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Electric Bass To Upright Bass (Advantages/Disadvantages)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by 4stringthing, Aug 15, 2002.

  1. 4stringthing


    May 10, 2001
    I was wondering what the advantages or/and disadvantages are when going to the upright bass from the electric bass. I was thing about doing this in the future. My thinking was that playing the upright would help on the electric and give me a more well rounded view of the bass.

    Thanks for the input.
  2. You're right on the money. Playing upright makes you have better left hand shape and agility, makes you more aware of shapes of bass lines, develops your ears, and develops your awareness of the bass function within any given ensemble. I'm a doubler, and I can say categorically that playing upright has vastly improved my Bass Guitar playing, as well as encouraging me to learn more about theory, soloing, and opening my ears to many other styles. Just do it!
  3. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    It's a fantastic instrument, but I gave up.

    Too expensive to get a decent one.
    Too much of a hassle to carry around.
    Too much work for not enough results.
    Whatever you do you're never loud enough.
    It's a pain in the bass :)

    I'll probably get a EUB one day.
  4. i started on upright first, and my electric playing got much better after playing upright for a while. Besides, upright bass teachers are few and few between where I live, so if you get good, you could do lessons to get some cash. Yes upright basses can get expensive, my friends trying to buy 1, and hes having problems finding 1. I've heard that fiberglass basses are better sounding or something than wood ones. Hope this helps, but it probably wont.
  5. My music teacher at school (not my bass teacher) suggested that I should also start playing DB. (Although I think he only wants a bassist for the school orchestra)
  6. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    I started on electric years ago and later moved to URB. I am definitely a better electric player because of the URB. But that is from a left hand strength and dexterity perspective only. The two instruments are totally different animals.

    On electric I like the tone of fretted notes more than open string notes. But on URB I like to use as many open notes as possible. The ramification of that is that I play the same song in the same key two entirely different ways on the two instruments.

    The other thing that happened was related to action. Before the URB I liked my electric neck action as low as possible. Now, because of the URB, I prefer my electric action MUCH higher than before.

    Musically, well......"World on a String" or "Desafinado" don't sound very good on an electric. And "House is a Rockin'" or "Josie" don't sound very good on a URB.
  7. i think the key to doubling has, is, and always will be: versatility. i started on electric bass about 6 years ago and a year ago i started on upright as well. i'm starting college this fall and last year at this time i thought i wanted to be a music major on bass. not only do most colleges and universities not allow music major on electric bass, but i also knew that being able to play both would get me more attention, more opportunities as a musician, etc. you're never shut out from a gig if you know both: if the band is asking for electric, you've got it covered, if the band is playing more mellow jazz and wants upright, you've got it covered. so i highly recommend it for the sake of versatility, if nothing else.

    that aside, i found that playing upright for a year hasnt particularly enhanced my electric playing. i think my skill on electric has advanced, but not specifically because i've been playing another instrument, just because i've had another year of experience on electric bass. however, upright has made me a much better sight-reader (which i think is just more of the circumstances: upright players play more classical, whereas electric bass doesnt sound right playing classical- i always had less need to read music on electric). also, upright has made me study theory much more, but that may also be just to the aforementioned circumstances.

  8. Very good advice Ed.
  9. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I don't know if the original poster's intent was to get an upright to get better on electric. My experience and that of others that have posted is that a side effect of studying the upright is a boost in your electric playing skills and your ear in general which is a good thing, regardless of the intent.

    You mentioned that the upright sound is the sound you hear when you want to play music. I think those that double, double because the sound palette that they're choosing from needs to be larger than that they can get from an upright or electric alone. You're only going to get sweet and haunting arco sound from an upright using a bow and you're only going to get the percussive punch of slap from an electric.

    I disagree, though you may get a "sound" out of a bass because it's amplified, doesn't mean that you're going to get the sound that say, Mathew Garrison, or Marcus Miller gets. The largest components of the "sound" to me is the rhythmic feel, note selection, and phrasing.
  10. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    Excellent posts from both Ed and Phil.

