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Simandl is Borring¿?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Samie, Apr 18, 2005.

  1. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain

    Is this method boring or is it just me? I am already playing T-postition and soloing on any standard all through the neck so when I try to practice simanld I get a mental block. All them unmusical quater notes runing up and down the staff. :crying:

    I think the main purpose of this book is just to learn the notes and then play music. I think its an aged method. Besides, once you learn to read the funky position and numbers, you can sight read must of it if you already know your notes.

    Are there alternative? Is simandl a must?
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

  3. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain

    dont know? have you used his method?
  4. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    I practice some Simandl every day, sometimes taking stuff from book one an octave up. To play something more musical (and also keep my treble-clef reading skills in shape) I'll play some random melodies out of a jazz or classical fake book every day as well.
  5. prelims222


    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    Lajos Montag's method books are a far more musically coherent approach than Simandls. I wish my first teacher had used that instead.

    Simandl is hard, tiring, and unrewarding. But if you do it right, you get a good left hand position, sometimes.
  6. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I know the Simandl method has it's critics, but I think there is a good reason that it has been the most popular bass method for well over a century. I don't think the Simandl etudes are any more "boring" than the ones I have found in other method books (actually, they are more musical than many). Each etude is designed to develop a sepcific skill before moving on to the next section and if you truly work through the first book, you will have a solid foundation for orchestral bass playing (which is Simandl's stated goal). It also has many orchestral excerpts that are still seen on audition lists. You could try Rabbath which is an interesting approach that has a lot of fans, but mosts bassists I know learned with Simandl and many bass teachers still use it. If you find it tedious you can always suppliment it with other things you find more musically rewarding, but I don't think you can go wrong by studying out of the Simandl book.

    BTW I have several old method books from around the same time that Simandl was first published (1870's) and there's no doubt that the guy was ahead of his time in his teaching philsophy. No other method from that era was as thorough as his.

    - Steve

  7. Simandl is VERY unmusical. I avoid when at all possible with my students.

    Bille is far more musical. Bille came from the Italian opera tradition, and a s such, his studies are very melodic and operatic in nature. Even the very first book is highly musical (with the exception of maybe the first small batch of studies, where players are starting from scratch).

    The Bille studies are very comprehensive - more so than Simandl - and they won't drive you to hate practicing. They cover everything , and in a very musical way.

    IMO: Simandl = anti music, Bille = pure music

    There's no reason you can't learn all the fundamentals of playing the bass AND learn music at the same time. IMO Simandl only addresses one side of the equation.

    The only thing with Bille is that you should probably change all the "3" fingerings in lower positions to "2". The antiquated Italian fingering system is hardly ever used anymore.
  8. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    My issues with Simandl:

    1. It's too mechanical. I think a beginning player can focus too much on the left hand mechanics and less on listening.

    2. It's tough on the ear. Not just the lack of musicality, but also the fact that because the approach is start in hP and progress up the neck, the beginning player is expected to hear and properly intonate semitones right out of the block. because the ear is not developed, Simandl accomplishes this with stressing mechanics like fingerspacing and shifting. (See point 1) Rabbath's (and of Rabbath, Vance's) approach of beginning ear training with more easily discerned intervals and closing them as you progress makes more sense to me as it allows the ear to develop.

    3. It really is pretty boring. The etudes are not very musical in the first place, but because the are unique to Simandl and unfamiliar, you can't really tell if you are playing them right.

    I am a big proponent of Suzuki. I think listening to recordings and/or having a familiarity of the sound you want to make is very important to progress. As a beginner, it's tough to handle Simandl without your teacher by your side at all times. It's fine during the lesson, but alone in practice, it's tough.

    All that having been said, I think spending some time with Simandl is pretty important and a basic understanding of his concepts is fundamental.

    To some extent, his method represents a common language of classical playing. If you know nothing of Simandl, it'll be tougher to communicate with other players. I run across music all the time that is marked up with positions and fingerings. While I know I can remark it, it's nice that I know enough about Simandl to interpret what is marked.

    You may be a Macintosh guy, but a basic understanding of a PC will serve you well.
  9. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Simandl is left hand, intonation training. It is sort of 'Bass Boot Camp'. If you can't play a 2 octave F or G scale in 'tune' then you still need to practice. Once your left hand becomes strong and you intonation is better, you can progress musically. Playing out of tune is no fun for anyone listening.

