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Get a beginner upright or a nice electric?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Sgroh87, Apr 7, 2014.

  1. Sgroh87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    I've unloaded some gear and got my taxes filed and I have some money that can be put towards gear in the next few months. I'm thinking about getting a nice electric, but I also kinda want to get into playing upright. I'm not playing with any groups right now so I don't have a burning need for either one, but I do have a burning desire and that's something that's hard to tame. I've got a custom Carvin build that's been floating around my head for a few months (a P bass with a music man style humbucker in the bridge) that I'd really like to see the light of day.

    The pros and cons of the Carvin are:
    Higher quality instrument
    Lighter than my current electric, not to mention a completely different tone (active six string which sounds like a thick jazz more than anything)
    Almost no learning curve
    Totally customized to my specifications

    The pros and cons of the upright would be:
    Totally acoustic (no amp necessary for small jams)
    Can be plucked or bowed
    Fretless for more expression
    Fits some of the music I've been listening to recently (bluegrass, folk, and old school jazz) a lot better
    More versatile = more gigs in the future?
    More expensive (up front cost and maintenance/strings)
    Not as high quality
    Harder to learn
    Much less portable

    Any thoughts or suggestions from people in a similar situation? What did you decide on?
  2. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I mostly post on the double bass side but I happened to see your question...maybe that's a sign ;)

    I think an upright bass would be a great choice if you really love those styles of music. It does take a lot of work and you will have to ask yourself if you are ready for that level of commitment. If you do decide go this route, take some time to read the helpful beginner's guides over on the double bass forums. There is a lot of great information there.

    A few thoughts regarding what you posted:

    Totally acoustic. If you gig outside of the classical world, you will need a pickup.

    Fretless for more expression. There are fretless electric basses, so this is not really a factor.

    More versatile = more gigs in the future? Agreed. The quality and quantity of my work increase substantially once I could double on both basses.

    Not as high quality. You will definitely spend more to get an instrument worth having. This is addressed on the links above

    Harder to learn...Much less portable. These are facts, but you will find a way if this is what you rally want to do.

    Best of luck with whatever you decide. I hope to see you on the "dark side".

    - Steve
  3. imho anytime you buy a beginner anything the problem sooner or later is how do you sell it....that's a narrow market and often buyers are not available when you find that cherry deal and need money fast....so like most it either sits in a corner unused or you take a bath...best advice ...save up buy good gear that holds value....worst case it's like a cheap long term rental,best case you make a few bucks later....
  4. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    For the upright, look into renting from a well known local shop, and finding a good teacher is a must. A lot of places will let you put part or all of your rental payments towards a future purchase. A local place here will let you rent an upright, and the first 9 payments you make go to any purchase there - bow, strings, upright. I bought my bow outright, and after 9 months would stop renting and put the rental payments towards my first upright. Pretty nice deal.
  5. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    You mention you have a "burning desire" . . . I'm not sure if you mean a burning desire to buy a new bass, or to play upright. If it's the first, I'd buy the electric. Playing upright takes pretty serious commitment. But if your burning desire is to play upright . . . Then you definitely need to play upright!

    But I'll second what Selta says about renting. It will also give you an idea of what to look for when you're ready to buy.
  6. Sgroh87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    Don't worry, when I'm interested in something I tend to do LOTS of research before making a final decision. I've spent hours reading about Carvin and playing with their creator tool, just as I've read the TB newbie guide to upright several times.

    Just to respond to a couple of your points...

    I know that I'll need a pickup for performing, but the idea of being able to visit friends and play or go outside without an amp is pretty nice.

    I've never really liked the typical electric fretless tone. It sounds nasal and whiny to me, like someone decided they were going to play a musical Fran Drescher. Bleh.

    To me, there are a lot of negatives to playing upright, and only two positives: expression (fretless and bowing) and tone (sweet, woody, and organic). The thing is that those positives are HUGE, at least to me.

    I'm going to be moving in July; I think that once that's over I'll rent an upright for a few months and spend some serious time with it before I make a decision. In the end I don't think either one is a bad decision per se, but I'm the type of guy who always wonders about his neighbor's grass and how it compares to my own.
  7. Sgroh87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    I desire both of them, to be honest. In an ideal world someone would just give me a few thousand and let me go run through the music store like a kid in a candy shop. Probably not gonna happen, though!

    My other concern is that trying to get better on both at the same time will only make me a mediocre player at both. There aren't that many people out there who can play both electric and upright exceptionally well, most people tend to be much better at one or the other.
  8. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Good thoughts. As far as your first paragraph, renting an upright would take care of (or at least help) the money issue. Buy the electric you want (I also have a Carvin fretless, and I have no complaints) and also learn upright. Then if and when you decide upright is something you want to pursue further, you will hopefully have a little more cabbage at that time.

    And with regard to your second paragraph--there is a measure of truth to it. If you can only devote a half hour a day toward practicing, you're probably better off to stick with one instrument, IMO. However, some of improvements you make on one instrument will be transferable to the other, at least to a degree. And playing on the two might get you thinking out of each instrument's respective "box."
  9. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    These days if you can play either/or you can stay as busy as you want, especially if you play 5 (or more) string electrics.

