Bass guitarist dipping toe in water

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Andy Daventry, Jan 18, 2002.

  1. worried..frightened..

    OK, in I plunge.

    Here's some questions which might be really stupid, but I am going to ask them anyway.

    I first picked up a bass guitar in 1976, but have never played a DB other than occasional attempts to get a sound. So:

    1. Do you really need superhuman strength to hold down and pluck the strings?

    2. How do you play it so that, you know, people can hear it? The sound I could get out of the bass I tried (a Chinese effort. Not so much laminated as welded) would be drowned out by a virginal. And a coy virginal at that. Do I assume that there was somethign wrong with the bass, or do you have to pluck the string in a particular way to be heard?

    3. Is it possible to carry one around for gigs or practice without a car? How? And after you have carried it do you still feel like playing it?

    4. I see a lot said about how much work is necessary to play DB well. Now, I have put a fair amount of work into learning how to play the BG well, over the past quarter century, and I still see endless need for improvement opening up in front of me. Is there any hope that I, at 43, could at least master the basics of DB before my limbs become too withered and frail to hold the thing?

    Thanks for any replies...
  2. Andy,no doubt you will get some replies regarding technique in relation to the sound thing,setup counts for a lot and a crappy bass is not the ideal place to start(from experience)but i started playing bass at 47(2 yrs ago)not having played anything remotely musical before.I have played BG occasionaly since,practise etc. and found it to be almost totally unrelated to DB apart from the tuning and amount of strings!
    I guess i am saying no you are not too old,and i think your musical knowledge will help you enormously regarding theory etc. but the practical side takes a bit of work,but don`t let that put you off.I love it.
  3. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    1. No superman strength needed, but it takes a little bit of practice to get there as well as to stay there.

    2. A decent and correctly set-up bass is heard among other non-amplified instruments. Usually things get complicated when an over-enthusiastic drummer steps in: you'll go fetch a pickup and an amp.

    3. For short distances you can get a bass wheel that goes into the endpin socket. You can carry and stir the bass with one arm, and have the other one free to carry other stuff, open doors, etc. For longer distances a ride is needed. Public transport is do-able but automatic doors, jammed cars, long stairs etc... are problematic. Cabs are sometimes (often ?) reluctant to let you stuff your axe in their car (I don't know about Ankara's cab drivers).

    4. Age not a problem. Ed thinks that learning the slow way is the good way. And if Ed sais it...

    Go for it, man, and good luck. You will need a luthier: How is the bass shop scene in Ankara ?

    One more thing: get a Lemur Music catalog. Excellent resource and they do ship bass-related accesories world wide
  4. rablack


    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    Maybe not superhuman but certainly more strength. As with any new physical endeavor you'll have to start slowly and give your muscles time to strengthen and adjust. Unlike BG if you don't play the DB for a few days, you Really feel it.

    I'm 40 and started a bit less than 2 years ago. Will you master the DB? Does it really matter? Mastery is a moving target. What's important is, will you have fun with it? Will it let you make the sounds you hear in your head? Can you "master the basics" - sure you can.

    One drawback might be the availability of a teacher in Ankara, Turkey. Attempting the DB without a teacher leads to frustration, bad habits, much slower progress, and possibly injury.

    Oh, and check out (All Hail) Bob Gollihur's website for loads of information on all aspects of the DB. Good Luck.
  5. Thanks for the replies.

    The lack of a bass in Ankara is more of a problem than the lack of a teacher. The only bass hereis the Chinese one mentioned above. I think perhaps it is below the quality I could stomach. I'll be leaving Turkey in a few months to go back to Britain, so I'll probably wait until then to get one. I would imagine there are more basses there than here.

    But it seems the way things are going.
  6. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    The phrase "coy virginal" gave me a funny little tingle...oops, sorry, back to the thread...
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Forget about the age issue. After 15 years as a professional jazz pianist who doubled on fretless slab, I got my first DB 2 1/2 years ago at age 35 and have never looked back. I still have a s***load to learn about technique, but I couldn't be happier (or more obsessed with THE SOUND) about my decision. Although I still teach piano privately, i haven't practiced piano since I got my DB, and haven't gigged on keys in well over a year. According to my computer, I played 134 gigs last year: 105 were DB, and 29 were plank.