    There are many method books out there now. Learn them all from cover to cover and play them perfectly. Then, come out here and give your opinion!!
  10. Does it have to be extremely tedious and boring too? I really feel unmusical and boring studies are a real disincentive to good practicing. If you can enjoy your studies, you'll be more inclined to practice them.

    I also am very surprised just how many bass players have been trained by technique first, music second (or not at all). I am a strong proponent of a solid technique base, but I also start teaching music from the very beginning.

    I know dozens of technically accomplished bassists with whom I regularly work on the job, and among those, I can count on one hand the number of them that actually play musically.

    Playing in tune with a solid left hand technique and being musical are NOT mutually exclusive, and as such I think both can be taught very early on.

    Bille studies at least give the player something where they can work on phrasing almost from the start. With Simandl, you really have to dig deep to find that and even then it's not especially satisfying.

    Learning good technique is all so we can make good music in the end but learning good 'musical' phrasing is equally important to concentrate on early on so we don't forget what it is we are trying to do in the end.
  11. A few random thoughts:

    First, different strokes for different folks.
    Second, I know extremely accomplished and musical sounding bassists who came up on Simandl and feel that nothing else builds as strong a foundation even though Bille and other methods are more musical and enjoyable to work on.
    Third, one extremely accomplished bassist I studied with, Doug Mapp, once told me that the purpose of an etude is to focus on a single musical problem, eg. a specific rhythm or bowing, and that's the point of the entire etude. This recalls the notion that musical or technical problems are most efficiently addressed when isolated from the music. I suspect that holds true with method books also. Addressing one problem at a time yields better results. How could a beginner work on musicality when he can't distinguish between the sound of a Bb and B.
    Fourth, if you can make Simandl sound musical you can probably make anything sound musical.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I've been working diligently for years to get rid of (what I consider to be) bad habits that the Simandl method instills.

    Someone mentioned above about developing ears and hands before progressing to 'half steps' in beginners. This is very interesting! It adds to what I'm presently working on (chaotic fingering) in that it is a very ear-driven concept rather than physical. Cool stuff, and part of the Suzuki thing, I'm guessing. Thank you for that.
  13. I totally agree with your third point. I certainly encourage my students to isolate specific problems. So there's no reason you couldn't take a Bille study and say, "this time we'll focus on tuning", or "this time lets focus on the bowing pattern", etc, etc. This way you can actually have 5 or 6 studies in one, can you not?

    It's always easy to focus on one thing at a time, so it's a little bonus to have a nice little piece of music waiting for you at the end when you've done all the work. :)

    As for point 4 "if you can make Simandl sound musical you can probably make anything sound musical". True enough, but why make it extra difficult for beginners. That's like starting someone on the Bottesini Concerto (#2) on there first lesson and saying "if you can play all those notes, you can play any bass part". That may be true but it's going to be a pretty tough introduction to playing, don't you think?

    Without beating this too much, Simandl does cover much of the required basic technique, true enough. But IMO he doesn't back it with anything. The practical musical application is not readily apparent. Sure he has some orchestral bass parts in the back, but even that isn't the whole picture. Bille teaches us about melody almost right away so we know eventually what our orchestral parts are in support of.
  14. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    You Can't get the 'whole picture' from a single Book. First of all, I don't know who is who out here as far as age and the number of years playing the Bass. I also would like a head count of those that studied with a teacher from a Professional Orchestra and used Simandl amongst others.

    In NY, almost every teacher used Simandl as it is considered the 'bible'. Try playing the Half position exercises with some Vibrato and play it with some musical phrasing and dynamics. Notes are just notes until a Musician plays them! We also used Zimmerman's Bass duet Book, Eccles, Slama, Marcello, Storch-Harabe and several others. I have the Bille set of books as well as the Hoffmeister books from Germany. Simandl gives you the Ground to walk on. Do Not take that for granted. Bass is a life time study and we all need to go to 'Grade School' before High School. I own a stack of books about 2 feet high. When I need to get into shape, I turn to Simandl and work my way from the beginning. Try it and see how musical you can make it sound. I have seen young players taking music lessons to play Bass and skipping the Simandl position exercises only to play with very weak technique in the Orchestra. Haste makes waste once again.........
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    At the same time, the world of double bass is pretty retarded, musically, and I think that this is because of the general approach to the instrument.

