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Any Recommended High Quality Double Bass Brands? Beginner Questions!

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Jean Grace, May 16, 2018.

  1. Jean Grace

    Jean Grace

    Jan 18, 2018
    Hi. I am new to this site, so I'm not sure if this is the correct forum part to post this on.
    I have been playing the piano for the last seven years and the violin for the last five, so I have a musical background. I am interested in learning the double bass.
    I know that for beginners, beginner-quality instruments are recommended. However, I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy the double bass if and when I begin to learn it, so I'd rather have an intermediate-quality instrument. Are there any specific brands/models that you'd recommend?
    What about some beginner books you've enjoyed?
    I'll probably be self-taught (using books and videos, of course, and probably asking troubleshootig problems here) because I'm pretty sure the nearest double bassist is at least two hours away, let alone an experienced teacher. Do you have any tips as far as specific technique, or tips about anything, really?
    Oh, by the way, I'd be learning mostly classical, not jazz or any other genre. I may venture into those, but for now I'm quite sure I'll be going the classical route. I know genre affects technique for the violin (the violin/fiddle battle), so I just mentioned that in case it's similar for the double/upright bass.
    Also, I'm not 'switching' instruments. I'm still keeping to my passions for the piano and violin! I'd just like to learn a new instrument in addition to those.
    I'm still doing lots of research, and will be until I make a decision.
    Thanks in advance!
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    There are companies and makers who produce entry level carved instruments, but you would be better served by abandoning the idea of "brand". Go to reputable bass shop (if you do not as of yet actually play bass, you should take someone who does) give them your price range and then play (or have played for you) a bunch of different instruments. It may be some "probably Czech, maybe Hungarian" bass that "seems to be around 60 years old" has the sound you are looking for, not some new instrument.
  3. Jean Grace

    Jean Grace

    Jan 18, 2018
    Old Spice: Thanks. I guess I should have looked there first.
    Ed Fuqua: Thanks for those suggestions. I don't care about how new an instrument is. The sound and condition are obviously more important than its age. My piano is over three decades old, but sounds wonderful.
    old spice likes this.
  4. oldNewbie

    oldNewbie Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2016
    johnny_bolt and old spice like this.
  5. Mister Boh

    Mister Boh

    Oct 23, 2016
    Annapolis, MD
    If I were shopping for a bass these days I'd probably go with an Upton or Shen hybrid.

    I think Simandl is pretty much the go to for a starting point still
  6. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
  7. Jean Grace

    Jean Grace

    Jan 18, 2018
    Thanks! That cleared up a few things. I looked into the Wiki Index, and went into the one about bows. I have a quick question: are carbon fiber (graphite) bows better than wooden bows? I'm assuming yes, because I have a carbon fiber bow for my violin and I love it much more than my wooden one, which broke last year. I'm just wondering if it's the same for the bass. As far as durability, of course, it would be.
    Thanks, everyone, again for replying.
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
  8. Reiska


    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    My beginner advise would be that get a proper conventional sized instrument your in terms with physically, and then get a superb setup from a skillfull and knowledgeable luthier. So much can be done with selection of strings set up in a way that helps and motivates you to learn more, not the other way around. DB is a total commitment that requires great guidance from a qualified teacher and DAILY practise for the rest of your playing time. It doesn`t happen any other way. Take it slow and build the necessary techinque, stance and STAMINA. Enjoy playin the simplest things and dig the resonance that makes your room vibrate along. Take it easy, it`s possible to completely mess up your capability to play anything with your hands ever. It`s a demanding beast, but gives back sooo much, more than any other instrument IME.

    Wellcome to the dark side!!!

    johnny_bolt likes this.
  9. Josh Kneisel

    Josh Kneisel

    Jun 17, 2016
    Upton, Thompson, Shen....
  10. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    How old are you and where are you located?
    Before college, I was also largely self taught. I don't recommend it, but if that is the path you have to go, I have some thoughts.
    I was lucky enough to stumble across a very respected british teacher that holds regular bass camps. Regularly attending these was a huge help to me since I had little useful help in my hometown. Depending on your age and location, maybe we can tip you off on something good in your neck of the woods.
  11. Swayden


    Aug 24, 2017
    North Carolina
    From what I’ve read, I would suggest that you start out by hitting up a local shop and renting a bass before you go spending money on something that you might not enjoy. If you did want to buy one, the best brand for the money in my opinion is Sam Shen. I also own a Cremona SB 2 which is definitely on the low end of the spectrum when it comes to basses, but it has treated me fairly well for what it is. As far as bows go, from my experience, a good bow can make a bad bass sound amazing. So if you were to pair up a lower end bass with a decent bow, then you would be set up for awhile.
    Also, if your just starting out, a great book for beginners is the Simandl Book Method 1. I always refer to it as the Bass Bible because it teaches all the fundamentals.
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
  12. Rod Sroufe

    Rod Sroufe

    Jan 31, 2015
    Van Wert, OH
    Another option that you have, having invested time on violin, is playing bass tuned in 5ths. You’d have the knowledge advantage of where the notes are on the fingerboard vs. learning the note layout in standard 4ths tuning. Plus you’d get that low C that shakes the ground!

    Downsides.. The distance between notes is obviously MUCH greater so the shorter the vibrating string length on the instrument the better. There WILL be more shifting. I do this occasionally on one of my basses (43 1/4 inch string length) so it’s possible. Just not without shifting. Certainly 5ths tuning would require a string investment as this is not standard tuning on bass.

    I’m not saying this is the best option for you. Just an option to consider. Good luck!!
  13. bluefizz


    Aug 8, 2008
    Los Angeles
    MTD, Bartolini Electronics, La Bella Strings
    For basses: If your going to go the online buyer route, String Emporium has some good cheap plywood basses as well as Gollihur. They will both set it up before sending it to you. Other then that, it’s always best to try out a bass in person. Avoid Eb necks and other weird things. Most people use 3/4 basses with a 41 inch scale and a D neck. Makes it easy to use a different bass when you need to.

