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The left thumb is evil...

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by basspirate777, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. basspirate777


    Mar 21, 2009
    Latrobe, Pa
    At least mine is. Then again, it could be a part of a bigger problem...

    First off, i just switched to a German grip about two months ago, tho i wasn't much of a french player to begin with. I've been playing electric for 14 years but have only had two years with the double bass. :help:

    I can't seem to get my bass to balance when playing arco and standing. This especially troubles me as I'm only on pos. IV in Simandl. It seems that shifting down is causing more problems than shifting up as well. I think that there is simply too much weight on my thumb as there is a definite pause while I shift from (for example) pos. iii/iv down to ii or something similar. Also, it seems that I can't get my bass just to stay in one spot. I will get it to a balanced position while not playing or stopping any notes, but as soon as I begin, it seems some shifting happens(naturally?). :crying:

    I do have an ample belly; I'm not jabba the hut but I'm not a skinny lad either. I've actually read some comments that a bit of a tummy supposedly helps balance while standing. Is that total misinformation?

    Anyhow, I'd appreciate any directions to threads relevant to the topic or advice. I hope this isn't a totally redundant thread, but I haven't quite found the answers I am looking for while searching.

    Thanks for reading!! :)
  2. I play sitting down, but I think your problem stems form trying to support the bass with your left hand. You should be trying to get a 'tripod' effect with your feet and the bass so that your left arm is totally free to move. Don't get into the habit of 'clampling' with your left hand. The thumb should be a guide and support but it should NOT provide ALL the resistance to your finger pressure into the strings. Think of pulling slightly into the strings with your fingers rather than gripping the kneck between your thumb and fingertips. This will help you free the left hand a bit.
    As for proper stance while standing, I'll leave that for those who stand to advise you better.
  3. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    With only two years on the DB I think you shouldn't be frustrated yet. I think it took 5 years for me to get truly comfy. You are on the right track. Just be patient.

    The other part is the DB is much more physical than the EB. That means that you need to stay in much better playing shape. If I go on vacation and am away from my bass for a week it feel weird at first and I've been playing for 15 years.
  4. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I had the same problem starting out. After learning how to play efficiently while sitting I can now play comfortably while standing. My preference is still seated especially if I have to play anything that is technically challenging.
  5. basspirate777


    Mar 21, 2009
    Latrobe, Pa
    I think these are good points. So often I am jaded by the fact that I have been playing one instrument for 14 years and the other for only two. I can't demand of myself to be able to perform at the same level on both-even if they are tuned the same way :rolleyes:. Currently, I am putting in about seven hours a week and it's definitely helping; this instrument is just extraordinarily difficult to play....but, then again, that's one of the things I like about it!

    Thanks to all for the encouragement. I think with continued help from my teacher I will find my comfy spot.
  6. ouija


    Jan 18, 2009
    Just be sure that you're not holding it up with your left hand at all; your bass should be supported by the side of your stomach slightly under your left side of your ribcage, from what I understand. If you're supporting with your left hand it can mess with your agility and ability to make quick shifts freely and the like, as well as completely screwing you over once you get up into thumb position and you won't be able to rely on your left hand for support. Or you could just sit :oops:
  7. Ask your teacher.
  8. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Two octave scale work with a drone in all keys can help that problem.
  9. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    I've been adjusting my posture because my thumb was supporting to much of the weight of the bass, making it difficult to descend from thumb position while on an up bow.

    It seems like most 'legit' players just sit to alleviate this problem, and some standing players switch to a bent endpin, which makes the bass balance so much better. I tried a bent endpin and it make the bass feel like it was rolling inward (toward my bowing/plucking hand) rather than outward, backward, and away from my body.

