thumb positiong advice

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by brake, Feb 12, 2009.

  1. brake


    Jun 23, 2003
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    I'm working with my teacher lots but it seems like everybody has their own version of thumb position and it wouldn't hurt to see what everyone here has to say.

    I am just looking for general advice - If you could give somebody one (or more, heh) piece of advice, what would it be?
  2. JtheJazzMan


    Apr 10, 2006
    dont press too hard?

    any specific questions that are bugging you?
  3. cbarosky


    Jun 7, 2008
    Burlington, VT
    my advice would be use caution with the michael moore method... i taught it to myself and got a new classical teacher who essentially told me it wasn't going to be practical for the pieces i was working on... and physically he's right. hopefully your teacher knows what's up... also you should have everything else down for the most part in the lower register before you attempt to fully study thumb position. i unfortunately did this backwards in a way so i'm over-working to catch up.
  4. Make sure you use your weight wisely - proper balance can make it really natural
    Sitting down is a shortcut if you need thumb for something, but you should learn to play the break standing too
  5. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Are you working with a bow? Your teacher should show you the classic slur exercises that encompass a fourth on each string. I don't have time to write them out now but your teacher will know what you mean. Though you will be able to play any permutation within a fourth be careful to use make all shift rounded like Edgar Meyer does. Flow is key, don't get stuck in one blocky hand position. Stay round and relaxed. Do not collapse your fingers, make sure they are also round and that you play on the tippy tips of your fingers. Take it slow, don't over do it. Make sure your set up is low enough for what you want to play. Prohibitively high action will only frustrate you. I think Michael's method is an excellent one for soloing because it gets you thinking more modally which can help get you off the tonic and into some more interesting melodic lines. I can't imagine a jazz teacher saying that it won't be of use to you. I also like to practice whatever I do in thumb position in the the lower positions as well, for balance and range.
  6. brake


    Jun 23, 2003
    Nova Scotia, Canada

    Yep. My bow is in dire need of a re-hair but it works just fine for the moment :)

    I've mostly been taking melodies and learning them in thumb position, as well as getting some stuff from the Chuck Sher book.
  7. Keep your left hand fingers on the string, a sloppy position up high is even worse than down low.
    I never liked Simandl's book 2, but a lot of exercises form book 1 are great an octave up.
    The Petracchi book is the best I have worked out of.
  8. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
  9. I would say you just need to work on high and low concurrently. I like to get students working on a 3 octave G Major scale fairly soon, before Db major in the low octave, for example.
    Each part of instrument is a lot of work, so might as well not delay it.
  10. electric bass boy here, just curious.
    you guys are talking about the position of your thumb on the back of the neck right? doesn't that depends on the shape of the neck a little bit? a bass should be costom to the player. if the neck doesnt feel natural and fit your hand then it will be awkward to find a good thumb position.
    sorry if i sound stupid but i was just curious about the DB, i plan on learning to play a cello someday when i have the moneys.
  11. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Thumb position is not the position of your thumb on the back of the neck. It is when you use your thumb on the fingerboard, above the neck. So, actually thumb position is the only time when neck shape is of absolute zero relevance.

    Thumb position:

  12. The thumb positions on Double Bass refer to the technique/art/practice of moving your thumb from the back of the neck in the lower positions to using your thumb on the fingerboard to sound notes. Typically this begins to happen at the G octave on the G string although there are many people who will use thumb position for certain passages on the F below the G octave on the G or possibly even lower E, Eflat ect..

    I have to agree with Damon on when and where to teach TP. I think many teachers believe it is better to start learning the whole fingerboard early on using a 3 octave G scale.

    The Dr. Michael Moore method has proved valuable to me. In his method your hand often spans a 4th. In this method I've noticed that the thumb quite often (lands) targets the tonic, second or seventh of a particular scale. It is very good for lots of jazz & modern playing IMHO. The other method where your hand spans a minor third (or sometimes a major 3rd) is great for playing chromatically as well as bluesy type of passages,altered scale passages...blah blah blah.

    There is so much more to say... so I'll end with this bit of advice never heard here before (slight sarcasm); Get a good teacher if your really interested.

    Someone I know who is very accomplished and pretty well known told me that ultimately, we all kind of have to find our own way when it comes to TP. After figuring out the basics, I have to agree that that is probably the case. At least within the jazz idioms.

