Standing to the side or behind

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Slaphound, Jul 8, 2016.


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  1. Slaphound

    Slaphound Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    Staten Island, NY
    Hi Folks.
    I hope I'm in the right forum.

    I've been playing the upright for about 2 years now and I mostly play rockabilly, western swing and blues. A lot of slapping. I have become accustomed to standing to the side of the bass standing up and its been working well.
    Now recently, I've immersed myself in jazz and walking bass lines. Well, mostly I've used a 'baseball bat' grip while playing but for the walking lines, I try to use a more traditional grip. The claw?. The thumb behind the neck and fingertips on the strings. But then my wrist started to hurt. Too much of a curve? I thought so. So after digging into some youtube videos, I noticed that most Jazz players play with the bass leaned into them and the bass turned out towards the audience a little bit. Feels more comfy on the wrist but also a new way to hold it and, to be honest, somehow not so comfy. I think for the most part its just that I am not used to it. My question is this.... Is there a right and wrong way to hold the double bass or is it a matter of personal taste? Right now for me, it is a matter of what style I'm playing that will dictate the position.

    Is this correct.
     
  2. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Inactive

    Nov 20, 2000
    Harrison Mills
    Try to achieve a mechanically sound approach but there's no one right way get there. Youtube is a valuable resource. Start by watching players whose sound you like but also do a general survey of great players. A few names I can think of who hold the bass a variety of ways that work are Ron Carter, Red Mitchell, Michael Moore, Renaud Garcia-Fons.

    Once you start to see what looks efficient in other players a mirror will tell you what you're doing.
     
    Steven Ayres likes this.
  3. I stand to the side of the bass to slap, and either directly behind or 45 degrees off axis for everything else. The change in arco response is remarkable.

    Wrist pain using the claw grip on a skinny Kay or Engel neck is a common complaint. A collapsed left hand on those little necks is an excellent way to develop tendonitis.
     
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  4. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    And while the thumb in curved behind the neck, you shouldn't be using your hand to clamp down and create the pitch, that needs to be more a matter of arm weight. This can cause the cramping you're describing and it's also a case for not being too far behind the bass, let gravity do some of the work.

    If you're getting more serious and sophisticated about playing, it's worth at least a lesson or two for things like this.
     
  5. Remyd

    Remyd

    Apr 2, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    So, there are lots of ways to hold the thing. I second the suggestion to look on youtube, but there are factors to consider (genre/arco/thumb position/seated/standing/slap/stage antics/etc).

    I worry about repetitive stress injury using the club grip due to the strange angle in the left wrist and the drag against the neck, so I try to avoid it. I find that my intonation goes to pot and the clarity and punch of my notes past a certain point go flabby. It also slows me down in shifts due to the big change between the upper, transition, and thumb positions and limits dexterity even in the lower part of the neck. IMO, it also damps the vibration through the ribs 'cause you're leaning against them, but I don't know if that really changes the sound or if it's just a perception. I find myself (rarely) switching to this position to play easy lines at the end of a long night when my hand is really tired (as long as there's nothing higher than a D). Every time I see someone working like this, my long deceased first bass teacher says "NO NO NO!!!" It also looks funny.

    Classical education teaches kids to hold the claw by having them hold a can for extended periods so they can have muscle memory for the proper hand shape. It's really important for good timbre and intonation on the smaller classical strings and address of higher positions for arco playing. Fiddle players use much the same hand shape adjusted for the size/weight of the instrument. If there's a "right" way, then that's it. But it's not the only way.

    I always (in my working americana band and sit-in jazz gigs) use what you describe as jazz (and I think of as classical or stand-behind-the-corner) mechanics, even when slapping. That allows you to use the weight of your arm and the pull of gravity to address the strings as well as keeps an ergonomic position. Leaning the bass into my body allows for a good range of movement (important because I'm a fairly animated player) and allows for a pivot against your torso to support some of the weight of the instrument. It also allows for a good shoulder angle for the right hand to take advantage of the weight of that arm especially on G string passages. Also for addressing thumb position allowing for easier access to higher sections of the board without having to make a major change in the position of your body, which can take a ton of time and destroy the groove. The back corner of my bass has the finish worn almost completely off the wood.

    Here's a good explanation from a jazz guy, although I set my height an inch lower than he does for reasons.

     
  6. Slaphound

    Slaphound Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    Staten Island, NY
    Yes Troy. I believe the same about lessons. Thanks.

