thumb positiong advice

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

  1. +1.



    And it's been said many times, but just for re-inforcement, use a bow often. It really makes your intonation stand out.
  2. brake


    Jun 23, 2003
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    This thread rules. Thanks everyone, keep it coming.
  3. I don't agree. I am more into laying the neck on my shoulder Rabbath style. You a lot more freedom of movement. Using the weight of the bass slows your shifting, etc.
  4. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I remember hearing about it in pedagogy classes in college. I get what you're saying Damon and I've never suggested this myself. Seems a little awkward to me. It is a teaching method that has been used over the years though. This method often gets used especially for students that are first learning tp and have a hard time holding the strings down.
  5. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I believe it's a Gary Karr thing.
  6. Once you get used to it, it is not awkward at all. You have total freedom, I can get around pretty quick up there and play double and triple stop without strain.
  7. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    You misunderstand. The Karr thing that Mike was talking about seems awkward. I'm agreeing with you.
  8. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    I'm still trying to decide if I should buy into the whole "lean the bass into the shoulder" (very angled bass stance), "lean the bass into the hand" (more vertical bass stance), or go out and buy a bent endpin (odd looking but, possibly, ergonomically better stance).

    It's causing me a world of intonation problems, because I (very happily...btw) have 4 great and very different teachers right now. One, a classical sitter, the other, a classical everything guru (really.) One a, straight endpin, jazz master and another, a bent endpin jazz icon. I'm constantly adjusting my endpin height and stance, experimenting, and trying to draw conclusions from the approach.

    It's been a pain in the @$$, but I'm glad to know that I'm breaking bad habits and incorporating multiple, valid approaches into my own bad as it can sound. haheha


    p.s. at least my shoulders and back have stopped throbbing! :)
  9. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    +1. As I move into TP, my left knee pushes the bass' back a bit to the right and toward the front, "opening up" the access to all four strings in TP; more like holding a 'cello at that point. The neck ends up on my shoulder and I actually stand up a bit straighter (except for when you have to reach the very end of the fingerboard, and bow down at the bridge).

    I started on 'cello as a kid; when playing bass in TP it feels somewhat like 'cello TP to me. The bass is more turned to the left, for open access to the A and E strings.

    For me, I was taught to keep the left elbow up and around to the front of the instrument (as much as is comfortably possible), especially in TP. I think of arm weight relaxing into the fingerboard, with the LH fingers tapping out the rhythms. I move the arm and the hand follows. I practice lots of interval shifting, using single fingers and double stops (arco).

    I try to ignore the string tension altogether; that's not where the action is. Practicing TP double stops, stationary and shifting, builds/maintains strength so that ignoring the strings is possible.

    None of this is original; it came from my teachers; frankly, most of it is from Terry Plumeri. I always emphasized getting past the resistance of the instrument with relaxation, arm weight, and using larger muscles. I am just passing on what was given to me...
  10. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Study this video very closely. I know it's not jazz but you will learn a lot by watching the way Edgar uses his body to produce sound in the upper registers.

  11. i thought i would share something i learned after years of a cramped left hand from forced thumb position playing. let your arm do the work. i think to myself often when doing my scales up the neck "move the arm, not the hand." i think i first heard that in a Rabbath video ? I can't remember where i found it, but it helps keep the left hand supply for me at least.
    personally, I wouldn't overly concern yourself with what your fingers are doing. let your hands get their strength from your arm weight. the only general technical advise i ever feel comfortable giving is relax. your body wants to find the most efficient way to tackle this beast of an instrument, so let it. i play with ( gasp ) collapsed knuckles in thumb position all the time and don't think my playing suffers any because of it.
    this is off-topic to the OP, but i feel like its kind of related. i had a weird experience the other day getting a sports coat to replace some of my well worn gig cloths, and the guy helping me noticed my right shoulder is a good deal higher than my left one. i think thats a result of practicing stressed out and incorrectly and trying to reach around the bass in a goofy way to get my bow hand out in front the bass and near the bridge. since my CTS, i've adopted a more Rabbath stance and my body and playing loves it.
    i acquired all sorts of hand/back problems from trying to adopt the "right" methods for playing bass. i think my third or fourth lesson with my first teach, i remember my teacher saying "its been entirely to long for you to still be worrying about how you hold the bass." Which is funny since its taken me ten years to really figure out a way thats comfortable for me to hold the bass and play in all registers. i see a lot of bass players playing out and about that look really uncomfortable.
  12. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Inactive Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 4, 2005
    Owner of MAS Soundworks
    I did a summer study with Gary Karr when I was in high school. Gary is amazing and his technique works for him, but I had to spend a few years un-learning his stance. For me, it was a recipe for injury. You take advantage of gravity in thumb position, but as you arm is extended with the bass near upright, I feel that the large muscles are less involved and for me, the stance feels non-ergonomic.
    25 years ago I had a bad bout with tendonitis. It was the best thing that could happen to me. In Chicago there is a world renown rehabilitation clinic for performing artists. They had me play for them and analyzed where potential problems lied, as well as what postural problems caused the tendonitis. I rebuilt my playing from square one over a period of two years. I practiced in front of a mirror and learned to recognize imbalances and tension. I'm 53 now and NEVER have any physical problems with playing where a lot of guys my age do.
    I am definately an advocate of leaning the bass more into the shoulder and stepping back to transition to thumb position. As I stated earlier I have even beginning students learn this transition from day one and learn the fingerboard as one flowing entity based on anticipating shift distances and not thinking in terms of position on the neck. Always striving to have the wrist as un-bent as possible. Always moving toward a natural neutral physical position where gravity and balance dictate posture. Always where the large muscle groups dominate where gravity and weight provide the downward force and the muscles support rather than apply force.
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