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A couple of extra newbie qu's

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by jakeyv, Mar 14, 2008.

  1. jakeyv


    Mar 14, 2008

    I'm a self taught bass guitarist who cant really stop theorising about buying a doghouse, I read the newbie links and theres just a couple of further questions I wanted to ask:

    1, I noticed mutes are available, but would they keep the volume of a DB down to the point where my neighbours wont garotte me with piano wire?

    2, I've never played a fretless instrument before and I cant read music. Should I crack on and do something about either of these fact before depth-charging my credit card by buying a DB?

    3, Teachers in glasgow are largely jazz/orchestral whereas I really want to play blues/roots/skiffle/maybe a little rockabilly. Is going to a teacher who doesn't really play the style you want a complete waste of time?

    Any advice will be gratefully accepted,


  2. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    I've only been playing 1 1/2 years, but I'll share my experience anyhow.

    2. I don't read music either, and it doesn't matter to me. I play at a venue, I don't have a music stand or a sheet, I just know the song.

    2. I'd never played a fretless either, so I bought a fretless electric bass first. Complete waste of time, entirely different instrument. The DB is probably a good instrument to learn how to play fretless.

    3. A teacher is never a waste of time, always a good idea. I play "slap-bass" in a rock setting, my instructor (when I had one) plays in the symphony. The lessons I had were valuable.
  3. JayR


    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    Well, basically, getting jazz/classical lessons wouldn't hurt at all, for whatever kind of music you'd want to play. If you already play electric bass and you understand how to go about writing bass lines in the styles you want to play, basically all you're looking at is learning the technique. Double bass is a dangerous instrument to self-teach because its VERY easy to hurt your wrist if you start playing with improper technique, considering how hefty the strings are. Anyway, I'd say go for it, if you can afford the lessons, find a good teacher and learn your way around the instrument. Even learning classical technique, like say out of the Simandl book, will help give you the chops to execute more complex bass lines and whip out gnarly solos in a rock-oriented context.

    My two cents.
  4. CPike


    May 28, 2005
    Dallas, TX
    1. Mutes only reduce the volume a small amount by cutting the high frequencies thereby changing the tone to a mellower, muffled quality. Ultra makes a heavy practice mute that cute the volume more, but not enough so the neighbors can't hear - remember the low frequencies carry farther, esp. thru walls. If you really want to keep from bothering the neighbors then you can stuff towels in the F holes.

    2. Double bass and Fretless electric are totally different animals - neither one is a "gateway" to the other. Reading is crucial if you are going to have a teacher - you need to be able to speak the same language as your teacher. Learning to read is not a prerequisite to playing DB, you can learn to read while you learn DB. Learning to read after years of not knowing how is tough - but just do it. You'll never regret it.

    3. No, getting an orchestral player to teach you is not a waste of time. The rudiments of holding the instrument, intonation, tone production are pretty much the same no matter what style you end up playing. A good teacher will start you out on the most basic exercises - from there you can use that as a means to play your style of music. Generally speaking, a professional jazz player will be able to teach you more about tone production, speed and dexterity for plucking the strings than an orchestral player will. But lots of orchestral players are great at jazz, too. (and vice versa!)

    In a nutshell: Learn the instrument first, then learn the style of music.

  5. Blackbd


    Feb 24, 2008
    Like the others before, this is my opinion. Learning to read can only help you and should never be ignored if it is something you want to learn. But, I don't read so who am I to champion its cause? I get by with reading tab, memorizing and ear transcribing, but I kick myself for everyday I don't learn to read music.

    As far as fretless is concerned, I say go for it. I have a lined fretless which is a great way to step up to a fretless instrument. After having it for 6 months I use it pretty much exclusively, regardless of the gig. Of course it will be frustrating at times but there is so much expression in a fretless that makes it a great experience. Try to mess around on a Squier Vintage Modified Fretless (decent quality and very inexpensive) and see how you like it.
  6. jakeyv


    Mar 14, 2008
    Thanks for the answers guys. I have had it in my head to try to learn reading music, but its good to know it isn't a cast iron prereq before I start learning.

    Lots of good stuff to think over, cheers guys

  7. mattfong


    Jan 14, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    For #2... I think playing fretless electric for a while before getting a DB helped me advance more quickly with DB. Not necesarrily with techniques or anything, but getting used to not having frets and improving my ear for correcting intonation errors and stuff.

    I do agree that they are completely different instruments, however.
  8. tyggis


    Mar 11, 2008
    The mute will degrade the sound of your bass making it less inspirating to play. I would ask the neighbors to do a test to see if they hear teh bass to well in the first place.
    That you cant read music is not important at all, forget that issue.

    If you are comfortable with a teacher that will teach you the technique it doesnt matter what style he/she has. get at teacher that teach you the technique and take it from there.
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    It may be difficult to get a teacher to teach you anything beyond the basics without having a working knowledge of reading traditional notation. All of the double bass studies that I'm aware of impart the information through notes. However, you may be able to find a player in the style you're interested in to show you how to play in that style, and that probably won't involve reading. Just make sure that you don't pick up any bad physical technique and end up hurting yourself. You might want to get some lessons with a "trained" bassist at the outset, in order to give you a good start in that direction.

