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trying to learn arco

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by oldfclefer, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    I'm a lifelong electric bassist, but in the past 5 years or so I took an interest in upright. I traded a Pastorius Tribute jazz for a 1968 Kay M3, a combo amp, and a Shure microphone. Probably didn't do so well on the trade, but the Kay was set up really nice. I found a Yamaha Silent Bass about a year before. Play it pitz, but the action's high and the bass is kind of tall for a shorter guy like me. Kind of rough to play too.
    Besides, the Kay sounds really sweet. It's shorter and like I said, the action's great, set up really well. I don't really want to take the Kay around to clubs because of its age so I use the more portable Silent Bass for that.
    Along with the Kay I got a French bow, and I've been trying to figure it out. I've done some research, and the German bow seems interesting. Any pros or cons there?
    I found a method called Essential Elements, but it's really hard to watch. I've looked around locally for an instructor, but they're few and far between around here.
    Can anyone recommend a learning method or decent video so I can begin to get the hang of this thing?
    Also what type of rosin should I be using?
  2. Sekundus


    Oct 29, 2013
    you can play either french or german bow, it's just a question of aim, the handle is different.
    I study arco with the simandl-method. It's a classical method, that means in the beginning (Band1) you play easy classical etudes in specifical keys and it gets more difficult of you move on.
    In the second part you study excerpts of classical pieces. Good luck.

  3. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    I don't read music, and I'm an absolute beginner on upright. Bowing and fingering at the same time doesn't seem to come easily for me so far. Any Tips?
  4. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    I started out the same way you did.

    You need to find a George Vance/Francois Rabbath Style Teacher. The focus of the studies will be on how to effectively use a bow, quickly. You will develop good bow habits fast and you will not struggle. It will be a far cry from what a lot of us experience for years before getting any profeciency with a bow. My teacher has completely changed my approach and i like playing with a bow now.

    Oh, and the George Vance or Rabbath books won't be enough, you will need to seek someone out who can help you understand them.

    IF you want to supercharge your reading go here:


    I use it every day.
  5. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Look harder. You need a real person who's done the work to show you this.
  6. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    French vs. German gets ugly around here sometimes. It's entirely a matter of personal preference. Unless you want to really get into the classical world where the politics get a little ugly, (just like the countries, the French and German bow players don't get along so well sometimes) you can do everything you need to on either. If you have a French bow, then I would suggest giving that a shot. You can always try German later if you want to.

    As for a teacher, I agree with Jeff's "Look harder." I don't know southern Ohio very well, but I find it hard to believe that there isn't anyone there who could teach. Ask around to other musicians, other bass players, music stores, etc. It is really easy to play double bass in ways that can cause injuries, and even a few lessons you have to drive a little farther than you would like to every other weekend will help immensely. You can watch a ton of youtube videos and think your doing everything great, but one hour with a teacher can make a world of difference.

    "Methods" or "Schools" are entirely up to you and your teacher. Most method books even if they do "focus on the bow" have significantly more emphasis on your left hand and how you get around the fingerboard. It is much easier to put into notes on a page, and express it in a consistent way. A lot of people decide to work through various Simandl, Bille, Nanny, Petracchi, Streicher etc. books, but short of some philosophical musings about how one should "hold a bow with an assertive yet gentle hand" and maybe a couple of photos/diagrams, you really need a teacher to help you out with it. There are a few different ways to approach French and German bow, but learning the differences between how Petracchi or Rabbath uses a bow without studying with them or one of their students isn't something you can really do by watching some videos or reading a book. Those distinctions come down to very small differences in how much pressure is applied by what fingers and how you initiate a down bow with your back muscles and plenty of other things that can't be put into words very well.

    Rosin is also a huge can of worms. In a nutshell, find something that is labeled as "Bass Rosin" and start with that. There are tons of variations. Some are night and day to an experienced player, some are much more subtle. For a beginner though, just about anything that makes your bow sticky is a good place to start. After you develop some technique, you can start to develop preferences as well.

