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Which Fingering Method for Jazz?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by RobMac, Dec 28, 2019.


  1. RobMac

    RobMac

    Sep 9, 2016
    Edinburgh
    Mel Bay Author
    Not got my DB yet, but doing some prep work and research. I've become aware of different classical methods used by players (classical or jazz) such as Simandl, Rabbath, and Machado's "The Tao of Bass" - I'm sure there are many others.

    Each seems to have a very different approach to left-hand fingering, and I imagine - although I'm an experienced bass guitarist - it would be easy to get lost with the different schools.

    So, given the above, what do you think would be the most useful for jazz playing?
     
  2. Start with Simandl, but try Rabbath as soon as it starts making sense to you. I haven't heard about Machado. Check good youtube videos, like Chris Fitzgerald's. Be open. With big bass, you need to find a way that works for you.
     
  3. Sean Riddle

    Sean Riddle Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    Ventura, California
    Starting on Simandl and the methods/etudes associated with that method would be a good starting point. It’ll provide you with a solid technical foundation to base yourself from and at least can guarantee solid intonation. From there it’s much more easier to add more fingering concepts to your vocabulary. I’ve spent time with both Simandl and a bit of Rabbath and have found uses for both in my playing. Generally I’ve found when playing bass lines I stick to a more Simandl approach, which can basically be boiled down to shift every half-step. When playing a faster passage, soloing, etc, I’ve found myself to employ some pivoting and the playing across the strings concept Rabbath tends to employ.

    An exercise book that I have been really appreciating recently is Joel Quarrington’s Daily Exercises. There’s a lot of great material in there and some great workouts for shifting.

    Edit: Also check out the Zimmerman bowing book. Obviously it’s amazing for the bow, but I learned that Dave Holland uses it for two finger pizz workouts as well.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2019
  4. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    Denver, Colorado
    I think Simandl is king, at least until you hit the octave harmonic. When you hit thumb position there are a lot of options and one would do well to explore and incorporate many.
     
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Simandl fingering is a solid foundation for beginners, up to about the neck heel. The whole 1-2-4 concept itself in these positions is pretty standard and foundational, and I don't see how it can do harm to anyone.

    In the long run I have different thoughts on the "fixed hand vs. free/relaxed hand" issue, but even there I think that it's best to begin with fixed hand. If a person moves on the the free/relaxed hand technique from there, at least they will have a firsthand idea of what it is intended to transcend. The old Dalai Lama quote, "One cannot transcend something one has not yet attained" is applicable here, as in much of the rest of life.
     
  6. RobMac

    RobMac

    Sep 9, 2016
    Edinburgh
    Mel Bay Author
    Thanks for the comments. Simandl seems to be provide a solid start. But I wonder about playing A, B and C on the first string why the third finger is such a no-no?

    Machado uses the third finger in those positions, proposing to adapt fingering for any given situation. More info here: Marcos Machado — Discover Double Bass
     
    Keith Rawlings likes this.
  7. You’ll want a good hand position and have developed a lot of strength otherwise you can cause yourself an injury.

    Get yourself a good teacher right at the start to check your posture, hand positions and bow grip. It’ll feel like a snails pace at first, just commit 30-60 mins a day to what they teach you to do until it’s automatic. Then feel free to explore other ideas.
     
    rknea, Chris Fitzgerald and RobMac like this.
  8. RobMac

    RobMac

    Sep 9, 2016
    Edinburgh
    Mel Bay Author
    Sound sense.
     
  9. dkziemann

    dkziemann

    Dec 13, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    Endorsed by D'Addario
    Lots of great advice in this thread, so I'll throw my few cents into the discussion. I'm not aware of the details of Marcos' methodology beyond the few videos I've checked out from Discover Double Bass, so I won't comment on that!

    I'm a fan of mixing multiple methods. Simandl is fundamentally great in that it really explores what's available in each position, and the etudes—though somewhat dry—are harmonically grounded. It's thorough. Sean Riddle's comment about developing vocabulary with those fingerings is spot on. To me, where it lacks is the slow crawl up the fingerboard and somewhat confusing position names. Though it's quite possible (and a good study) to play tunes only in half/first position, jazz students benefit when they move around the bass early in their studies.

    Rabbath/Vance gets students moving around the bass (into the neck block position) and using open strings right off the bat. Open strings are the key to pivoting around the bass, especially for walking lines. Plus, the simplified position names—first, tuning, block thumb (or 1,2,3 etc)—are much more intuitive. Fingerings are highly personal, and I'm a fan of using 1-2 as my primary fingering pair. I often use them in place of more "conventional" Simandl-style fingerings, because I like the rhythmic affect and articulate sound.

    There is some discussion surrounding intonation and fingering methodologies, and I believe a strong ear and aural foundation influences intonation more than fingering systems. I pivot a range of a Minor 3rd in the neck block position because it's easier for me to play in tune. Different strokes for different folks, but I always believe that if the ear hears it, the fingers find a way :)
     
    RobMac and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  10. dan1952

    dan1952 Commercial User

    Jun 27, 2012
    Anderson IN
    Artist Endorsement with Supro Huntington Basses / Owner, Dan's Music, Inc..
    Simandl has proven to provide a solid base to work from, so I'll go with Simandl.
     
    powerbass, RobMac and salcott like this.
  11. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Using 1-2-3-4 below IV-V position is a recipe for injury as far as I'm concerned. My bass is a pretty standard 41 1/4" string length, and from nut to B on the G string is about 8". This means that between G# and B is about 6". Open your hand so that there's a 6" span between index and pinky. See how long you can maintain the stretch.
     
