Over at the Peabody Double Bass blog I just noticed this excellent post on a technique to practice good intonation. This is like the double bassist’s version of Twister, and I bet would make an entertaining drinking game! 😀 Seriously though, it looks very helpful and I highly recommend giving it a whirl.
I often use reference pitches when practicing as well. I usually don’t have the luxury of being able to work out on such things with others, so I came up with a couple of items on my own:
One is to practice a couple of Petracchi-like shifting and position exercises that I use with a reference pitch soundtrack that I made that ascends chromatically. I added this to my iPhone which is itself turning into a handy practice tool. I added the metronome track right in and modded the tempos so I can practice these exercises at a couple of different rates. I’ll try to post some of these at a later date if anyone thinks these would be useful.
Another thing I do when practicing repertoire is to test my pitch against an open string with a left hand pizzicato using whatever free finger is available – the trick with that one is knowing which open string fits best harmonically with the note or passage I’m playing, which makes it an added bit of fun.
Finally, sometimes I go for the brute force method and play long tones against a three octave scale with the electronic tuner. Interesting where my finger tries to go in the middle of the upper registers, but the tuner keeps me honest.
Good intonation can seem challenging on double bass, but I think some good practice tips like the one from the Peabody folks and such can help develop a good ear and good pitch strategies. Above all, start with an instrument that is in tune!