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François_Rabbath

François Rabbath

François Rabbath (b. 1931 in Aleppo, Syria) is a contemporary French double-bass player, soloist, and composer.

Method

He was born into a family of musicians but his only instruction came from a book written by a Parisian bassist Edouard Nanny. In 1955 he went to Paris, hoping to meet Nanny, who had died before he arrived, but he continued to study, and in 1964 recorded for the first time. Rabbath's playing has been well documented with CDs and DVDs.

Rabbath's influence to the field of bass pedagogy, is presented in the three-volume Nouvelle technique de la contrebasse. The main differences in Rabbath's approach from that of the traditional double bass method of Franz Simandl is Rabbath's use of the left hand and his detail into the bow arm. In Simandl's system, first position (below thumb position) encompasses only a whole step. In Rabbath's method, the entire fingerboard is divided into only six positions, defined by the location of natural harmonics on the strings. Playing the bass with six positions is possible by using a technique called pivoting.

Pivots are often mistakenly called extensions or shifts. The differences between them are subtle. An extension is a widening of the hand to reach a new note [as outlined by Zimmermann]. A pivot is a rocking of the hand to reach a new note where the thumb remains stationary but all fingers gain the technical freedom to move anywhere else possible/required. Pivots thus enable the fusing of several different positions at once. By placing the thumb in an appropriate place and just rocking the hand back and forth the player can use for example both half, 1st, and 2nd positions without the need for shifts. Usually, the thumb should be relatively behind the index finger or closer to the middle finger(when not in thumb position) so the bassist can fully utilize their weight of the left arm and have a very free pivot. The reason a pivot is not a shift is because the thumb does not move either on the string or behind the neck. A shift requires that the whole hand moves and results in a change of position.

Another revolutionary technique first used by Francois Rabbath is the Crab technique so called due to the way the hand moves similarly to a crab's sideways walking. The Crab as outlined in the third volume allows for part of the hand to move while the other part remains and vice versa - in this way the hand can move up and down the string in certain passages without technically ever fully shifting. Rabbath is not the first person to use the Crab technique but he is the first double bassist to name it and give a full technical look into its usage. Crabs are found on the first page of Petracchi's revolutionary Simplifed Higher Technique. Some small examples can be found in standard techniques as well such as Simandl - but it is impossible to know whether these were intended as crabs or shifts as they are not fully explained with text to back them up.

Criticism

There is much controversy surrounding Rabbath's technique and its applications among bassists. Rabbath's method is geared towards playing solos and as such there is criticism that it is not as applicable for orchestral playing. In an orchestral setting, it is often hard for a player to hear the sound of their playing. As such, shifts are often made in the most reliable fashion possible. On top of this, it is noted that the only classical repertoire that Rabbath plays include a handful of works by J.S. Bach and Vivaldi, and his performances of such work have not been universally praised. His solo playing is otherwise geared towards his own compositions and the works of Frank Proto, written with Rabbath and his way of playing especially in mind.

Critics of Rabbath have pointed to the method as the cause of intonation problems in young bassists and believe that the traditional Simandl method is more sure way of playing in tune on the bass. Because the space between notes on the fingerboard is so much larger than any other string instrument, it is believed that the increased movement of the hand leads to a higher risk of error. On the other hand, most of the people who believe this do not have much experience with the use of pivoting.

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