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Electric Bass to Upright Bass: tips ?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by JamesMichael, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. JamesMichael


    May 24, 2012
    Well, this is a rather long story, but I got moved to Orchestra this year instead of marching band. I play percusion for band, and was moved with the intention of playing percusion for the orchestra. I've played electric bass for two years, and when my teacher found that out he decided to move me to upright bass.

    My question is, how does playing an upright bass differ from an electric, and can anyone give me practical tips for playing with the orchestra? Pointing me to some online resources would be appreciated too.
    Thank you guys in advance!
  2. Number one rule: find a teacher. This is because the instrument is big enough and playing it requires large enough forces that you can injure yourself badly by developing the wrong habits... and it's nearly impossible to work out how not to do that by yourself.

    Second, do NOT use one note per finger, instead understand how upright fingering works. There are several systems, but the main thing they have in common is you don't use third finger in low positions, you only start once your pinkie is too short because your hand has rotated around in high positions.

    Do not use your thumb to create your stop pressure... you have to do this with electric, because the neck is not braced on anything, but if you do it on upright you'll hurt yourself. Instead, hold your hand and arm in the right shape and relax your shoulder to drop your arm, that will make gravity do the work for you. Someone should be able to grab your thumb and pull it away with no real resistance. Your thumb only steadies the instrument a little if you are standing to play, nothing else.

    Third, understand that your teacher is being a bit unrealistic in expecting you to convert quickly, because you have never used a bow and that takes quite a while to get a handle on. So expect to do a lot of practice.
  3. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    I love and hate when this happens.

    Good for your band teacher- to broaden your horizons, but please read Andrew's rule #1. A classical double bass teacher is what you need. Get the best one you can find. I don't know where you are from, but call your local symphony office and ask which bass players in the orchestra teach private students. Or call the university. If you can't afford the main teacher, find out which of his best students are teaching.

    Be patient and do everything the teacher tells you.

    Here is a series of videos for you to watch, so that you can see what you'l need to work on:

  4. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I agree with all of the above. I think the big thing to remember is that the electric bass is a cousin of the double bass, not a sibling. Your knowledge of the electric will help you to find your way around, but the instruments are best treated as basically different, not basically the same.
  5. Ross Kratter

    Ross Kratter Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2010
    New York, NY
    Artist, RS Berkeley, La Bella Strings and Phil Jones Bass Amplification
    Absolute yes to all of the above. GET A TEACHER.
  6. Indeed - as a convert myself, I can testify that they are different instruments with similarities, not similar instruments with a few differences.

    Similarities are limited to funcion and tuning. I guess fingering is a little similar because of the tuning, but the fingering principles are still fundamentally different.

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