    You're welcome to disagree with me Ed.
    I'm only speaking for myself.

    I'm not a professionnal.
    I've been playing for 12 years or so.
    Music is a hobby and I intend it to stay so.

    I have a huge CD collection going through possibly any style. As my moniker states, I'm partial to jazz music, therefore going URB was an evidence at first.

    But actually, I feel way happier with a fretless.
    You can get very near from an upright sound and feeling (without reaching it), but you avoid a lot of harassment. Not for intonation and playing, but for physical reasons. Easier to amplify, cheaper, no temperature/moisture problems, smaller instrument.
    I couldn't see myself dealing with a dog house everyday or so.
    To each his own.
  11. Jazz Ad,
    I agree with what you're saying: fretless electric bass is much more convenient both physically and finacially. and some fretless basses get really sweet tones, some of which can sound really convincing as URB as well. However, in my first post, i talked about learning URB bass because there are some circumstances where electric bass is just not accepted, no matter how convincing the sound is. there were many colleges/universities/conservatories that i applied to with the intent of being a music major that just flat out refused to allow me to audition on electric bass. i could mention names of which schools were the biggest jerks about this *cough* oberlin *cough*, but i dont want to get into that. do i think this is a narrow-minded view of jazz?: "jazz music is only appropriately delivered by the sounds of a natural instrument like URB blah blah blah"...god yes, it's extremely narrow-minded. (if you wanted me to, i could literally cut and paste the words of the aforementioned "unnamed" college's jazz bass prof. in explaining to me why electric bass is not a respected instrument in jazz, the email was so hilarious i had to save it).

    however, i really do understand what Ed was talking about. there are certain songs that once again, no matter how convincing one's electric bass tone can be, just were made for the sound of an URB-- these songs for me are usually slower jazz ballads. i dont think electric bass wrecks the sound of these songs, but i just think an electric sound is sometimes not subtle enough (the best way i can think of describing it) for such songs. i'm still generally more of a fan of the electric bass sound, but i can still admit that there's some songs that electric bass just can't touch. as you said, it can get "very near" that sound, but not exactly there. and sometimes, very near just aint enough.

    now if you're talking about the added inconvenience of playing/carrying/transporting/caring for URB bass being worth the few songs you may play in a set where URB fits the sound better...well, that's a completely different discussion :).

  12. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Oh, no, somebody woke up the Fuqua:( ;)

    4stringthing, there is only one disadvatage of playing double bass, whether you play EBG or anything else. It is the price.
    The instrument is pricy and sensitive, meaning that you have to be very cautious with it.
    On the other hand....that makes it rather similar to a good woman (assuming you're a man...). It's hard to find, it takes some effort, it needs gentle care, and it makes you complete.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I wouldn't have believed this until I tried EUB this year. I started looking more closely at what DB players do and have started to appreciate how much open strings come into it and how important they are for Jazz DB playing. I always avoided them on BG as I didn't like the way they jumped out and sounded wrong and also made me feel les in control of "tone shaping" on BG.

    But I can see now how the open strings allow you to make fast shifts at high tempos and how if you are always aware of the availability of an open string, it can help you relax about the chord changes going past so quickly!

    I have now found as Dave says, that I play the same songs completely differently. I was at Jazz Summerschool recently and took both BG and EUB and as I was doing nothing but playing for a whole week, I could choose which suited what songs.

    So we did a very slow arrangement of "It aint necessarily so" and on BG I was making the band sound like a blues/rock cover band - it cried out for DB! So I switched and the whole feel of the band changed to a lighter jazzier feel - I wouldn't have believed how much difference just the bass made to the overall feel, in a band with 2 saxes piano guitar and drums.

    (Just to explain at this course - you are put into "small bands" with which you stay all week, with the same tutor)

    Also I was really appreciating how one note per bar can be incredibly satisfying - concentrating on making that one note feel and sound great. This is something I have never been able to do on BG, where I always feel I have to put in more notes and hardly ever let a note "ring" for it's full length.

