At the American School of Double Bass® we teach many facets of bass playing. Musically, our aim is to help bassists extract from the music the interpreter and composer’s artistic vision with integrity and taste. Technically, we search for the most facile means to that end by addressing every aspect of body and instrument posture, the bow arm, and the left hand and arm. But, if someone were to demand to know what is the single most important and unique concept that we teach at the American School of Double Bass®, I would have to say it is our approach to fingering.
Accordingly, we teach a system of fingering that we call Simandl-Plus®. It recognizes that the fundamental fingering intervals of traditional Simandl are constant in "closed hand” technique, but it withdraws from the old concept of remaining close to the nut and having as few shifts as possible. The Plus part of Simandl-Plus® affords bassists more fingering choices, empowering them to take command over their left-hand technique by deliberately choosing when in the music, where on the instrument, and which finger to shift to, based on:
Inventing a fingering is one of the initial steps that a bassist should take when studying a new piece of music. Even with this early step, Simandl-Plus® is primarily concerned with musical considerations.
The innovation we call Simandl-Plus® is codified by fifteen specific Fingering Strategies, and a clear and efficient method of notation. These fifteen strategies are subdivided in "sets” of two or three strategies each, grouped according to the parameter they address: rhythm, melodic gestures, tempo, and string crossings, as well as "money” notes/lower numbered fingers, and "transitional” fingers. As with any set of strategies, one must acknowledge their hierarchy of importance and be flexible in knowing when to abandon which strategy. However, I guarantee that finding a fingering that follows all of the applicable strategies will get you much closer to the ultimate goal of realizing the composer’s and interpreter’s artistic vision.
All fingering strategies assume the use of "closed hand” (traditional Simandl 1-2-4) unless otherwise noted.
Melodic Gestures and Rhythm
2a When a melodic gesture (a series of pitches before it changes direction) ends on a stable beat (or on a stable subdivision of the beat), it is almost always best to shift on a mobile beat (or on a mobile subdivision of the beat).
2b When a melodic gesture ends on a mobile beat, (or on a mobile subdivision of the beat), it is almost always best to shift on a stable beat, (or on a stable subdivision of the beat).
"Money" Notes and Lower Numbered Fingers
4) Use the second finger for "money" notes. Though the second finger is preferable, the first finger can be used on "money" notes as well. (See "Function of each of the fingers".)
— It usually works well with lyrical playing in thumb position to use the second finger (or the first) for every note.
6) Avoid playing two (or more) open strings in a row.
7) In scalar passages, play at least two notes on a string before crossing to a new string. (A rest counts as a note.)
8) If practical, choose a fingering that allows a string crossing on adjacent strings, rather than one that requires skipping a string.
9b) In fast playing, use more efficient fingerings: use less shifts, and when you do shift, travel the shortest distance possible; use open strings, and "open hand"* fingerings.
10) You may use an open string only if the note is shorter than a beat, and if the open string does not create an unnecessary string crossing. (Also, see Fingering Strategy 6.) However, in moderately slow or slow tempi, a note may best be played closed instead of with an open string, even if it is shorter than a beat.
Triangulation of Fingering Systems®
12) Use "open hand"* fingering system only in: a) extremely fast passages; b) when you want a passage (of any speed) to be clean (free of portamanti); c) when a passage hovers around a third; and d) to reverse the stable beat/mobile beat arrangement of shifts.
13) Use thumb position in, of course, the "thumb position register". But, you may also use the thumb below the first octave harmonic.
15) Use the second finger rather than the third finger higher than a treble clef top space E on the G-string (and on the same "fret" for all other strings). Notes on this "E fret" may be played with either the second or the third finger.
Fingering Notation Suggestions:
(All fingering notations appear over the notes. Alternate fingerings may appear below the notes.)
2) If it is helpful to indicate a fingering for a note that does not require a shift ("reminder fingerings”), enclose that fingering in parentheses.
3) String indications should be notated with a letter (G, D, A, or E, not roman numerals) over the fingering number.
4) Indicate all open strings with an "o".
5) Indicate "open hand"** fingerings by placing a bracket over the fingering and the notes that are contained in that position. Ex.:
6) To "bridge" one finger across two strings when playing a perfect fourth (or minor sevenths across three strings, or minor tenths across four strings), indicate the finger number followed by two parallel lines over the notes that require the "bridging" fingering. Ex.: 2 =====
7) When playing a perfect fourth across two strings (or minor sevenths or minor tenths) with two different fingers, but not shifting (guitar style), draw two parallel lines between both fingering numbers. Ex.: 1 ===== 2
8) When playing a perfect fourth across two strings (or minor sevenths or minor tenths) with the same finger, (not bridging nor playing with two different fingers in one position) indicate both fingerings within parentheses and without the parallel lines.
• More fluid left-hand technique
Learn more about Simandl-Plus® in this 14-page excerpt, including answer key, from Dr. Mark Morton’s workbook. To download, please click here.
Triangulation of Fingering Systems
One of the most important foundations of the American School's left hand technique is the Triangulation of Fingering Systems.
Most players have been thoroughly grounded in what we call closed hand technique. Franz Simandl’s famous New Method (which is not "new" at all — it was first published over a century ago) is still the leading proponent of this system. In the "closed" technique the left hand spans a whole step (on one string) which requires the hand to stay compact and move quickly. This system works well for about 90% of playing situations. Problems arise in the other 10%. There are passages that don’t lend themselves to musical success by using just this one technique. The old school said: "Here are the fingerings... just play the passage over and over, and faster and faster, until you get it right!"
In searching for alternative fingering systems to meet musical challenges, the first one usually discovered is the open hand technique. This fingering system is also known as "extension fingering", "four-finger technique", or the "Franke system", and appeared in method books in the United States as early as 1886.
Open hand should be used very sparingly - 5-7% of the time. There are only four situations in which Open Hand should be used: 1) in extremely fast passages, 2) when a passage hovers around a third, 3) when you want a passage of any speed to be clean (free of portamenti), and 4) to reverse the stable beat/mobile beat arrangement of the shifts. Also, where on the bass you can use Open Hand is dependant on the size of the player's hand. Those with small to medium hands can only use Open Hand in the middle range and above; those with larger hands can use it in the lower positions as well.
Thumb position, of course is nothing new, but let’s not be afraid to use the thumb below the octave harmonic! Also, Thomas B. Gale has devised a practical codification of thumb positions, not by their location on the fingerboard, but rather by the distribution of whole or half-steps between each of the fingers.
New videos uploaded to the DrMarkMorton YouTube Channel!
Morton is performing the solo bass AND the piano accompaniment! This release a 2 CD set: CD 1 is bass and piano, CD 2 is the piano accomapniments alone. "Bottesini's Greatest Hits" is available from www.albanyrecords.com, www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnobel.com -
Click here for a sample
|Fri Jan 17, 2014 @ 7:30PM - |
Bottesini Concerto #2 in c minor with the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra
|Sat Jan 18, 2014 @ 7:30PM - |
Bottesini Concerto #2 in c minor with the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra
|Tue Feb 04, 2014 @ 7:30PM - |
Piazzola: Contrabajissimo & Contrabajeando Lubbcok Symphony Orchestra Winter Chamber Concert
|Sun Mar 09, 2014 @ 4:00PM - |
Solo Recital: “il Contrabbasso Italiano”