    Best of luck with your journey.
    riffaday likes this.
  7. Some folks (myself included) can't use one or the other bow for biomechanical reasons (in my case, I can't use French because that hold loads up one of my thumb joints in painful ways, compounded by an old injury), but for most it is indeed preference.

    +1 to the teacher for safety reasons... hand injuries are really horrible, they stop you playing anything for unreasonably long periods of time. Also, you will progress much faster, as one of the skills you have to develop is how to work out how to apply your body to playing the bass; hard to do without borrowing that skill itself from someone else in the early stages. Unfortunately, words don't do it, and video doesn't help much because part of the teacher's skill is getting their eyes into place to see what the problem is.

    Rosin: Yes, use bass-specific rosin, it's far stickier than other string players use. Also, don't use too much
  8. mdcbass

    mdcbass Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2005
    Seacoast of NH
    Rosin: Yes, use bass-specific rosin, it's far stickier than other string players use. Also, don't use too much[/QUOTE]

    or too little. The amount of tension on the bow is another thing your teacher will help with.

    I sent some links of the type you requested via PM
  9. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    I will try to find a teacher...go with the bow I own...and seek out some bass rosin...you guys are the best :)
  10. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Same here (and I've been playing for more than a few years). This is just to emphasize the importance of finding a good teacher to show you the way (especially as a total beginner on the URB) and really getting a strong foundation in the fundamental aspects of playing the double bass.
  11. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    I am learning slowly that i play more out of tune notes with my bow than with my left hand.

    I understand others have other opinions, but finding someone who really works hard on good bow work will take you miles farther than any exercise in any book. The reason i suggest the Vance method is because the first book is specifically designed to teach you how to play in all six positions, and the placement of the bow.

    In my lesson today with Johnny Hamil he had me play the second piece in the book, Scotland's Burning and it was fine until i played it in the Fifth position, with all artificial harmonics. Then it was revealed to me through the sound of my instrument that i was using the proper speed and placement, but i wasnt putting enough weight into my first finger.

    When Johnny revealed this to me, i played it again and all the notes rang loud and true.

    All of this makes playing the Bach cello suites easier. George would say the more you go backwards, the more you go forwards. The simple songs in his first book are a blueprint to teach someone how to play effectively with the bow.

    Don't worry about the left hand. It's the easy hand. You already use it on your electric. There is really only about an hours worth of lesson on teaching the left hand for the double bass. Fixing out of tune notes is something that happens in your practice time anyway.

    The right hand, the Arco, is the secret. It is the mystery that causes many bass players frustration and to quit. Once it is understood, it becomes as easy as breathing.
  12. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    If you do end up needing to travel a bit to a teacher keep in mind that for a motivated adult student weekly lessons are not essential.

    Once you get an idea of what it's supposed to look like practicing in front of a big mirror is useful.
  13. Thanks for al the information in this topic. I'm kind of in the same situation as the OP. But I do have a time limit.
    As a long time jazz (pizz) player I got the change to play in a string ensemble for the musical Peter Pan. Performance on 5 and 6 April.

    The sticky on orchestral technique is very usefull!
  14. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    I've pretty well figured out the left hand. A lot like learning fretless electric. Using my ear to find the right note on the neck. Looks like someone put some kind of tape on the Kay about where the 3rd 5th and 7th "fret" would be. Thinking about doing that with the SB200 as well.
    Didn't even attempt arco on the SB, but use it mostly on country tunes, you know 1-5 and run ups and downs.
    The Kay, on the other hand, had such an incredible sound with the bow that it's motivated me to learn how to do it "for realz" as it would increase my repertoire for recordings and maybe some live stuff too.
    If I find an instructor maybe he/she will be able to help me get the SB set up better.
    Once again, you guys are awesome.
  15. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Fantastic. Are you going to get started on the unified field theory next?