Shifting Technique of D.C. Dounis via George Neikrug

Discussion in 'Double Bass Pedagogy [DB]' started by Dogfightgiggle, Jul 11, 2020.

  1. Dogfightgiggle


    Mar 4, 2020

    Great interview with cellist George Neikrug on some of the lessons learned from violin pedagogue D.C. Dounis.

    In Dounis’ first book, “The Artist’s Technique of Violin Playing” (available on IMSLP) he begins with a set of shifting exercises. As a bassist you have to appreciate that!

    Here is an excerpt from the interview related to shifting. It has been interesting to consider this and all of the technical concepts presented by Neikrug from the double bass perspective:

    TJ: What are the proper motions for shifting?

    GN: It depends. There’s a big difference between an expressive and a hidden shift.

    The expressive shift has four parts. For simplicity, let’s talk about shifting with the same finger.

    The first step is to vibrate the note before the shift.

    Next, the finger is lifted slightly so that the finger is almost a harmonic.

    Then, go to the second note with a light finger, retaining the harmonic-like contact.

    Finally, fall down on the note and vibrate.

    Of course, the goal is to combine all these steps into one integrated motion.

    Another aspect in shifting is to bend the wrist toward the next note (!!!). In going from a higher to a lower note, pull towards the next note by arching your wrist in that direction.

    When jumping, the knees are inclined in the direction that you want to go, and the degree of inclination determines the distance of the jump. If the jump didn’t go the right distance, the upward thrust and inclination of the knees are adjusted before the next attempt. A similar thing happens in shifting; how much the wrist is inclined before the shift determines how far the shift will go.

    The corollary to this is that a missed shift should never be blamed on the arrival note, the problem is in the way you leave the note before the shift.

    During the transition between the notes, the shifting finger should follow the string like a railing. The finger is in a released state, so it straightens out a little during the shift. When the second note is reached, the finger rounds a bit.

    The motion should be similar to what one does when feeling for the ripeness of a bunch of tomatoes. You feel the first tomato between your thumb and finger, release it, and then move your hand to the next tomato, and feel it in a similar manner. The key is to release both the left hand and the bow pressure, otherwise the shift sounds like an elevator.

    TJ: What does the thumb do during the shift?

    GN: It should remain limp, following behind the hand in a totally released manner.

    TJ: What should the thumb be doing ordinarily? Do you squeeze with the thumb?

    GN: No. I never squeeze my thumb because I want to press the strings down using gravity only. Dounis had me practice a lot without my thumb to reinforce this.

    The thumb should never be a master, it should be the servant to the other fingers. This is particularly important for vibrato, because the thumb can pull the other fingers off balance.

    TJ: How is a non-expressive, or “hidden,” shift done?

    GN: Let’s talk about long shifts. A good way to get the feeling for this type of shift is to jump in the air and come down on the next note, using an arc-like motion instead of a straight motion, though still lightly along the string.

    Let’s say you’re shifting from middle C on the A string to C an octave higher. Place your hand at the second C, stay there, and then without moving your arm, stretch your hand all the way back (towards the scroll), no matter how crazy it is. If you relax your hand, it will go back to the original position.

    This is the momentary intermediate position during the shift from the lower C.

    In other words, the pull towards the next note is meant to feel like a rebound towards the next note, so that the shift is a release, not an active function.
    Eef Weenink likes this.
  2. I have always admired the on-line lessons given by Paul Katz on the CelloBello Youtube site. There is so much that I picked up from his explanations and demonstrations of technique, and his inspirational manner of teaching, that is equally pertinent to the bass.
    Don Kasper likes this.

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