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Wrist angle, left hand

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Dec 31, 2017.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Hi guys

    for those that play standing, when in 1/2 or first position, is there an imaginary straight line from the elbow through to the wrist and onto the fingers OR does the wrist bend slightly (I'd say, in my case, around 45 degrees) ? If a straight line, what causes the bend and how to fix it?
    And is a similar vein, do any of you play with the instrument leaning forward (into the fingers), in other words if it were to fall it would go forward? There seem to be different opinions on this, but that's nothing new with playing the DB I guess!

    Regards to all
  2. Personally, I'm a "straight or straight-ish line" player. I believe it facilitates left hand agility, better shifting and injury mitigation. To get a straight angle, simply elevate the elbow by raising the upper arm. Easier to do in a seated position, especially if you have shorter arms (as do I) and need a taller endpin setting for your bow arm. (Now, if you're playing Bluegrass gigs, I've seen plenty of players just drop the elbow and use the baseball bat grip on the neck when they're thumping out the tonic and dominant for hours on end, but I believe you're an orchestral player, correct?)

    I've heard players discuss leaning the instrument forward and using its mass to aid in stopping the strings under the fingers, and I've done it in the past occasionally to fight fatigue; however, I normally play seated in the orchestra, which makes it impossible to do so.

    Happy new year!
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2017
    Adam Booker likes this.
  3. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman

    Jan 1, 2010
    There's a slight bend in my wrist in those positions (Less than 45 degrees...maybe 20 degrees, at most). And my bass is balanced back into my body. If I let go of the neck, it stays where it is.

    on edit: To clarify, the bend is "front to back", not sideways. If a sideways bend creeps into my wrist in those positions, it means I'm being lazy and my elbow needs to be raised more.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2017
  4. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    And to you, thanks
  5. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    Leaning forward? Maybe lean forward very temporarily for a sfz, if I want to fit in with bass players who should have retired twenty years ago. But even then, it's really not necessary. The right combination of arm weight, bow placement, and bow speed, along with good posture, gets me everything I need, plus I still have control over the instrument.

    Yes, keep it straight. [EDIT: "it" refers to forearm-wrist-fingers] When you bend the wrist even slightly, you lose the support of the forearm and the free rotation that is necessary for a good vibrato.
    Adam Booker likes this.
  6. lurk


    Dec 2, 2009
    You can play all sorts of ways, but the trick is to play biomechanically as much as possible so you can play till you're old without pain and/or injury. This means bending your wrist as little as possible IMHO. Imagine you're pulling a heavy door towards you using your finger tips. You would not have a bent wrist or flat fingers. Flat (ish) fingers is my own personal bugaboo.
    As far as tilting the bass to use the weight, I've known some very good players who use that technique in thumb position - requires a lowish endpin. I could never get the hang of it.
  7. Of course there is a whole spectrum of approaches about how to set up and use the LH to best advantage. And lots of factors too, such as whether you are sitting or standing, jazz or solo/orchestral, German or French bow,the size and shape of your bass, your height and build, LH size and shape, relative finger lengths, etc, etc. The most general of "rules" I would apply is to never raise your L elbow higher than your shoulder (or suffer pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulder!)

    Perhaps like csrund above you could call me a "flat-wrister". In the picture I am sitting and my hand is covering 1st and 2nd Position (I use 1 2 3 4 fingering all over up to F sharp before Thumb Position). Having seated myself comfortably I raise my LH from my side as naturally as possible so that the four fingers rest comfortably on a string. My L elbow height enables as natural a line as possible from my elbow to my finger tips through a straight wrist.

    This works nicely for the upper three strings without too much lateral thumb movement and is still fairly comfortable for the 2nd finger on the E string. The other fingers on the E string require some front-to-back pronation if I am to maintain the same elbow height and I am immediately aware of losing power with the pronation. For held single notes, especially bottom F and A flat I will lower my elbow slightly and adopt a "barber's pole" approach, spiralling my hand around with 1st finger pointing up, not across, to keep the wrist as flat as possible. I also allow my other fingers to close up. The note that gives me the most grief for pitch and clarity is the bottom A flat.

    This approach of mine is part of an overall package that works for me in orchestra, including how I sit, the height and angles of the bass in relation to my body, and how I approach bowing across the four strings with my right arm. I like lurk's use of "biomechanically". I am 76 , 5' 7" tall, overweight, and still pain free (except for knees and feet!!) after 53 years of playing.

    This post is not about my ego. I wish that you would all add photos to your contributions so that our comments can immediately mean more.

    Happy New Year, every one.

    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  8. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    I'm sure I'm not the only one who would love to hear an explanation of what you mean by this.
    gerry grable likes this.

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