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Working up to faster tempos and staying solid

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Theborough, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. Theborough


    Aug 23, 2008
    I've recently been getting into playing more horn player bop and faster rhythm changes, but can't play consistently for more than 15 -20 minutes at 220+. My hands start to cramp up a little, position and intonation suffers, which then later leads to inconsistent time and feel. Especially in a big band when everyone relies on the bass, anyone have some excersizes, books, recordings, ideas, mindsets, etc. for working up to being consistent and solid at faster tempos.
  2. Theborough


    Aug 23, 2008
    Oh and by the way I play with one finger till around 180ish, 2 from then on, but I don't use 3 finger technique, is that worth learning?
  3. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    Don't take my word for it but a lot can be said for remaining relaxed and simplifying your bass line. You could also utilize cheats, if your job depends on it, by lowering your action, boosting your amp, and playing with a much lighter touch. This will dramatically alter your sound, possibly for the worse, but you will succeed in letting the amp do more of the work. 3 finger technique is worth learning, but I believe we can always improve out stamina by working to build our chops, just like when we first started and could only manage to play for 5 minutes at a time, you have to build it up progressively.

    I can't wait to hear other people's ideas since I'm working on this area too.

  4. uprightben


    Nov 3, 2006
    Boone, NC
    I find that when I'm try to walk stupid fast staying relaxed is crucial. The minute I start to tense up I get cramps and I'm in big trouble. If I'm just practicing I can stop, stretch and re-focus, but if I'm on stage I try to breath deeply, close my eyes and focus on the sounds. That sounds pretty weird, but I can usually work through the tension/cramps if I need to. Knowing the tune so well that you don't have to think about the changes helps a lot. I also like to play with a slightly lighter touch and really accent the 2 and 4, which seems to help with the groove (I imagine a pot of water that is simmering at that point right before it boils-red hot but orderly and under control).

    I also bring tunes up incrementally with a metrome when I practice. I'll play a couple of choruses, then bring it up 5 clicks and repeat. The next day I only start a little faster than the day before-not at the tempo I finished at the day before.

    I hope that is helpfull, and truthfully, I would be hard pressed to sustain super fast tempos for an entire set. Staying solid above 220 for 20 minutes isn't bad. I can't think of a gig where I've ever been asked to do more than two barn burners in a row.
  5. namraj


    Feb 7, 2008
    changing right hand techniques is one way to handle cramping, although it will change the timbre very slightly, at 220bmp+ this won't be noticeable, learn a thumb finger alternate technique and a 3 finger technique and alternate between them, if the song has two defined sections then use the change in timbre to your advantage and swap technique between sections.

    the alternative is to practice loads and like an athlete build up the strength and stamina to keep going.
  6. whilst on this topic does anyone have any ideas on a nice EQ setup for fast playing?

    I have worked my way up to playing fast though still need to smooth some stuff out,... I liked putting lots of mid and low mid in my EQ so I could cut through 2 distorted guitars, but find playing at high speed it ends up becoming mud,...

    I changed to adding more bass and putting a tad more treble in and settling my onboard preamp to a bass mid centre,... now it has a really awesome devilish bass that comes through and can still be defined when playing fast, im just worried im going to get used to this tone and then find in a band setting its going to get drowned out (2 guitarists with distortion and scooped EQ's.... eek!)
  7. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Back door's open again, gotta fix that.
  8. :)

    "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. We'd like to do a fast number for you now, so just be patient while our bass player adjusts his equalizer settings. We want to make sure it's just right. did anyone hear about the horse that walked into a bar?"
  9. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    I've often told people the whole relaxing thing was most important, but at a jam session in Memphis it really proved it to me. Years of playing with a bebop fanatic has left me with "no fear" when it comes to tempos, but I was on the bandstand when "What is This Thing Called" was kicked off by a horn player. Unfortunately, a young drummer was sitting in and he just wasn't up to it. Every few bars the beat would turn around. After the head and 2 choruses I was feeling myself struggle to play 4 to the bar, and the tempo wasn't that fast.