    I was on that fence for a minute, trying to decide if I should save for an upright. I just couldn't make up my mind and a lot of it had to do with the money. I'm all about saving where you can, but I don't want a rag either. My upright knowledge is sparse to say the least so I started reading up and asking around and it didn't take long to realize it was going to take $1500 to get a decent starter bass, and I was just having a hard time trying to convince myself I needed a $1500 bass.

    One night while this internal debate was ongoing, I attended a jam at a tiny private juke. Open jams can be pretty hot down there and it was that night. One guy had an upright and it was THE elephant in the waiting to go on stage room. It was dark in there and his bull fiddle got kicked around any time it was not on stage. I kept waiting to hear the crack when someone stepped on it a little too hard. To make matters worse, it was amped and the guy went to great lengths fiddling with his tone, and it sounded like a P bass turned full bass. Since then I have lost the urgency to find me an upright. I can put my entire rig behind the seat of my truck. I don't know if a bull bass would fit in my cab without a window down.

    It would be nice to have an upright, but for me it would strictly be an at home kind of thing and I just can't see dropping that kind of geeters on a stay at home.
  10. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Double Bass is INFINITELY more difficult to play.

    They should NOT even be in the same paragraph.

    A very good electric bass with amp can be bought for what a mediocre DB costs.

    Then the bow... :rollno:

    You'll need lessons DEFINITELY for DB.

    Like you said, electric bass in a pop/rock setting: very low learning curve.
  11. chuck norriss

    chuck norriss Banned

    Jan 20, 2011
    what he said + not easy + physically demanding + discipline + studying + a ton of listening + set up for db is $$$

    but if you're seriously into it go for it. (applause)
    have you looked at EUB's? Ergo? a lot cheaper.
  12. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    But not the same at all. Currently play both ("real" upright and EUB) and the EUB isn't even a bridge. It's too far away from the real deal to act as a replacement. About the only thing you can do is practice some bowing and intonation... and even then, when you get behind a real upright, it'll be pretty different.
  13. What's that? Sgroh87, there's a doublebass out there calling your name. Find it.

    I'm coming from the opposite direction. I went straight for the DB, but have come to realise that I should learn the electric slab as well.

    Whole new worlds of opportunities await you ... on the dark side. Doubling = More gigs = more money, so you'll soon have the Carvin as well.

    This message has been brought to you by the secret society of DB enablers.
  14. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    There's also a negative side. ;)

    A person simply has to be motivated by the challenge, and by interest in the instrument and the genres where it is typically played. Lessons, yes. It's a physical instrument. You can get hurt, or run up against a major plateau.

    I think that you can re-sell a bass if you buy something decent and live in a reasonably well populated area such as DFW. Make sure it's a serious entry level instrument like a Shen or similar ilk. Avoid the BSO's (bass shaped objects). A "house brand" of a reputable luthier is another way to go. They tend to find the better imported instruments an then set them up themselves.

    It has been difficult for me to maintain my upright and electric chops. Gradually my electric technique evolved towards playing it like a "mini upright," which kinda defeats the purpose. On the other hand, virtually all of my work is on upright these days.

    Transportation isn't that bad -- worse in legend than in reality. Our amps tend to be smaller. My load-in is easier than the drummer's.
  15. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    There is a flipping TON of stuff you can do on an upright bass that doesn't take "enormous" commitment and will make you vastly more marketable. You don't have to be a jazz / classical Jedi. Just stay away from the guys that are. They won't like you. AT ALL.

    And I can't fault them for that.
  16. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Two words for you:

    Jimmy Miller
  17. jamminology101


    Aug 22, 2012
    Indianapolis In
    Endorsing Artist: Glockenklang
    You mention there are mostly negatives and just 2 positives in playing upright. ...I think that is a gross exaggeration. Like being able to read music(bass clef)...I think that is rather positive. ..which playing the upright will do. Or being able to enjoy the sweet sound of 1 note being bowed correctly. ..ahh ear candy. Or being able to play and be heard in a power outage. ..what im getting at is there are alot more than 2 positives when learning the upright...but it is not for the lazy, the twiddlers and tinkerers, or the faint of heart but I guarantee you that after a couple of good hard years of practice and study your electric playing will be light years ahead of where it is now even if you NEVER pick the thing up during your upright study...now that is the biggest positive of all...
  18. Sgroh87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    To be fair, the positives are huge. Nothing will sound like an upright bass, and being able to play with a bow AND not having to plug in to play are both pretty awesome.

    I already read bass and teble clef, and personally I think that upright and electric are different enough that one wouldn't necessarily benefit the other except through a better understanding of music in general. I mean, being a trombone player doesn't necessarily make one a better euphonium player.
  19. OldDirtyBassist


    Mar 13, 2014
    I'd stay away from a beginner upright and maybe find a good deal on an old one, instead. The glue the Chinese are using on their stringed instruments these days isn't good.

    Ray Brown has the best upright lesson vids btw.
  20. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    I think it's a lot easier to carry an electric and a small amp compared to hauling an upright around.
    Personally, i'd go for the Carvin. MM and P PUs on a six string sound intimidating. I'm half tempted to toy around with that building tool myself.