  12. Sean Riddle

    Sean Riddle Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    Ventura, California
    This is really important. If you’re going to use a 4 finger method you either have to be really smart about it or have freakishly large hands.
    And another thing to add to the whole Rabbath thing is that I only employ pivots starting at Simandl’s 5th position or Rabbath’s second position. I’ve found using them any lower to be painful. My interest in Rabbath sprung more from the playing across the strings concept it employs rather than the more old school playing through the strings. It’s been helpful for me with improvising and figuring out how to finger awkward bass lines. But in the end you can spend a whole gig just in half position/1st position. I’ve been practicing playing standards just in that area and it’s been a good technical and theoretical workout.
     
  13. RobMac

    RobMac

    Sep 9, 2016
    Edinburgh
    Mel Bay Author
    Danny, you can throw as many cents into the discussion as you like. I've just recently discovered you through Discover Double Bass, and am highly impressed. I'll be signing up for your Walk On and Trio courses soon, after I finish the one by Katie Thiroux. I'll also seek out your books. In a phrase, I like the cut of your jib!

    In the above quote from your contribution to this discussion you mention the rhythmic effect of using 1-2 instead of the more expected choice. This is something I've noticed on even fretless bass guitar, so I'm glad you mentioned it. The sound and effect we make is determined by the choices we make, so I try to keep that at the forefront of my mind when playing.

    Thanks to all the other contributors too. It has been and continues to be an interesting discussion.
     
  14. Wasnex

    Wasnex

    Dec 25, 2011
    Can you explain what you mean by this?
     
    Keith Rawlings likes this.
  15. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    I don’t get the “not using your ring finger” for left hand technique either. I have always played this way and have never had an problems. When walking an E major scale I’ve always played the G# on the E string with my ring finger, as well as the C# on the A string with the same finger as well. It’s on an old Kay bass though, so maybe it’s easier to play with the ring finger of the left hand on the thinner profile necks of these old plywood DBs, but I’m not sure if that’s why. My intonation and tone using the ring finger to sound the note still sounds great too IMO.

    I bought some Simandl books here on TB and all of them say to not use the ring finger. I don’t understand why though either. Can someone please explain? I start proper lessons on the DB sometime after the first of the year, so I’m sure he will be able to tell me why that third finger is off limits.
     
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The third finger is traditionally avoided in the lower positions mainly for reasons related to spacing and intonation. Fingers are very good at opening and closing without too much tension, but much less adept at spreading apart without strain; the thumb is the obvious exception to this, since it is designed for complete independence. In the lower positions, for most normal sized hands it would be too stressful to keep the fingers spread apart with a half step between each while playing.

    Anatomically, the ring finger is also the least independent finger on the hand. It shares an extensor muscle with the middle finger and a nerve grouping with the little finger. This is why if you lay your hand palm down on a table and fold either the middle or little fingers under, you cannot raise the ring finger although you can still raise all the others. (anatomical details here if anyone's interested).

    I don't think for a minute that Simandl was a biologist or thought deeply about these issues, but I feel confident he intuitively noticed the way the hand works and built that into his fingering system.
     
  17. kerrycares

    kerrycares Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    Wow , this guy is amazing!
    There is a study that helped me that shows the scale fingerings for 2-3 octave scales.
    IMO I preferred it to Simandl because it got me playing more of the bass with the Simandl fingerings , it may have been named Scwhabe ..... I don’t remember.
    It really got me hearing the entire range of the instrument and accelerated my learning by eliminating the “fear” of the upper register because it looks at the entire fingerboard from day one.
     
  18. RobMac

    RobMac

    Sep 9, 2016
    Edinburgh
    Mel Bay Author
    Yes, Marcos blows me away. A lot of people rave about his method, but it is certainly different from the established/entrenched methods the majority of players and teachers were brought up with. It helps that he is an absolute virtuoso in the classical field. Not knowing his method makes it impossible to reject outright, but I guess many people do. That's human nature. I'm new to this game, so from my perspective it is good there are so many good methods, each offering something different, but my original post was over concerns at getting lost between the different methods. I'm tempted to start with Simandl, as so many have done so before me, but I am attracted by Marcos Machado's Tao of Bass, I must admit.
     
    Wasnex likes this.
  19. To discover what falls under you fingers most naturally you need to try several methods.

    I have my own hybrid left hand position while singing & it works extremely well for me (sparse playing only, switch to Simandl during complex runs) by blending a few methods together. Dodgy left shoulder (sports injuries) restricts me also.
     
    dhergert, kerrycares and RobMac like this.
  20. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Like my wife's sifu used to say "you eventually make your own form". Pretty much any consistent methodology for fingering is a good place to start, once you get a foundation in place you can really start making better informed decisions about what works best for you. If you try to make those decisions while you're still discovering how the instrument works, you can head down some dead ends.

    And while I agree that "... if the ear hears it, the fingers find a way...", there are a couple of issues with that approach. First is actually hearing the line with enough identifiable clarity that each of those pitches is clear and distinct. For some folks, that's very easy, for others, you have to get there with a lot of ear training work. Second, even though your ear is directing you to each note in the arc of the line, that generally is not the most efficient way to develop the physical wherewithal to play with a relaxed and tension free approach. Like my teacher said, if you're hearing that line clearly enough, you'll try to get it out with one finger on one string, if that's what it takes. But that's not how you work on physical approach to the instrument.

    Not to continually flog basketball analogies, but you don't just work on playing by actually playing games. You also work on left handed jump shots from 3 point range on the left side of the key, move over a foot, then another foot, etc. etc. So that when you are in a game, you're not holding on by the skin of your teeth, you're actually dancing on familiar ground...
     

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