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Right Hand Pizzicato Technique

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by David Abrams, Feb 28, 2003.


  1. I am trying to play pizzicato melodic passages with a consistently full sustaining and beautiful or bouncy, joyfully swinging tone and, occasionally, I hit the string. which produces an unpleasant, metallic sound, as you get when you slap the string intentionally. I rarely have the problem on the two highest strings, but more often on the two lowest strings. Do I need to change the angle of my fingers pulling the string? Should I raise the height of the strings? What do you suggest?
     
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    You could do either or both of those things, depending on your own technique and the setup of your bass. I've always found that it's best to get as consistent a pizz stroke on the top three strings as possible, and then deal with the E string the best you can givin the limitations of your instrument and setup. I get the most consistent results by using as much meat of the index and/or middle fingers as I can get on the string, and by making sure that my fingers pluck the string in a way that lets it vibrate parallel to the fingerboard instead of up and down to it (which causes that "Slapping" sound). The easiest way I know of to get this angle of vibration is to make sure that my plucking finger touches the fingerboard before and after plucking the string, so that the string getting set into motion seems like a coincidental afterthought of the motion of dragging your finger across the fingerboard without lifitng it - as if the string got in the way and your finger just ran over it. (hope that made sense)

    At any rate, I feel that plucking this way keeps a good angle of attack on the string, as the curve of the fingerboard acts as a guide for the angle of your right hand and arm.
     
  3. DURRL,
    I would consider my plucking techique as near as yours as it may be possible, only I have not invented any means to describe it until this.

    Sure it works pretty well with your barb wire, as it does on my chops and bass.
    Try using the same plucking technique with real gut, the action set up to 0,5' - 1'. `cause it´s fun...
    the string getting set into motion seems like a coincidental afterthought of the motion of dragging a truck across the fingerboard without lifiting it - as if the string got in the way and your truck just ran over it.

    :D

    R2D2

    PS. Just had an experience out of this,
    check Strings: Velvet question
     
  4. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    I have a problem mtself with uptempo pizz on the E string, specifically quick crossing from higher strings. I don't anchor my thumb under the fingerboard except playing E; I kind of float my thumb, resting it on the E or A, which makes it hard to get any support crossing at high speed. I'm in process analyzing my technique for modification. I believe E sting pizz is a not uncommom hangup. The angle of wrist and fingers and how to support is critical. Could this be relevant to you? Your answer would help me too.
     
  5. "...making sure that my fingers pluck the string in a way that lets it vibrate parallel to the fingerboard instead of up and down to it (which causes that "Slapping" sound)" (Chris Fitzgerald).

    Thanks, Chris. That's very helpful about pulling the string, so it vibrates sideways, rather than up and down.

    "I have a problem mtself with uptempo pizz on the E string, specifically quick crossing from higher strings. I don't anchor my thumb under the fingerboard except playing E; I kind of float my thumb, resting it on the E or A, which makes it hard to get any support crossing at high speed" (Fred W).

    I find I need to anchor my thumb under the fingerboard, except for the E string, of course. I have tried the approach of plucking with the thumb held up in the air slightly above the fingers, as in classical guitar technique (called "tirando"). However, then you don't get that nice, fat, strong "ping" attack that Ray Brown and so many great jazz players get. I get the "slapping sound" when I cross strings from higher to lower and when I go for a strong accent.
     
  6. "making sure that my fingers pluck the string in a way that lets it vibrate parallel to the fingerboard instead of up and down to it (which causes that "Slapping" sound)." (Chris Fitzgerald)

    I have been trying your suggestions, which have improved my problem of occasionally getting a "metallic, slapping" sound, particularly on the two lowest strings and when I go for a strong accent. In my case, I do not think this "slapping sound" is caused by the string vibrating up and down, rather than sideways. I seem to get it by accidentally "hitting" the top of the string that makes the string hit the fingerboard, which makes the sound like a "snare drum" effect.

    Bob Hurst suggested that it's important to pluck each string with a circular motion very close to the string. So I guess from what you and Bob said, it may be a problem with the angle of my fingers pulling the string.
     
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    In my experience, the "circle" described in this example is really nothing more than the hand completing its journey through the string and setting itself up to play the next note. I practice this motion very carefully, making a larger motion at slower tempos and letting it become smaller as the tempo increases. I think it's wise to make sure your arm is in rhythm with what you're trying to play - this way, your body is helping your ear keep time and vice-versa.

    I had a lesson a couple of years back with German bassist Sigi Busch, in which we spent most of the time dealing with his concept of "micro timing". The way he described it, even the partial motions of your pizz stroke will be better executed if they are in time with the rhythm you're trying to play. So, for instance, if you're playing a walking line with swing feel, you subconciously subdivide each beat into three parts, and remain very aware of not only what your hand is doing on the beat, but also of where your hand is in the "return circle" on the other two parts of the beat. Slow practice with this concept can cure a lot of rushing problems once you find the "balance" of that part of your stroke that happens in between the notes. Again, the formula is: slower notes - bigger motion; faster notes - smaller motion....but the same basic ratio of where your hand is when remains constant.
     
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Funny you should mention this...I got to play Herman Burney's bass yesterday, and it had synthetic gut strings with action very much like you describe. I had the same experience as you describe in that thread....I had to learn to relax with the stroke or risk overpowering the string. The sound was cool and very rich, just not for me at the moment, as it also seemed less "muscular" and had less sustain than the barbed wire I'm used to.
     
  9. BUZZGARRALDO,
    cool is, indeed, the sound. But I also got the feeling it´s not really ME, when I played them.

    The reason I like to play stiff strings is they have dynamic response, which the guts, syhnthetic or real, seem to lack. With the bridge cables I´m used to, I have the whole dynamic range in my hands, starting from a very light "ping" to the level of plucking where the Velvets do not answer anymore.