    Yes, my hands hurt most of the time. Yes, dragging a DB around is a pain. Yes, I have wondered at times if picking up a new instrument at that age was a foolish pipe dream...but all things considered, I wouldn't change a thing. If you really WANT to do it, you can.

    Best of luck.
  8. This is encouraging. I went and had another look at that Chinese DB today, and I am convinced that the reason I can't get a sound out of it is that there isn't a sound in it.
  9. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    Hi Andy.
    If I remember well, we exchanged a few emails a year and a half ago, at one point when I had a fretless Rob Allen MB-2 for a very short while.
    May I suggest that you also get a look at electric uprights?

    These instruments are better and more available than ever.
    Before the MB-2, I had an Azola BugBass, and after the MB-2, I got a Carruthers SUB-1.
    Sounds as good as an amplified plywood, and easy to carry around. I also play seated, which I like a lot!

  10. Wow, thanks CF. For me a person that has been playing for 7 months the fact that you have been playing DB for 2 1/2 years is great to know. From what I have heard I would have guessed you had been playing for ten years or more.
  11. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    Yes, better and more available than ever, but less than an adequate replacement for the Real Bass, I've come to believe. I bought a BugBass in August as an affordable and practical way to test the waters after a nine-year hiatus from playing. ("Practical" because I drive a Mustang, which will not swallow the Real Bass.) Things went reasonably well, but I became more and more aware of the EUB's shortcomings. For me, these were principally playability (first) and sound (second) in the upper registers. Just before Christmas I brought home my Real (carved German acoustic) bass. Although the lower registers of the two basses sound similar with the acoustic amplified, that's where the similarities end. Despite its fake "bout," the Bug doesn't balance the way the Real bass does, and there's no upper bout to serve as a reference when playing in thumb position. These are obviously my experiences, and I'm sure other players will have other observations, so break out the salt.

    As soon as I can swing a new car that will accommodate the URB, the EUB is history. (Guess I won't be selling it to any TBers after this post! :( )

    Best of luck in your bass hunt! :)
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Agreed. Not even close. I'm convinced that THE SOUND is a combination of all of the things that make a REALBASS a Real Bass - fingerboard, strings, bridge, soundpost, body, bass bar, etc. If you want a car, buy a car. If you want a motorcycle, buy a motorcycle. Both are fine, depending on what you want to get out of the purchase....but at the same time, it's not that difficult to tell which is which, especially when you're the one who's driving.


    Thanks for the compliment. DB has become an absolute obsession with me, probably because I feel that at my age (and wanting to remain a professional musician) it's put up or shut up time. Sometimes I'm afraid that switching was a stupid thing to do...until I pick up my bass and hear THE SOUND. After that, all I want to do is practise.
  13. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    Opinions are quite different when we talk about EUBs, and it's okay!
    Mine is that they're here to stay.
    For me, they have to be seen as an instrument class of their own.
    They're not BGs, they're not DBs, they're EUBs!
    They have their own qualities, their drawbacks, etc.
    As their acoustic cousins, they are available in different models, quality, etc.
    Some acoustic DBs are very cheap and have no sound, as Andy suggested in his original post. There are plywoods, and carved instruments.
    Same thing for EUBs; some are low-level, some are mid-level, and some are top-level.
    Those that have the closest sound to an acoustic are usually those with a resonance chamber, like the Eminence for instance.

    My opinion is that the player has to ask himself what he wants to play; pizz? arco? orchestra or jazz combo?

    In my case, I play pizz only, and in a jazz combo, so I need to amplify.
    Second, I don't have a car, so portability is an important issue. The answer was clear for me.

    Other players will come with different answers, and that's okay!

    The important thing is to be open-minded, and not be afraid of asking the right questions, and get the right answers, individually.
    Prejudices are not my thing, sorry! :)
  14. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    Nor mine. I was simply trying to convey my personal experience. And I'm sure there are higher-end EUBs that beat my BugBass hands-down on sound. (The right strings and a little FB work might improve it greatly.) If I had it to do over again, would I buy an EUB? In the scenario I described above ("affordable, practical"), yes. Do I see a future for this class of instrument in MY playing? No.

