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Any Upright Converts?

Discussion in 'Barker Bass Forum' started by Andy Long, Nov 22, 2005.


  1. Andy Long

    Andy Long

    May 3, 2000
    Wales
    OK - so we can see why an electric bassist would be attracted to the Barker. The desire to play upright balanced against the standard scale length that we are all used to and even the option to have frets!

    I was just wondering......

    Have you had any traditional upright players who have bought a Barker?

    If so, why did they buy it and how do they feel about it having played it for a while?

    :eyebrow: :bassist:
     
  2. modeshapes

    modeshapes

    Oct 17, 2005
    NYC Area
    While I have always been more an electric player than a double bass player, I did study the Simandl method with a good teacher for a while and put in some hours with the bow getting my intonation together. I had taken work on double bass for quite a few years. The Barker fretless has completely replaced my upright since February '05.

    But would an upright player who considers the upright their main axe and perhaps is conservatory trained in upright and doesn't play electric at all (or only some times to pay the bills) have my experience? I don't know. What I am hearing though is that "doublers" really like it.

    Additionally, I do feel that having some traditional upright experience helped in implementing a playing concept on the Barker. There are some note choices and fingering choices that would change for me depending whether I was playing upright or electric. For instance, the upright playing concept lends itself better to including open strings in a line, whereas on electric it often makes more sense to use closed fingerings. Using the open strings is part of what gives upright its "uprightness."
    Another example is the use of pull-offs to open strings in a walking bass line. I found this typical in upright playing but not in electric playing. I think it helps to be mindful of that too when going for "upright concept."
     
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Since the string length is considerably shorter than an actual bass, and it basically seems to be an electric bass stuck on an endpin, I doubt I'd look at this over an EUB that was designed more for a double bassist. I would be more inclined to look at an EUB that replicated the overstand, bridge and fingerboard radius of the instrument I play (Eminence, some Azolas, Czech-Ease etc) over those that have a BG approach to that relationship (NS, Clevinger, etc.)
     
  4. Futurebass

    Futurebass

    Jun 22, 2005
    How about the physical/health side of this question? It seems like the Barker might be easier on a players body than an upright. Anybody with experience care to comment?
     
  5. modeshapes

    modeshapes

    Oct 17, 2005
    NYC Area
    I can tell you that I would develop blisters on my 1st and 2nd right hand fingers when playing a long engagement on upright. I know this was because I did not play regularly enough to get the kind of ham-hands I would really need to play four sets a night. Sometimes the blisters would open during the job. Ouch! I would play through the pain and try my best to keep laying it down.
    Once home I would soak the open blisters in rubbing alcohol to encourage callouses to form. That was briefly unpleasant as well. But the callouses didn't stay because I did not play my upright bass regularly enough to maintain them.
    Now that I substitute a fretless Barker for all of my upright calls, I have not had any more unpleasant blister episodes. Nor have I had any of the common left-hand endurance problems that I and many traditional upright players have experienced.
     
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    If you have a good physical approach, you don't have "common left hand endurance problems". Andy, I'm not sure you're really in a position to make an accurate assessment since, by your own admission, you never really played upright enough to develop callouses, much less a solid physical approach.

    Since you are showing up for "upright calls" with an electric bass, what kind of music are you playing on these gigs?
     
  7. modeshapes

    modeshapes

    Oct 17, 2005
    NYC Area
    I mean no disrespect to you or to the art and the tradition of the double bass.
    I was never dishonest about my level of double bass experience. Obviously you have much, much more, and will have a different perspective.
    My intention was to share my experience. "Accurate assessment" is your term, not mine.

    The question you ask me about what music I'm playing makes me wonder if you are of the opinion that electric bass can't swing. If so, that is a very long and tiring discussion for another thread in another forum.
    But if it makes any difference to you, I play club dates -- about 100 a year. In terms of musical styles that basically means popular/commercial music styles of the 30's and 40's to the present.

    I am definitely not stealing any legitimate double bass work. On the very rare occasion when a client insists on an acoustic upright bass, I am always honest and tell them I am not their guy -- call someone else.
     
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    And I mean no disrespect to you and whatever choices you've made. But the question was, to all intents and purposes, is the Barker easier on a player's body than upright. And the real answer is no. You DO have to pay more attention to physical approach playing double bass, which is why so many of us are always recommending getting a teacher who can help you work on that. It is easier to learn to play ( but perhaps not play well) a Barker (or any of the other short scale "upright" basses) becuase all you are doing is playing an electric bass - short scale, electronic pickup with internal tone modification. Not that you can't develop a unique individual voice on electtric, but basically ANYBODY can plug it in and get a sound. That's where we all started. To get a sound out of a DB is another proposition entirely.

    so if the question is "Is the Barker easier to play?", then yes certainly. But if the question is, as stated" easier on the body" I would have to draw anyone's attention to the number of double bassists in their 60s,70s and 80s; both jazz musicians and classical musicians, around the world.

    If i want to say something, I pretty much go ahead and say it. I asked what kind of music you play because if you are indeed playing straight ahead contemporary mainstreamish jazz, and are getting a sound you are happy with, it would be something I would have to check out. Cause NOBODY plays upright because it's convenient; I play it because it's the only way (so far) to get to the sound I have in my head. But you aren't, so I'm not too concerned about checking out the Barker. As I said in another post in this forum, if I need a "portable" bass I'm going to look for soemthing that more resembles the instrument I play in terms of string length and sound.

    re: stealing - hmmm. Your word and you brought it up. Sounds like you're thinking more about it than I am.


    Look, the bottom line to all of this is - play what you hear in your head. Playing upright is not some badge of moral superiority, it's just a way to get to the music and sound that has meaning for you. If that's electric, it's electric. If that's upright, it's upright. I just think it gets really stupid when somebody doesn't want to make the commitment to the sound, just the looks.
     
  9. modeshapes

    modeshapes

    Oct 17, 2005
    NYC Area
    I see what you mean. As a player I have to love my sound or it's not right. So that's what I go for too.

    But the world can be a funny place. And while they don't say so, I know the contracting office that calls me and asks for upright bass is asking for a look, not a sound. If they were asking for a sound they would call a real upright bass player.

    So, in a kind of cynical response to this, I go ahead and give them the look. But fortunately for me the look happens to go with a sound I really love. My Barker lets me look good for them and sound good for me.

    I'm glad they are paying me for the look because it gives me a chance to play my Barker and enjoy myself.
     
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I guess you gotta keep your eye out for any vertically fingered keyboards then?
     
  11. modeshapes

    modeshapes

    Oct 17, 2005
    NYC Area
    Nope. No call for that (fortunately).
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I hear the Accordian is quite popular for Scottish Country dancing ...? ;)