    Sheriff. I'm actually playing the Shen here. I think it's hurting because of such a deep bend in my wrist to reach the fingerboard

    As long as I see the more advanced players doing what I'm doing, then I'm good.
     
  7. Michael Karn

    Michael Karn

    Apr 16, 2014
    I'd be a little careful with that, their bodies are not your body, be sure to listen to yours
     
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  8. Remyd

    Remyd

    Apr 2, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    That's not good. If you're bending your wrist more than just a little bit to address the fb, you're not using good body position. There's no reason to have a "deep bend" anywhere near your wrist.


    Be careful about that - some people play with goofy techniques, and they might not match your body or playing style. Also bassists in american roots genres have bad mechanics in general, so make sure that you're testing what you see against what you feel against what you know.
     
    Youngspanion likes this.
  9. Slaphound

    Slaphound Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    Staten Island, NY
    Gents. I only meant that when I see a guy like Sheriff say that he moves from side to behind on a 45 degree angle to the bass depending on his technique, then when I'm doing it too its OK. Thats all really.
     
  10. Slaphound

    Slaphound Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    Staten Island, NY

    Now when you say 'claw grip'. Is that just with the thumb behind the neck and the fingertips on the strings?

    Isn't it the same for a bass guitar. In other words, a bass guitar has a skinny neck and we are taught to place the thumb behind. It doesn't cause pain or tendonitis. I'm just trying to figure out why it might be different.
     
  11. You're hearing me correctly, and it's different because it's a totally different instrument that happens to play the same notes.
     
    Remyd likes this.
  12. You need a teacher, stat. Take at least one lesson. YouTube videos don't watch you play and give you feedback.
     
  13. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Because

    a) You're not supporting the weight of the bass guitar with the same hand that you are making music with (strap does that) and

    b) The frets on your bass guitar do most of the work of supplying clean pitch, whereas your hands have to do it themselves on DB and

    c) Strings on electric instruments do not require the inertia to produce sound that the strings on acoustic instruments do.
     
    KUNGfuSHERIFF likes this.
  14. You'll be amazed what you can learn from just 10 minutes in front of a pro teacher. Your playing will go to a new level.
     
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  15. Slaphound

    Slaphound Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    Staten Island, NY
    OK....Gotta find one now.
    I might need help finding a 'good' teacher.
    Where do I find a good teacher?
     
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  16. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Inactive

    Nov 20, 2000
    Harrison Mills
    Hint: It's a 25 minute ferry ride from Staten Island.
     
    Youngspanion likes this.
  17. Hit me up. I'll ask a few friends in Manhattan who play roots, if you want. They're professionals so it'll cost you a few bucks. But it will be worth it.
     
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  18. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    @Ed Fuqua might know someone in Staten Island
     
    Jeff Bonny likes this.
  19. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    And, (on most basses/ for most body-types), attempting to play with a bow, (either sitting OR standing, either French OR especially German bow), will require that you abandon the "standing to the side..." approach, and position yourself more "behind" the bass, to enable the bow to travel freely from Frog to Tip without hitting the player's thigh - especially when bowing the E string.
    And, I believe that the "standing to the side" (Hillbilly, or HeeHaw style?), stance does complicate/aggravate the WHOLE Left Hand/Wrist/Elbow/Shoulder system, (as you, OP, correctly diagnosed.)
    ("BR-549" - Yeah...I've watched HeeHaw.)
     
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    There are a lot of different ways to hold the bass, and given that I know a lot of great pro players who hold the bass in a number of different ways, I wouldn't call any of them "right" or "wrong". As it happens, I'm currently working on a video project where I filmed a bunch of pro players - including Rufus Reid, Lynn Seaton, John Goldsby, David Friesen, and Sidney King - showing how they hold the bass and what they like about their stance in little 5-10 minute segments. The filming on that project is done and the project is in the editing stage; it should be up in a week or so at the most.

    What I found most interesting about filming the project is that there really is no one perfect way to hold the bass for everyone. Each player is a master in their own way, each has their own sound and concept and body type, and each has found a way to make their posture work for them. I have learned a ton from watching these players over the years, and stolen at least a little from each of them in this regard.

    One thing I think is important, though, is to understand the goals you are after when trying out different postures with the bass. I wrote an article about this subject a year or so ago that can be found here. Hope this helps!
     
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