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Finding instruction / EUB

Discussion in 'Electric Upright Basses (EUB's) [DB]' started by cwall1108, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. cwall1108


    Feb 19, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Apologies all if this has been hashed out ad nauseum. I'll put the summary up top: There seems to be a stigma for playing an EUB that's getting in the way to finding a good instructor. I'm interested in options/approaches.

    I've recently purchased a NS Designs NXT 4, after having an CR many years ago. My reasons before were limited space, mostly pizz playing while touring, amplification options and ability to practice in an apartment complex without bridge muting (which I think kills the feel).

    I also studied classical many years ago at a pretty well respected arts school. I had always rented my upright though, while in high school and the dorms.

    I'm ready to start really digging into the instrument again, and know there's no substitute for good instruction. Here's the problem: Every DB instructor I've run into suddenly doesn't have time to take on a new student once the EUB comes up. When RSVPing to an open DB seminar locally, the organizer said that I wouldn't be a fit because I was a, "...'bass' player (rock, jazz)". They completely ignored that I'd been referred by one of the featured instructors of the seminar, studied classical and so on.

    As I see it I have three options, all of which have pain points:
    1) Purchase a decent traditional upright instrument (probably compromising and going with a laminate, but that's a discussion for a different forum).
    2) Slugging it out until I find an instructor who with either tell me why they're not up for instructing someone who has EUB as their primary, or just help out.
    3) Self instruction. I do play about 5 instruments, and have formal instruction in 3 of them, so I have a pretty good foundation in music theory, reading on treble/bass etc. What I don't have is someone to point out problems and fixes (my bowing technique is atrocious).

    I'm starting to lean towards 3 just because, to be frank, the prevailing attitude is ticking me off. Wanted to see what the community thought and might recommend. Thanks for reading this far and sorry for the novel.
  2. fishstick666

    fishstick666 Supporting Member

    May 4, 2005
    My 2 cents...

    I think some teachers view the EUB as an inferior version of a DB, rather than it being its own instrument. Other than sharing the same range, there isn't much in common between the DB, and the electric bass, but one isn't better or worse than the other. The logic with some teachers seems to be that since they don't know how to teach it (because it doesn't act like a DB), it must be bad.

    I play both electric and acoustic upright and my upright teacher, one of the best jazz/classical guys in Southern California has a few EUB students. He also plays a Bug Bass EUB for gigs where he doesn't want to take his old, carved upright, and is a very open minded creative teacher. Since there isn't a standard course of instruction for EUBs, a teacher just has to be willing to be a little experimental. Sounds like you haven't been running into the right teacher...

    In terms of your options, I'd say get a really good idea of what your ultimate goals are and let that drive where you go. An EUB may limit your playing opportunities if you want to play classical, bluegrass, or traditional jazz/blues music. However, upright bass players (EUB or DB) are in short supply, so that may not be true. Or, you could be so awesome on your EUB, everyone will want you in their band!

    I personally think there's limited back and forth skills-transfer between EUB and DB, so it's just a matter what you want to play. If you really want to be playing DB, go with option #1. There are a lot of great sounding plywood basses out there for a reasonable price. Or a compromise might be something like an Eminence bass, that I think has an Eb very "double bassy" neck and a small, hollow body with a vibrating top. Or, stick with the NXT and keep trying to find the right teacher.

    Whichever you choose, I really hope you find a good, no-attitude instructor. Especially if you're going to be using the stick of humility (the bow), it'll really help.

    Good luck!
  3. cwall1108


    Feb 19, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Thanks - I think that touches on my concern - the "inferior instrument" attitude. My goal is to work up on bowing because it's a sound I like (I think the NXT has a great bowed sound, albeit unique) and I am literally hemmed in by instruments in my studio room as is. I'd have to go laminate or hybrid most likely, because the weather in Cleveland is schizophrenic. I'm veering off here because that's not strictly an EUB consideration.

    My guess is if I want the real deal (instruction, learning "the instrument", etc.) I'll probably have to suck it up and save for the "real" upright.

    Thanks again,
  4. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    Sounds like you've been running into some EUB-ism, ignorance or fear, on the part of the teachers you've contacted. In their defense, the NS is pretty different from a URB and they'd have to work with you to figure out how to craft good technique. They might feel out of their depth or unwilling to take on such a unique challenge because it will be more work for them.

    That said, I'd say to continue looking for a good teacher because good technique will make a world of difference in your sound, but then, you probably already knew that.

    If you can't find someone local, try a distant teacher using Skype. Maybe there's a teacher who's playing you admire? Try contacting them. The NS isn't THAT different than a URB. I find that that most of technique used on URB does transfer over.

    There are many fine teachers on this-site. You can post a request.
  5. The NS misses some reference points (i.e. neck heel at the fifth or minor sixth), so you cannot transfer URB technique without changing some things.
    You can make a NS similar to an URB getting an endpin, body support and an additional neck heel stop, but this can get a bit expensive. I think there are better EUB options for a URB player than a NS.

    Bowing an EUB is more difficult than bowing an URB, so that might be a reason the teachers won't like to teach EUB (or they don't play EUB themselfs and don't know what's different to an URB (and this can be very EUB-specific). Or they might think you only want to pizz and this is bad for practicing intonation. Or the sound is different, comes through the speaker and hard to compare with the URB acoustic sound, so harder to tell if something goes wrong.
    Try to find a URB teacher who also play EUB (at least sometimes).

    And maybe think over if you want to keep the NXT or get something closer to a URB with the neck heel at the correct position, an endpin and a good body support (so that the EUB does not rotate when you bow).
    I have an old Clevinger "keyhole" EUB that is good, but still is a bit harder to bow than my URB. (This might be because of the angled endpin in the middle of the body, but my Stagg with a normal endpin and a bad body support reacts similar. Probably to much mass close to the rotation center.)

    Good luck finding a teacher for you. (Tell them at the beginning that you want to bow first and that an URB is currently no option for you, but you have played an URB in your earlier life.)
  6. dc-upright


    Mar 31, 2013
    Charley Sabatino is a fantastic electric and upright player that gives lessons over Skype if that is an option. He is very open minded and a great guy. Hit him up on Facebook and I am sure he will be able to advise you on the best way to move forward. I have been a student of his since last fall and he has helped me quite a bit.

  7. cwall1108


    Feb 19, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    Well, rather than ditching a 1,400 purchase to get a different EUB, I might as well go whole hog and get an acoustic and know when I'm playing out (esp. With an amped group) or practicing anything that isn't thumb position or when the neighbors might mind,I go for the NXT. I think it's a fine instrument so it's not going away. I'm glad to have confirmation on arco difficulties because I'd really thought it was just rusty technique.

    Thanks again all for the great discussion.
  8. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    Actually, I've found my NS Omni to be quite easy to bow, easier than my URB, and I have no issue with it twisting using the NS end-pin. You might want to replace the strings because I believe NS retails both acro and pizz strings. I think the type of strings will make a significant difference.
  9. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    See if there is a local community college that offers bass instruction.