wrong, at which point you are late and have to slide to the correct pitch. You need to feel where these things are, and while hearing is of utmost importantance, so is your kinesthetic sense of where the notes are.

    In other words, you have to hear well enough to get it in tune, and then feel what it feels like to be in tune, and remember that. sliding into notes is not always a good option. While both are important, I feel the kinesthetic approach is perhaps more accurate to begin the note in tune, where listening is more accurate in ending the note in tune....
     
  8. Regarding what you are saying, Alex, about kinesthetic feeling where the notes are, I am wondering why Edgar Meyer would have those little metal circles installed in the fingerboard of his 4 string bass. He said in a magazine interview that he did it, because he occasionally plays notes too sharp in the upper register when he gets excited.

    It looks like the metal circles are placed at the location of the main harmonics on the string, which means that they are at Rabbath's six main positions. Since he is probably not really "looking" at the fingerboard, I guess he is using the feel of these metal circles to help him as a reference point for the notes. Since the thumb in the crook of the neck has a long history as a kinesthetic reference point in bass playing, I am wondering if it might be helpful to put a little round metal circle on the back of the neck, for example to help you find the thumb position for the position where the index finger would play "C" on the "G" string?
     
  9. Practice, practice, practice, and more practice.....
     
  10. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Really, you can do whatever you want...put frets on, put dots on the fingerboard to show where the in-tune notes are, install a Schick Center style shocking device to let you know when you're playing out of tune, etc.

    You're still going to have to practice and let your body eventually figure out how to deliver what you're looking for here, just like Edgar Meyer had to.
     
  11. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    shock therapy...hmm....good idea
     
  12. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Eventually one gets faster and faster at sliding to the correct pitch, the essence of intonation. :D The more you play and the more you focus on your intonation the more your muscle memory and your ear develops allowing you to play in tune more often than not. I find it easier to play in tune when I'm playing with other instruments or if I have a crystal clear hearing of what I'm supposed to be playing.
     
  13. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Ouch...watch that vibrato!
     
  14. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Well, Phil I think you need to put your finger down close enough so that when you make your micro adjustment it is not noticeable, don't want any fast glissandos anywhere in my playing.
     
  15. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Double-bass: Manually-operated variable pitch-approximator
     
  16. I can hear the introduction on the stand:

    "Ladies and Gentlemen, on bass, the Inadvertent Microtonalist with the Manually-operated variable pitch-approximator, Samuel."

    ...followed by the sound of polite applause and much head-scratching.
     
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Guys, if you continue being silly in a technique thread, you run the risk of alienating BOBROBERTS and BAMBI. Are you willing to take that risk? Be warned that a hefty 6.3% of DBers polled don't appreciate sillines.
     
  18. They're just jealous 'cuz the voices are talking to me and not them.
     
  19. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I thought that was what I said. When we're playing in tune, we're doing a lot of fast glisaandos, so fast, they're imperceptible to all but the most highly trained ears. :D