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1/4 bass - a compromise for an electric bass player

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by buldog5151bass, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I've been playing bass guitar for 35 years, but other than screwing around in the Fine Arts building in college, I've never touched a string bass. I've been playing with a jazz combo for several years, and would love to try string bass now, but I'm not kidding myself - it's not something I have time for serious study. I just want to give it a try. Would the smaller scale of a 1/4 scale bass be easier to adjust to, and are there any out there with a decent tone and playability - or do I just have to suck it up if I want to play DB?
  2. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Lots of threads on this. The common wisdom is just to get a double bass and start from scratch. The technique is made for those with normal to small hands and generally works for everyone.
    It is an easier instrument to study than bass guitar - the methods are way more clear and there is a fairly agreed upon order of events, so don't be scared of jumping in.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
    JeffKissell, ColdEye and Tom Lane like this.
  3. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    A very generous way of saying "do a search".
  4. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Though a less delusional 1/4 size thread wouldn't hurt!
    Tom Lane likes this.
  5. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Very true, IMO. Has it really ALL been done before?
    damonsmith likes this.
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Be kind - just dipping my toes over on this side.
  7. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Welcome to the DB side of TB!
  8. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Surely you're not planning to play your DB with your toes? Do a search and then come back to us because we're happy to help but not with questions that have been discussed completely before.
    buldog5151bass likes this.
  9. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    As someone who switched from electric bass to double bass about 4 years ago, i can say that i would NOT had been well served to start off with a 1/4 size bass. The only potential advantage is that of a tighter hand shape on your left hand, but even that will be an adaptation from electric. You'll have the same adjustment period on a 3/4 size bass, so you really don't gain anything. You then lose depth of sound/volume and will be working outside the standard.

    So go straight to an adult sized as i don't see anything to be gained from starting on a 1/4. Think of it this way, would you recommend someone wanting to start on electric bass to first pickup a baritone? Nope, you would just tell them to go straight to the real thing.
    Dabndug and salcott like this.
  10. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    The thing is, the 3/4 bass is a pretty intimidating beast. A decent usable one costs at least 5~10X what a decent usable electric bass costs, the strings are tough to press down, how the heck do you hold this thing, there aren't any frets, what's this thing with the hair and rosin on it, and should it be French or German, takes special spatial-relationship skills to shoehorn it into your car, etc., etc., etc.

    I wish there were a middle ground between launching into thirty page pointless threads where unrealistic fantasy collides over and over with generations of real experience, and simply dismissively telling the questioner "it's all been done before, fugeddaboutit" which while accurate doesn't come across as very supportive.

    To the OP:

    I am afraid that there is really no good alternative to getting a proper 3/4 bass of reasonable quality, taking some lessons from a qualified instructor (with bow, for most people) and following one of the well established instruction methods. There will always be a few people who are successful with other paths, but I fear that most who don't go down the standard path will not in fact be successful. For yet another analogy, I had a friend who, after never running more than 5 miles at a time, signed up for a marathon and completed it with a reasonably good time. There is always an outlier. But the vast majority of people who complete their first marathon set up a training program and follow it; and the vast majority of people who just sign up without such a program drop out or get injured or both.

    Do remember that rental is your friend.

    I followed the old-fashioned process and I watched my progress far outstrip other adult beginners who tried other paths.
  11. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    As Turf3 says, the short cut is getting a normal bass and lessons from a teacher who teaches out of a proven classical method. If you practice with the bow every day you will progress faster than you think - this applies no matter what music you want to play.
    ColdEye likes this.
  12. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    The reason you're getting the reaction that you are is that about once a month someone posts this exact question. BGist, has this idea about a child's student bass will be the best transition for them, plus they're cheaper, what do we think?

    Universally, we advise against it. The OP usually argues that, no, actually it seems quite sensible and they either disappear or do it anyway. All of this begs the question...why bother asking?

    (There is also a sticky on this, by the way)

    About the time this dies down, a new thread by a new OP pops up and says "Hey guys, here's who I am. I got this idea, what do you think?" And away we go again.

    I got my first Fender in about 1978. My uncle had a DB that I got to play with, but I didn't have my own until about 2001. I didn't want to be a beginner again, I didn't want to take lessons, I didn't want to believe that my preferences for strings and amplification couldn't follow me and I objected to the cost and lack of portability of DB's.

    Personally, there is nothing wrong with playing jazz on an electric bass. Passive electronics, flatwounds and the right time feel and musicality will trump your equipment.

