The String vs. The Ebony

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Maestro, Aug 20, 2004.

  1. Maestro

    Maestro banned

    May 16, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    Earlier today, err...actually yesterday now, I had a lesson. While at my lesson, I was playing a piece in Simandl piece on page 32, #7 in F Major (I think it might be the first piece of lesson #30, if that's what those numbered boxes mean). Anyway, after, I didn't feel too good about it as I missed a couple notes but more importantly played the wrong fingering in 2 spots. I knew exactly where I screwed up as I had been practicing the piece all week.

    My teacher offered me praise, claiming he's never heard any of his students play the piece as well as that...and that most of his students struggle to get from the F in the half position to the F, just before thumb position. To be fair, I had played out of Simandl some 20 years ago, but I honestly can't even remember all of which excercises I played at the time...I did practice quite a bit last week.

    My teacher got me to thinking, in my head I most often think of the note as being the physical location on the ebony vs. the position on the string. But even though I think of it in that way, up to thumb position I like to feel by instinct on where the position of my hand is in relation to the neck. IOW, I could practice that with my eyes closed and would still do the same thing, feel where I want to go and listen in case I don't hit it perfectly and adjust.

    Seems I always look at the ebony when I'm up higher in thumb position, but the rest of the neck I prefer to feel where I'm expecting to be.

    Do you guys think about the String or the Ebony when you try to perfect your intonation? I say this loosly, as I don't personally believe that any of us play 100% in tune, and that even pianos are not 100% in tune, but we all compensate and strive to make the tone as in tune as we can. Do any of you like to feel where you're at on the neck in all positions from the nut up until thumb position? Hope that makes sense...;-)
  2. I have a layout of the fingerboard mapped out in my head but don't look at it except when I have to start - generally - I can be cought out!. I sometimes try playing intervals landing on different fingers - but to try all the combinsations takes too long. What really worked for me was playing octaves down the string and then taking an odd excursion to find the rest of the notes of the same name - err always with the bow that is - I don't think it is as effective doing it piz. because:

    1) as everyone knows the bow makes poor intonation sound even worse
    2) you have to be in balance and your two arms maintain relative postion - ie: you can't let the right hand wander and the bass must'nt jiggle around too much either therefore you develop economy of movement
    3) playing at he bottom of the fingerboard in thumb with a bow makes you work hard to get a good sound even though you're unlikely to do it in performance.

    This is just a personal take though !

    I started this from Rfus Reid's evolving upwards. I try hard to focus on the name of the note whilst I'm at this. It doesn't take long to give a quick run through every day and I think it worked for me but as they say round here YMMV - or it might not for you?
  3. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    >I started this from Rufus Reid's evolving upwards.

    Lot's of good ideas there, and I've praised Rufus personally and said that I've recommended his book for students numerous times. You have to trust your muscle memory. After doing things like the "vomit" exercises, 2 octave scales, and parallel fifths going up the neck chromatically(all with bow), as from Rufus' book, adjusting the left hand "bracket" as you go. And just playing a lot, all the while listening to your intonation like a demon. After a point, certain things become automatic. You are just in the music. Of course, if you don't play for a while, things deteriorate, and you have to go back and shed the fundamentals for a while, as you should as an ongoing practise.
  4. Maestro

    Maestro banned

    May 16, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    I sometimes start to see patterns after playing a given excercise for a long time, or by seeing a different fingering, but this usually comes after a fair amount of time playing a given piece of music.
    Yes, but proper practice with the bow will help one's intonation, IMO, providing the player is actually listening and trying to correct the out of tune notes. IOW, the bow will often help me hear in tune, or should I say, help me hear that I'm out of tune.
    Yes, this seems to be true for me also.
    I used to have that in my collection, but have since lost most of my music through moves and such. That's a book I need to get again.
    Yes, and for me I hadn't played for quite a number of years so some of it is still coming back to me. I think shedding the fundamentals is a good description of what I've been doing recentely.
  5. What got the patterns going for me was Chuck Sher's first instruction book called something like 'method for the improvising bass player' - not the Marc Johnson one - this thing is blue. It gives fingerboard/fretboard patterns for all the main scales and chords and breaks the scales down into five 'positions'. These are NOT positions in the Simandal sense. Once you've got these in your head you can work out where the rest of the notes are either going up down or especially sideways from any starting position. Chords and two octave scales are also presented in manageable chunks. I think the book is worth it if only just for this but apart from that it is a very good book.
  6. Maestro

