Simandl Position System

Many bassists are often confused with Franz Simandl’s method of numbering the positions. I think of it as G minor scale on the G string. Another way is to put your first finger on all natural notes on the A strings – which works out to be an A minor scale.

But…Why? Why would Simandl choose such arbitrary positions and note something more systematic such as a chromatic system (where every half step – or fret on an electric) is a position. My theory – and I must emphasize this is my personal hypothesis – is that since Simandl was living and teaching in Vienna he probably tuned his bass different than we do now. Perhaps he was using a Viennese tuning based on a D major chord. That could put his lowest and / or highest strings at an A. Now if your outer string or strings is an A, what easier way to think of positions than just natural notes? By putting you first finger where the naturals are you immediately arrive at his system.

VOILA! (not to be confused with viola)


  • I think that Sankey’s edition of the Simandl used a chromatic position system and it was very confusing for me and my students. The Rabbath system makes the most sense, but I’ve found it easier to translate those positions to the old Simandl system. I don’t really think about positions, and once a student is through 4th position, I pretty much use fingerings to communicate rather than position names.

  • Excellent points. I agree with the use of fingerings later on in instruction rather than positions. In my teaching I have found the use of position marks to be helpful as I teach the students to map out and visualize the fingerboard to improve intonation and prevent the warble of searching for notes. The position numbers work well with how I teaching shifting as well.

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