  13. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Keep it out of your mouth.
  14. MDEbass


    Dec 15, 2008
    keep your fingers round and DON'T COLLAPSE your fingers! I know this was already mentioned but this is probably the biggest mistake people make. This mistake will also hurt your fingers. Also remember to keep your hand in a position as natural as possible and relax
  15. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Like others have said, start working out of a good method/etude book and get some alternate fingerings for the same passage/scale. I only have a sheet or two of the Petracchi book from a lesson I had w/ Mark Dresser about a year ago, and from what I can tell it's rock solid.
  16. I've been using the Vance method for one of my beginner students, and he actually feels more comfortable in thumb that in the lower positions.

    One thumb position technique I use (this works for standing, not sitting) is to lean the bass slightly forward into the fingers. That way you're taking advantage of the weight of the bass to press the string to the fingerboard.
  17. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    To start, get spacing/hand shape/strength together with double stops; M3rds, m3rds, P5ths, especially, if using the closed hand (covering a m3rd). If you are using the extended hand (covering a P4th) practice a unison double stop (same pitch with the T on the high string, and the 3 on the low string), as well as the previous two-note chords (m3, M3, P5). For the open hand, add M6 and m6 to the 3rds and 5th. Don't just practice on the top two strings; use all three sets of two. Move up chromatically and cover the whole TP range.

    Use the bow, for intonation, play long chords, and listen. Once you get your hand shape/spacing up and down the board, do interval shifting exercises, again with those double stops; holding 3rds and P5ths, practice shifting 2nds, 3rds, 4ths. It builds strength, hand shape, and gets you playing past the string tension (which obviously needs to be ignored).

    Once you have the hand shape and interval shifts together, then you can start string crossing exercises. Do all of this, daily, for awhile (a few weeks) and notice your strength and intonation improve. Just my limited experience and 2c.

    As Treyzer so aptly puts it, a good teacher will show you what I mean, much better, and quicker, than I can write it.
  18. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    Well, I truly suck at thumb position but there is one tip I find invaluable: Use open strings and harmonics to check your intonation when practicing.
    When you hit an A on the G string, you can check the tuning with the open D string.
    The D harmonic up there on the G string is helpful when you're headed into the stratosphere. There are a ton of different fixed pitches that you will find helpful when trying to dial in your intonation. ehehe...when all else fails VIBRATO! :0

  19. Unka Paulie Warmbottom says that back in the day when some bassist was using maybe just a little too much VIBRATO...the cats called it "Gomezing":D
  20. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Inactive Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 4, 2005
    Owner of MAS Soundworks
    I studied with Petracci and Michael Moore when I was younger. They are both masters. A few things. I am a big advocate with my students right off playing the whole fingerboard to get the transitioning flow down right off the bat. I am emphatic about learning the bass in a standing position. Especially for jazz. Thumb position is nice and my solos are maybe 50/50. But we are paid to play quarter notes, and I feel that the rhythmic feel is much stronger standing. I'm 5'8" and owned A Hawkes Panormo and a Prescott and other large basses. I've never had a problem with thumb position on even big basses. Which is why I like standing. You step away from the bass and voila! you've transitioned. Some great time players like Buster play sitting, but he initially internalized his time feel by playing standing. I learned from Dennis Trembly and other great legit soloists to be able to take thumb position back as far as C on the G string. I try not to think about or be limited by positions and think more of logical and legato shifting and thinking about the fingerboard as a continuum. And in taking from Rabbath and others to play across the strings more and minimizing large shifting (vertical) when possible. This is where practicing arco is invaluable. Two things that I liked to do was learning difficult bebop heads in a lower position and then an octave higher, trying to play across the strings as much as possible. The other was ( is) playing the Bach Cello Suites in original tessitura. When I first heard Edgar Meyer play them I felt like I had to do one of two things---stop playing bass---or practice my ass off. The first suite is manageable . And even if you suck at arco, do it anyway. You have to play across strings and learn to control huge changes in bow speed, and your muscle memory will be much greater and your strength and stamina will increase. Another impoertant point is to keep your left wrist as straight as possible as opposed to have bent past, say 30 degrees.The great Chicago bassist Larry Gray pointed this out to me over 30 years ago. His advice has kept my left wrist healthy and pain-free.
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