upper register hand position, piano q

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by kimstevens, Nov 28, 2003.

  1. kimstevens


    Nov 12, 2002
    Hi Michael and Steve

    Since fretless bass is difficult to play with good intonation, with or without lines, I am wondering what you think about the fact that a thumb position, like on upright, is generally not used with bass guitar. Michael, I know that some of your basses have very extended fingerboards and cutaways; do you think the cutaways make intonation more difficult (particularly when jumping from the low end of the neck to the high end), while improving playability? I'm thinking of the way upright players use the neck heel and upper bouts of their instrument to know where they are -- I've been playing an acoustic fretless bass guitar a lot lately, and am beginning to think that the impediment of the heel and the body is helping my intonation.

    Another q: do you guys have pianos, and do you spend much time practicing and/or writing with them?


  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Kim,

    I think you're right that the neck joint on an upright provides a good visual and physical reference point on an upright (I'm sure Don Z will fill us in on the specifics of how it works...)

    I think the problem with thumb position for most stuff on electric is just the angle of the neck - holding the bass horizontally makes that a pretty specialized technique... there are elec players who do that - I've seen Michael do it, and Steve Bailey does it quite a bit too... I very occasionally bring my thumb round the front, but not as a rule.

    electric bass is such a young instrument that just about all techniques are up for grabs - there are so many things that still have yet to be perfected, and everytime someone comes up with a new take on technique, the rest of us can benefit from the time they've put in. So whether it's the Wooten/Dickens uber-slap approach which has opened all manner of rhythmic possibilities, or Michael's use of tapping and slapping combined as well as the detuners, or Todd Johnson's chord melody approach, or matt garrison's fingerpicking technique, or abe laboriel's use of south american acoustic guitar techniques on bass - all of it opens new avenues for those of us following them to explore, and hopefully to make our own mark with variations and combinations of these ideas...

    As far as intonation is concerned, I'm all for anything that helps you play in tune, so if the heel joint works for you, I say acknowledge it, use it, and think of other ways of getting your intonation together... everything that helps you play in tune is good... :)

  3. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I agree that thumb position is highly applicable to bass guitar and while a few of us mess with it from time to time, I’ll bet it's full potential has yet to be reached. However, I found that when I was playing upright, the techniques I used for trying to stay in tune are quite different from those I use on electric. The "feel the heel" approach is definitely a big part of playing the big boy, but it has never worked for me on electric, presumably because the neck is so much longer in relation to the body. Therefore, the large cutaways on my basses don't seem to make much difference one way or the other for me in trying to stay in tune. Once again I think Steve is really right on in his advice that anything that helps you achieve better intonation is a good thing, so if using the heel is working for you keep at it!

    As far as piano goes, I used to love to play a little every day when I had the time. These days my time is a little tighter and I don't have a real piano, but I do still compose on keyboard once in a while.