    I personally think it's fine to just learn the stuff you want to play. You can always get into other stuff later if your ears tell you to do so.
  10. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    I've got one of those big rubber practice mutes from Bob G's site. It does a great job of cutting down the volume. I'm living in an apartment and w/o the mute-i rattle items in the room, with it on-it's noticeably quieter. No complaints from the neighbors yet [i've been here about 7 months-practice a few hours a day].

    Learning to read won't hurt and will make lessons easier.

    Fretless bass guitar compared to DB-i can't comment, i learned to play DB before i learned fretless bass guitar.

    Like it has been said getting a teacher will help. Do not attempt to learn technique without one. You will be in pain. I'd recommend a jazz guy based off of the styles you said.
  11. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    1) I use an Ultra practice mute. Its still loud. +1 on stuffing the F holes, playing up on a pillow instead of endpin, wrapping with a sleeping bag, clamping the bridge with C clamps, etc. Note that this is all arco; pizz is much less of an issue. But then, I spend most of my practice time using the bow.

    The mutes do change the playing experience; fewer harmonics, etc. It is interesting to do because it makes me think about moving/playing more objectively. The sound is less dramatic and more private...I tend to play looser and more cerebrally with a mute, which helps overall in some ways.

    2) No downside to reading. Apart from the aforementioned communication value, it changes the way our minds work, somewhat, opening up a different part of our brains. Also exposes us to new musical information and perspective, letting us visit other musical "rooms". Helps perspective sort of like playing piano (even painfully haltingly, like I do) does; it shifts the focus and provides perspective. Helps me be more objective about music as pure notes and be less hung up on music as uniquely personl/emotional/political/personal/etc. expression (that can come later, after the technique is down cold).

    Playing music is about being a channel of something greater. The more open the channel is to new information, the more that can pass through. Just do a few minutes every day. My old teacher used to say, "Never be afraid to work on something new; when the work is done you will have a new friend!"

    3) The upright presents some extreme geographical/movement challenges. Studying with a successful orchestral (or otherwise arco player) puts you in contact with someone who is effectively addressing those problems. Small details like arm position, stance, etc. can make big differences. The idiomatic issues with any style are minor compared to learning to move effectively on the bass. Playing the bass is playing the bass, in any context. That's part of what is so cool about it.

    I used to play with a sci-fi surf band on the DB...notes are notes, motion is motion. Peers within your musical scene can hip you as to their specific right hand techniques. Practicing arco keeps us honest with our intonation, posture, and motions, even if we never use the bow on a gig...
  12. D McCartney

    D McCartney crosswind downwind bass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Tacoma WA
    These are all good suggestions. I would add that I never advise "depth charge" your credit card. Save up for it or rent for awhile.
  13. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Cool, that describes my present band! We make good use of a pseudo-theremin for extraterrestial sounds.
  14. As a relative newbie (starting playing last April), I have two relevant comments:

    1. If you find a good teacher who doesn't focus on your style, grab him/her for a while. I'm primarily a bluegrass player who takes lessons a guy who is primarily a jazz player, but who also insists I get comfortable with a bow. I had great difficulty with the bow, but it has definitely helped my intonation and my hand/ear coordination. If nothing else, learning the proper technique from a teacher will save aches and pains!

    2. I couldn't read a lick of the bass clef when I started. Learning was pretty easy (even at the advanced age of 52!) and opened new doors to my playing. I'm now going beyond my lessons and working on the side with Ed Fuqua's "Walking Bassics" and several other books. I couldn't do that if I hadn't spent some time learning to read.

    Hope this helps. Happy thumping!
  15. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I would recommend practicing as much as possible without using a mute, even if "as much as possible" means "only on weekends" or something like that. You'll want to spend time developing your sound and technique with the mute off, and the bass will sound and respond a little differently when muted.

    I used to have a cantankerous neighbor who'd bang on the floor when I practiced. I tried to restrict my practicing to reasonable hours (between 9:00 and 9:00, ideally between 11:00 and 8:00), but beyond that I didn't have much sympathy. If you're worried, you can always approach your neighbor first.

    Since mine never had the decency to do anything other than turn on loud heavy metal and bang on the floor, I never bothered.
  16. mattfong


    Jan 14, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    Maybe you should just get a new neighbour? lol

    I agree with mjt0229 by the way.
  17. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    I was with "The Fliptones" in Boston. We all used generic pseudonyms as part of the schtick. Briefly, we were the darlings of the musical underground in Boston for about 5 seconds in the early '90's...

    My bogus moniker was "Brad Montgomery". We're out there on CD in some surf compilations and soundtrack stuff.

    DB works well in that context! I alternated EB and DB based on the tune. Your bowed bass may sound groovy along with the pseudo-theremin for textural things...:)
  18. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Ah yeah, fake stage names. My friend, a tenor player, uses "Junior Mintz".

    I sometimes go by "Stanley Cupp". And here in Hawaii, I sometimes use "Major Haole"... kind of an inside joke.
  19. hehhh
    I'm trying to decide if that's a play on Major Holley, or major a$$hole, or some combination, or neither at all....
  20. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    It's both... in Hawai'i, "Ha'ole" means a white guy. Many times it's benign, a way to describe a white guy. Other times it's an insult, preceded by "F***in'", and followed by "go home".

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