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Am I too old to get into an upright bass? Double bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by EK4001, May 31, 2020.

  1. EK4001


    May 19, 2019
    Atlanta, GA
    I’m 48 and have been playing bass since I was 13. I’ve always played electric bass and have played in many local bands and gig out regular, before the covid crap. I’ve been looking at upright basses and I’m interested in them, but don’t know that much about them. Thanks for any advice.
    lowendrachel and bobyoung53 like this.
  2. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    I wouldn’t say you are too old, but you need to make sure you have the time to work up the physical strength, dexterity, and stamina it takes to play good solid upright bass. Last October at 61 years old, I took in an upright for an friend having his house gutted and remodeled (nowhere at the in-laws to keep it) and I intended to get decent at it and eventually buy it.

    After a month, I gave up. I could see that I wouldn’t ever have the time to put into the upright bass. And in a month’s time, it wasn’t getting any easier. I wish I could have devoted a few hours a day to it, but that just wasn’t possible.

    Good luck with it.
  3. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    I started at age 50 on upright bass after many years of bass guitar. You are not too old. Be aware that the technique is so different that you will be a beginner on upright. Your ear, knowledge of theory, etc will be a big help but you probably can't just pick it up. Get a good teacher. If you don't use good technique you can hurt yourself (carpal tunnel, etc.) Enjoy the dark side.
  4. Sursonique


    May 17, 2020
    I'm 38 and starting to save up to get one. I live not far from one of the best Music Conservatories in my country and I am thinking of signing up to double bass classes next year. I'm surely gonna be surrounded by a bunch of kids, but WTH. Never too late, for anything.

    My father is 65 and is just learning to play guitar, he had always wanted to, never had the time. He is having a great time, and taking that item off his bucket list.
  5. casualmadness

    casualmadness Man About Town Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2005
    Kinda the same here. I’ve been playing electric bass for around 30 years. Decided at 44 I would start playing upright. I have a lot of physical limitations. I tried hard but my physical issues and no time to practice because life...I eventually gave up.
    EK4001 likes this.
  6. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    You can start on double bass at any time, but they are big so it's essential you have lessons because, while you'll be OK with a good technique, you could easily cause damage to yourself with a bad technique.
    Wasnex, RSBBass, EK4001 and 1 other person like this.
  7. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"...

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I started upright three-and-a-half years ago at age 41 (having played electric since I was twelve). It’s been great. I made sure to get a good teacher right from the start and I’m still taking regular lessons with that teacher (up until two-and-a-half months ago at least). At this point I’ve probably done around forty gigs on upright. It’s a different beast from electric but a lot of knowledge was transferable from EB. I also have to say that studying upright has made me a better electric player. It really took me back to basics and forced me to focus in a particular way and that has given me a deeper perspective where bass in general is concerned. One thing I would stress (besides getting a good teacher) is to have someone who knows uprights help you select your first DB. Try as many DBs as you can and narrow the choice down by sound and feel, but also have someone you trust give you their take on the specific basses. There’s stuff you likely won’t know to look for and DB set-ups, modifications and repairs can get really expensive really quickly.
    lomo, BobDeRosa, Wasnex and 5 others like this.
  8. 75Ric


    Feb 13, 2019
    I can’t tell you specifics about learning upright but can tell you about learning something new in your 40s, 50s and beyond.

    At 38, I decided to switch careers, go back to school, and earn a Ph D. It probably took me a little longer than my younger classmates, but that was about the only difference. I found that although it was challenging, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. Because I was older and had some life experience, I could readily identify what was important in what I was learning. Maybe more importantly, I could quickly figure out how to connect new information with other things I already knew, and how to synthesize what I was learning into practical knowledge for practical use. My younger cohorts couldn’t do this as easily, even though they were very smart people. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at my ability to learn in my 40s compared to the struggles I had learning in my 20s.

    Another thing to note is that learning new things when older significantly helps with brain health. In learning upright, you will be making new connections between the auditory, visual, motor (movement), and memory pathways in your brain. Up until about 20 years ago, scientists believed our brains stop developing by our mid-20s and then begin a gradual decline. That’s simply not true. With better technology like MRIs, research shows our brains have what is called “neuroplasticity,” meaning our brains do continue to grow when we learn new things across the lifespan. Research also shows learning complex material involving multiple brain areas later in life can be a good defense against brain dysfunction such as dementia.

    Lastly, I would say I am a much happier person with the knowledge I’ve learned and the skills I’ve developed. There are times when I step back from daily life and pause to reflect. I thank my lucky stars that I made the decision to do what I did. I am a happy guy.

    So, don’t let your age stand in your way. What they say really is true: age is merely a concept.
    TideSwing, project_c, JRB and 10 others like this.
  9. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    Hi EK4001 :)

    So what?

