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Electric to Double Bass

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by The Golden Boy, Jan 23, 2004.

  1. I've been playing bass for about 20 years or so, and in that time I never had too much of an urge to play double bass (standup). I've plunked around on a couple, but just because it was there. My band has an acoustic show coming up shortly and I don't have an acoustic bass, however the keyboard player in my band has a bass that was given to him by his father, that was given to him by HIS father. By his best account he figures the bass to be a '20s or '30s Kay. I'm going to learn this, quick-like, and was wondering if anyone else has gone from being comfortable on Electric Bass to novice on Double Bass and any pointers anyone might have.

    BTW Although I've been playing for 20 years, don't equate that with being good. I'm decent at what I do, but "proper technique" is not a phrase that is too applicable to me.
  2. I'd recommend asking this question on the double bass side of TB.....while you might find some DB players here, you're guaranteed to find a lot more over there. and a search may yield some old discussions of the same topic.
  3. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    If youre serious about playing the DB (other than just noodling around on it), get a teacher. Not having "proper technique" on DB is worse than not having it on BG, imo.
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    If you are just going to play one or two shows, here's some tips:

    1. Use ONE finger on your right hand to pluck. Use the side of the finger to get more skin contact to move the bigger string. Try this: Put your right hand in a pointing position (thumb perpendicular to index finger, other fingers curled up). Anchor the thumb to the side of the fingerboard and move your index finger sideways to pluck the string.

    2. With the left hand, act as if you have only THREE fingers. The ring and pinky are used together to fret notes. This gives you a THREE fret stretch rather than the four fret (one finger per) stretch commonly used on bass guitar.

    3. Use open strings whenever possible. You will play more in tune if you do this. Learn the scales for the keys you need (probably E, A, D, G, C, F and Bb will cover it). All of these can be played within the first five fret positions. Many can be played without ANY shifting of the left hand if you use open strings.

    4. Watch out for blisters, esepcially on the plucking finger. Use moisturizer to keep the skin soft and moist (blisters form when the skin dries out and heats up). If you get a blister, you can use "sports tape" to cover it and keep playing. Unlike some other types of tape, this will not gunk up the strings.

    5. If you need to amplify it, get a mike, wrap the mike body in some foam or a towel and stuff it in the space below the bridge. Run the mike through the PA, not your bass amp. Though not the best sound this will enable you to be heard.

    Good luck and have fun!
  5. Thanks guys! Actually I'm not as much interested in "seriously learning" Double Bass, as I want to figure out ways of using the DB to fill the role of Electric Bass in the least amount of time as possible. I want to approach this as a rock instrument instead of either a classical or rockabilly instrument. Does any of that make sense?

    Kind of like if McCartney, Mike Mesaros, or Nate Mendel would replace the Ricks and Fenders for a Double Bass. How would you go about it, how to best pick/pluck, special left hand tricks...etc. I'll post something in the other forum, but I don't want to be laughed out as a knuckle dragger trying to defile a respectable instrument!!
  6. Thank You Brianrost! That is EXACTLY what I was looking for!!! You rule! Thank you!
  7. yes, I started out in 7th grade on DB, and electric in 6th grade, I noodled around with it in orchestra class and simply applied what I knew on electric to it. Bad idea. 2 years later I finally got myself a teacher and practically started out from scratch relearning proper technique, I even taught myself how to hold the german bow the wrong way, it was a bitch to relearn the thing.

    There's no noodling on DB. It's all about the technique as far as I'm concerned right now. There's way to much to think about when on double bass as opposed to the electric where I can just get up and play however long I want without muscle aches... I find my 6 string electric a hell of alot easier to play than an upright, it's almost like child's play really. :D Bad technique will lead to you being beat dead after 5 minutes of playing for upright, and upright's certainly helped my electric playing out, although if you play DB for afew hours and then go to electric it's just the most bizarre feeling in the world
  8. Brianrost,

    If blisters are a concern, how does Superglue hold up along the length of the plucking finger?
  9. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    tell me about it! my 6 string feels like a toothpick.
  10. Bassist,

    I would see this as a once a year occasion. I don't think I would want to forgo having a big ass amplifier behind me making my pants legs flap in the breeze! I like doing runs that make me at least feel like I'm decent at something, and from what I can tell, even Jamerson didn't play like "Jamerson with a P" on Upright. Besides anything else, with as beat up as my body is, I don't think I could physically handle playing Double Bass for long periods of time- my back is cooked.
  11. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    If poor technique on the bass guitar translates to the DB, not only will you play poorly, you are very likely to experience real and significant PAIN.

    Cleanly fingering a DB and getting any real sound out of it take a bit of doing.

    I would at least go over to the DB side of talkbass and read most of the Newbie threads. They are very well compiled.

    There is no way you can offer all the must-have advice for DB in one thread (Even if I actually knew it all) But I'll give a few tips if I can.

    1. Stand relaxed and try to keep the bass fairly upright. The nut should be about even with your eyebrow. The further back the bass is tilted, the more you use your left hand and arm to hold the weight of the bass. You'll get tired anyway. You don't need that working against you.

    2. As mentioned, use the meat on the side of your finger to move the string, not the tip. It will make more volume and you will be less likely to blister. (Although you likely will)

    3. ABSOLUTELY focus on keeping the thumb of your left hand in the center of the spine of the neck. Wrapping your thumb like so many do on EBG will KILL your hand. Keeping the wrist fairly straight and the thumb in the spine allows you to use the larger muscles of the forearm and shoulder to help create pressure on the strings. If you depend completely on the strength and endurance of your small hand and finger muscles, you won't last five minutes.

    This also keeps your hand from wondering around on the neck. At first, you can probably play every note you need in the first five stop positions on the board. If you can cover all these with one or two shifts, you chances of playing remotely in tune increase dramatically.

    Good Luck!!
  12. Yep, same position as you as I play 6 string too. When I had to use my school's four string fender jazz it felt like a piece of trash you'd find in some dumpster after playing upright, especially the school uprights that have mile high action. When you're playing that type of upright, you're wishing "man, I just wanna whip out my electric right now and play some jaco" and then you do and it's like, "what is this crap?!" Edit, "crap" as in the bass you're on. Did not aim that as a pun on jaco like it sounded like:)
  13. I gotcha, I was just laying down some ideas just in case upright was something you'd want to pursue. Best of luck:)
  14. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    If you want to buy one-buy one of the BG scaled EUBS. This way you won't have to relearn nearly as much. I have played [well, sorta] DB for the past 3 years at school. If i didn't have the desire to try and learn how to really play the instrument, don't waste your time. If it's an acoustic gig and you want to feel like part of the crowd-buy an AEB and a feedback eliminator and plug in. I don't mean to be harsh, but unless if you're willing to really learn how to play i think you could easily do more harm than good.

    best of luck-sometimes playing DB can feel like someone just let you see that much more of a world you have never seen before.

    That's all
  15. Thanks so much to everyone! I spent the weekend working out to my band's record trying to adjust my parts so they'd be recognizable, yet playable (by me), and still fit the context of the song. Where it sounds simple enough to keep the thumb towards the center of the neck, and to use the suggested plucking technique, after a few minutes I noticed my thumb slipping around the neck, and started pulling the strings with 2 or 3 fingers, and it's a lot of hard work! I've been fortunate enough to stay away from blisters, but as I figured standing in that position it doesn't take too long for my back to start killing me.

    Standup bass players deserve all the respect they get and then some!!!
  16. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Just be careful. That collapsing left hand thing can lead to serious injury, which will make it hard to play DB OR electric. You can get away with left hand slop on BG to some degree; DB is much less forgiving.

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