All successful schools of string playing encourage the relaxed freedom of the hands and wrists, and it is this particular facet that the Canadian School of Double Bass wishes to focus on. It is possible for bassists, assuming a well set-up instrument, to utilize an intelligent exploitation of gravity (the body’s natural relaxed weight), along with the natural flowing movements of the fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders to realize an effortless technique and bring musical interpretation and execution to the highest possible level.
The Canadian School of Double Bass Books 1 and 2 take aim at the practical application of how to use the left hand — more how it should move than where it should move. Joel Quarrington believes the hand should be moving with the strings rather than at a right angle to them.
Joel advocates for the use of a wrist rotation in all movements of the left hand to accomplish vibrato, shifting, rhythmical patterns, and parallel notes (like 4ths). The following excerpt from Book 1: Daily Studies describes how to begin.
Exercise 3: The Move (Basic)
This exercise has been developed as a way to train the wrist to be loose and flexible and move in a fluid way, first independently of the instrument, then with the instrument. A slash over a fingering means to move towards the bridge (higher); the slash underneath means towards the scroll (lower).
- Start with your left hand near the neck but not touching the instrument (have your 4th finger near a C on the G string). With your fingers near the strings of the instrument, let your wrist flop back and forth so that your 1st finger ends up near the D on the G string. The arm should not move at all, and the elbow is stationary. You are moving from an active position (wrist is extended in a straight line) to a relaxed position (wrist is bent and flopped): this is similar to an inhale (tense) and exhale (relaxed).
- As you get used to this effortless floppy action and feeling, bring the fingers to the instrument’s strings and continue with touching where the real notes are but don’t try to close the string at all.
- This is the action and feeling that you should have when you are making a whole-tone shift, in this case, 4th finger C to 1st finger D. Later, the motion will be used in every shift.
- Practise A with all its variations with just flopping the wrist, no arm motion at all.
In the thumb position, the bracketed note shows the position of the thumb: in example B, the thumb should start on the octave harmonic G, and the 1st finger on the C a perfect fourth above it.
- Start with the forearm resting on the left shoulder of the instrument and the hand hanging off and relaxed.
- Pull your hand back to your thumb until your 3rd finger is playing a Bb and continue to flop between those notes. (Flop, but actually play the notes!)
- The next stage is to do exactly the same movement, but to move the thumb with the hand, so the thumb starts on a Bb and ends on the G as in example C. Again, the note in brackets shows where the thumb should be positioned.
- In examples D and E, the pitch and intonation should not be affected by the change of finger.
- Make sure you are closing the string with the correct part of your 1st finger pad; otherwise, your elbow will move all over the place (it should be motionless).
Refining this move with a relaxed arm is the key to beautifully slow, seamless, effortless, accurate, and smooth shifting, vibrato, and rhythmical dynamism.