    Then I realized that I had really become tense. I laid out a chorus and let the drummer and trumpet player have one, and jumped back in and just relaxed. The beat was still screwed up but it got a big smile from the trumpeter because he had someplace to call home.

    Relax.....it is the key to up tempo.
  10. I find lighting up on the touch and relaxing arms and shoulders most critical. I was headed down the road to a very sore shoulder everytime I played. Working on the relaxation worked wonders.
  11. When you were "lighting up",exactly what were you smoking?:D:D
  12. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Be careful that lightening up your touch doesn't kill your tone. Speed and tone are not mutually exclusive. It just takes time and practice to build up those muscles. I find it to be a careful balance and one that I spend time on every time I practice.
  13. cbarosky


    Jun 7, 2008
    Burlington, VT
    ok i don't get how the previous post has anything to do with the topic, but i'll put in something from my short experience with drummers who love to "F*** with [me]" and play ungodly speeds... remember Rufus Reid's chicken wing motion with the whole arm to dig into the string more? i know it's really odd, but i tried using this in conjunction with quicker 2-finger attacks at up-tempo and it seems to help the stamina. perhaps because more muscle is being incorporated. how you concentrate it and control it is something that needs practice, and is something i shed as often as possible. does anyone else do this or am i just crazy?
  14. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    Lynn Seaton shows this as the "pump handle" technique. Yep, use it often.
  15. rokkitt


    Jun 7, 2007
    bronx, nyc


    bartender says....

    hey buddy, what's with the long face!

  16. Theborough


    Aug 23, 2008
    Thanks for all the input so far. Today I tried digging in less while practicing and using my amp. I can play a bit faster, but the one worry I have is that by doing this I'm losing the overall true tone of playing acoustically which is what I really try to do and dig in. However, digging in on the lower strings w/amp doesn't always sound the greatest. The swinging arm motion thing you're talking about is also interesting and I've seen some great players use it, I'll check it out.
  17. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I was at a jazz bass workshop where the faculty poked fun at Rufus and the chicken wing motion so I'm pretty sure there isn't universal agreement on it.

    Something I know is that I have definite modes with the right hand depending on style of playing and the tempo. Usually I play with both fingers side by side. For fast soloing and a lighter touch, I use just the middle finger or alternate the fingers. For fast walking I use the middle finger with the index finger on top for weight. One might think that the index finger with the middle finger on top would be more logical but I find that since the middle finger is longer, it has more agility. Relaxing is definitely the key but I find that especially when there is a lot of extended fast stuff, what I need to make doubly sure of is how hard I am digging in. Specifically not to dig in so much. I tend to dig in a lot and use little or no amp under regular circumstances so when it comes to lots of extended fast stuff, I try to use a little more of the amp and be less heavy-handed. I have to remember this especially when it is fast AND loud!
  18. my bad, wrong thread,... and im on the wrong side of the board, I don't even own an upright bass how much worse can I get ? :D
    I'll be a leaving now...
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm not sure I'd want to be hanging out with guys who make fun of Rufus in front of students...but then I'm biased.

    What I try to do with the "chicken wing" technique (which I believe in implicitly, BTW) is to practice making the downstroke of the arm the accent or "beat", then practice playing 8th notes, triplets, and 16th notes where the arm only drops on the downbeat and makes a return circle upward (kind of an oval, actually) on the remaining stokes. At tempos, I use the same motion to help my right arm relax by mentally turning quarters into 8ths, triplets, etc. in terms of right arm motion. It helps me a lot. YMMV.

    I've also been working on the NHØP 3 finger technique with the above, and have found that it's a nice tool to have in the shed for walking fast tempos.
  20. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I would practice playing at the fastest tempo that you can that retains the sound you want and the feel that you want and then move the tempo up by 20-30bpm and again practice that until it retains the sound and feel that you want before you go up to the next increment.

    If you had a gig every day that requred you to play tunes at 300bpm, intially it would be hell but after a a couple of weeks or a month or so your brain and your body would get acclimated to it.

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