tips on switching to bass of differing mensure

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by myrick, Aug 5, 2002.

  1. Wonder what tips friends here may have for making a switch to an instrument with a different mensure than that which one's hand is accustomed to.

    Background is this. Over the last few years I have been better at acquiring basses than at disposing of them (much to wife's consternation) - the result being that my house is fairly littered with double basses.

    I try to help justify this by keeping at least two basses in active practice and play, set up differently for differing musical applications. My main classical bass I am very pleased with for now. But I am very keen to retire my other "first-line" bass to the "someday I'll get around to selling this" list, and promote a more recently acquired instrument to become my main pizzed, pickup-equipped jazz instrument.

    The new candidate, a flatback, has a HUGE, warm, woody sound which will work very well in a jazz setting. Problem is, this bass has a mensure which is around 1.25 inches greater than my other basses, at least one of which I intend to keep in active use. In the past I have always tried to stick to a constant mensure to avoid this very problem. Bought the longer one 'cause the sound was soooo killer. BTW, I don't really want to consider the modified nut trick.

    In considering switching to play on different mensure, the easier question would be a permanent transition. This is essentially the same topic of two other threads in recent weeks, concerning intonation training, so no need to reiterate those good ideas here.

    The trickier question is simultaneous active practice and play on two basses with differing mensures. Anyone have any tips on how to effectively train the mind and the left hand to move back and forth from one bass to another, day in and day out, and still feel at home (and in tune) on both ? Has it just worked for you without any special effort other than ample practice time on both instruments? Or is this just asking for trouble ?

    Very curious to hear of other's experiences and thoughts on this one. Thanks.
  2. I've owned as many as 7 basses at once, with lengths from 40.5 to 43. I'm down to my basic 3, orchestra, jazz and outdoors. Bottom line is, just play. After the first few minutes you should be getting it. There are no special things to do. Just listen, which you should be doing anyway.
  3. Sounds like I ought to just bring the longer-stop bass into my practice room and jump in.

    Still, I'd like to find some exercises to help. I recognize that in the end it all must be internalized and automatic, but I tend to intellectualize and analyze technical matters as a way to help the automatic stuff get incorporated faster.

    Seems to me that there are three things going on in intonation control. First is careful montioring with ears, coupled with minute corrections to the hand. This is going on all the time (or should be).

    Second is an innate sense of relative distances in the hand and the relation to pitch. For example, if my hand is at a certain position, and a half step is a certain size under the fingers, X halfsteps up or down the board a halfstep should be a certain amount smaller or larger.

    Third is the location of certain pitches and the size of each interval relative to the location of physical landmarks on the bass as perceived by the hand. Obvious landmarks would be the hook of the back of the neck where it swings back undet the pegbox, or the curve of the neck at the attachment to the body. Less obvious ones would be the thickness or width of the neck at a certain spot on the neck, or the front edge of the upper bout (which of course we're not supposed to touch with forearm, but often do , gently, as an orienting landmark in higher thumb positions).

    Obviously the second of these, the relative size of intervals as we move away from a given position, is more relavant over short intervals, or across strings in the same or a nearby position. The third, the use of fixed landmarks, is more relavant over long shifts. But I think both are used to some exent anywhere. And the ear is used everywhere to fine-tune these other two methods.

    An exercise I sometimes use to help with intonation over long shifts is to play a note in a high position, and close my eyes, then notice everything I can about the feel of the bass and the position of my body. I then shift down to a low position and then shift back to original pitch in the higher position without opening my eyes. This helps me to absorb into my subconcious the location of all the landmarks there are on the bass. It now occurs to me that if I'm playing and practicing on more than one bass at the same time this ought to be a very helpful warm-up to get my mind "locked in" to one bass's geography and intonation faster.

    Think I'll go ahead and bring on the other bass, and try this idea. I'll report my experience back here in case anyone finds this sort of thinking helpful or interesting. Anyway, forgive my ramblings, and thanks for the comments. I'm sure at the end of the day Don and Marcus are basically right, you just do it, and the brain sorts it out.