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Double Bass OK for Older Players?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by WaltSiegfried, Apr 17, 2005.

  1. I was thinking of taking up the double bass again. I took a few classical lessons about 15 years ago. I'm in my mid-50's, and I was wondering whether it's the right instrument to pick up especially as I get older. There's some opportunity to play with a community orchestra.

    A colleague of mine (he's already in his 60's) asked me if this is that the kind of instrument I want to play as I get older, stating that physical demands of carrying it and playing it may be difficult as I age. Then he made a quip "Is that what you want to play when you're in a nursing home someday?" He thought that taking up a cello may be more satisfying because I'll get to play "real melodies". I spoke to some potential teachers (much younger) and they suggested I post the question to this board. Any thoughts?

    Thank you, Walt
  2. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Your fingers will blister...your back will ache...your neck will become contorted...your feet will hurt from standing...your entire body will be adversely affected by carrying the thing...and you will love it.
  3. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    I played bass seriously in high school during Richard Nixon's first term, then quit when I went to college. I took it up again for a few years in the 80s, again quitting for a variety of personal reasons (big mistake, by the way).

    Another change in life provoked me to take up bass again a few years ago at about age 48, and I love playing now more than I ever did in my wasted youth.

    In the community orchestra in which I now play, at last night's concert, we had six bassists: one in his 20s, three in their 50s, and two (probably the best players) in their late 70s.

    One of the guys in his seventies just carries his bass; the other has a wheel on the bottom and rolls it to his car (as do many, many bassists of all ages).

    Yes, it's a big, unwieldy thing to transport, and no, we don't play the melody often in the orchestra. But you would be a vital part of that orchestra, which at least to me counts for a lot. Also, you should consider that cello parts are much more complex than most bass parts, and you could probably contribute meaningfully to an orchestra as a bassist much sooner than you could as a cellist (and the "learning curve" is steeper still for viola and violin).

    The important thing, though: scratch that itch, however you do it! Bass, cello, guitar, piano -- it's all good. In my opinion, every adult needs some sort of hobby separate and apart from the workday world, and it has been proven that playing music helps keep the mind sharp as we grow older.

    Good luck!
  4. A while back there was a whole thread on starting "late" in life. If you can dig that up, you'll find a bunch more people's comments.
  5. I'm 57, I started on double bass when I was 42. Arnold's post said it all.
  6. bdengler


    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    Walt, I gave your question a lot of thought. I think I'm just a shade younger than you. I believe Pete hit the nail on the head, above. I resumed taking DB lessons when I was 47. Around the same time, my daughters took up cello. So, I putzed around with their cellos, even took a few lessons, and thought, "sweet, I can play melodies on this." But then I realized where would I go with the instrument? Intonation was always a problem and I hated doing extensions on it (bassists shift or pivot). I realized I could never get good enough to "solo" on it, and, as Pete mentioned above, I realized I could contribute more meaningfully to a community orchestra much sooner than cello. Plus, in my heart, I was always a bassist; no matter what I listen to, I always listen for the bass line, whether it's pop, rock, jazz or classical. There's a great feeling of satisfaction in filling out the bottom. If you're concerned about playing "tunes", perhaps you may want to thing about picking up a bass viola da gamba on the side. The thing is tuned in 4ths and it has frets! I find it very compatable with double bass playing. Plus, I'm told there's thousands of pieces of early music written for the gamba, which gives you plenty of opportunity to play "tunes." Getting back to the bass, I'm worried also about being able to carry the darn thing when I get older, but, heck, Ray Brown played it into his 80's, I think Milt Hinton played it into his 90's, David Walter played it into his 80's, plus our "principal" bassist in our community orchestra is in his mid-70's and I see no sign in him giving up the dog house. I hope this was helpful.

    Regards, Brian