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third finger?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by jj.833, May 20, 2020.

  1. Scanning through Petracchi's Simplified higher technique, I see that in lower positions, he's using the 'italian fingering' - 1-3-4 instead of 1-2-4. I kind of thought that this was a thing of the past, because I don't remember ever seeing anyone using 1-3-4 fingering.

    I remember once reading an essay about that when you go halftone up, you could benefit from using 1-2 fingering, whereas when going down you could benefit from 4-3 fingering (less muscle movement, more fingers used = less fatique). Never tried, I have no real opinion.

    I also know that Ray Brown in his Bass Method advocated using third finger as low as ergonomically possible, adopting the guitar fingering 1-2-3-4 somewhere around Simandl third position and up. Coming from bass guitar, I thought this one practical, but after some time I switched to 1-2-4 as it is somehow mentally clearer to me, on this endless black fingerboard.

    So I wanted to ask: does anyone use the third finger in lower positions, how, and why?
  2. I have been using 1 2 3 4 from the B on the g string (and all other strings) below that is too much of a stretch for my hands
    jj.833 likes this.
  3. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    I do sometimes, usually in that Simandl 4th position (1st finger on D).
    jj.833 likes this.
  4. If anyone does it, it doesn't related at all to bass guitar. I believe the Italians still use 134 and tend to sound great doing it.
    There is no real reason or benefit to using 1234 beyond trying to prove something. Using an unstable position to avoid shifting is to live in fear! Fear never helps art or music. Once you can shift, a strong stable position is best.
    Neil Pye, jleguy and jj.833 like this.
  5. Dogfightgiggle


    Mar 4, 2020
    I don’t use any four finger stuff, but I actually really like 1-3-4. The intonation seems much better.

    Regarding the mixing of 1–2-4 and 1-3-4, I believe it is best to use 3rd finger for leading tones and 2nd finger for descending half steps. Half steps are irrational intervals, their size is not consistent. This fingering approach addresses this.
    Les Fret and jj.833 like this.
  6. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    Interesting . . . . I would love to see/hear a video of this in action, to see if it actually works.
    Les Fret likes this.
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Depends on many things. Context, speed and slurred or not slurred amongst others. You can use 431 on CBA on the G string for fast repeated passages for example. I saw Jeff Bradetich use this in a Mozart orchestral pieces on a workshop that I attended. Made perfect sense and it is much easier and smoother than doing the same thing with 421. So if your basic technique is firmly rooted you can use the third finger in certain situations if you can make it sound good. It’s not set in stone.
    jj.833 likes this.
  8. Malten


    Apr 2, 2012
    As Damon says, I believe many Italian players uses the 1-3-4 fingering. Take a look on Tom & George Martin's youtube channel at some of the videos with Ettore, Davide Botto and Giacomo Rivolta.

    In this video you can see very clearly how Rivolta uses middle- and ring finger as one "unit" in a 1-3-4 fingering:
    jj.833 likes this.
  9. Dogfightgiggle


    Mar 4, 2020
    If I remember correctly these links get into it.

    Les Fret and jj.833 like this.
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Using middle-ring as a single unit is far more logical than using 3 on its own, since the middle and ring fingers share an extensor tendon connection that makes their motion less independent than that of the other fingers. The half step spacing between 1 and 2 in the lower positions is also extremely awkward if the hand is being asked to hold that spread rather than using wrist/arm rotation to span the distance.

    Personally, I tend not to use 3 as part of most stepwise lines down low, with the exception that it sometimes seems the best choice for some string crossings involving a 4th in a legato passage. In these cases, I think of it as an outlier situational fingering. It happens frequently in Bach, where the legato articulation supersedes a more traditional fingering that would otherwise put a break in the line.
    Dabndug, HateyMcAmp and jj.833 like this.
  11. "It doesn't relate to at all to BG" This inability to edit is a real drag and cannot possibly be worth it.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The edit window is unfortunate, but was implemented to prevent trolls from posting provocatively and then later going back and changing what got everybody all riled and acting innocent. In this regard, it is absolutely worth it to the moderators.

    If you or anyone ever finds something you'd like to edit, feel free to report the post and tag me/Troy or just PM me with the requested changes to spelling/syntax. That's part of my gig.
    equill, Les Fret, HateyMcAmp and 4 others like this.
  13. Co.


    Sep 10, 2006
    Even Gary Karr advocates a four finger method from Simandl 3rd position. I don't think he is afraid of shifting.
  14. My answer is what I call an "internet answer" any suggestion of using all four fingers makes lazy bass guitarists hear they can just use BG technique. People for whom 1234 will actually benefit will hear from someone like Karr in person! For most of us, shifting a 3 half step position is more than enough.
    Co. likes this.
  15. CSBBass


    Sep 21, 2013
    I guess where I disagree with this is that, let's be real, plenty of players will come from guitar or bass guitar and assume or decide they can use bass guitar technique regardless of what we say here. They will also eventually come to a point where they have to make a choice: either invest in and learn to truly play the instrument by exploring the technique it requires, or continue being mediocre, risking injury, and so on. The people who make the choice to make changes will have success in what they do. Realistically, even players with good foundational ideas will come to a point where something isn't working and they will either accept it (as many players do), or look for the resources they lack to make the change.

    Having started out with no access to a teacher and being basically self-taught with the help of the free resources on the internet for the first three or so years of my learning, I learned a lot from these forums. About traditional left hand technique, pivots, four finger technique, low thumb position, bow technique... pretty much everything I knew about music and the double bass (having started as a guitar and electric bassist) upon entering school to study double bass came from resources like this forum. I couldn't afford to meet up with someone like Gary Karr in person, but much of that information benefited me very much regardless.

