VANHAL FINGERINGS PART 3










As promised earlier, here is a tricky passage from the 3rd Movement (starting from the last bar in the first line). This is the one bit that defines the tempo we will choose for the whole movement: start too fast and here is where you'll stumble, in all probability. I have. Stumbled shamefully, i mean. Even though Viennese Tuning takes away some of the trouble, it remains a bit awkward. 

Joseph Focht, in his standard work "Der Wiener Kontrabass", suggests this fingering, declaring (not without a certain pride) "Der Terzen-Lauf in Vanhals Kontrabass-Konzert ist mit nur wenigen Lagenwechseln ausführbar, wenn er auf den benachbarten ersten Saiten ausgeführt wird":




Although Focht speaks of "only a few position changes" there are three such changes in his suggested fingering. 

I think we can do better than that. Here is a more efficient way to play it, with only one position change:




(Contrary to Focht, i use the Roman numbers to indicate the strings, not the positions. To be honest, i never really know how the positions are numbered - there are various numbering systems - and i've never needed to know).

The trick is not to stay on the first string as we go down towards the tricky bit, but to choose the 2nd string instead, so we arrive on the C# with the 4th finger in bar 190. Once we're there, it's plain sailing because we stay in the same position until we shift to the D-F# (bar 192, second half), where we switch to thumb position and we stay there for the remainder of the passage, including the trill (not shown) at the end for which i go to the 3rd string.

In bar 191, i put the first finger across both the 2nd and 3rd strings, just lifting part of my finger so as to make a little bridge to allow the 2nd (open) string to "pass through", and immediately afterwards i put the finger flat on both strings again. The finger doesn't leave the fingerboard at all.

From the start we have a uniform bowing throughout, alternating between III/II and II/I (Focht's fingering, admittedly, has a simpler bowing that involves only two strings, II/I). When practicing you can concentrate on the bowing alone, Zimmermann style ("A Contemporary Concept of Bowing for the Double Bass"), and you can play the figure in double stops, thus practicing the left and right hands separately. 

In fact, this specific series of double stops can be found in a number of Viennese works, usually with a C# throughout (here we have a C natural first, which changes back to C# in the next bar). I usually play this progression in one position, with barré fingerings for the 1st and 4th fingers.

Actually you could consider the whole thing as a series of double stops, with the "zig-zag" bowing as a kind of playful ornament. If you look at it this way, it becomes a lot easier in the mind and you'll have a much better chance of playing it well.



(Also note the fingering between square brackets in bar 193: i play the "b" with the 3rd finger, not the 2nd. This is a very useful fingering in almost all cases in first thumb position, when we go from e-g on the 3rd and 2nd strings, over the two harmonics f#-a with the thumb, to g-b on the top two strings. Traditional fingering would be to play the b with the 2nd finger. But in Viennese Tuning one has to think more like a guitarist, in chord "shapes". This one is similar to a guitar D7 shape. And actually, in "regular" bass playing these guitar-like fingerings are often quite practical as well).



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