Simandl Etude #1 (from 30 Etudes)

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Garagiste, Sep 9, 2020.

  1. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    I’m trying to avoid playing open G whenever possible. And when I do have to play it, I’m trying to play as close to the fingerboard (and as far from the bridge) as possible. I’m also still having trouble with clean string crossings.

    Dropbox - Simandl Etude 1_9.09.20.MOV - Simplify your life
    kwd likes this.
  2. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Overall, I think you're doing very well. Your bow positioning between bridge an fingerboard seems appropriate for the volume and tone you're producing, if not always perfectly consistent, so I wouldn't worry about some pre-conceived notion of where to play. If I may, my biggest suggestion would be to work on making your right hand more mobile. Right now it's locked onto the bow with no flexibility, and THAT will certainly affect bow changes and string crossing. It will also help you to keep a consistent distance off the fingerboard,especially when you play on the G. Bend your fingers so they are curved and cradling the bow. I'd be happy to show you via Zoom.

    If it's any consolation, I've been playing for 55 years and am always working on clean string crossings. Nature of the beast.
  3. Neil
    Of course I don’t know why the op does it, but I can relate- the open g can really stick out of everything else you play, I’ve had some teachers in the past that told me to avoid it as well. IMO it’s rather hard to play the open g in a volume and with a colour that balances with the rest of a melody. I tend to only use it in faster passages.

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  4. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Overall I think you have nice tone, but you really appear to be tormenting yourself.

    My suggestion is look at your face and nonverbals and consider how much tension and self judgement you are bringing to your playing. IMHO, These are things you must learn to free yourself from as they sap you of energy and focus. Clenching the jaw, shaking the head, and thinking negative thoughts does not help you make beautiful music. In fact, you can literally see the anticipation of some of your mistakes before they happen. The tension comes over you and then the mistake happens. To help overcome this, perhaps you could break down the problem areas into smaller bits, slow them down, and play them in until they become easy and automatic.

    Also before starting a problem section, and occasionally between repetitions, take some time to visualize playing with a positive outcome. Imagine the voice of your instrument and the sounds being drawn effortlessly from it. You may want to practice playing long tones to get the idea...breath and be one with the instrument. You can also hum or sing through a section if you can't hear it in your mind, but the main idea is to try and think about how it feels to move your fingers and interact with the bass while imagining or humming the notes.

    Visualization should help you form a link between the notes on the page, muscle memory, and the resultant sounds emanating from your instrument. The goal is to simply "do" rather than thinking about playing so much. Visualization is also believed to build confidence. It's sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you expect a positive outcome, it is more likely to occur, and if you expect a negative outcome...well you get the idea (Oops :banghead:!).

    The way I like to work out music is to identify problem areas for focused study. Then I will work through each problem area for an extended time until I start to hit the wall. Before I get too frustrated and tense, I move on to the next problem area. Eventually I work through all of the problem areas and go back and start cycling through each section a second time. You can work through the sections in the same order or mix them up if you like. Eventually you will feel you have mastered some of the areas, so you can set them aside and continue cycling through the other areas that still need work.

    Each time you start an area, drop the tempo down so you can focus on playing properly. You will repeat this section of music several time before you move on. As you become more proficient, you should be able to increase the tempo a little each time you play through it. Sometimes you may bump the tempo to far, which can cause you to stumble and have a setback. That's okay. Knock the tempo back a few clicks and keep working. If you can work it up a little faster on this cycle, great. If you start to get too frustrated, let it go and move on to the next section.

    I usually move to the next practice area when I start to get frustrated or can't increase the tempo any further. When I come back to a section, I have to drop the tempo down a bit from where I last left it, but the tempo is usually higher than it was when I started the section on the previous cycle.

    The goal is to play in tune, with proper intonation, dynamics, and phrasing at a tempo that is slightly faster than required. Once this is achieved you can consider the section mastered for the day and drop it out of your cycle. You may not master all areas in one session. When you start to become fatigued or lose focus overall, it's time to take a break.

    As an observation, you are not using any dynamic shaping with this etude. Perhaps it would be helpful to have your instructor write in some dynamic shaping for you. The idea is to make music even when playing an etude, which should make the experience more enjoyable.

    To work on intonation, it can be helpful to use a tuner that has a tone generator. You may want to discuss this with your instructor as not everyone agrees with this idea. I think my favorite is to set the tone to the fifth of the key I am playing in. My second favorite is to set the tone to the tonic. It can be interesting to try with the tuner at other intervals as well. Of course, depending upon the passage you are playing, some reference tones work better than others. Playing with a fixed reference pitch does not necessarily teach you how to properly temper pitches, but it does get you in the habit of playing against another tone and adjusting, so that you are in tune.