    So long as we're honest about the reality of these techniques and give thorough, informed answers, players will be able to learn about them as needed. There will always be players, probably most players, who read what is shared and simply take the part they like ("I can use my third finger!", for example), and ignore the parts they don't like ("but I should really be sure that my general approach to left hand technique is healthy, sustainable, stable, and relaxed first, that I do not allow new extended techniques to push me away from those ideals, and that I am not using a new technique just to use it but because it actually is comfortable and will be more effective, in tune and facile in the long run to do so. I should also look into lessons if at all possible, even if only occasionally, to get a second opinion.", for example). But there will also always be players, even if they are few, who read the entire sentence, take it to heart, and go on to do something with that information. "Internet answers" aren't helping anyone.
    Last edited: May 21, 2020 at 5:16 PM
  16. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    Oh, I see what you are saying now. I mis-understood. I thought you were referring to using [1-3]-4 ascending and [1-2]-4 descending (with the fingers in brackets considered one unit). Marcos' video is a demo of 1-2-3-4; Fausto's interview was audio only, no demo. I thought you were throwing out some some wrinkle where you finger Italian style going up and Simandl coming down on the same interval spacing going up and back down.

    What Marcos does in his video is fairly standard for the 1-2-3-4 crowd. Towards the end of the video, he goes so far as to say that he tries to open up Italian style [1-3]-4 players to consider 1-[2-4] and pivots, in addition to pure 1-2-3-4.

    And this leads me to my soapbox for those in the general audience following along.

    1-2-3-4 fingering has been around long before the bass guitar was invented. Bass guitarists bringing it over to double bass thinking it's bass guitar technique adapted to double bass and thinking it's some kind of revolutionary & convenient approach (or worse, double bassists thinking that 1-2-3-4 approach is some kind of boundary-shattering Avant Nouvelle Technique) need to go back and read treatises on 1-2-3-4 bass technique from 150 years ago and the countless discussions, publications, and articles since then about 1-2-3-4. . . . . . It reminds me of when electric guitarists thought Alan Holdsworth invented a new music theory and proceeded to follow him like Moses, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I think of that.

    1-2-3-4 is old news folks. Very old news. Use your 3rd finger. . . Or not.

    In a direct answer to the OP's original question.

    Does anyone use the third finger in lower positions? Yes, but only when 1-[2-4] and Rabbath don't work. It's a last resort that is nice to have. As my Simandl and Rabbath technique have gotten better over the years, I find myself using 1-2-3-4 less and less. I never use and have never used Italian style playing. When I work through Petracchi's book, I ignore all the [1-3]-4 stuff. I suppose if I lived and wanted to work in Italy, I would adapt, but I hear they've got a worse pandemic than everyone else in the world, so no thanks.

    how? "extended fingering" "open hand" etc., but never lower than 3rd position (Rabbath 3rd position) because my hands are too small, my fingers are too weak, and my bass is too big;

    Why? because it works until it doesn't

    implied follow-up question Huh? Go practice
  17. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    These two points sum it all up. It’s just an extra thing to have in your bag of tricks. Once your basic 124 technique is firmly grounded you can use whatever works and sounds good. If you can make it sound good without injuring yourself and if it makes you play things that are impossible or much harder with 124 I see no reason not to use it and extend your basic Simandl or Rabbath technique.

    And yes 1234 is also used on cello (amongst others) and way before bass guitar.
  18. Co.


    Sep 10, 2006
    Although 1234 is not necessary, it might be a good idea to introduce it earlier in pedagogy. Understanding the concept, its strengths and shortcomings and especially training your 3rd finger for power and independence early can't hurt. For me, it is less a special trick, but one of many elements , to understanding what works on double-bass bass, why and how.
    1234 without pivot and solid shifting won't work.
    134 and 123 need different hand shapes than 124.
    Les Fret and jj.833 like this.
  19. Thank you everyone for honest answers. I kind of thought I'll get 'no, nonsense, heresy' and behold - I've got a lot of information about yet another way of aproaching the left hand. And, not the least, few very interesting ideas about 'be inquisitive or obedient' question, which I believe lies in the core of all teacher-student relations, and the right answer is, in my opinion, obvious.

    Though, I kind of agree with what @damonsmith writes, as I feel the bass 'wants me' to learn basics well enough and only then delve to experiment with more advanced techniques, and it is important to say it is so. But still, I like to peek ahead, because if I know what's coming, I can focus. Knowledge doesn't mean it will automatically be misused. Even the time lost this way has its merit, IMO. Thank you @CSBBass for perfect manifesto of self teaching.

    I can tell from experience of myself and my students that the idea 'bass guitarists all play 1-2-3-4' that keeps popping up here is not exactly true. In reality, it's more similar to DB: the player looks for healthy, effortless aproach, and there is never really just one way.

    I like this video @Dogfightgiggle sent, this is really great stuff.
  20. Dogfightgiggle


    Mar 4, 2020
    Just want to add that the interview clip I posted above talks about this stuff as it relates to intonation at about 9’30”.
    Here is the link again for those interested:

    @ILIA actually you read me right, but I think I was imposing my own concept of what an intentional four finger technique might look like on the Machado video. I see now that he uses a three semitone/minor 3rd span in all positions.

    If I were going to go four finger I would stick to the standard two semitone/whole tone span and mix 1-2-4, 1-3-4 to achieve purer intonation. But things don’t need to be any more complicated than they already are.

    I’ve also been messing with Bottesini style 1-4 half steps and major thirds just out of curiosity. It’s weird, but it has it’s charms.
    jj.833 likes this.

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