    But then - on the Friday - the tutor said - how about playing something for fun at the last night in the Jazz club - we had already played three lots of "serious" Jazz. Nobody else had any concrete suggestions so as I happened to have the parts for "Red Clay" I suggested it and we did this. Straight away I was back in the world of BG and appreciating how it really is a different "animal" and I was doing things that I could only do on BG and the energy that it allows you to give to the music was really evident and the crowd cheered and really appreciated our performance!
  14. Another aspect, if you're a gigging bassist, is the fact that DBers are much more in demand then BGers. I've always played in regular groups, and played whichever suited the band best, but a coupla months ago I decided to go freelance, in order to expand my horizons a bit. Since then, 90% of my calls have been for upright, and I'm getting more work as a freelancer than I was in the Latin band. As I dont class myself as particularly good on the upright, I can only assume that this is because of a major shortage of upright players.
    BTW, I believe that playing upright acoustic is something you only do if you're; (a) a masochist, (b) nuts, (c) a glutton for punishment, or (d) a combination of the above.
  15. well, "red clay" is more along the lines of borderline-funk or harder jazz that i think DB just cant touch. exactly up the lines of, per se, headhunters style jazz...i mean try to imagine playing "chameleon" on DB with a band :)! but nevertheless bruce, what a great pick. "red clay" is and always will be one of my very most favorite jazz tunes. everytime i'm playing BG for a gig i make sure to play red clay, man i love that song!

  16. thanks for the tips Ed, those all sound really interesting, i'm gonna definitely have to check them out. i've long considered "red clay" and "chameleon" to be two of my very most favorite songs and always just envisioned them as electric songs. it'll be interesting to hear them interpreted differently.

  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I have got the album "Red Clay" by Freddie Hubbard - great band - Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Lenny White and Ron Carter. Now on the original album it only mentions Carter, but I also have a more recent compilation which lists "Bob Bushnell" as playing bass on that particular track and it definitely sounds like an electric bass solo at the end.

    It says in the liner notes "Like..Miles Davis, Hubbard drew energy and inspiration from the soul, funk and rock of the late 60s and early 70s, as evidenced by the key cuts in this set : "Red Clay", "Sky Dive" and "First Light". However, because his playing retained its essential character, critics never placed him in the fusion camp."

    Red Clay definitely sounds in rock/funk territiory - but anyway I think the point I was making was that with electric bass I could really take the energy levels up and by the time we got to the tenor solo, it was really rocking/grooving and the crowd (all Jazz musicians) were really into it and cheering.

    I think there is a sense in which BG can really drive the band; something I haven't heard often from DB, which can sound exquisite on ballads, but is usually lost behind the drums when it gets "rockier" or funkier.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think you're right - I just don't think I'll ever be able to leave BG behind, no matter how much I get into DB playing - but that's just me.

    I'm having trouble describing exactly what I mean., though - so I go along to my local Jazz club every week and there are some great DB players who play effortlessly at very fast tempos and maintain an unflagging, swinging groove - I've also heard some very funky stuff on DB.

    But it is never as "exciting" if that's the word I want, as the way electric BG can be and I know that's not just me, as I have been attending or playing at gigs where you can tell the whole audience feels it, in a way that I have never got from a band with DB.

    I think that's the basis of Jim Roberts claims in his book about how the Fender bass changed the world! So there was a big difference when bands started using electric bass, which audiences noticed and which is still there today.

    I don't know where this conversation is going now though - I can see both sides to the argument - but generally I think there is some truth in the fact that BG is more suited to some types of music and has a big impact on the overall sound of the band- some people like one and some the other. I like both!

    I know that at my local Jazz club - the audience like DB and I have "overheard" lots of whispered derisory comments about the sound on the very rare occasions whenever there has been a BGer in the band - too loud, too boomy etc etc

    A frind of mine plays mostly DB although he does play BG occasionally and he said that that's how your average audience member (punter) knows it's Jazz!! If they see the big bass fiddle then they know it's Jazz and if he's playing the BG they know it's blues/rock! ;)

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