Mastering Petracchi’s Simplified Higher Technique for Double Bass

This groundbreaking book is a valuable resource that offers comprehensive technique development, troubleshooting and problem-solving guidance, making it an essential tool for bassists seeking to improve their skills and overcome technical challenges.

With Jason Heath · San Francisco, CA

When it comes to mastering the double bass, one name that stands out is Franco Petracchi. His book Simplified Higher Technique has become a valuable resource for bassists of all levels and styles. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons why Petracchi’s book is considered a must-have for every double bass player.

Discovering Simplified Higher Technique

I learned about Petracchi’s book from my double bass teacher Michael Hovnanian, during my freshman year of college. It completely blew the doors off of my concept of the fingerboard and of thumb position in particular.

When I was in high school, I thought of thumb position as a bit of a mystery zone. I did my best to aim for the right note with the right finger, but that was pretty much all I was thinking of when I was in the upper register.

I began incorporating the first four exercises of Simplified Higher Technique into my daily practice, and the results were dramatic.

Concept of Frames for the Left Hand

This book was my first introduction to “left-hand frames.” This concept, which is wonderfully explained in David Allen Moore’s course Fractal Fingering, refers to the distance between the low and high-numbered fingers.

David explores this concept in great detail in my interview with him.

How Petracchi Explores Thumb Position

Simplified Higher Technique lays out three basic thumb position orientations:

1 – Chromatic

Each finger is spaced one half step apart, resulting in a minor third frame.

2 – Semichromatic

This position has a whole step between T-1 and half steps between 1-2 and 2-3. This is a major third frame.

3 – Diatonic

This position has a whole step between T-1 and 1-2, with a half step between 2-3. This is a perfect fourth frame, making up the first four notes of the major scale.

Big Concept #1 – Fingers On Specific Notes at All Times

This book really solidified my understanding of fingerboard geography. It not only made me aware of the position of every finger but also emphasized the importance of knowing the note associated with each finger.

A breakthrough occurred through numerous demanding practice sessions, where I consciously focused on the position of every finger. I reached a point where I could precisely identify the note that each finger was connected to in each position.

The impact on my intonation was remarkable. It felt like I had ingrained these finger patterns into my nervous system, allowing my fingers to effortlessly find the correct notes, almost like they were equipped with magnets. This article on how to train your left hand to be a double bass pitch magnet further explores this concept.

Big Concept #2 – Introducing Low Thumb Position From the Outset

Generations of double bass players have traditionally been instructed to employ only the thumb starting at the octave harmonic. Although this approach remains prevalent among bassists, advancements in setup and technique have greatly facilitated the use of the thumb in lower positions.

In his book Simplified Higher Technique, Petracchi introduces the concept of low thumb position right from the first pages. This innovative approach allows for an extended range of thumb usage, reaching as low as D on the G string. By incorporating this technique, bassists can further expand their repertoire and enhance their overall performance capabilities.

Big Concept #3 – Developing Endurance and Facility Across the Fingerboard

These exercises are likely to tax your endurance at first, so simplifying and starting slowly is a good move. Over time, you’ll build up the strength, speed, and endurance required to play through these exercises uninterrupted.

Moreover, the practical applications of these exercises are immense. By consistently practicing these exercises for a few months, you will not only improve your ability to learn orchestral and solo repertoire quickly, but you will also feel a significant increase in strength and confidence in your intonation. This will enable you to perform with greater accuracy and musicality, leaving a lasting impression on your audience.

Expert Tip: Don’t Neglect the Bow Arm

While Simplified Higher Technique is clearly focused on left-hand development, it can also be used to develop the right arm as well. Focusing on a good tone, challenging yourself to play as close to the bridge as possible while still maintaining a good sound, and changing up the slurs can help keep some interest in the right arm.

Also, combining this book with Hal Robinson’s Strokin’ can be an excellent way to balance out left-hand and right-hand practice.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Franco Petracchi’s Simplified Higher Technique is a valuable resource that offers comprehensive technique development, flexibility for different styles, troubleshooting, problem-solving guidance, inspiration, and motivation once you begin to solidify these techniques.

Incorporating Petracchi’s teachings into your practice routine can greatly enhance your double bass playing, regardless of your skill level or preferred musical style. So, grab a copy of Simplified Higher Technique and unlock the potential of your double bass playing!

Another book that does a great job of exploring low thumb position is Chris Cosky’s The Thumb Transition Zone. It’s highly regarded and an excellent supplement to Petracchi’s book.

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