    Am I too old to get into an upright bass? Double bass?

    Only when you think you are too old! :D

    Go for it!

    may the bass be with you

  10. crobasster


    Jun 16, 2009
    If you have to ask, then you're very old .
    EK4001 likes this.
  11. I’m 69 and if I sell two of my motorcycles this summer I’ll have a double bass in the house before I turn 70. I’ve taken several electric bass lessons from a Berklee grad in my neighborhood and he plays more double bass than electric so he’s encouraging me in that direction. I’ll never gig with DB but jams would be all new again. If you’re serious about picking up the DB then find the teacher before the bass. Then check out instrument rentals before buying. That’ll solve most of your uncertainty.
  12. robassable

    robassable Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2014
    I played out gigging professionally since age 14 on electric and took up upright at age 40. The double bass was a massive and expensive undertaking, and took me a year of private lessons and a few years of steady practice with a bow, 1 to 2 hours almost every day before I felt comfortable taking it out on a gig, even longer to come close to mastering, and now that I have become fairly accomplished the fat lady still kicks my ass, but I do love it so keep at it.

    Don't mean to discourage you, but keeping it real: "it ain't easy". Certainly your technique and knowledge from the electric bass bass will carry over, but upright is an entirely different and more challenging beast in many regards. From my experience, having private lessons with a good teacher was essential to get proper technique, learn the hand positions up and down the finger board and most importantly to bow properly to get correct intonation (big learning curve for bowing too). .

    IMO don't make the leap to DB unless you are ready to make the serious commitment to properly learn it, as it's not worth the huge expenditure for a good DB (they get really pricey) just to monkey around on. That said, we are never too old to learn. I took up bluegrass banjo for fun at age 60 and 4 years later am finally getting pretty good on it too!
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
    EK4001, bassfran and AGCurry like this.
  13. I started playing upright when I was right about your age 19 years ago and played it in an old rock n roll and rockabilly band where everything was played at 100 mph, I got got good fast! It was do or die. Never too late, there is a steep learning curve though, I think getting a good sound and loudly is the hardest thing besides building up your strength and getting good intonation. I ended up using a good magnetic pickup along with a neck transducer pickup for the click. With a magnetic pickup you can play really loud and not get feedback, they don't sound as good as bridge transducers but are a lot easier to use. I used to play mine through an SVT using both channels, one for the boom and the other for the click, it never fed back. Incidentally don't use one finger at a time to pluck like you are playing a bass guitar, use your index reinforced by your middle finger and and pluck with the side of your index not the tip, otherwise you get a thin crappy tone. Slapping on them is fun too, you grab the string under it and let it go and slap against the neck, it takes a while to get that technique down too.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2020
    EK4001 and Wisebass like this.
  14. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    I was in my mid-40's when I got a double bass to play with a jazz/swing band that I played with for a number of years, as well as the occasional odd gig here and there in other genres, such as bluegrass. The natural bloom of a double bass really did help the rest of the band play the songs in the proper style, phrasing, dynamics, etc.

    Since double bass and electric bass are two great instruments separated by a common tuning, I would, as I did, get a few lessons on the proper posture, fingering and other technique, as it is really easy to develop bad habits and risk injury to either hand or any fingers, wrist, elbow, etc. There is still nothing that beats learning the rudiments of Simandl; as many songs with horns in flat keys can be performed very easily in one-half position, extending up the positions where necessary, and with string bands in sharp keys many of the songs can be performed easily in first position, again, extending up the positions where necessary. The muscle memory learned from proper height adjustment of the nut and the positions is necessary so you can stay in visual contact with the music and the rest of the band and not always having to look at where your stopping hand his.
    Dabndug and bobyoung53 like this.

  15. Yes, the bloom is something you won't get with a magnetic pickup.
  16. allanmac00


    Mar 7, 2006
    I tend to agree with this sentiment for most things, but in this case it comes off as glib and unhelpful. As noted by almost every other comment in this thread, there are legitimate barriers to learning upright at a later age.
    lomo likes this.
  17. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Never too old to learn something new. Once you believe yourself too old to grow, that is when you become too old.
    james condino and bobyoung53 like this.
  18. Depends on what you want to do and how. I started around 40, and was gigging within a couple of months. But that was with low tension synthetic strings, simple one-five and R-3-5-6 lines, rockabilly, bluegrass, early rock and roll stuff, easy keys, lots of open strings. That’s the least physically and technically demanding end of the double bass spectrum.
    210superair likes this.
  19. Holdsg

    Holdsg Talkbass > Work Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2009
    Alta Loma, CA
    echoing what others have said. I started at 50ish. you can do it if you are willing to put in some time with the instrument.
    DrayMiles and bobyoung53 like this.
  20. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    I would say as long as you can hold one it's not too late to learn.

    I started 4 years ago when I was 65.

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