    Did not notice a dramatic diffence in sustain, though. I think in sustaining the notes the left hand is more involved than right.

    R2D2
     
  10. "Did not notice a dramatic diffence in sustain, though. I think in sustaining the notes the left hand is more involved than right" (Arto Alho).

    Arto, what specifically do you recommend with left hand technique to obtain greater sustain?
     
  11. IBRAHIM:
    I was in fact trying to say that I didn´t find it harder to keep a good sustain with the Velvets as it is with the strings I use now.
    I don´t specifically recommend any "tricks" of gimmicks to obtain more sustain. It´s all about avoiding poor fingerings, having the best possible intonation, focusing the notes etc.

    You started a thread about long notes pizz Yourself, so I would suggest handling this sustain matter there. Otherwise we will have two equal threads discussing the same thing...What CRACKHOUSEKEY and GOODYEAR are telling is that the whole idea of controlling the notes is in the left hand.

    R2D2
     
  12. olivier

    olivier

    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France


    1) Agree with RATEAU, three threads on the same topic by the same author... confusing.

    2) Left hand controls tone length by cutting out when note must be over. That's left hand technique SpecialK referes to. However, the plucked note should ring long enough, and that's when set-up enters the picture. Low action and pizz strings tend to favor sustained notes. Bow strings and higher action yield thumpy notes.
     
  13. No, that's not what I was referring to. I was talking about getting the note to ring longer, louder, and sound clearer, smoother, rounder, etc..., not ending the note.
     
  14. I am finding wonderful advice on this forum regarding right hand technique, which does not seem to ever have been adequately addressed in any method book. I am new to TalkBass.Com, so I am sorry I started two other threads on this topic, rather than keeping my questions in this main thread on the subject.

    I notice that Ray Brown and many others perhaps influenced by him pluck the strings with the right hand fingers almost pointing straight down, parallel to the strings. It looks to me that Bob Hurst , Ray Drummond, and a few others have their fingers slightly bent. I am wondering if Ray Brown 's almost vertical hand and finger position is in order to have a longer amount of the side of the finger contact the string to provide a larger sound? Is this what he may be referring to in his 1963 interview below:

    Can you tell us how you pick the string?
    I wrap the first section of my index finger round the string and snap it back. Usually just the index finger, but occasionally with the second. I come from the older school, where one finger for picking was the thing. The twofinger style. has come in with the younger men.

    How hard do you pull?
    You find out what the instrument will take without killing the tone. The tone has to sing. With the left hand you apply an equal pressure to match the pull of the right hand.

    Hence, I am wondering,Chris, if you yourself play with your right hand and finger position almost vertically pointing downwards, parallel to the strings in order, as you said earlier here, to "get the most consistent results by using as much meat of the index and/or middle fingers as I can get on the string, and by making sure that my fingers pluck the string in a way that lets it vibrate parallel to the fingerboard instead of up and down to it.... The easiest way I know of to get this angle of vibration is to make sure that my plucking finger touches the fingerboard before and after plucking the string, so that the string getting set into motion seems like a coincidental afterthought of the motion of dragging your finger across the fingerboard without lifitng it - as if the string got in the way and your finger just ran over it...I feel that plucking this way keeps a good angle of attack on the string, as the curve of the fingerboard acts as a guide for the angle of your right hand and arm."
     
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Yes.
     
  16. It has. Check Ray's method and Modern Walking Bass Technique by Mike Richmond.

    Let me add that the best way to learn this is by observing with your ears and eyes.
     
  17. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    More than anything else, I've learned so much just by watching my teacher do drops, rakes and ghost notes with *two* fingers where I was trying to do it with one ...

    I ask him to play something, and then just walk around him to see from all angles how on earth he makes it sound so easy.

    Not that I can get finger #2 working properly yet, it just feels wierd and different. I've just got to practice. But I think I'm getting the idea. I would never have got that from a book.

    Does anyone else find that a low action makes the second finger harder to use because there's less to grab onto before you hit wood? Finger #1 doesn't have that problem as its parallel with the strings more or less ...
     
  18. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    I watched John Clayton on the Diana Krall in Paris video last night. He's playing a big bass and holding it almost completely upright.

    His right hand technique is quite different.

    Most of the time his right wrist appears to point slightly upwards, with his fingers bent at 90 degrees so they fall parallel with the strings. From what I can see, this way he can get much more "meat" of the second finger on the string. His fingers were flying across the strings, made me dizzy watching.

    His left hand, on the other hand (!) looked completely relaxed. Disgustingly relaxed ... why doesn't my left hand feel like that??

    Anyway he's got terrific technique, it really works.
     
  19. Regarding Mathew Tucker's last post on John Clayton's playing on the Diana Krall video/dvd in Paris, I was also interested to see that John often rests his 3rd finger of his right hand on the E string, when he's playing the D and G strings with his 1st and 2nd finger. His sound is softer and somwhat smaller than his mentor, Ray Brown, probably because he's playing higer up on the fingerboard. Ray was usually playing right at the tail end of the fingerboard. I can't tell what advantage there would be in resting the 3rd finger on the E string when playing the D and G strings, do you?
     
  20. Seppie

    Seppie

    Aug 14, 2002
    Austria, Vienna
    so now to the main thread...
    regarding the slapping sound while playing pizz...
    i love it...i love the growling snare sound...
    that´s the main reason (for now) why i play upright...
    if i get rid of them all, i could also play my paddle...:bassist:

    my two cents
    sebastian