    Now I don't use a bent endpin, but I try to balance the bass a little like that so the thumb isn't doing so much work. You should experiment a bit with your endpin height, posture, and balance point. If you don't have access to a teacher, watch a ton of youtube videos for some ideas/options.
  10. CT DB

    CT DB

    Apr 27, 2007
    Fairfield Cty, CT
    Just don't watch the illegitimate players who have learned to play standing.
  11. Interesting -- I am about a year into DB, after 15 or 16 of electric. I made the switch to the stool about four months ago, and haven't looked back. It's an entirely different world in terms of stability, and ease of reach to the upper register. If you're to IV position in Simandl, probably time to consider sitting.

    By the way, there are two different schools of thought on the stool. Some players like a standard 29" (or 26") bar stool, with the bass balanced against the inner left thigh, with left foot up on a rung. Some like a regular chair (like from a dining room set) and play it cello-style, both feet on the floor. I think the former method is a little easier, but if you can do the cello-style seating, it's supposed to be better for your back and pelvis.
  12. mheintz


    Nov 18, 2004
    I think less about balancing the bass and more about leaning the bass into me. Notice the rather extreme angle that Edgar Meyer and Volkan Orhon lean their basses. (See, e.g., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CnhA6NIdK0) The weight of the bass is thrown onto the belly or hip. If you are focusing on balancing rather than having the bass lean into you, chances are that you can't take both arms away from the bass while you stand and have the bass not fall down. The bent endpin helps me in this regard, but, of course, it's not for everyone. Some players use the Karr method of having the bass lean into the fingers. I played this way in the past, but I prefer leaning the bass into my side. YMMV.
  13. Referring to the neck pressure on your left thumb, the bass should balance like this - if you were to let go, it should just barely start to fall.
  14. basspirate777


    Mar 21, 2009
    Latrobe, Pa
    thanks again to everyone. it seems that i'm still just getting totally used to playing while standing. the bow and i have only just become friends within the past year and the german bow for the past two months. i guess it's just natural that i will feel awkward for a minute. also, i have been taking the advice from the thread and i seem to be getting better results.

    mahler- thanks for your response especially, i was definitely thinking that the bass was to be solid as a rock with no chance of falling. i tend to take things a bit too literally. if the bass is just barely supposed to start to fall, then i am on the mark.

    cheers! :p
  15. It really isn't necessary to switch to sitting just to get the excess weight off the thumb.

    I will say from experience that it is not only possible, but fairly easy to have the bass balanced so that you can actually bow all the open strings without even touching the bass with the left hand. This is not to say that you can really play a piece this way, but it shows how little weight really needs to be on your left thumb.

    I use a normal straight end pin, I have the bass almost upright, with the back edge of the bass leaning ever so slightly on my hip, and the left knee just touching the same back edge (not the back of the plate).
  16. Use the Laszlo brick
  17. Gigel


    Mar 14, 2009
    Romania, Bucharest
    Just so I don't start a new thread.

    I've been meaning to ask a question, my stance actually feels pretty stable as in the bass balances nicely, and I don't feel the need for the left hand to hold it up almost at all, and my right hand is just about as free, but I do think there's a problem.
    The way I stand with the bass I kind of keep it stable by slightly pushing with my left knee and thigh into the back plate towards it's right side. (not the center but certainly not the edge of the plate).

    Say if I'm on a smooth floor and I don't have the rubber tip on the pin or the pin doesn't dig in whatever floor it is, the lower part of the bass slides forward.

    I can hear an audible difference when I hold it this way and when I just hold it to my side and play some open strings, as in some of the highs disappear, especially playing pizz.

    So although it's actually a pretty comfy position I'm afraid if it's not bad that I'm slightly "choking" the bass or if this is sort of normal?
    Thank you for reading the sorta long post, Mihai
  18. How tall are you, basspirate777? How big is your bass? Does it have high or dropped shoulders? Do you have much of a paunch? These are all factors that will qualify and quantify the advice given.

    Middle - aged Centrefold = the flap where your stomach folds over you belt line ( not in Playboy!!).

    You might also consider two seating positions, one for orchestral playing that does not spend much time in thumb position and the other for playing solos and developing thumb position.

    There is an old adage that goes "Why stand when you can sit?" This holds good for arco bass playing.

    More information needed.


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