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Volume?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by garron, Sep 19, 2003.


  1. garron

    garron

    Jun 26, 2003
    Washington, DC
    Lately I've really been working on my pizz, trying to a bigger unamplified sound out of the bass, without major finger damage. I am playing with Obligatos, mainly pizz, but arco at school. I've tried a few variations, doubling up my fingers, etc. Any more secrets or ideas on technique? A professional setup perhaps (this is my first carved bass, but I haven't made the trek to Tulsa for a proper setup yet)?

    I've done a search on volume, and read the newbie links, I'm just looking for more opinions, or material to read.
     
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    If you've read the links to previous discussions on this topic, then you will have read that the secret to getting a bigger tone with less effort is the same as the secret to getting better tone out of a piano or throwing a football: the secret lies in the art of using more of your body and less of your hand and forearm. Your teacher should be able to help you with this.

    ahem...

    :)
     
  3. garron

    garron

    Jun 26, 2003
    Washington, DC
    Posted by Crass Bassherald
    So I've read, but the mechanics seem really awkward. I really seem to lose flexibility and speed when I try to use more of my body. I haven't yet brought this up with my teacher, because she is primarily a cellist, and classical player who claims to know nothing about jazz. Will she be able to help much with pizz technique?
     
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Probably not. Your best bet would be to hook up with a good jazz bassist in your area for a lesson or two. I was lucky that Rufus Reid was in town right when I started playing, and I was able to get a long lesson, the subject of which I'm still exploring to this day - when you make your finger(s) into a hook, the flexibility has to come from your wrist, elbow and shoulder, all of which act as "flowing shock absorbers" for the pizz stroke. I'd write more, but the little bundle of joy :)rolleyes: :D) in my lap just decided life was suddenly unbearably tragic. Until later....
     
  5. Hey Chris,
    I would like to hear more of what Rufus Reid had to say of his right hand technique. I`ve tried his whole hand "hook" technique and can see how that much more meat gets on the strings but I tried it at faster tempos and got nowhere fast. What advice did Mr. Reid give?...besides lots and lots of practice...Thanks in advance.

    Dave
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I won't presume to speak for Rufus in general, but what he told me that day was that the motion basically stays the same, but the faster the tempo, the smaller the motion, and vice versa. Basically, your back and chest muscles drive the pizz stroke, but it's easier to think of the elbow controlling it (the chest/back muscles control the shoulder movement, which in turn controls the elbow movement, etc.). Think of your elbow raising in preparation for the stroke, and then dropping during the stroke, which causes the weight of your entire arm to drive the "hook" (finger) through the string. As the note sounds, the elbow raises again in an almost circular motion to prepare for the next stroke.

    At the core of what makes it work for me is the notion of a "circular" or elliptical motion which stays in time with the tempo you are playing, regardless of what that tempo may be. In my case, I keep my pizz finger ON* the fingerboard throughout the entire stroke, raising it only to get back to the other side of the string as the elbow raises - in this way, the fingerboard/string bear the full weight of the arm. At faster tempos, the whole motion gets smaller, so much so that you can't even see the elbow moving any more...it just becomes very loose, and there is a sensation of it "jiggling" a bit. The hardest part to learn for me has been (and continues to be) to remember to keep the wrist relaxed at those 350+ tempos. At that speed, my hand and arm need the "shock absorber" effect even more than at lesser tempos, but it is at these higher tempos that I start to stiffen up these days.

    For me the key to playing the tempos is in the accent patterns: One "elbow drop" can produce one quarter note, two 8th notes, three triplets, etc.... and at tempos up around 300-350+, I'm trying to learn how to play a 16th note pattern of elbow motion (i.e. - 4 to 1) while actually playing quarter notes (i.e. - same as playing 16th notes at MM=100). Every time I get into a tempo in this area at present, my arm starts to stiffen up like crazy after a few choruses because I loose the accent pattern and have to go back to a smaller ratio. Even at that, I'm confident that the system will work if I only practice diligently enough at slower tempos for the forseeable future.


    * EDIT: I forgot to mention that at faster tempos the entire stroke becomes much "lighter" as well as smaller, and in my case, I also come off the fingerboard somewhere between 300-350 and brush the string only. Maybe someday I'll be able to play these tempos with the exact same stroke, but that day is a long, long way away. :)
     
  7. ole Jason

    ole Jason Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Louisville, KY
    Cool post chris. I bet the drummer loves it when those 350+ songs are called out.
     