    Hopefully, Andy will be able to draw on ALL the EUB experiences conveyed via this forum, and use them to shape his own decisions, knowing that what's right for me or francois may not be right for him.
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    What year Mustang? I've never run into a 4-passenger car that I can't get the The Bass into. I've seen some two-seaters that would be impossible, and Jeep CJ-5 (Christ, I'm getting old) / Jeep Wranglers are impossible. My father used to have a student that would, on nice days, have his bass in the passenger seat of an old TR-4 with the top down and the neck sticking straight up. Quite a sight!
  16. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    It's a 2000. While I used to get The Bass into a Celica coupe, the trick was reclining the passenger seatback all the way, and laying The Bass on its side on the nearly horizontal surface. In the 'Stang, the seatback doesn't recline nearly as far... hardly at all, in fact. While I have to admit I've never actually tried to wedge The Bass into this car, I just can't envision it working.

    (Isn't this why God invented roommates with SUVs?) :D
  17. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'd give it a try -- you might be surprised. ANd then, if not, you could do the old trick of taking out the passenger seat...
  18. ConTraBajisTa

    ConTraBajisTa Guest

    Oct 5, 2000
    auburn, ny
    ooohhh i've been waiting so long to post about my string bass...

    1. i am a 15 year old girl, and i can hold the strings down better than some of my guy friends that try to play my bass. no super human strength required... well, maybe some at first, but then it kinda grows on you.

    2. in marching band my bass is amplified, and i wish it was in band too (i'm the only string bassist), but it takes patience and more strength than i had imagined to get some sound out of it for me--i also learned this neat little trick that i had been refusing to try--CLEANING THE ROSIN OFF MY STRINGS. it works wonders.

    3. also in marching band, i used to have to carry my bass down this ENORMOUS hill at our school down to the football field, and i do it with ease. i've never gigged with the upright, and i'm not old enough to drive =(

    4. "there's nothing you can't do"

  19. Make sure you have to bass at a comfortable height, and you shouldn't squeeze or press with your fingers to stop the string. Use the muscles from your shoulder to press the strings down through your fingertips if can dig what I'm saying. Your left hand should actually provide very little of the force needed to press the strings *into and through* the fingerboard. Volume, focus, and tone (especially focus and tone) come from the left hand.

    When you're playing pizz, get your whole left arm and wrist involved and pull from your shoulder. Don't pizz with your fingertips like with a bass guitar, use as much of the side of your index finger as you can get on the string.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm still very much in the middle of this debate and for Andy's benefit : I don't think there is an answer. I have researched and researched on the net and with people I know.

    All the pro players I have met have said to get a "proper" (!) Double Bass and that there are no alternatives.

    But I am still "wavering" (partly because of cashflow- my roof fell in and my car got broken into last year!) for a few "musical" reasons.

    I have tried the NS Steinberger electric upright and I really liked it - I agree that it doesn't sound like a DB in the higher register....but then I like the sound of fretless electric and it sort of becomes a "super" fretless bass there.

    Second reason is that I do a lot of Jazz workshops and meet a lot of "student" DB players who have a lot of problems with their DBs - blisters, not being heard and feedback from their amp when they get it loud enough to be heard!! Plus - their solos sound muddy and very "laboured" - you can hear everybody getting bored. After having played BG for over 20 years, I like the fact that I can play fairly proficient solos in Jazz and to go back to square one and be amongst the beginners is a very hard backward step when you get into your 40s.

    So I also go to a lot of Jazz gigs and have chatted to many great UK-based DBers who are great all-round musicians. Standing close to the band - the sound is great and there is really nothing to beat it.

    But - walk a few yards away and the DB almost disappears in the mix - the drums overpower the DB sound and it is lost. I saw Dave Holland's Quintet and obviously on stage the sound was great, but further back in the auditorium where I was sitting, the bass was completely drowned out by the drums except occasionally on bass solos.

    Even at small acoustic-scale Jazz gigs at my local Jazz club the DB sound is lost when you go to the bar and you get some great players sweating away at solos which are ignored by the majority of the crowd As soon as the bass solo starts - people are chatting more loudly and start drifting to the bar. So there is all this huge effort going on for very little recognition - at the same place I have seen a few gigs with Electric bass and the solos have gripped the audience and got loud applause at the end.

    I think as a result of all this analysis I am very close to buying the electric upright - mainly as I found when I played one that I could straight away get into playing and I could actually play lines that I knew from BG; but I will no doubt get the "real thing" eventually - maybe when I retire from my day job! ;)