Thumb Position methods

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by MisterBeagle, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. Hello all
    I've decided to make a somewhat unorthodox (IMO) move. I've learned all of my Simandl positions, and am halfway through the intervals portion of the method. I'm trying to start a bass trio at my [music-oriented] school next semester, and although the members are already chosen, nobody wants to step up and learn the parts for first bass. SO, I decided that I might as well, since I've always wanted to learn every note on my instrument.

    I ordered Handel's suite for three double basses (1740 edited by Carolyn White) off of Lemur and it recently arrived. Much of the first bass part is written in tenor cleff, which naturally suggests thumb position. I plan to start working on my tenor-cleff technique over the summer, and it dawned on me: Simandl's second method book has hardly ever come up as a source for the most famous double bassists.

    SO basically I'm asking you again as I did before, what is the best method for thumb position? Does playing in thumb position necessarily denote using solo tuning? And lastly, is thumb position necessarily considered a solo technique; as in, is thumb technique solo technique and vice-versa?

    Thank you very much in advance to any responses :)
  2. In my experience Petracchi's "Simplified Higher Positions" is the best by far.
  3. TomGale


    Jul 31, 2005
    American School of Double Bass
    I thought long and hard about this when I started Technical Foundations, Vol 2 . I put the thumb positions on the left page and the etudes - incorporating that particular thumb position, the standard closed hand (1,2,4) and the open hand (1,2,3,4) into an interwoven etude moving in and out of all three. Its called the 'Triangulation of Fingering Systems'.
    Now - the first thumb position covers a minor third - lets say G,Ab,A,Bb.
    The second position covers a major third - G A A#B and variations within that major third and then the major fourth G A B C - with 1/2 step variations within that fourth. Thats about it. Most everything else is a variation of those three main thumb positions.
    Do you realize how hard this it after 4 glasses of wine????
    TG :hyper:
  4. You could have saved the time you spent re-inventing the wheel and just bought Pertracchi's method, that is pretty much what he says.
    His method is rock solid and well proven.
  5. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Inactive

    Apr 6, 2007
    ya, be sure to start with No. 4, it was meant to be the first exercise. A lot of the book is in a jumbled order (my teacher was a petracchi student)
  6. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I used Petracchi as well. It's a pretty good book.
  7. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Inactive

    Apr 6, 2007
    It's a tad mundane IMO. I think the Streicher works better in terms of creating some kind of flow. I'm supposed to practice the entire book every day (petracchi), cover to cover, it's a bit mehhhh, but is a good workout. i also do most of the exercises in the lower register as well.
  8. Bass methods are often perceived as mundane. Being able to play the whole instrument in not mundane, therefore anything that gets us there is not by proxy.
    I think that is a lame excuse for not liking a method. If I want excitement I'll just work on a piece by a great composer, or my own music - lots of years with bass methods and exercises that are boring on the surface make this possible.
    Working on Petracchi has made a lot of things either much easier or just plain possible for me that were not before, therefore it is not mundane.

    All that said, I would love to have the Streicher books, and I will get them at some point - he was a fantastic player.
  9. TomGale


    Jul 31, 2005
    American School of Double Bass
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    On lunch break from the Aebersold workshops, so I won't be able to step in much this weekend, but I'd just like to remind everyone to please treat each other with respect, and if anyone feels a rule is bring broken, please report the post in question rather than busting the chops of the person who posted it within the thread - that's how the system is set up to function.

    Thank you. :)
  11. What I would say is that what I need from a method to recommend it is to be able to see long term results.
    We can say that some one like Mark Dresser has used the Petracchi method to good results, Mingus and many, many others used Simandl, Rabbath used Nanny, Garcia-Fons used Rabbath, etc.

    Any of us can write down the idiosyncratic ways we get the job done and call it a method, it does not mean it is going to be universally useful for everyone, only time can show us that.

