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Thumb position exercises

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by fdeck, Apr 15, 2009.


  1. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Can anybody recommend a book of thumb position exercises that would be beneficial for jazz soloing? I don't necessarily expect a book that is specifically for jazz. Those of you who teach jazz bass, what would you recommend to your students?

    I tend to reach up into thumb position in solos, use my thumb as an anchor, but don't actually play notes with the thumb, and I figure that can't be a good habit or the right way to do it.
     
  2. robgrow

    robgrow Supporting Member

    May 1, 2004
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    One book is "Melodic Playing in the Thumb Position" by Michael Moore.

    P.S. I enjoyed your Dead Polytone Club tag. I've got two right now.
     
  3. bribass

    bribass

    Jan 25, 2006
    Northern NJ
    Endorsing Artist; Arnold Schnitzer/ Wil DeSola New Standard RN DB
    +1 a great book. There are 1 or 2 errors that i've found in it, but I recommend it to all my advancing students.

    Go thru it slowly for maximum absorption :smug:.
     
  4. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Thanks. I'll check it out. If there are only 1 or 2 errors, I will just follow the rule in jazz: Play it the same way twice, and it becomes correct. :D
     
  5. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 4, 2005
    Chicago
    Owner of MAS Soundworks
    Hey Francis
    Michael Moore's book is great. I'm a bit of a thumb position guy. Studied it with Michael and with Franco Petracci in Italy. Petracci's book is great, also. There is a great youtube clip under Joe Lovano's name with George Mraz. It's like watching a great dancer. As fluid thumb position as there is. I've spent almost 40 years working on thumb position and feel free to ask any technical questions. I was going to be in Madison on Sunday to watch my son bike racing, but he just broke his thumb (really!)----oh well. ( I'm in the north shore area of Chicago) I've developed a lot of additional exercises to develop the thumb. Lots of intervallic stuff. Lots of cross string stuff utilizing the thumb. Work on the first movement of the 1st Bach cello suite. In the original cello tessitura. That'll whip your thumb into shape! Take it slow-----it is doable. I would learn Charlie Parker heads lower on the fingerboard and then an octave up in thumb position. The Omnibook is great. Once you're comfortable with the heads do the same with solos. Think of the thumb as an active capo. Practice different open and closed positions
    ( chromatic---thumb to minor 3rd with the ring finger on one string, then thumb to major third, then thumb to fourth) . Also, practice thumb position going back as far as D on the G string.
     
  6. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Thanks for the advice, and offer. I played the 'cello from 4th grade through high school, and I got pretty good at thumb position. However, I have not been able to translate it to the bass. A couple of barriers: One is doubtlessly just the physical demands of the bass. The other is that I can't "think" on the bass when my thumb is involved, i.e., translate my musical intentions directly into workable fingerings, which seems to be necessary for soloing.

    So I am hoping that some exercises will get me over the technical issues, and also program the logic of thumb position fingering into my brain.
     
  7. petracchi
     
  8. joemagar

    joemagar Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2008
    Baltimore, MD
    Streicher, My Way of Playing the Double Bass Vol. IV.
     
  9. I was going to suggest the Bach Cello suite No 1 in G and then I saw that Mike already mentioned it. It's my go-to when I need a thumb tune up. You can play most of the in-staff Gs as an open string so you can really hear when you're out of tune.

    Mark
     
  10. Jonny Mah

    Jonny Mah

    Nov 9, 2009
    Toronto
    A simple way to get comfortable in thumb position is to just take melodies of tunes you already know and play them up the octave in different keys. That way you're practicing a musical and technical concept at the same time.
     
  11. Very cool so many suggest the Michael Moore book and the Bach Cello suite No 1 in G. @Mike, I would love to see the additional etudes/exercises you have developed. I'm going to check out the Lovano/Mraz You Tube clip as well.

    Thanks
     
  12. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I'd like to dig into the Prelude in G. Should I figure out my own fingerings, or is it better to start with a fingered edition?
     
  13. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    just play Eccles sonata 4th movement or the Dragonneti concerto.

    It covers (almost) all you need to know about TP and you are actually playing real music instead of boring exercises.
     
  14. joemagar

    joemagar Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2008
    Baltimore, MD
    If you're going to be using the Prelude to the 1st suite as an vessel for developing thumb position technique you may wish to find an edition that is fingered with that in mind or structure your own fingerings to that end. I can't think of an edition that has great fingerings in it, but I know when I teach the 1st suite to develop technique, I give (and use) different fingerings than when I teach to someone who plans on performing it.
     
  15. IdealWay

    IdealWay

    Oct 18, 2006
    Asheville, NC
    Can I ask what errors you found? I'm just starting this method and am curious... thanks
     
  16. I decided to do the musicians resolution this year. Time to learn thumb position. I am doing the chromatic and interval stuff. My questions are actually about shifting from lower positions to thumb position, and vice versa - where is the point at which you decide to use the thumb? Also the 'active capo' confuses me. I know TP starts at the octave harmonic, and the fifth harmonic above the octave, but can I use the thumb in between these spots? E.G. place the thumb at 'B' or 'Bb' if it makes playing a passage easier.
     
  17. I was taught to first get good at ransitioning into thumb position starting at the octave harmonic - G, D, A, E (All on respective strings). Anchor your thumb at these points. Once you get good at nailing this anchor point, then you start aiming for other anchor points. F#, C#, G#, D#. You can also anchor at F, C, G, D. Or at Ab, Eb, Bb, F. Practice all your scales using these anchor points in as many different combos as possible. Larry Grenadier taught me to "improvise" different fingerings going up and down the neck. Meaning, when going up the scale enter into thumb position one way, and then on the way down, exit it another way. The point is, you don't want to overlook any space on the bass - so practice your fingerings and thumb position transitions in as many combinations as possible.
     
  18. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    There are lots of good suggestions here! I have been meaning to pick up the Michael Moore book for some time now, just haven't gotten around to it yet.

    I had good results with Simandl II in my own studies.

    Dr. Mark Morton has some good stuff to offer as well.

    Good luck, and congrats to the OP and all others in this pursuit!

    Joe
     
  19. Thanks Matt. So it is perfectly fine for me to anchor my thumb at the A E B F# if it is going to make the passage I am playing easier to access? I am going to have to explore the possibilities below the octave as well. Very cool stuff. Time to start buying the books, calling a teacher and really learning this stuff.
     
  20. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I got the Michael Moore book as advised. In addition to the exercises, I am trying to play some melodies from the standards, in the upper registers, just to start developing fingering strategies. For those who are interested, try "Lover Man." An unexpected obstacle is getting good bowed tone up there. I'm pretty sure I know what to do, but I just have to make it a habit.
     

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