    To clarify my position, I come from a heavy teaching environment and have a load of respect for the "tried 'n true" as far as methodology. I also was brought up to be (and am by nature) analytical, and so recognizing a shortcoming in the bass world pretty early on in my travels (the afore mentioned 'musical retardation') caused me a lot of thought, study and experimentation.

    My position is that Simandl and other methodologies that approach bass from a physical and muscle-memory standpoint are a tremendous disservice to students. Methodologies that teach music from a musical perspective, perhaps even through the lens of a particular instrument, are a more effective and efficient way to get where you want to go.

    I could expound on this for a while, but this isn't the place to write a book. But, to put you at my defense I would propose that you list in your mind the shortcomings that almost all bassists have (melodicism, intonation, technical freedom on the instrument) and ask yourself why this might be. See if you can find a connection with traditional 'bass' pedogogy as compared to the training that pianists, horn players and vocalists receive.
  16. I take none of the basics of technique for granted, nor do I allow any of my students to do so.

    I'd venture to say the Bille method is likely the most comprehensive of the lot. How many books in the series?...7 or 8?

    All the strong fundamental work is there in the lower positions and presented in such a way that won't bore the crap out of you . The one great thing Bille does in the second book (262) is "The School of the Bow'' which is a highly comprehensive set of bowing etudes. I don't recall seeing anything at all approaching that in Simandl.

    In short, yes Simandl has a lot of important stuff in it, but show me what it has that Bille doesn't cover and more.

    So when is the last time you heard anyone say "Gee, I love my Simandl book"? I can't recall. Most play through it because it covers basic technique fairly well. It's something that most feel they should do rather than want to do. Every last one of my students I've switched from Simandl to Bille has thanked me for it, and I don't think any one of them is taking any short cut or missing anything.

    I know almost every orchestral player on the planet has a copy of Simandl, but I feel it's more a matter of habit. You're 'supposed' to start with Simandl. I'm not so sure we need to.

    Bille covers ALL the basics AND is musical. You can always take the music out of something - I hear that every day at work, but it's way harder to squeeze out what's barely there, if at all.

    If we don't teach people good music right from the start of their playing, it's much harder to add it later. Strong fundamental technique is of the utmost importance so that one CAN play musically with no technical challenges getting in the way. But there's no use in having perfectly fantastic technique with no heart or phrasing behind it. I hear that all the time, and that is not music.

    We can have both, we really can. :)
  17. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York
    While I understand your contention regarding the Bille method, I also agree that there is a reason that the Simandl method is and has been the most popular method for a long time. The bottom line, I think, is that if you can play everything in all three Simandl books perfectly, with good intonation, and musically, you're well on your way to being a pretty good bass player.

    I don't feel that we should be searching for a single "comprehensive" method that will teach intonation, orchestral practice, solo practice, bow technique, and musicality. Most of the great teachers, and the great players for that matter, have a hybrid system of playing that draws from many sources.

    Frankly, any player that came up to me and could play everything in the Simandl books well is doing pretty darn good.
  18. I learned with Simandl as did many of the bassists I know. It was design to getting the beginning player to a functional level for orchestra playing quickly, and that IMO is what it is best at. Also, I rather like a lot of the excersises. Some of the strange modulations and chromatic passing tones and stuff are very cool and are great if you want to learn jazz. In my experience those I haver met who dis Simandl havn't really spent enough time with it or can't hack it for some reason. It is hard and frustrating for beginners, but once you get past the first few positions you're learning fast. I've spent time with Nanny and Bille as well as Rabbath, and I still think Simandl is best. A person can practically teach themselves how to play with Simandl. This is my opininion. I am a traditionalist. If you want to play music, play the cello suites, or koussevitzky, or better yet, learn the standard orchestral rep inside and out. The role of the bass is an accompaniment instrument first and foremost.

  19. Savino


    Jun 2, 2004
    So many good points here. I personally think Simandl is boring. I thought it when I started with it and I think it now. The hand positions are very limiting and inhibit graceful shifting. Like Ray, I had to spent a lot of time undoing these habits. Bille is definately more pleasing to the ear and Rabbath is the most satisfying for me. I understand that everyone has their diferent paths and can appreciate that. I think it is wise to consider all methods before settling on one. It's like putting Jesus vs. Buddha on Pay per view.
  20. Shmelbee


    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    uh...I use the 110 Sturm etudes :smug: