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Slippin' and slidin' in thumb position

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Aaron Saunders, Oct 10, 2005.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Okay, I can find my way into thumb position with little trouble at all now. I can even go up and down a few notes in tune. Given time, I can even reach the high D on the G string. The problem is that if I spend any amount of time up there, I find myself slipping and sliding ever so slightly that *BAM* -- my F# is suddenly ever so audibly out of tune when it was spot-on 3 notes ago.

    Are there any specific exercises I can do to prevent this and get more used to thumb position? I have the Simandl 1 and Evolving Bassist books, so if there's any specific exercises from those that y'all might favour, I could try them...or do I just need to keep doing my scales and arpeggios up there until I get more used to playing high?
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Play up there a lot and let your ear guide you. If your hand is awkward up there it'll distract you from the music, which is what 'play up there a lot' is all about.

    If you don't have perfect pitch (like me), a series of small mistakes in pitch will have you wandering off into another key. This happens anywhere on the neck, btw, if you don't have references (like open strings or a band) to help keep you in tow. The best thing to do is to strengthen your ears. Practice your intervals, etc, etc. Fun ways to do this is to sing things when you're away from the bass, find intervals in random noises that you encounter (phone rings, ice cream truck songs, birds singing, ...). Sit at the piano a lot and make sure that you're hearing things right.

    I tend to have days where I just hear things flat. On such days I have to spend some energery on 'hearing things bright' to keep myself in line. Noting your own tendencies can also help.
  3. Yeah, I tend to hear things sharp. I can detect a small shift flat but not as small a shift sharp.

    I started thumb for the first time this year (my third year). My teacher lead me into it with very specifically fingered two or three octave major triad arpeggios. These were very easy to hear in tune and to check against previous octaves.

    Once these "mile posts" were in place, filling in the rest of the notes in the two or three octave scales was easy.

    Then he gave me a few easy pop melodies to play up there -the kind that you already have accurately imprinted in your brain. This made it very easy to tell if you were slipping out of tune.

    It is important to remember that you always have the octave harmonics to check yourself with. More important to keep in mind is that if your thumb is on the octave (say D on the D string) then your third or "ring" finger can pick out the "perfect fourth" or G. If you are developing good technique, this will of course match the G octave (on the G string), which you can easily check, because it is still under your thumb.
  4. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Thanks for the advice, guys. I've been having a bit more success tonight -- I've even got my 1 octave, all-TP C major scale sounding decent and at a reasonable clip.
  5. paulunger

    paulunger Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2002
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Get "A Simplified Higher Technique" by Francesco Petracchi. It helped solve all my problems.
  6. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    I always try and throw in an open string or harmonic every now and again while practicing up there. it provides a reference point, and also makes sure that you really know what you're doing.
  7. Charles Shores

    Charles Shores Commercial User

    Jul 26, 2005
    make sure your armpit is firmly touching the bass and supporting it, this will make thumb position more solid for you.
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    This should be arriving pretty soon.

    I've been practicing TP a lot in the last month, focusing on arco for the last few days. It's gotten a lot better.

    Charles, I was looking at a few shots of me playing and thought "You know, I think my bass sits a little low." The concept of having my armpit touch the bass at all seems foreign enough to me that I KNOW I have my bass too low!

    EDIT: Report from the 'shed. I put the bass up another notch on the endpin (maybe 2 inches?) and TP is WAY more solid. Thanks Charles!