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This is common advice that
you'll find in many bass methods.
However, if you look at the
fingering below the stave, there's an
alternative. Here, we're grouping
the thirds in parallel fingerings
rather than moving up in steps.
Your hand will move in discrete
steps, with either a 4, 2 or 4, 1
fingering across two strings. Now
this is relatively easy in keys that
let you use open strings, so let's
take a look at the same example
transposed into a 'difficult' key.
, here's the same
exercise in Db. Notice that with
the top fingering - which is the
traditional sort of thing that you
find in instruction books - you're
doing a lot of switching back
and forth between half and 1st
positions, while the grouping of
notes from Ab upwards tends to be
between the tones and semitones of
this scale in thirds. Notice that I've
changed the descending fingering in
a couple of places to show you some
more alternatives. By comparison,
the lower fingering is exactly the
same as it was in
grouping the notes in pairs over
major and minor thirds, rather
than shifting position to get the
intervals. Now here's the important
point: both methods work equally
well. My personal preference is for
grouping the thirds under the hand
and working across the strings; I
find that it's less effort.
Let's look now how this applies to
fourths on the bass. Now you might
be thinking 'easy peasy, the bass is
tuned that way so it'll be no trouble'.
That's true, except for one interval:
have a look at
that the F to B natural is actually a
raised (augmented) fourth, rather
than a perfect one, which applies to
the rest of the intervals in the scale.
Here in the top fingering, we're
looking at grouping them mostly
in parallel fourths, apart from the
F-B intervals and open strings. By
comparison, the lower fingering
takes an alternative approach,
where we will group the fingerings
in thirds, with (in most cases) the second half of each beat grouped to the first half of the following beat.
shows the same scale in Db to indicate the fingerings in a key that doesn't use open strings. Here
we're fingering and grouping parallel fourths again, and as you can see, there are one or two big position shifts
needed, and I've suggested alternative fingerings here and there on the way down. Looking at the lower fingering,
once again we're grouping across the half beat in fourths, which can make life a little easier crossing strings rather
than shifting back and forth between positions. In each case with both thirds and fourths, you can finger them 1, 2
or 2, 4, depending on how comfortable you are with the position shifts.
The principle here is to try and get away from unnecessary moves by crossing strings; unfortunately, methods
like Simandl's tend to go for leaps from one position to another. Playing devil's advocate, that can be very useful
just to get your muscle memory used to big shifts, but crossing strings and grouping several notes in one position is
more efficient and less tiring in the long run.
Here's an example of moving up through the positions, and all on the G string:
. The positions are:
half, 2nd, 2 and 1/2, 3 and 1/2, 5, 6, 6 and 1/2 and thumb.
.. quite a list. But if we take the string-crossing approach,
is the result. We're moving up in parallel major and minor thirds, apart from the last three beats, which
are all in thumb position. The positions here are: 2 and 1/2, 3 and 1/2, 5, 5 and 1/2, 6 and 1/2 and thumb. This latter
version omits two whole positions.
Obviously, exercises like this are rather boring musically, but 'woodshedding' position work like this can free
you up on the fingerboard and help you find the easiest and most economical way of shifting throughout the
entire register, get you off the 'tramlines' of standard fingering and add to your technique.
Next time around, we'll look at further interval exercises.
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