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Re: upright rookie needs help

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Posted by Will Givens ( on September 25, 2003 at 17:05:33:

In Reply to: Re: upright rookie needs help posted by Rich Laird on September 26, 2002 at 20:34:28:

: : I am an electric bass player and i've recently had the good fortune to spend
: : some quality time with a school upright. I'm really excited to finally play
: : a "real" bass, but i'm afraid using my electric techinque isn't quite working.
: : Any advice on some basic pizzicato technique, like thumb anchor spots and plucking?
: : How about some basic fingering technique? Any assistance would be awesome!

: Mostly, people are talking about a bass guitar when they say "electric bass". If that's what you mean, there's no reason to expect your guitar technique will be very applicable to a violin-family instrument. The strings are usually tuned the same - but the similarity pretty much ends there.

: When I play a bass guitar, I try to more-or-less brush my plucking fingers across the string without too much impact. Playing an upright, you want to actually pull the string to the side before releasing it - it's almost like a bow-and-arrow effect. It's not always really obvious - especialy when you're playing faster - but that "pull-and-release" aspect is always there - at least a little bit.

: You want to anchor your thumb firmly against the side of the fingerboard - use your first and second fingers independantly as much as possible (some guys actually use three). The anchor spot depends on what kind of sound you want. Like any stringed instrument, the attack will be harder and the sound a little punchier and brighter the closer to the bridge you are. It'll get a little warmer and more sustaining further away from the bridge.

: There's several books that will show you the fundamentals of fingering - Simandl Book 1 is as good as any. Left hand posture is really important for beginners. You need a teacher for that, and all aspects of your technique.

: If you get at all serious about this, getting a teacher will realy be worthwhile.

: Welcome to the doghouse!

I agree with Rich. The left hand technique is important so that you don't put a lot of stress on your wrist. Most of the strength for pressing the strings comes from your forearm and not so much your hand. Your elbow should be almost parallel with the ground. The bass hight should be such that in the first position you can easily lean and touch your left ear with with your left hand index finger. You should have the bass turned slightly toward you. You don't play standing beside it (the side board is not perpendicular to your hip.) The corner seam made by the back and side boards goes into the hollow of your hip. When you do pizz. typically you pull the string towards you and release it. If you want a fuller sound you pull the string away from the finger board (but not so far as to slap it.) Some jazz tunes sound good with a bit of string slap to the finger board, but done without technique, it's just sloppy.
The hardest transition from guitar is geting use to the spacing of fingers and positions without the aide of frets. For beginers, marking off the positions on the finger board with black electrical tape can be helpful. If want some nice practice music, find some swing stuff with a walking bass line. (It's more fun than doing scales.) If you find yourself going classical, the cello is also written in bass clef and you don't need a big hand to play it. However, the double bass is tuned in fourths (like your guitar) and the cello is tuned in fifths.
I hope you enjoy playing and don't get discouraged.

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