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The claw and the fingertips

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by drurb, May 3, 2010.


  1. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Long ago, (longer than I care to admit :)) I was taught about the proper formation of the left-hand claw and the use of the fingertips as the "proper" technique. Of course, in the real world of playing, these things are often matters of degree and we all form our own habits and variations. I'm curious as to how many players here, in actual practice, curve the fingers of the left hand such that when a note is stopped, the higher strings are free to ring unimpeded. For example, when you stop the C# in first position (ala Simandl) on the A string with four fingers, are the D and G strings free to ring? That is, are the fingers of your left hand touching those strings?
     
  2. tomshepp

    tomshepp Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2006
    Maynard MA
    I checked to be sure and yes, the other strings are free to vibrate. You can see them vibrate sympathetically on different notes as well. A good example is if you bow first line G on the fourth string, the open G will vibrate quite a bit. I know everyone is aware of this but thought I'd mention it anyway.:)

    Now I wonder if the approach is different for pizz. I know when I play BG, I'm very conscience of "extra" or unwanted notes sounding. Muting becomes a two handed effort.
     
  3. Hey, Doc....I'm a firm believer in that "arch" where the one note you're stopping is free to ring clear and also giving free reign for the other strings to vibrate freely, as well. I use a large amount of sustain in my playing (more less ala Red Mitchell with or without the amp). Although, I do mute some open strings at times for specific reasons.
    Then you have guys like Charlie Haden with gut strings and odd ball left hand technique who pull "their" sound out of almost any bass and sound great. (don't tell Dono :eek: ).
    Bottom line, whatever works for the player. IMO.
     
  4. Yep the claw hand formation with the fingertips stopping the notes is how I was taught. There are times I'll flatten a finger a bit to stop a note for growl or sustain but not enough to impede any of the other strings. There are also times when I will intentionally mute other strings with the left hand. However, for the most part, it's claw and fingertips.
     
  5. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    I use my left hand 1st finger to touch the D and G string lightly when playing on the A string. I keep the fingertips curved though. So I use the 1st finger to mute the open strings. Otherwise you will get a lot of unwanted harmonics.

    On electric bass you have to do it because you mostly play on higher volumes and an electric bass has more (higher)harmonics then a DB. But on DB I use the same approach as far as the muting of open strings is concerned.
     
  6. Plus, the claw is probably the most efficient way to stop a string without using unnecessary force, I think.
     
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Thanks to all those who replied so far. Indeed, I have always used the claw but noticed that it is often relaxed slightly so that my fingers would be touching the higher strings. If one wants to play double stops then, of course, there are many times the fingers must clear those upper strings. I hope the comments keep coming. :)
     
  8. Chris K

    Chris K

    May 3, 2009
    Gorinchem,The Netherlands
    Partner: Otentic Guitars
    Same here - on fretless, IMO, the inside fingerpads are just too soft to get a good tone. With fingertips it is easier to correct intonation. Generally, control is better.
     
  9. Chris Symer

    Chris Symer

    Dec 13, 2009
    Seattle,Wa.
    Most likely due to a lot of orchestral playing early on, I have a left hand that looks pretty good as far as technique- fingers curved, wrist straight, elbow up, shoulder relaxed. I'm sure it all has to due with playing in a section and sounding awful. I just didn't want the audience (or conducter) to be able to look at the basses and say "It's probably that one", so I tried to at least look like I knew what I was doing. I wish it would have worked out the same for my bow hand, that poor thing is still a wreck.
     
  10. An interesting question to also ask if your technique changes when your bass is amplified to a loud enough level where freely vibrating open strings create feedback very quickly.
     
  11. Absolutely. It's absolutely necessary to be able to call that up when you need it. When you need it is subjective.
     
  12. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    I guess I am kind of a dork about 'proper' technique but there just seems to be too many marks in favor, many of which are mentioned above, to no to. Also, if you are often playing 4+ hour jobs with some frequency conditioning and muscle tone are really important. Also a looseness in your arm and body. For me playing with the 'claw' encourages making sure my wrist isn't contorted and my elbow is up. It also assures some consistency in your approach.
     
  13. I wrote this before I started practicing and then realized, I do this all the time without thinking. I can easily play on the E string and pluck the rest of the open strings. It's not just about the party trick of it, or even the necessity in some pieces of music, it's about intonation and sound. You will get the most consistent, controllable sound and intonation by using the proper technique. Plus you get much less hand fatigue though at first that might not be so apparent.
     
  14. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Thanks again-- I, for one, certainly don't need to be convinced about proper technique. I've been a claw guy from the start. I should have made it clearer that I was asking a question about a matter of degree. Maybe you'll indulge me a bit more detail in my question. Suppose we go back to the example I gave where you are fingering the low C# on the A string with four fingers. Leave all four fingers down and pizz. the D. Does that pinky finger completely clear the D? Well, mine really doesn't. First two fingers-- sure-- but not that fourth one. I suppose it interacts with string height too. My E is about 10 mm off the board and the G is 6+ mm. BTW, what got me onto all this was double stops. Again, thanks for all the responses. :)
     
  15. So, I'm a visitor from the orchestral side. FWIW, I use the claw hand shape, but my hands are small enough that most of the time the higher strings under my fingers are not free to vibrate. Which makes some double-stops (Bach!) quite hard... I'm forced to use not quite claw technique if I have to double-stop certain intervals.
     
  16. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    sorry for quoting myself. But I would like to add that I do this with the tradition Simandl/classical hand position. I think you have to use the open string left hand muting to some extent to prevent your lines from getting messy. I do it consciously though not because of improper technique or small hands.

    I am not sure what you mean by 'the claw'. But I think those are two different things. Do you use the word claw for the more collapsed fingering instead of the Simandl curved fingertips?
     
  17. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    No, the "claw" is the classic "curved finger" method consistent with Simandl and many others. I was raised on Simandl as a classical player. ;)
     
  18. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    I claw with a touch of damping on the adjacent string sometimes. Maybe call that a relaxed claw? Fingers shaped more like ( as opposed to C.
     
  19. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Aha! Yes, that's what I meant by "relaxed slightly." Thank you! At least for my hand and my string heights, there's no physical way to get that fourth finger in the shape of a "C" in the lower positions of the lower strings.
     
  20. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Yes, that is what I meant and do too. I Like the name 'relaxed claw'!
     

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