    Maestro banned

    May 16, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    Does it also have the model scales? This sounds like a book I might want to pick up. Something that would be helpful would be to see the scales laid out on the neck rather than just manuscripted, since that might give a better idea of the patterns for me.
    The thing about Simandl is that even though it's methodical, in the sense that it starts out in low positions pretty much and works up, I could never figure out how Simandl decided where the positions would be. They don't seem to have a real pattern on how the positions relate to the fingerboard, other than they keep going up as you move up the neck. They don't move up every whole step though, it seems odd how they do, at least when I looked at this last.
    Yes, that's what would be helpful to me, being able to see both directions and understanding it to get it planted in my head. Often I'll be going across the strings and after time will start going up also. This is what makes stringed instruments so facinating to me, combined with the mathmatics of it all.
    My current teacher has me play scales/modes and call out the note for 2 octaves, but using the numbers up to 13 and then 7 and 8 at the top. This helps quite a bit and is actually a fairly hard excercise to perform, for some reason it's hard for people to speak them as they play, it's kinda fun to try. However, I never thought about the 2nd octave in previous studies as being different, and this is great for looking at chords, since they do use augmentations up to a 13th. I also practive arpeggios as well.
  7. ModAL scales in terms of patterns are no different from the scale from which they are derrived, so its a matter of where you start in the pattern, the pattern is the same, so yes it's covered but not in terms of patterns for everything. Its coverred in terms of developing lines form modes. If you've ever seen the guitar 'Grimoire' books giving patterns for every scale and chord you'll know what a futile exercise this is. You just need to know how to conceptualise it. You can just draw a 4 by 12 grid on a peice of paper and fill in where the notes would be for say a major scale - but leaving no blanks anywhere a note is possible. However, that might not make clear which are the optimum chunks to keep under one 'postion' (these inevitably involve a semitone shift).

    In terms of C major starting each time on the E string the 1st pattern/position starts on (open) E on the E string and goes up the scale accross the strings to A on the G string. Simmilarly the next is from estring G to gstring C. The 3rd is estring A to gstring D. The fourth is from estring B to gstring F. The fifth is from estring D to gstring G. Now the patterns after that repeat themselves. No matter what major scale or one its modes you play the relative patterns will be the same. Its a lot easier when you see it than this convoluted explanation - but if you draw it out you might get the idea and see whether you want to give Chuck 14 bucks or whatever it is these days. Hope this makes some sense.
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I covered a lot of this in a far previous post called the 'Exorcises', which is in the newbies thread in technique with the name 'Monster Fingering Thread' or something similar. I'm now working on stuff that I'm calling 'Chaotic fingering' which on paper seems to run contrary to the work I did on the Exorcises, but is really a conceptual extension. I'll post on this stuff one day once I have it together enough to put it on paper. Also coming is the liberal use of TP far below the body of the bass which will likely be coming out sooner than the Chaotic stuff as it seems a little simpler to grasp and master, desribing (and mastering) transitions from thumb-behind-the-neck to thumb-on-the-string being the snag right now.

    I think the bottom line is that you have to have any pitch (and timbre!) that you want to play firmly in your ear and let the rest (the hours you've practiced) take care of the rest.
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Second that. Great book.
  10. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    I've been assuming the method behind the positions is that the highest note in each position has the 4th finger playing a natural note, e.g., half position has the 4th finger on a "B" note, 1st position has it on the "C", 2nd on the "D", etc.

    As far as learning the fingerboard is concerned I see it as, with the instrument being tuned in perfect fourths, it's all reocurring patterns. Everything is symetrical so a piece of information on one area of the fingerboard duplicates itself elsewhere on the fingerboard. IMO, the symetry of the instrument is one of the beauties of it, compared to piano. Although the nice thing about the piano is you don't have to make a decision about where you're going to play middle C, just which finger you're going to use. We have to figure out which middle C to play AND which finger to use.

    It sounds like you're getting some great stuff from Seward, Maestro. Congrats on the positive feedback he gave you. It sounds to me like you're a hard worker and a teacher's dream. It puts a smile on Glenn's face when I come in to my lesson with my poop together. Man, things are so much easier when you find yourself a great teacher.

  11. The names of the positions don't really matter to me, and I think Rabbath/Vance use a completely different system. But for the record, the postions in Simandl's "system" are determined as follows: On the G string, if your 4th finger is over a natural note, you are in a "whole number" position. If your 4th finger is over what would correspond to a black note on the piano, you are in an "in between" or half position. Notice I didn't say flat or sharp because C-flat is the same as B natural. So, here are the notes that your 4th finger can be in postion to play on the G string, and their corresponding position numbers.

    Bb: 1/2 ("half")
    B: I ("first")
    C: II ("second")
    Db: II-1/2 ("second-half")
    D: III ("third")
    Eb: III-1/2 ("third-half")
    E: IV ("fourth")
    F: V ("fifth")
    Gb: V-1/2 ("fifth-half")
    G: VI ("sixth") - and here 4th finger is replaced by 3rd.
    Ab: VI-1/2
    A: VII

    The reason that there is no I-1/2 ("first-half") or IV-1/2 ("fouth-half") is that there are no black notes between B and C, or E and F.

    But when you think about it, it's completely arbitrary. Why 4th finger? Why the G string? Why not just number them 1-12? In the end it doesn't matter what you call them, as long as you know the note names.