    But, there is something magical and wonderful about swinging on a DB. I find it worth it and I'm certain that I've had playing opportunities that wouldn't have come to me otherwise. I also have paid for every shortcut I've taken. If you feel the need to do it, do it right. Make the investment, sign up for the struggle, swallow your pride, get some help and accept the process.

    That's my advice. I'll go so far as to say, based on a well documented and discoverable history on this topic, that's OUR advice. Ask yourself if you came here for advice or validation.

    Ultimately, as with all things artistic, you get to make your own choices and it really only matters how you, your audience and your band mates and future bandmates feel about it.
    Amano, yodedude2, the_Ryan and 4 others like this.
  13. Ludwig


    Aug 17, 2006
    A good 1/4 double bass is about as expensive as a good 3/4 double bass. You have to learn a new technique anyhow, not easier to learn then on a 3/4. For me, it is more difficult to play on a 1/4 well then on a 3/4.
    The advantage for me is easier transport, can be played seated on a normal stool with just a cushion and has less feedback problems amplified. If you are into four finger technique, that is easier, too, but not by much. But strings for quint tuning are very hard to get, much less possible string choices. Other disadvantage is less volume without amplification and more difficult to play in tune. Playing with the bow is more difficult because of less string spacing.
    Most 1/4 basses need to have their endpin exchanged to enable an adult to play standing. No extension strings available, build for just standard bass tuning.
    Even if I own and play a 1/4 besides my 3/4, my recommedation would be to learn on the standard size.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
    Jeshua likes this.
  14. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    You know we get this all the time on the BG side too, right? Don't get me wrong, we also get hostile, angry response from irritable old members but we do try and at least pretend we are a welcoming community. The DB side has an air of superiority to it. Even your post goes after the OP and tells him to swallow his pride and get some help. He clearly did that with the first post (acknowledging he is out of his depth, that this is a huge undertaking he might not have time for in his adult life, and turning to more experienced players for insight) and he still gets unhelpful and borderline rude responses.
    Phalanx13 likes this.
  15. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    He got entirely helpful responses.
  16. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    TroyK summed it up very well, IMO. The one thing I'd add that I think is important and commonly agreed upon by most DBer's is that the instrument is a bear to play, takes a long time to master and you really have to love it and its sound to stick with it. For many, I expect, we're like the OP at first, curious, and then it draws us in with its challenge and reward, like a spiral, requiring more and more time and commitment from which we receive more and more gratification. I find that the more I can do, the more fulfilling it is. Maybe the OPs curiosity will lead him into a long term relationship with the DB or not, whatever's best for him, but, considering it as a long term commitment is one more - good - reason to start at first with the traditional route, and then deviate if that's where your artistic voice leads you.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
    Dabndug likes this.
  17. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Troy has some points - however, it is not about the regularity, it is about the last one. The last one asked the same question. Told us we were wrong and now post regular updates about how wrong we were and how great it is going - without a single shred of proof (in an age where we all have video cameras and recording devices in our pockets).

    The double bass is a fair amount of work, but we not looking for extra work. If there was an easier way that worked, believe me, we'd all take it!
    Still, don't be scared. The basic path is so well laid out, you just follow instructions and you will have no problems.
  18. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    @TroyK I'm not here for validation, and I am not looking for a shortcut, nor am I looking to save money. Sorry if I offended you by not doing a search on this. I brought this up looking for information, as I am usually on that side when it comes to BG questions. Simply put, I have started getting heavily into jazz after more than two decades away, and am trying to decide if I have the time to devote to a new instrument, between life, and my BG work.

    Thanks all for the feedback.
    vin*tone and DiabolusInMusic like this.
  19. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Sorry if I came off curt. It wasn't my intention. I was just trying to speed the conversation along to where it always seems to end up.

    It's a great journey and I would encourage it, if you're drawn to it. Conversely, you can play jazz on an electric bass. Check out Bob Cranshaw, for example, who recorded some classic Blue Note albums on double bass, but ultimately decided he preferred playing BG. Sonny Rollins decided he preferred playing with Bob Cranshaw and cared more about that than the instrument.

    Listen to your muse and decide what fits your life best. But 1/2 sized basses are not an answer.
    the_Ryan and buldog5151bass like this.
  20. Props to TroyK for tendering the apology. Sometimes we forget that it ain't just what we say, it's the way that we say it. And no, we don't *all* have recording devices and video cameras in our pockets. Some of us like to still be able to get to our pocket watches and cash.
    PauFerro likes this.

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