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Thumb Position Vibrato

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by SirFunk, Feb 12, 2006.

  1. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE

    I've recently been trying to work on my technique and sound from thumb position and up. Up until about the D harmonic on the G string, it's all fine and good. From there up i find vibrato terribly hard. I can 'vibrate' my hand to my hearts content but it doesn't sound like it changes the pitch much at all. I think it has to do a good deal with the angle of my hand in relation to the string. If my understanding is correct, you want to sort of stick your elbow out so your hand approaches closer to a 90 degree angle to the strings, and then you roll your finger sort of left and right. Maybe I just have short arms but when i get near the end of the fingerboard i can't keep an angle like that to the strings.

    Anyone have any tips to get sweet sounding vibrato at the end of the fingerboard?

  2. I don't think it's the angle. Besides the roll try rotating your fingers up and down a few milimeters.
  3. JayR


    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    My biggest problem with vibrato in that register is that I find it always sounds too wide and fast for a lot of situations. I have a hard time controlling the width of vibrato while still maintaing the consistency of it on the note from say, F natural on up (top of treble clef). Issues in "The Swan" particularly come to mind. I'm not quite sure how to fix this. In general I feel good about my vibrato technique in the neck register but I find that controlling it in thumb position is a much more difficult task and probably the thing about my technique which I am least comfortable. Compounding this, in the context of most bass solo music, a lot of the notes that occur in that top chunk of thumb position are generally big dramatic high points in phrases and, to my ear, these notes usually ask for big dramatic vibrato anyway. (The high E in the E minor section of the 1st mvt of the dragonetti and the high F in the development of the 1st mvt of the koussevitzky come to mind) My problem with this comes in quiet lyrical music where I have a hard time turning the vibrato "down" on these notes. Anybody have thoughts on this, tips?
  4. bpclark


    Apr 30, 2003
    West Central, OH
    I think it's probably next to next impossible to describe how to do vibrato, but here is my attempt such that it is....

    Think more side to side motion when you go up the fingerboard starting about the time you start to lose thumb contact with the back of the neck. The farther down the fingerboard you go, the smaller your arm angle to the fingerboard and the more side to side motion you will have.

    In thumb position, keep/feel contact with the string in your fingertips with weight of your arm (and maybe some help from the shoulder), leave the wrist relaxed so it can move back and forth freely like a well-lubricated hinge, and drive the vibrato from motion in your elbow.

    Practice your vibrato going from absurdly slow and wide to absurdly fast and then back to slow again as smoothly as you can.

    Stay relaxed....try smiling (it feels weird, but it helps)
  5. TomGale


    Jul 31, 2005
    American School of Double Bass
    I even remember when Karr appeared on L. Bernstein's Young People's Concerts, with the NY Phil. in the 60's on black and white TV! The story that Gary told later was, when he played the "Swan", Bernstein asked if he could do it in the original registar? (up an octave!) He said, "yes", and did it on live TV!!

    If it's lyrical and expressive. we're thinking of using 1st and 2nd fingers at every melodic moment. Just use good taste and express yourself.
    Tom Gale
  6. I had trouble getting decent vibrato in thumb position becuase I didn't anchor my thumb. Often I would lift my hand except the finger used to play the pitch when I wanted to hear a wider vibrato but it produces the opposite effect.
  7. Anon2962


    Aug 4, 2004
    one thing i found helped was thinking about what your thumb is doing. if its not necessary to 'anchor' the thumb (ie when you're not actually using the thumb in a certain postion) then maybe try using a part of your thumb slightly closer to the nail rather than the knuckle. it changes the angle of the hand on the string, and this might give you an easier hand position to vibrate with.
  8. TomGale


    Jul 31, 2005
    American School of Double Bass
    I never did that in a melodic passage - only rapid ones where you wouldn't use vibrato anyway. Try using just 1st and 2nd fingers and put down the thumb only when you HAVE to use it like on a passing tone.
    Tom Gale
  9. Thumb position vibrato really only seems to pose a problem in extremely slow, lyrical movements. In those particular movements, it doesn't seem completely essential to have every finger "at the ready". If I'm concentrating on getting a good vibrato, I often move my thumb behind my 1st finger, touching it. This helps me to keep my 1st and 2nd finger perpendicular (90 degrees) to the string. It also changes the shape of my finger's joints from being rounded to almost perfectly straight (but still slightly rounded to keep them from collapsing). This seems to help me keep my vibrato under my control. I'm not sure if I properly described it here, but if you watch Gary Karr during a slow piece, for instance The Swan, this is what I see him doing. Then again, this may be difficult for those who don't play on their fingertips all of the time.

    Regardless of your vibrato methods or preferences, you can practice vibrato by playing a note, and setting a metronome to a very slow tempo, and vibrato slowly with the metronome, then move it up one notch at a time, until you figure out what is necessary to get each kind of vibrato to speak how you want it. Then repeat moving up the string.
  10. TomGale


    Jul 31, 2005
    American School of Double Bass
    I've also seen the thumb slighty against the side of the second finger and using only that finger for slow, lyrical passages.
    Tom Gale
  11. nw basser

    nw basser

    Mar 6, 2006
    Take a tennis ball and grasp it with all fingers, and place it on a note in thumb position (i normally do on a high D) and roll the tennis ball slowly to start, and gradually get faster. You should really get the vibrato out of your arm, and not just moving your wrist/fingers. Do this a lot and then use your finger instead of the tennis ball so you get the motion down.

    If you think this is stupid, i got this from Daxun himself.
  12. jfv


    May 5, 2003
    Portland, OR
    You want an example of vibrato in thumb position,
    get 'Art of the Bow', there are clips of Rabbath
    playing with orchestra and without.

    His physical motion as well as his tone are
    beautiful. Now if only I could adequately
    emulate that, oh well something to aim
    for :)