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The Lowdown with Dr. D - Page 4

Avoiding Discomfort and Pain When Playing the Upright Bass

Avoiding Discomfort and Pain When Playing the Upright Bass

It should be physically easy to play the upright bass. When we experience discomfort or pain, during or after playing, it is our body’s way of telling us that we are doing something wrong. While each body is unique, there are general guidelines all bassists can follow which will reduce the potential for bass-related injury. Below are some general recommendations...

Classification of Three Types of Thumb Position on the Double Bass

Classification of Three Types of Thumb Position on the Double Bass

When we speak of thumb position on the bass we are referring to a left hand (l.h.) fingering system where the thumb is used to depress the string. The thumb is on top of the board (rather than behind the neck) and it presses the string down like any other finger. However, often telling someone to “play that in thumb...

Thumb Position Below the Half Point of the String on Double Bass

Thumb Position Below the Half Point of the String on Double Bass

Although I sometimes use a 1-2-3-4 fingering technique below the half point of the string (12th fret, if we had frets), I often find a thumb position fingering to be more efficient, easier on the hand and, most importantly, more accurate. Of course, many bass players first learn thumb position starting at the half point of the string (G harmonic...

Some Thoughts on the 1-2-3-4 Fingering System for Double Bass

Some Thoughts on the 1-2-3-4 Fingering System for Double Bass

For as long as there have been bassists, there has been debate about what fingering system to use. While most players today use a three-finger technique (1-2-4, or the Italian 1-3-4) some suggest a four-finger technique, especially in the middle positions (i.e. between D and G on the G string). One of the main arguments for using a 1-2-3-4 system...

Getting the Most of a Bass Lesson

Getting the Most of a Bass Lesson

When we make a commitment to embark on a series of bass lessons we are, of course, looking to grow, expand and progress. This is why, if we are serious about our study, we make efforts to find a teacher who we believe can help us on our bass journey. Locating a good teacher and showing up each week is...

What’s This Angled Endpin Business?

What’s This Angled Endpin Business?

I get lots of questions about my bass and “what’s up with that endpin?” ranks in the top ten. As you know, most endpins come straight out of the bass, at a angle more or less parallel with the back of the instrument, a 90 degrees relation to the bottom of the instrument. When the instrument is standing entirely upright,...

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A Quick Warmup for the Left Hand

A Quick Warmup for the Left Hand

Sometimes we need to warmup in a hurry. When I need to warmup in two minutes or less I do exercises like the ones below. Some things to remember when doing these: Start slowly and speed up as you go Keep the fingers light and flexible, don’t press any harder than necessary Don’t’ go any faster than feels easy, slow...

Three Exercises for Releasing and Relaxing the Left Hand Thumb

Three Exercises for Releasing and Relaxing the Left Hand Thumb

Keeping the thumb of our left hand flexible is a key component in achieving an agile fingering hand. Ideally, any pressure exerted by the thumb against the neck should be minimal. Below are a few exercises that should help you keep your thumb relaxed and your left hand injury free. 1. Thumb independence Pick a note, pick a finger (perhaps...

Simple Exercise for Increased Bow Control on Bass

Simple Exercise for Increased Bow Control on Bass

When using the bow, the natural tendency is to play louder at the frog and softer at the tip. We must, of course, counteract this predisposition on a regular basis. Simply playing a full bow with consistent timbre and volume requires it. Generally, we do this by adding pressure, via arm weight, to the bow as we move further from...

Beginning Exercise for Improving Left Hand Finger Independence

Beginning Exercise for Improving Left Hand Finger Independence

The four movements of the left hand fingers necessary for string playing (to paraphrase the great violin pedagogue Demetrius Constantine Dounis) are: Lifting: Raising a finger from the fingerboard/string Dropping: Lowering a finger/Pressing a string to the fingerboard Sliding: Moving a finger along the string so the pitch rises or lowers accordingly Holding: leaving a finger down on the string...

Seven Planes of the Bow Arm

Seven Planes of the Bow Arm

If we are aiming for a consistent sound, the shape of our bow arm should be the same no matter which string, or combination of strings, we are playing on. To do this, we must raise or lower our arm, depending upon which string, or combination of strings, we are playing on. For example, while the shape of our bowing...

Beginning Jazz Soloing: A Melody First Approach

Beginning Jazz Soloing: A Melody First Approach

Some methods of learning jazz improvisation start out from the beginning by asking us to memorize chords, scales, and to play patterns in every key. For those unaccustomed to improvising, or inexperienced in theory, starting out this way can be a daunting task. It can make the learning curve for improvisation seem insurmountable. Some people take naturally to it, of...