    Just for context: Later as an advanced player, you will probably want to research and memorize some rules on tempering. Keep in mind a tuner is setup for equal temperament, but when you play upright you will have a tendency towards just intonation except when you use open strings. Essentially you can learn to intentionally play notes flat or sharp based upon how they relate to the overall harmony, and this will make the sound even sweeter.

    I hope some of these ideas are helpful and sorry if I went on too long :bag:.
    kwd, DrayMiles, jheise and 7 others like this.
  5. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Among other things: The timbre of open strings is different, the pitch is fixed and cannot be tempered to surrounding pitches, no vibrato on open strings. Still. opens strings are very useful when used with appropriate discretion and skill.
  6. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    You are not doing so badly. String crossings ARE hard.

    One of my teachers would advise you to make your right hand more curved and relaxed on the frog. The other teacher would tell you to think of each bow stroke as an arc rather than a straight line. How do I know? Because I have the same issues.
    unbrokenchain likes this.
  7. Simandl is really just about letting go and letting Simandl do the work. I would do it with both open and closed Gs. You know what happens when you finish playing it? You get to do it again! So just keep going.
    The great John Cage can really help us with Simandl:
    “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

    ― John Cage
  8. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    Very helpful, thank you! Yes, my teacher also mentioned my cradling the bow too hard and precluding any give and flexibility in my hold. Also, I just haven’t liked how the open G string sounds lately with my new strings but I’m sure it’s mostly about technique. I just need to learn how to control the volume and raspiness of my open G.
  9. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    Fantastic insights. You’re so right about the self-torment. The stress in my back is also pretty bad. Thanks for such a thoughtful response.
    Wasnex likes this.
  10. Also, Simandl is meant to be challenging to play, not interesting to hear. Therefore it isn't all that great when it is great.
    You should never judge your progress from Simandl, judge how you play the music you want to play.
    I play all the things I like to play best when I am doing Simandl daily.
  11. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    IMHO, this should not be interpreted to mean you don't strive to play Simandl musically.
  12. Not at all. You should, but you should also be able to move your focus to the various technical things it is tackling. IMO, you should have an actual solo going along side Simandl. The Vivaldi and Marcello Sonatas work well, those are going to be better served by focusing on being musical.
    One thing to remember: People will pay you to hear music. You must PAY a bass teacher to listen to Simandl!
  13. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    These two posts make this an. excellent. thread :thumbsup:
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  14. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    You should be able to play the any of the 30 Studies 1.5” from the bridge and still make it sound good. Sure, play over the board too. Use the whole bow for piano at times. And tiny bits of bow for forte. Whatever works.

    You want to sound musical. Play as if you, not Simandl, just made it up. Pay attention to dynamics and use a beautiful vibrato. Really work the bow. Play absolutely in tune. Play as if you improvised a melody. Don’t try too hard, it’s not work. It’s easy.

    The great Gary Karr has a story where he was playing scales as a youth. His grandfather, also a bassist, came over and rapped his fingers sharply. Gary’s feelings were hurt and asked ‘why did you hurt me’? He replied ‘you must play that musically’.

    Consider this approach to Simandl 30 Studies:
    Learn one in the lower position. After a while you will have it to memory. Then play it an octave higher than written. Without reading. The whole thing simply goes into thumb position. The benefits are worth it. Thumb position is actually easier than the lower positions once you are past the mechanics and perceived mental block of playing high. This works for the Bach Cello Suites too.

    You will find string crossings and open vs closed strings will be a non issue. Some of the 30 Studies are good even for an audition.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
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  15. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    ;-) Look no further than the famous Etude number 17 ...where the open strings are also a consideration..
  16. Trying "be musical" is a good trick to play on yourself when you are lacking motivation. If you need it, fine. If you can manage to work with the pure tasks of etudes you will be better served.
    A better way to look at it is to think of Simandl and those tasks as part of the craft of bass playing. Just making the notes full, in tune and focus on getting from one interval to the next.
    There is something to that as well.
    If you do some scales and Simandl in a more "matter of fact" way, then move on to a real solo, the Swan is another good one and great antidote to the other stuff.
  17. Ha ha ha ha. This is absolutely perfect!!!
  18. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    What rosin are you using?
  19. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY