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Help! Double bass beginner- bluegrass a good idea?

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by ladysingstheblues, Jun 17, 2014.

  1. Hi, a question from a total beginner with a new double bass and a couple of lessons under her belt. Bear with me, please!

    Although I am more interested in jazz, I've enjoyed old timey music live before.

    A friend of mine suggested a bluegrass/old timey music as an easy starting point with a lot of of simple root 5 intervals. I don't have any understanding yet of chord progressions - although this is something I'm keen to internalise competently ASAP.

    In fact, there is an informal bluegrass jam near me every week - could that be a good start to playing simple things? Would love any advice!!

    Thanks so much.
  2. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    I think it's always good to play with others. That said, while most of us who play bluegrass are very welcoming to beginners, it would be helpful if you have a basic understanding of the bass. Knowing the position of the notes on each string will be a good start and help yup follow the progression.
    old spice and ladysingstheblues like this.
  3. Thanks, bob - I am reading Simandl exercises and will be working hard on getting those basics as second nature (or close) firstly! Good point.
  4. DWCJR


    Jun 3, 2014
    To my way of thinking, bluegrass and jazz have more similarities than one might first think. Swing tunes like Sweet Georgia Brown have crossed into the bluegrass repertoire, thanks in large part to David Grisman and other dawg/newgrass musicians.

    What makes bluegrass similar to jazz is that in bluegrass you have to pay attention to the chord changes. Even though you are only playing on the 1 and 3 and only playing Root/V, you still have to keep track of the changes, just like in jazz. The chords in bluegrass tunes are just much simpler and the changes typically move more slowly even if the overall tempo of the song is faster. You learn to think musically. In addition, you learn to hold down a groove as the musicians around you take solos.

    Once you gain some familiarity with the bluegrass genre, you could also begin to think about some bass runs/walks and thinking about how to connect chords, which is the essence of a walking bass line in jazz.

    To sum up, the music dovetails more than one might expect, and I think bluegrass makes a good musical foundation that you can build on. Everything you learn in bluegrass can be applied to more complicated music like jazz. It has been said before, but it bares repeating, the sooner you begin to play with other musicians, the better.
  5. I really appreciate your detailed response, very informative!
  6. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    You will find that a lot of traditional/old time songs have stretched across genres forever (long before newgrass). Jazz bands, bluegrassers, and folkies have been borrowing a lot of the same songs since the dawn of recorded music (and probably before).

    Playing old time stuff can be a good start to getting where you want to go. It's a good way to get out playing while you're learning. It's a path I've taken while I work on my game away from the band. Luckily for me I'm in a band that plays all kinds of early american music, so as I get better as a player I get to spread my wings into bigger and better things with them.

    If the guys you are playing with are supportive to beginners, then it's probably a good place for you start.

    And if you are going to a bluegrass jam, learn the key of G inside and out!
    HateyMcAmp likes this.
  7. Holdsg

    Holdsg Talkbass > Work Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2009
    Alta Loma, CA
    + 1 on the key of G. 80% or more of the songs at a jam (if you have only males singing) will be in that key. less if there are female singers. Learn how to root/V on the open G and D strings, as well as other positions around the fretboard. My favorite key of G launching point is the low G on the E string.
    Super Iridium likes this.
  8. DWCJR


    Jun 3, 2014
    I play bluegrass and G,C,D and A are the only keys we play in. I get really weird looks when I say stuff like, "Blues, quick change, in Eb." But that is the next step for someone like the OP. Once you can play through songs like "Uncle Pen," "Molly and Tenbrooks," How Mountain Girls Can Love," and a dozen or so fiddle tunes, then you learn to play the blues, first in guitar friendly keys like E, but eventually in the "horn keys" like Bb and Eb.

    Someone who can do all that is ready to get a "Real Book" and begin learning how to walk through the changes to less complicated jazz tunes. Starting with a guitar friendly tune like Django's "Minor Swing" or the aforementioned "Sweet Georgia Brown" would serve as a good introduction to jazz.

    Once you can walk through some early swing tunes with some proficiency, then you can begin to look at more complex bop tunes. The first bop tune I would choose would be Monk's "Well You Needn't" because it has structural similarities to fiddle tunes, which you should already be comfortable with if you have built on a bluegrass foundation.
  9. 2 finger puller

    2 finger puller

    Dec 5, 2012
    to: help double bass beginner,...learn to play 1, 2,4, and 5 chords in all 12 keys as soon as possible. Play ROOT and 5th above ROOT; or invert and play ROOT and 4th below ROOT. Don't worry about things like -lead-ins, lead-outs, walks, etc. early on, but learn them later. Allow most notes to sustain, except ones that would sound over from one chord into another chord, -they should be DAMPED !
  10. Hello,

    I'm making contact as I see you play the double bass and are interested in Bluegrass & jamming.

    I have recently started up a monthly bluegrass slow jam session (for fun) on the back porch at home in Eastern suburbs of Melbourne on a Sun arvo 2-5. We had the 3rd get-together this recent Sun.
    We have guitar, banjo and mandolin covered and I bring out the Resonator at times, although still developing that skill. I think we have also now found a fiddle player to join the session.
    We are looking for a bass (double) fiddle player to compliment the jam session.
    I have purchased a Hofner 3/4 bass (double) fiddle on layby and will be picking up next month. This is mainly to have a 3/4 bass available at the jam session to make it more attractive for a bass player to join us and not have to lug their own bass to the jam. I'm hoping you may be interested in joining the jam as bass fiddle player? Would you take a look at my Bluegrass Slow Jam website and see if it might be of interest, the monthly calendar is there (next one Sun 25 Oct) , we're a friendly lot, all around similar skill level, nothing flash, but hope to improve over the next 12 months. Let me know, regards, Mike

  11. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    My advice is to play with smaller groups of people who play good rhythm at reasonable volume, not loud. Large "thump jams" hurt a beginner's playing because everyone is bashing away at high volume with as many different rhythms as there are players. Good luck! Let us know how it turns out.
    Mgaisbacher and Jake deVilliers like this.
  12. BradleyCharles

    BradleyCharles Guest

    Mar 25, 2016
    don't forget about the 6 and 7 minor, must have them under your fingers

    39 Kay bass
  13. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    I highly recommend bluegrass for the beginning bass player. I did something very similar to the path you describe. You don't say what your musical background is. If you don't have a music background, you'll need to get familiar with some music theory concepts but these aren't that big a deal, and you will grow in music theory as you grow in your ability to handle the bass. Music theory for bluegrass is pretty easy to cover enough to be playing and enjoying yourself. (Music theory for jazz is a different kettle of fish.)

    Anyway, I recommend the "Parking Lot Picker's Book", fiddle version (not bass version) as it has a lot of tunes, and it has a nice basic theory section in the front, most of which applies equally to all bluegrass instruments. (There's some fiddle specific material, but you can skip that.)

    The great thing about bluegrass is that if you act respectfully to the other musicians and explain that you are just starting out, you will be welcomed and can be contributing in a meaningful way to the jam session very soon.
    Remyd likes this.
  14. We have a permanent double bass player for the monthly jam sessions now, thanks.
  15. jasonrp


    Feb 19, 2015
    Why not the bass version? It has the theory section too and harmonies in treble clef
  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts

    When I have a choice between songbooks in treble clef and bass clef, I always buy treble clef.

    For playing jazz you need to be able to read both clefs anyway...sooner or later someone will hand you a lead sheet with chord markings. If you are not familiar with the melody, it's right there...in treble clef! All my fake books are in treble clef. If it's a book on bass lines, yes, it should be bass clef.

    For fiddle tunes, you're not called to play the melody on bass anyway...you buy bluegrass songbooks for the chords and the lyrics. You only need the melodies for reference or practice (it's a good workout playing fiddle tunes on bass!).
  17. jasonrp


    Feb 19, 2015
    That's why I thought the Bass version was the better choice. It has bass and treble clef so you can read both for practice. If you look up the songs on youtube, they are almost always in a different key so you get transposing practice too.
  18. One useful thing is to learn when not to play root-five.
    Mainly on the note prior to changing to the V chord from the one chord.
    The easiest thing to do instead is to play root-root on that measure,
    In G
    g d, g d, g d, g g | d a, d a ...
    Like was said, know, hear, learn to anticipate the changes.
  19. Holdsg: Fretboard? Don't drive the OP away from the double bass just yet.;)

  20. lady: The informal bluegrass jam would be a great way to start. Get used to playing root/5 in as many keys as possible but even if that is all you know, make your root/ 5 strong, right on the beat and put some feel and swing into it. The rest of the jammers will thank you for it. Have fun.

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