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any older players transition from electric to upright and do it well?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by glocke1, Nov 7, 2018.

  1. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    I've often thought of studying double bass throughout the years. I actually ended up trying it early on in college but frankly was too busy with non-music classes to be able to devote sufficient time to to it.

    Over the years the thought of "yeah i should revisit that" has always entered my mind but than i end up telling myself that at this point the learning curve would be too great.

  2. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I switched from electric to upright in my early 50’s. Of course there was a long period of struggle (and still is is some aspects). I turned 64 recently and I am rehearsing and gigging with 3 bands on a fairly regular basis, and a couple of others on the side. I am playing more than at any other time in my life, and I still work full time (carpenter) and have a wife and two teenage daughters at home.

    Follow your dreams.
    pasmithy, Dabndug, fclefgeoff and 5 others like this.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    It might help if you would define what you consider "older" in the thread title. I transitioned from piano at age 35, and have never looked back.
    HateyMcAmp likes this.
  4. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    I’m 51
  5. Reiska


    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Transitioned from drumset at 38 yrs. I still consider myself beeing a percussionist, I`ve had that in my blood forever and will allways have, but devoting myself to DB has been mind expanding and life changing experience, and totally worth it all.
  6. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    I started in my early 20s, and didn’t get really serious to my mid 20s. So not old in life, but some of my peers had already finished conservatory and had put in the hours to mastery as I was fumbling through Simandl with a fiberglass bow. It took me about 5 years to really get it together. Approaching year 10 I’m really starting to like aspects of my playing and musicial voice. I don’t have your level of life experience, but it felt like a great way to spend a decade.:bassist:
  7. I started on electric bass in my teens. Fast Forward --> bought a BSX Allegro EUB in 2007; transitioned to double bass, along with the bow, in 2015. Now playing primarily double bass, doubling on occasion, in classical, theater, big band, jazz combos. I'm not a full-time professional, no genius either, and I have a mountain of learning to do (which is exciting, by the way). I'm 65 years "some-thing-or-the-other".

    Hell of a lot better than screaming at kids to "get off my lawn". I don't have time for yard work...
  8. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    I was actually looking forward to that in my old age...
    basspraiser likes this.
  9. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I switched from electric to upright about 6 years ago(age 28). If you are devoted to it i think you can pick it up and be having a good time pretty quickly. Just know you need to treat it as a new technique which will take time to adapt to. I've been playing for 6 years, gigging on it for 4 years. Getting a teacher at the onset will greatly help you get established faster.
    Cheez likes this.
  10. Dennis Kong

    Dennis Kong Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2004
    San Mateo CA
    like the young folks above me..

    I started on electric bass and then took up upright bass when I was in my 20's ( 1970s),
    and quit to finish school. ( it was also lot of hard work.)

    Then at 50 I started up again and stuck to it. Had several teachers and went to jazz classes with upright.
    and learned and struggled..
    saw and chatted with lot of great jazz players at Yoshi s.
    some include: Dave Holland, Ron Carter, Buster Williams, Miroslav Vitous ,Victor Wooten, James Leary, Al Obedenski and others..
    and learned a bit from them.

    have my own band : doubling depending on the gig..
    and teach beginning upright now.
    and slowly upgraded my basses to better ones with help of Steve Swan String Shop in Bay Area.

    now at 64:
    I m glad I stuck to it!
    very rewarding -
  11. TrevorOfDoom

    TrevorOfDoom Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I've been playing EB for 20 years, and at 36 years old, just bought my first double bass.
    I'm already a full-time musician, so my hope (at best) is to do at least 1 gig a month on DB. But I know there's a learning curve before I'm at that point.
    There's never a better time to start than the present!
    basspraiser likes this.
  12. Electric player since my teens; took up upright in my late 40’s.

    My best advice is get some whiteout, and place dot fret markers at integral increments along the neck, and look at these as you practice, until you learn those locations by feel (this will take months).

    Next, practice scales in various positions working your way up the neck. You have to learn how to shift after a whole step.

    Finally, don’t even think about playing a four hour gig, till you can consistently practice for four hours in a row without pain or cramping. It takes a lot more body strength to play upright.

    And last but not least, if you want to learn how to bow, take a few lessons from a competent orchestral player. There is no way to learn bowing on your own.
  13. John Chambliss

    John Chambliss Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    Hey it's a humbling experience. I started at around age 58 or so.
  14. I'm 64 and retired this year from a non-music career. I started playing violin and a number of fretted instruments as a young kid, started serious performing about 50 years ago and continue today, including playing around with BG just out of curiosity, but never seriously.

