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Thumb Position Issues (TPI)

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by heymrbassman, Jul 23, 2004.


  1. I can't get "into" playing thumb position.

    Excuses

    1 My thumb is a weird shape

    Where I try and hold the string down (just after the joint) there is a dip. This means that no matter how hard I press the string the note is never true

    2 Intonation is terrible

    3 I can't move (at all) smoothly into or out of thumb position

    4 I don't know the "positions" in thumb position

    5 I certainly cannot hold down more than one string at a time with my thumb

    6 I have no idea how to practice thumb position

    It is very hard to dedicate time to some thing that sounds soooo bad

    7 Do I bend over the bass or try and stay upright?

    :help:
    I know I should get a teacher but this is something I want to get down myself and I know this will take a long long time so I would rather use a teacher for inspiration and knowledge not repetition
    (if that makes any sense)
     
  2. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Can't get into all those questions, but "getting into the thumb position," can be made a little easier. At some point, such as 12th position, it's going to be the most natural thing in the world for thumb to come into play. Basic thumb pos., usually "begins" on the harmonic, but hold that thought. Using the 1st or 2nd finger on the high G will almost automatically slide you into the thimb geometry for the "first thumb pos." Going at it from an F sharp is actually a little uncool, for me.

    Then, coming back down is fairly smooth.

    But my bass (laminate) is only good to the D harmonic, then it's all done. One or two thumb positions is about all I can sqeeze out of it.
     
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    This never ceases to amaze me. If you were paying a teacher and that teacher didn't know how to play in thumb position, you'd be complaining about what a lousy teacher they were. You don't know how to play in thumb position and yet you somehow expect to have some insight?

    Man, it's your life and you can live it any way you want, but give me a break...
     
  4. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    I don't see how ayone can "teach themselves" the thumb positions... personally. A skill that requires years of study, watching others, problem solving. What's wrong with getting a teacher??? Money? Place?
     
  5. Anonymous75966

    Anonymous75966

    Jun 29, 2004
    Lessons wouldn't hurt. But having said that -

    Best method book I've run into for thumb position is Francesco Petracchi's "Simplified Higher Technique," published by Yorke. Really good, comprehensive exercises and fingerings.

    Thumb position is incredibly valuable technique because once you've got the basics down, you can use it all over the neck. I use my thumb down to fourth position all the time, and I do this on both classical and jazz gigs. It just gives you a huge advantage for possible fingerings.

    i.e. I played Varese's "Octandre" a while ago, which has a m6 double stop in it. Only way I could reach it was to clamp my thumb down in first position, reach for the top note, & blast away. I think it worked - anyway the piece was so bloody loud that I got away with it ... maybe.

    I try _not_ to lean over the bass; I actually lean the bass back quite a lot and reach down for high notes. When I'm playing up high, the neck's actually resting on my shoulder and I have a lot of arm weight going into playing with the LH.

    Anyway if you're just starting out, it's essential to work with a good teacher on this stuff. Building up yer thumb technique can be extremely fatiguing, and -- as with a lot of other aspects of bass technique -- it's too easy to injure yourself if you get sloppy. Don't ask me how I know this.
     
  6. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Standing up, or leaning over... might depend on your bass. I used to be seated with the 3/4 basses, but now standing is more cofortable with the 4/4. And it doesn't require any change of posture to get into thumbs. That surprised me. In fact, it's really quite comfortable, almost a natural transition.

    It was my experience that the more time I spent working on the thumb, I had to be sure and spend an equal amount in the low registers, and vice versa, or I tend to lose out on one or the other. But then, I never learned to really sail in thumbs, just get the orchestra parts and some jazz down. And even now at my age (ahem and ahumph), I am lust learning to get functional in low thumb positions, and I suppose by the time I'm eighty five, I might get that! Not.

    Thumb pos. also seems to be highly individualized, after the raw basics, based on watching numerous bass players. Some of those folks can fly, shoot, you may be one of 'em.
     
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Thumb position? That's the easiest part of the bass!

    --

    If you know what you're doing. Get with a teacher, for crying out loud.
     
  8. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    I plan to, here in Chatty Town, myself. If I can do it, so can the fellow that brought this up. They like to call them "coaches," when you get to a certain age bracket. Still teacher to me. Never be without one, if you can help it. It's a heck of a lot easier to learn good habits than to correct old bad habits! Age is no factor there.
     
  9. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Well, I'm a newbie myself but I do know that the 2nd Simandl book is geared toward preparing for solo playing and covers thumb position pretty extensively. I'm still mostly pluggin' away down in the "money" positons but when I want to stetch my wings a little and venture up there I at least have the 2nd Simandl book to refer to for the fingerings. I'm starting to build up a pretty good callous on my left hand thumb, which is funny now that I think about it because I have one in the exact same place on my right hand from slapping the pork chop (no, the other pork chop). Anyway, it doesn't hurt so much anymore. I recently had my string height lowered so that doesn't hurt either.
     
  10. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    It may not mean much in the real world, but there are a number of sites dealing with "grade levels" on string instruments, including the double bass. They don't represent cut and dried standards, by any means, but look to me to represent what a student (really, of any age bracket) might actually progress through to get to the more advance levels of the instrument. I keep some of these on my desk and glance at them periodically.