    Brazilian wood bow to start would be good. This is a very subjective thing. Hair, weight, response, length, etc. Some are super cheap, some are super expensive. I rolled with a $150 bow for years before getting a $400 bow. Also, if you play violin, a french bow would be easy to pickup vs a German bow.

    It’s really difficult to say what would be best for someone, there’s so many variables and options. The best way is to visit a reputable shop in person and take your time trying out different basses, bows, etc.
  14. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Get something that fits you and that makes you want to play. Make sure your personal goals are clear. Weight the relative importance of tone, volume, transportability, practice time to public performance etcetera that is important to you. Make the decision that is right for you personally. Avoid the Cheap Chinese Basses you see on Amazon and Ebay, and get a good setup that matches your personal taste. I think it's worth the drive to get to a store that has a lot of basses to choose from -- I found they varied widely in sound even within the same brand and model number. As did the finishes. It's important to play the instrument, before you buy it, in my view.
  15. Jean Grace

    Jean Grace

    Jan 18, 2018
    Reiska: Yes, that is what I'm thinking. Someone recently recommended a smaller sized instrument to me, while others consistently recommend a larger sized, though not the largest sized, instrument. I am thinking I will probably just try out several different sized instruments, test out their individual sounds as Ed Fuqua recommended, and go from there.
    Yes, all instruments require daily practice. Believe me, I am fully aware of that!;) That said, I find taking a day or two off from practicing ensures I'll be more refreshed when I return. Perhaps that is only because I'm not a beginner for piano or violin.
    Wathaet: I am fifteen and I live on the south shore of Nova Scotia, but away from towns. "Neck of the woods" is correct!
    I know that being self-taught isn't really recommended for various reasons, mostly because beginners are likely to fall into some bad habit. I will try to look around for double bassists again, but I doubt I'll find any. The nearest one, I'm guessing, is in Mahone Bay, possibly Bridgewater (I doubt it, but I'll ask around), and the former is still too far for us.
    Swayden: Thank you for the book recommendation.
    Renting is probably the best option; I hadn't really given it much thought, though. We live about three hours away from the city, and of course this is where all of the stores that sell double basses are located. I'm wondering if they would rent to someone who lives that far away from them. I will check.
    Yeah, bows are extremely important and sometimes overlooked!
    Rod Stroufe: Thanks for letting me know. Shaking the ground would certainly be a fun experience! As for shifting, I don't really think you can get away with not shifting on a stringed instrument, especially for higher levels. It's not really a big deal to me. I don't enjoy shifting, but if it's necessary than I'll do it. That said, I want to immediately have as much experience with shifting on the double bass as possible. I don't agree with learning to shift after playing for a few years. Just my own experience, but it makes learning to shift unnecessarily more difficult, as the hand has learned only the one position. So I will definitely that in mind.
    Bluefizz: I don't think I'm buying online. As you said, it's better to try out instruments in person. I don't think that String Emporium will ship to Canada, anyway, because I was looking there for an idea on price ranges for bows, basses, cases, etc.
    Yeah, I was thinking of going the French bow hold way more than the German hold. Especially where my left hand is accustomed to holding a bow like that, and I don't want to know if it will cause problems having different bow holds for different instruments, so I'll stick to what I know as much as I can, while of course recognizing and understanding the individuality of each instrument.
    PauFerro: In my own experience, avoid western instruments made in China anyway! No disrespect to them intended, but I bought a violin for my aunt, and it's Chinese. It has possibly the worst sound I've ever heard on a violin, even though it was supposedly good quality. Too tangy, no warmth, etc. Not going that route again. Also, as I said above, I'm not buying any instrument online. Too much hassle, and there's no guarantee that the instrument will make it in one piece, sound great, or anything.
    There's one store in the city that sells various double basses, so I think I'll be going there first. I don't know how good the other stores are, though I'll probably browse in a few of them anyway, before making a purchase.
    Tone and volume are most important to me. I'm guessing I won't be transporting it much; at least not for the first couple of years, unless I do happen to find a teacher. I am also not much of a performer, though I am planning to perform a bit more this summer than usual. I also don't think I'd be performing much on the double bass for the first bit anyway, except for friends and family.

    I am going to take my time with the subject. I don't want to rush myself. Also, I kind of have to save up for actually buying/renting an instrument, as I don't want to put that on my parents. Doesn't seem quite fair or reasonable to me to have them pay for another of my instruments, though I was too young to be able to pay for the piano or violin, of course. So I am buying it mostly with my own money. I'm guessing that this will happen at least in the autumn, but probably next spring/summer. So yeah. I'm taking my sweet time;)
    Thank you for all of your responses.
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
    bluefizz, PauFerro and Reiska like this.
  16. misterbadger

    misterbadger Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2012
    Northern California
    Geoff Chambers' discoverdoublebass.com is a wealth of information - lots of free video and some great courses. Highly recommended!
    oldNewbie likes this.
  17. Jean Grace

    Jean Grace

    Jan 18, 2018
  18. daveriedstra


    Mar 17, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    If you go with 5ths tuning, Joel Quarrington has a method book which might be useful (actually, he has editions for 4ths and 5ths, but he plays in 5ths and I believe he's designed it with that in mind). From what I can tell, his technique takes a lot from both Simandl and Rabbath styles but is more on the Rabbath side. He sells the books in print and PDF on his website.
    paulunger likes this.
  19. Jean Grace

    Jean Grace

    Jan 18, 2018
    Okay, thanks for that recommendation!

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