    As far as fingerings, I am reluctant to recommend a system where you categorize passages and assign fingerings based on a set of predetermined guidelines. There are too many variables - the player's physical strength and hand size, the size and setup of the bass, whether it's bowed or not, if you do or don't want vibrato, how fast the passage is, etc. etc. etc. And with scales, I find it useful (even necessary) to explore alternate fingering possibilities. You never know where your improvisation might take you, and you should have choices to allow yourself to go where you need to. Or put another way, you don't want to limit yourself in your improvisation because you always fall into the same patterns.
  12. Maestro

    Maestro banned

    May 16, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    Hmmm...I'll look at that when I get a chance soon...but for me I really think about the positions just being wherever my 1st and 4th finger are, until I get up to the TP where I think of thumb and 3rd or 1st and 3rd.
    Absolutely, although guitar is even more elegant as the 2 additional strings make chord possibilities. I had a theory teacher in college that always described the guitar as the most facinating and amazing instruments, in terms of mathmatics. I completely agree. Violin has always been the most amazing to me, sound wise (the entire family, including bass).
    If you do not practice, there's little reason in going back for a lesson, unless it's to inspire you and get a kick in the pants, IMO. I can't practice like I did when I was studying 20+ years ago. Then, I would put in 6-8 hours a day for at least 4 or 5 days a week, and even 2-3 hours on the off days. I have some advantages because of that. My bow is still pretty good, and Seward doesn't need to go over the basics of it with me, it's there already. I also have quite a bit of theory as well as playing in my past, so we can play together as I can walk lines around charts (he plays and teaches piano also). The best thing for me is going over jazz theory and analyzing tunes, to understand how to solo over them. And he's helping me learn to solo properly. A couple weeks ago I was playing a solo and could hear what I wanted to play, went for the notes and it came out how I had heard it. It was as if a light turned on for me.
    I'll dig this up and read it.

    I'm gonna get the Chuck Sher book also, that sounds like a good one to use.
  13. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Yeah, no doubt about it that the tuning of the top strings makes it easier for guitar players to strum open chords. I don't think I would classify it as being more elegant, though. I view the guitar as sort of a folk instrument which was designed to be strummed like a percussion instrument. I think the total symetry of the violin family instruments (what the heck, let's throw the BG into that mix too) make them the ultimate in elegance.

    That sounds great with Seward playing piano while you play walking bass and solo. Glenn does the same with me. Every week I get a bunch of Simandl, a bebop head, a new standard and some misc. thing like rhythm studies or whatever and I have to play the bebop head in octaves with Glenn (he plays in up an octave in TP). Then he plays piano while I play the melody, 2 feel, walk and finally solo over the standard. I've also studied a lot and practiced a lot over the years and one thing that I think helps a lot is that I see why the stuff he gives me is going to help unlike someone new to studying where they just have to trust that the stuff is going to help. Not that I don't trust my teacher - I do - but he's never given me anything that I couldn't immediately see what the benefits would be of learning it. So when I get to the practice room I just roll up my sleeves and get to it.

  14. Or you could read post #11 in this thread.
  15. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002

    Conductor ChaosTHeory you can just print this out and sendTeaball a check... :p
  16. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Which is just a long-winded version of what I said. :p
  17. You say long-winded, I say thorough and accurate. Your original description, on the other hand, was niether:
    Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

    Half position has 4th finger on Bb (on the G string)
    First position has 4th finger on B
    Second position has 4th finger on C.

    If your teacher is using a different sytem, then that's fine, but this is Simandl.
  18. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Right you are. I guess I was "half" asleep when I typed that. Thank you for being so thorough and accurate. For the record, I am studying Simandl and the problem isn't with my teacher but rather my brand of coffee and it's affiliated strength. OK, now back to your regually scheduled programming.

  19. Maestro

    Maestro banned

    May 16, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    Yes, I had read it. That is not how I think about it though, since for me it's too complicated to think about first, second, second-half, third-half, or whatever...I do use Simandl style fingering, but don't care much about positions, other than my first finger is on Db of the A string, if I'm playing a major scale (or variation), I play as a F# major scale in I guess first position or whatever people want to call it if I want to start on 1st finger. IOW, 1-4-s1-s1-4-s1-s2-4. Of course, this is moving across the strings, from the A string to the G string. If I was starting on 4th finger on the Db, I would play as Simandl teaches for the Db Major scale, starting on 4. And anytime I might just move up the neck, into another position, but I don't think of it as going to 3-half or 5-half or whatever. I guess it's more patterns and fingerings for me than it is positions. As I said, I really only care where I am and where I'm going. Scot referred to these reoccuring patterns as being one of the beauties of stringed instruments.
    Seward only wants me to spend 15 minutes on Simandl, although I have spent more as I have been wanting to get my intonation back up, and it's actually coming along fine. This week 15 minutes a day was more than enough, the piece was fairly simple (I only get one piece a week). Then we work on the fun stuff, as Seward refers to...and I concur.
    I really enjoy this, we do similar at my lesson. When I heard Ray Parker's tune he did a couple weeks ago, it made me realize that even though band-in-a-box has it's own sound to it, I need to get it and be able to practice with it, I think it will help tremendously in that regard to be able to practice solos on top of.