    I just acquired and started playing DB in late January and am absolutely loving it and making decent progress, sitting in and playing for gigs already. Half a century of playing other instruments does help, as do DB teachers and/or mentors, and reading/talking here on TB/DB.

    I'd say your age (51) is not at all a limiting factor for playing the DB... Schlepping it around may be a different story depending on how mobile you are, but if you've been playing BG you're used to carrying heavy things around. There are some accessories that help with schlepping your DB if you feel like that's a problem.

    I'd say go for it!!!
  15. byrdzeye


    Mar 28, 2013
    Toronto, ON
    I've played EB since my teens (pre-Beatles, learned with original Ventures, MoTown, etc.). Got my first UB bass several months after I retired 5 years ago, upgraded to a better bass just short of 3 years ago, and just love it. I don't play out, just getting together with friends several times a month and at a few parties. Coming up on 71 and still learning and getting better (especially musically) on guitar, EB, and UB. Love
    'em all.
  16. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    If someone was thinking about transitioning to DB from EB, I would offer my $0.02

    DB is wonderful
    DB takes serious effort to learn. Simandl, bow, Instructor...regardless whether your direction is jazz or classical. Halfway measures will get you zip.
    DB takes daily practice to stay in shape
    DB and EB playing techniques do not necessarily coincide. Different beasts.
    Do you have enough time to practice both or are you willing to give up one for the other.?

    EDIT, that said...anyone who wants to seriously play walking lines convincingly on EB should learn some DB IMO. I am a big fan of Mike Richmond's "Modern Walking Bass" which I learned on DB via simandl and then on EB with 4 fingered LH technique.

    EDIT 2: I decided to learn DB when I was a beginning jazz student in college and I sat right next to the DB player at a jam session and realized I was a poseur.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
  17. chilensko


    Sep 27, 2010
    If you hear the call you should do it. I believe that, in one year if you study your bow and your Simandl or any progressive method you can achieve a lot, but is easy to get obsessive with technique and forget about music.
    It's a long way , enjoy it.
  18. Started 4-5 years ago, only regret that I didn't start earlier. I've practiced a lot and have steady gigs now.
    basspraiser likes this.
  19. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    hmmm...I'll have to look into it I guess...

    I guess renting one at first would be the way to go to ?
    dhergert likes this.
  20. jleguy

    jleguy Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2006
    DC Metro
    I'll bite and give you my take, hopefully this isn't too much and I don't mean to discourage, but learning to play upright really require work unless you happen to be a natural at it.

    Over the last year and a half or so I have finally started to transition for electric to upright...I will be 58 at the end of this year, and I will be retiring at the end of 2020. After playing electric bass on and off since about 1973, in the early 90s I got the brilliant idea to try playing upright and I bought an Engelhardt M1 and it just sat in a corner. About a year and a half ago, and spending the last 10 or more years play electric bass in fairly successful Grateful Dead cover bands in the DC metro area, I finally got serious about learning upright, asked on this board who in the DC metro area would be a good teacher, and have been very slowly working my way to playing upright. I still have the Engelhardt that is now strung with guts that I have been using in an acoustic duo playing Piedmont style blues including Hot Tuna, Grateful Dead, and other covers and traditionals like Rev. Gary Davis tunes in the genre. It took me a year to just start to feel competent to play that material pizz. Previously I had been playing that material on a Rob Allen or Warwick Alien fretless acoustic. But I can say now that I am actually gigging on upright on a routine basis.

    I feel as though I have a good teacher...she kicks my butt and the instrument kicks my butt (my acoustic duo partner, a guitarist, tells me that's good, means I'm learning something when I complain like that)...I'm relearning and expanding my music theory knowledge and learning to read music again. But it is HARD and learning to play the upright takes a lot of work. I was surprised how little my electric bass work helped me for upright, including my fretless work. On the positive side, my upright work has really helped my electric bass work. Upright is a totally different animal from electric bass, fretted or fretless. Learning arco took me months to get anything that sounded somewhat more than just screeching and scratching sounds, and I have far to go to make it sound nice. A lot of times finding the motivation to practice is difficult with a full time job, family and gigs...so my progress at times, in my opinion, has been slow. It probably doesn't help I am old, I think that adds a layer of difficulty, and maybe its even a case of lack natural aptitude for the upright compared to others.

    But I am going to keep plugging along. Retirement is just 2 years away and my financial planner says I do not have to work given my plans, and my plans are to play music as my major activity in retirement, and I would like that to be particularly on upright. I agree with Jim Dombrowski above that there is a long period of struggle...I am living it now...

    Do it! Learn how to play upright. Get the right instrument, get a good teacher, practice, practice, practice...

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