Shifting: In and Out of Thumb Position

Discussion in 'Double Bass Pedagogy [DB]' started by Don Kasper, Feb 15, 2017.

  1. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    The great cellist Paul Katz, discussing this issue, which is also applicable to the double bass.
    (This poor man had to "listen to" my juries, many decades ago. He seems to have recovered, nicely.)
    Great Stuff, here.
    funkydanbass, the_Ryan, mtto and 5 others like this.
  2. Jmilitsc

    Jmilitsc Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2013
    Fairfield County, CT
    Love it, thx for the link. preparing for the shift before actually making the shift really helps. Worked on this with my teacher, really the same advice... simplifies everything really and even makes intonation more assured. For me, playing while standing I also have to add the extra motion of pre-leaning the bass back into the body a bit as you move up toward thumb position, and vice versa.
    Don Kasper likes this.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Great lesson about shifting from the core and listening to the "wisdom of the body". I also like the fact that when shifting into thumb position, they aren't shifting to the thumb but rather just getting it in position to play. There's a lot of wisdom in that.
    Zermelo and Jmilitsc like this.
  4. Another important issue is not enough bassists really take time to build a good "heel position", 123 on EFF# on the G string. If your heel position is strong not only do you get those three beautiful notes (and the 10ths against the D!), you just move your thumb to the right place going in or out of TP.

    You really want to spend the time and find out where the thumb is on the heel when the 3rd finger is on F# - also, the third finger is better than the 4th to play F#.
    Really consider that hand shape and move to it with clarity.
  5. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Well, if the notes require shifting to (landing on) the thumb, one would (simply) "shift to the thumb". The notes in the example may have been chosen to isolate and show the arrival in basic TP, (not arrival ON the thumb.)
  6. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
    You hit it, Damon. I Learned 4th on F# from Simandl; the 3rd makes more sense and I try to use it, but, under pressure on a gig, I usually go back to the trusty 4th ( muscle memory is a bitch to changer or correct-- get a teacher :) The next problem is, do I finger the G or hit the harmonic with my third finger? For many years (note I'm completely self-taught) I played the G as a harmonic or stopped with my thumb never with a finger.
  7. I use the 4th finger for G if it is the highest note, in practice for beginners I recommend the thumb to get used to finding that harmonic. As Don has noted before it is good to be able to stop notes with the thumb rather than rely on the harmonic, but the harmonic is a great sign post early on.
    gerry grable likes this.
  8. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I would say it is "essential...."
    the_Ryan and damonsmith like this.
  9. Agreed. A couple good exercises are doing one finger scales all the way up the G string from the half position to the end of the finger board and to use all five fingers including the thumb! That comes from Glenn Moore.
    Also, today I was doing pizz octaves across three strings in TP, T on A on the A string 2nd finger on A on the G, Then Bb with 1 and 3. Then moving that pattern up the fingerboard chromatically.
  10. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I wouldn't say 'better'. I think you should practice both and be fluent with each. Sometimes I use 4 sometimes 3 depending on the line. When going to TP 3 on F# is a tiny bit easier. But 4 is easier for the intonation E-F#. Also when not going to TP and having F# as the highest note 4 makes more sense.
  11. First of all the half step between F & F# is smaller than the average ring finger, so unless you are using four fingers it doesn't actually work very well. You can use the 4th finger for F# as the highest note if you don't need an F in the line, but then you have a faulty position in place so it creates a bad habit for any chromatic playing.

    It is really best to treat the heel as it's own position and include the shape you hand needs to be including the thumb. Then you have a solid working position for those notes. The highest note I can hit that maintains a full working position spanning three half steps with 124 is F.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2017
  12. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
  13. Yes, we should be able to stop all note on the bass with the thumb. Petracchi advocates a tighter, more mobile TP. He uses a chromatic T123 in a row, spanning a minor third and semi-chromatic with half step between T & 1, spanning a major third.
    Once we can move those freely we can also move diatonic positions.

    The pizz octave exercise I mention is in the chromatic position across three strings. It is not easy but helps up get a more solid position and gets us more precision with the thumb over time.
    the_Ryan and gerry grable like this.
  14. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    That might depend on hand size. Going to TP or not, I would have a difficult time using 1-4 for E-F# without being sharp on the top note.
    gerry grable likes this.
  15. Also, the "heel position" doesn't have to do with D or Eb necks except that it is slightly different on all bass. You have to figure out the hand shape for your bass to get E, F & F# with 123 and use it when you go for those notes together.
    It is an important thing to figure out quickly on a borrowed bass as well.
  16. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    FYI - for a mensure of 41.50in., the distance between that F - F#, (just below the G harmonic), is 1.307in. (or, about 1 5/16 inches), a very manageable distance for most normal-sized hands, using a "2 - 4" fingering. (Measuring the "pads", center-to-center. Yes, the hand is "compacting" at that point, not spread out as much as in the lower positions.)
    On my bass, with my hands, there is NO need to default to the 3rd finger, nor do I teach that structure. (Sorry Sasquatch!) Most beginners 3rd finger is the Runt of the Litter, and may/should gain strength over time, when used in its supporting role alongside "4", Simandl-ly Speaking.
    Just my $0.03.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2017
  17. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Because of this discussion, I experimented with my intonation between E and G on the G string. I found that I can and regularly do, use 1-4 between F and G but I could use 1-3 with a slight gap. Both work for me. Regardless, I think this is a valuable discussion for students, so thanks to you all for bringing it up.
    Jeshua likes this.
  18. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    Do you think that is string-height dependent?

    Even after fairly extensive work out of the Petracchi book I find it very hard to get a good, rich tone stopping the string with my thumb
    gerry grable likes this.
  19. Jmilitsc

    Jmilitsc Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2013
    Fairfield County, CT
    That's where a good teacher comes into play. I found it really hard to do that as well and brought it up to my teacher, who watched me play first and then corrected all sorts of bad form -- angle of the wrist, shoulder raised, etc. now with the right approach it takes much less effort and tone improves as well. He's a big proponent of the "if you're straining to do something on the bass you're doing it wrong" theory. Helps me every time. The books can't watch me play and never corrected bad form, but then again maybe I asked them the wrong questions :)
  20. Theoretically, it should be easier than the normal low position, because the weight of the arm is used even more. I don't use the angled pin but I do use the neck on my shoulder for TP, that makes a big difference.
    the_Ryan likes this.
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