Thumb positions on a bass that has big shoulders (violin-shaped)

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by crocau, Nov 19, 2004.

  1. Hi ! My bass has really large and high shoulders, it is violin-shaped. I have no problem playing the first thumb positions, on the g string, up to d. I am having a hard time getting any higher besause the shoulder is in the way ! Is there any technique that would be useful in this case ??

    I played a friend's upright bass the other day, and it is gamba-shaped... The smaller shoulders were okay, and I played up to the second octave... Is this a technique problem or an instrument problem ??
  2. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Don't use the thumb where you can't, but the fingers instead?

    *edit: second answer: It's an "instrument problem". Do what you can with what you've got or change it as you are able or see fit. It's not a big deal, in the end, unless you feel that it is.
  3. What kind of technique are you using now? Do you play seated or standing? Is your bass close to vertical ala Gary Karr, or tilted back toward your shoulder like Rabath? How high relative to your body is your bass with the endpin where you normaly set it? With a little more info, I'm sure someone can offer some suggestions...
  4. The Rabbath might help you. Have you tried the bent end-pin? Sounds like you could try lowering the pin.
    Bottom line is that if your basses shoulders are way too bulky, you may need to start looking at other instuments.
    If it's that important to get up that high, that may be your only choice.
  5. I agree that your end pin could be too high. Ideally I like to place my endpin depending on where my right arm falls but you also have to make considerations for thumb position and extended half position playing.

    Also make sure your left arm is really getting -around- the bass. What part of your arm is touching the shoulders when you're in thumb position?

    If possible, please post some pictures of you playing in thumb position, that would help too. Good luck!
  6. I used to have a problem similar to this.

    The most helpful of the two things that allowed me freedom into high thumb position was instead of reaching straight over and down the bass, I came in at a 45degree angle. I know it doesn't sound like the solution because one would think that that would shorten your arm slightly, but it is not your arm that is too short, it is the ligament in front of your armpit (or shoulder) that is stopping your arm.

    Another thing that could help is shortening the end pin (but not to the point that it is difficult to reach with the bridge with the bow.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Agreed. After checking out the Rabbath CD Rom, and after watching Lynn Seaton and Rufus with their bent endpins for years, I am coming to understand that the Rabbath "bent endpin" solution is simply the standing version of the seated "neo-cello-bass-leaning-back-into-the-player" position. Both allow easier access to the upper registers because they decrease the amount of posture change needed to reach up there. I just recently saw Edgar Meyer give a masterclass and performance, and he shifts the position of the bass into a better position for TP before attempting to play (although his bass is so small that it's already almost like a cello).
  8. Hi all, thanks for the many replies. I have lowered my endpin... but I don't like it as much for the lower positions... which is 95% of what I play !

    I will try to develop the 45 degrees elbow technique, which seems unnatural for now... Well, the thumb postition too felt unnatural at first !

    I am a little tired of the equipment quest, so changing my endpin is not the solution. I'll rather work on my technique. I don't think I'll change my bass, I'm in love !