  8. Thanks Chris,
    I really like Reid`s work. The man is a walking encyclopedia of music. I went to a Clinic of his at MTSU a while back and to be honest was disgusted. Long story short that week was Jazz week at MTSU and lots of different things was going on. There were several Middle School Jazz Bands there compeating. Well I was the first one in the auditorium chomping at the bits waiting to take part in this opportunity of Rufus Reid wisdom and instructing:D Well, he comes in and I`m setting there about two rolls back in the empty auditorium and looks at me and makes a point say Hi to me as he set-up and did soundcheck. Well about that time the door bust open and the place floods with Middle School age youngsters. I`m thinking..OK...great chance for these kids, I wish I would have had a chance like this at their age. For your visual let me just say...no joke..the young lady that sat beside me had a hot pink mohawk.
    Well Mr. Reid started his set by having half the crowd sing a "C" and the other sing a "G" and he played Bass over the top of it. Very interesting. Well afterwards he talked about Bass as these people were very board with that so he put the Bass down and talk about Chords and practicing. Theses young people were totally disrespecting the Man and I couldent believe it. Poping their gum, talking, cutting up. One of the students Teachers raised his hand and said.."uhh yeah, can you uhhh like tell em some of the people you`ve worked with that they would recognize" Mr. Reid started a list and asked if for a show of hands of who knew these Jazz greats he named. Very Few raised their hand. Then I heard a ..ahum..young mans voice from the back say.."yeah, did you ever work with Stanly Clark or Jaco?"...I said all that to say this. I felt sorry for the man the way these people treated him. I guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.....but so was he.

    Dave
     
  9. garron

    garron

    Jun 26, 2003
    Washington, DC
    Thanks Chris. I'll experiment and see what happens.
     
  10. further to chris's excellent posts above, I find it helpful in thinking about this stuff to keep in mind that the arm has really four joints, unlike the leg, which has three. Starting from the foot, the leg joints go ankle-knee-hip, whereas the arm is wrist-elbow-shoulder-sternum/clavicle. (Sorry, can't think of a more conventional name for this last.)

    The key is that although the leg connects to the spine/torso/pelvis at the hip, the shoulder does not connect to the body at the shoulder, though that's what most people believe. The only bone-to-bone connection of the arm to the main torso is the end of the clavicle (collarbone) at the sternum. This joint is just below the throat, and its motion can be felt clearly if you place one hand on the upper chest just below the throat and shrug the other shoulder up.

    The clavicle runs across the front and the scapula (the broad, flat triangle bone slung over the back at the shoulder) meet to form what we normally think of as the shoulder, the joint socket for humerous (the upper bone of the arm proper). The scapula is not attached bone to bone to the torso at all. Instead, the scapula and the shoulder end of the clavicle simply float together over the ribcage, linked in to the torso with muscle and ligament in several different directions. The only joint attachment of this whole system is just below the throat mentioned above. So that's where your arm is really attached to the rest of the body.

    Sorry to sound like your biology teacher, but the point of all this is that an accurate image can really help improve those pizz strokes. Just keep in mind that arm movements hinge from the body more or less at the center of the chest, and that the clavicle/scapula unit can swing over a surprisingly wide range in many directions to move the rest of the shoulder/arm around. When you think about this goal of driving pizz energy from the legs and torso down through the arm to the finger(s), try to become more aware of the role of all the muscles which connect the clavicle/scapula unit to the ribcage, spine, and neck.

    Think of cracking a bullwhip. If controlled properly, a tiny but powerful flick of the whip's handle can cause a release of great energy at the tip. Then think of the clavicle/scapula unit as the whip handle, which you flick with the torso and the chest/back muscles which control the clavicle/scapula.

    Whew. Sorry, this is probably completely confusing. Anyone really interested should have a look at an anatomy text. For me anyway, trying to understand this stuff helps in solving technical problems in my playing.
     
  11. Gufenov

    Gufenov

    Jun 8, 2003
    originally posted by TARPON
    A better bridge and a soundpost adjustment made a huge difference in volume in my bass. By all means, work on technique, but take the time to make sure your instrument is at its best.
     
  12. Something else to watch for in the quest for tone and volume:

    You could master Rufus's pizz stroke but still sound feeble if your coordination is off. That is, if you pull and release the string with your right hand before your left hand has the string securely stopped. I've observed this in my own playing- if I'm playing hard and fast and starting to tire or cramp (especially in an awkward key- Db/ Gb), my left hand can fall slightly behind my right so that I'm "hammering on" some notes, and my sound goes away. One of the things I practice is trying to get the left hand in place before the right hand plays the string, without shortening the previous note.

    (My thanks to Rob W. for teaching me that one.)