    It's nice to have the 2nd Simandl book, surely. But rather than leap from one to the other, also nice to explore all of Simandl I, a lot of the literature also related to that level, then move on to Nanny I, where you get another whole presentation, then maybe on to another. And put in the time on etudes, presentations... y'know.

    I am of the opinion that we are often way too hurried to get to a higher level, way before thorougly exploring the one we're at. A thorough grounding in double bass takes years, and lurching too far ahead too soon has it's payback later on the concert stage. 10 years is hardly too much to ply the waters of Simandl I and II, and maybe Nanny I and II, and a dosen sounds more realistic. Unless people have become a lot smarter and a lot more skillful since I was teaching.

    Bass should be instinctive, after a few. Then the switch goes off - "I'm ready to move on." Well - maybe I am very old fashioned. And likely so.
     
  11. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    The way I see it is anything that keeps me coming back to the practice room with enthusiasm to learn and grow is good. I'm not suggesting to skip Simandl I and move up to II. I'm spending time on Simandl I and feel like there's a lifetime worth of material there for me. I'm also spending part of my practice time improvising and playing transcribed bass lines from the jazz recordings I like and they go up into thumb position some times. I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to perfect those lines and referring to Simandl II for the fingerings. When I can make those lines swing and sound good playing with the metronome it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and makes me want to come back the next day and work even harder. How is that possibly going to hurt?

    -Scot
     
  12. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Yep, that really is a good approach. And people grow at all sorts of different rates, too. There 's something about those books that you just sorta know when you're done with them. Probably after they are all in your head and hand. Different times for different folks. They get to be like college chemistry books... something you keep on the shelf but rarely ever read again - if ever. Reference.

    Picking my bass up after several years off, during a practice session, one of those exercises will pop up in my head, and it's like the music was right there in front of you. Same with tunes, old etudes, and concertos... they never go anywhere, once you've got hold of them.

    So you move on. And more and more, people are teaching for the Gestalt, getting into high positions early, not being tied down as they used to be. That's good. A lot of improvements have gone down in the years since I began.

    Maybe it's a good thing to face the entire instrument at once, sometimes.
     
  13. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Florida
    I agree with Matt and most everyone else:
    Get a teacher and work hard for many years.

    That said, I would also have someone who is good player (like a good teacher) check out your bass. If it happens to be a cheap bass or even a poorly set-up good one, thumb position is going to be A LOT harder than it should be. Don't make it worse for yourself.
     
  14. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    There is no part of the bass that is really any harder than another in general. All parts of the bass have their own pluses and minuses. Thumb position being perceived difficult is a function of fear and nothing else. I start students off on learning the bass from the lowest note to the highest ASAP.
     
  15. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    These laminates don't seem to do at all well in the higher thumb positions, as anything above the high D on the G string. I had similar experience with Kays and Engles, to, and only when I got to carved basses did they produce in the higher thumb positions. Don't know if this be generally the case, but seems that way.

    Degree of difficulty - mostly on guts. Bowing thumb pos. is devilish on pure guts, and you may as well forget it. Which is why didn't lern it early on. After I got Thomastics, it became feasible, though not especially pretty.
     
  16. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Addendum:

    I come to bass from a different perspective, maybe. I love "bass notes." Such as Leroy Vinegar used to do. Once a bassist starts reaching into the stratosphere, I lose interest very quickly. Only a rare individual sounds good up there, and then it no longer sounds like "bass." If I wanted to play viola, I would buy one.

    At the negative end of the bass pectrum is the infrasound cannon. I like to get as many miles between myself and one of those as possible. The ultimate destruction of music.
     
  17. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I have a bit of this same issue. In my case, I had to learn to "stop" the string closer to the knuckle than my teacher does. However, once the callous got built up, the problem was solved.


    Get a teacher, do what he/she recommends, and practice a lot.


    Get a teacher, do what he/she recommends, and practice a lot.


    Get a teacher, do what he/she recommends, and practice a lot.


    Get a teacher, do what he/she recommends, and practice a lot.


    Get over it, realize that anything new that you try to do is going to suck at first, then get a teacher, do what he/she recommends, and practice a lot.


    If you had a teacher, you might find that their ability to help you get over these specific issues and make the most progress per repetition is very inspiring.

    See how easy that was? :)
     
  19. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Y' know - those things that knock truck covers off cars, break rear windows, blow speaker, going up the highways entertaining the public... boom cars. You hear them coming 5-7 miles away, and leaving for ten.

    Oh - that's how you know that electronic accoustics follow the same principles as acoustic acoustic! Off topic - I lved about 7 miles from campus for awhile, off in the boondocks, and after every big football win (fortunately only a few), the big rock bands come in. After several miles, the sound begins to dissociate, and you again being to hear "scream...", "boom chuck chuk," and thumpity thup, whereas at gound zero, all I ever heard was the percussive force of the initial explosion.

    Noticed that too when Gratefull Dead came to Oxford, Maine... the sound held together for 4 or 5 miles, beginning to break up ten miles away in South Paris, and by the time it reached Rumford (40 mi.), folks were trying to figure out why those guys couldn't play together.

    Well - again - off topic - but "infrasound" related.
     
  20. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    They may have not been together on stage, either. Perhaps bands should come with a distance rating, where in meters you know how far away to site so that the drummer isn't rushing or dragging....


    Maybe a speed rating (approach or retreat) to get the singer in tune?