    When someone asks for a recommendation I find it personally ethical to reccomend something with solid history that has been proven over time.
  12. Bowin' Guy

    Bowin' Guy Guest

    I'm new to the list but I find this interesting. After reading your comments, how many of Gale's books have you studied??
  13. You can search back into some of these threads if you want that answer, Tom recently left TB and as Chris Fitz says there is no reason for pot shots on the way out.
    Or you can PM me if you want a more detailed answer.
    Edit: Silly me, just figured it out, hi Tom! I can be slow sometimes.
  14. koricancowboy

    koricancowboy Ausberto Acevedo

    Jun 10, 2003
    To get back to your original post...
    First off you're to be commended for taking the bull by the horns and stepping up to the task of learning the first bass parts. It can be daunting to put yourself out there like that so bravo.

    That's such a touchy thing to ask. There are so many methods out there and they are for the most part as good as each other. Petracchi has been mentioned. Rabbath has been mentioned. The best source to learn thumb position technique is from a professional player and teacher. Most teachers will identify your weaknesses and use a variety of techniques and methods to get you playin up there effectively. If your teacher is a strict pusher of one method's superiority over the other than I think it may be time to find a new one IMHO. My personal faves are Petracchi's book and Rabbath's book no. 3 (solid modern technique - pivot is essential and both these books do a good job securing the technique in their own ways - they are very similar in a lot of ways), Bille part 2 vol. 4 (so wonderfully melodic and again rock solid - it's a standard), Evolving Upwards(Rufus ROCKS!) but for someone who's gone through Simandl I really like Simandl one in thumb position (you know what its supposed to sound like already). My teacher has used bits of all of the above in addition to Streicher, Cserny(sp??), Botessini, Nanny and all the little tid bits he got with studying with all his teachers especially Rufus, Joe Guastafeste and Mike Morgan.

    Solo tuning is denoted by a note from the composer or editor and that's it. Plenty of orchestral literature uses thumb position not to mention jazz.

    Thumb position is not a solo technique in any way. It is an essntial part of bass technique. Just as important and actually less difficult than the lower positions. Why the two have been separated is so beyond me:rollno:. In order to be a complete bassist you must learn thumb position. Although it is true you will spend more time in thumb position playing solos, many difficult orchestral passages utilize thumb technique.

    You are welcome and good luck.
  15. Great post Oz. Spot on for sure. Another thing thumb position does is it really helps our ears, staying down in the bottom all the time can keep things murky, and things are much clearer up there.
  16. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I still frequently warm up with some of the lower register exercises in Petracchi. They're also a great intonation check (especially the ones with double stopped 3rds and 5ths). Definitely not the most exciting way to get started, but thorough.

    I'm not familiar with Streicher (except that his name gets thrown around here frequently). Perhaps when I finish up my current projects I might look for some of his method books and add them to the mix.
  17. Petracchi's Method, exercise #9, might be the one you're referencing; I think it's the best one in the book. It's so stable and tonal that it can be used as a warm-up!

    I do wish there were more musical excerpts in Petracchi's book, so that makes me wonder about adding Mr Gale's book to the library, but I haven't seen it yet.

    also - Simandl book 2?
  18. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I have to be very disciplined with this exercise, though, to not just play the pattern and tune with my ear. I think it's important to keep track in my mind of what notes I'm actually playing to help me remember where my hand is and what shape it should be for perfect intonation on the notes I'm playing.
  19. For me Petracchi's exercises are good, but it is more about the way he uses the positions. I often make my own variations on his exercises after memorizing them.
    Simandl 1 an octave up is better than book 2, IMO.
  20. Starting point - the side of the L thumb can "stop" notes.

    My thumb has the strength/stiffness if it is braced by closing the big thumb muscle across my palm towards the little finger. This tucks the base of the thumb under the side of the palm and lines the thumb up nicely with fingers 123. It has much less strength if I open out and flatten my palm yet I have seen many fine players use this "open palm" approach.

    What thoughts have ye?