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setup for arco vs pizz

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by yor123, May 9, 2003.


  1. yor123

    yor123

    Mar 29, 2001
    New Orleans
    What would be the major difference between a set up for arco playing vs pizz? I purchased a German plywood bass (an Eberly ). It is about 40 years old and sounds resonalbly well when bowed. My instructor is a professional Jazz guy and he brought the bass to the luthier who set it up to play Jazz. The strings are spirocores (mediums? red windings on both ends). String height is 1/4 inch on the E at the 7th position (12th fret) and 6/32nds on the G. The fingerboard is ebony and had an abrupt angled slope along the E string. The luthier dressed the fingerboard and removed this slope. Now it has a gentle curvature with the bridge matching this curve. It is very comfortable and plays easily pizz but arco is tough. I have only worked thru page 25 on Simandl but no matter how hard I try, I can't prevent double stopping when I bow. It is especially bad when crossing from E to A or vice versa. I constantly drag the adjacent string. Of course my instructor could play a washtub with a string and make it sound good. He makes the bass sound just beautiful and thinks the set up is just fine. Nope, he does not drag the adjacent strings BUT he has been playing for 30 years. He says my tech. is fine and that I just need more practice. No doubt I need more practice, but why struggle? If a different set up would make learning easier, why not do it. I have not talked to the luthier, but it seems that if he put another bridge on it with a smaller radius, it would separate the strings vertically from each other. Too bad the bridge isn't fully adjustable like my electric.

    Any comments?
     
  2. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    there are different concepts dealing with this. I play a lot of both arco and pizz, and end up messing with things a lot.

    Here are some of the variables I have experimented with:

    bridge curve/ fingerboard curve. I have had new bridges and fingerboards put on the last two basses I have owned, and what I ended up with is a bridge that matched the fingerboard which was maybe a little more curved than what you ended up with, (just assuming) some people feel they need radically higher d and a strings than the rest of the strings, but mine kind of follow an arch across, like 5mm on the g to 8-9mm on the E, with d like 6.5, a about 7.5 mm

    after spending thousands of dollars here I then invested about $15 in Fred Zimmerman's bowing book, and did the exercises over and over, concentrating on a straight bow, which I thought was straight enough before I started. This really helped me build an awareness of how much space was between the strings, and how to move between them, I later got Hal Robinson's strokin.

    I then tried a lof of strings, corelli mediums, helicore orchestra and hybrid mediums, spirocore, just about everything I had seen bassists use for both. right now I have the helicore orch, but just because I was taking some auditions, but then I saw a really great New Orleans bassist, James Singleton, using them, (by the way, do you know him?) and I decided I will just stick with them while I focus on technical issues (or are they musical conception issues?) It is way to easy to blame equipment when you really haven't exploited what you have. I told myself just stick that money in a bank account until I can just buy another bass

    anyway, next step more technical thoughts

    try bowing in different parts of the space between the bridge and fingerboard. I find the tolerances need to be tighter the closer to the bridge. Also, the strings get farther apart, so it may be easier for you to bow there.

    also, really analyze what happens when you switch strings, see how your bow hair reacts to your movment, and how the angle of the bow changes.
    If you know what is happening, it is much easier to come up with something that works, and fix it.

    hope that helps
     
  3. yor123

    yor123

    Mar 29, 2001
    New Orleans
    Thanks much for your imput. It is interesting that you mention Singleton. I do not know him but my instructor, Bob Sunda, has mentioned his name a few times. I guess you figured out that I live in New Orleans. Bob has been here a number of years. He is amazing. How he has not become a national figure I just don't know. This cat can play anything, anywhere, anyhow. I am at a stand still with his instructing , though. He is soooo damn good that he can't even conceive what it is like to not be good and thus does not teach well at my level. As a beginner on upright, I am not skilled enough at this point to apply what he shows me and once he says something, he assumes it is forever remembered. I have stuck with him just to have a connection to the local scene and he is also a pretty nice guy once you get past his hairpin temper. I guess I am like the dog who never leaves his master even though he beats the living @#&* out of him.

    Gregg
     
  4. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    hey, understand completely, I'm not saying go study with singleton, just go see if he can answer some questions or watch, he's really great.

    do you have a way to videotape, record or take notes during your lessons, this might help you remember what to work on, I even make a list of questions for my lessons, helps keep teacher and student on topic.

    It really is better for you to learn a few basic things very well, than to try to learn everything at once, you will thank yourself later, because the next things will be easier

    good luck
     
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    There are three variables that affect arco string crossing: 1) distance between strings: the farther apart, the more seperation in crossing (duh!) 2) curvature of bridge and fingerboard: ideally the bridge provides about an extra 1mm height for each string, going high-to-low, and this matches up with the fingerboard shape, for which most good luthiers have ideal templates 3) string height: the higher the strings, the more pushing down on one string flattens the arch in the bowing area. Players with high strings need more of 1 or 2 above. Also, German bows tend to be strung looser and may require more bridge curvature. Sometimes simply tightening the bow a little can give just enough relief. Some jazz players like the fingerboard a bit flatter than is really right for arco playing. My pet peeve is set-ups where the center strings are higher than the E string. That feels and sounds horrible. All this said, I've rarely seen a fingerboard where the Romberg shelf has been planed off work perfectly...
     
  6. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    is that sometimes called a bevel, that break before the e string?

    I haven't seen one work either.

    What is the thinking there? I have heard it has to do with bowing, allowing your e string to be lower, or at least closer to the a string.

    can you explain that? thanks
     
  7. I believe that Arnold was addressing yor123's comment that the Romberg bevel had been planned (removed) from his fingerboard and he was having bowing problems. The radius of the non-flat portion of a beveled fingerboard is much larger and therefore flatter than the radius of a round board. Changing the radius of a fingerboard (while it is on the bass) is a very difficult and time consuming job for the luthier. Simply removing the bevel usually results in giving the board's playing qualities the worst of both worlds. My advice the players wishing to remove the bevel is to replace the fingerboad with one that is made round instead of trying to convert one from beveled to round. As Arnold said, planning the bevel off rarely works perfectly.

    The Romberg bevel was invented at a time when gut strings were the norm. The physical movement (side to side) of the gut string is much larger than that of a steel string. The flat surface allows for greater side to side movement without hitting against the fingerboard. Today, many player still prefer the beleved board simply because they feel they can "dig in" more on the E string while playing pizz or arco.
     
  8. yor123

    yor123

    Mar 29, 2001
    New Orleans
    Thanks for the advice, guys. Seems like my set up is probably the best it going to be. The Romberg shelf description fits perfectly with the original shape of the fingerboard. My instructor's two basses do not have this shelf and no doubt the luthier removed the one on mine to mimic his.