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Help out a Wannabe Jazz Double Bassist.

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by G. Baldy, Mar 28, 2004.

  1. G. Baldy

    G. Baldy

    Mar 28, 2004
    Hey crew. I'm new on the block and was hoping I could discuss some ideas with you guys.

    I've been playing guitar for about 12 years and have been occasionally playing electric bass from time to time. I've been wanting to get into the Jazz bass scene for a long time. I'd love to be able to join a trio sometime and play gigs in Jazz clubs.

    So I've got some questions for you guys.

    (1) How difficult is it to move from an electric bass over to a double bass?

    (2) What kind of investment am I looking at for a good double bass that I can play for years? I don't want a beginner bass that I'm going to trade in 5 years later; I want something that is a good quality bass that I can play for years.

    (3) Can anyone recommend any good self-study bass books that I can use with my electric bass right now in order to improve my ability to read music?

    Thanks gang. I look forward to hearing some responses from you all.


    G. Baldy

  2. (1) Keep in mind that moving from EB to UB is not like moving from an electric to acoustic guitar. They are tuned the same and play the same basic role in music, but the similarity ends there. Playing the UB requires an entirely different physical approach to the instrument from fingering to plucking to simply holding the thing up. It will take some time to just learn how to get a decent sound from an upright.

    In this forum you will be told on a regular basis to get a teacher. Do not (as some have) take offense at this or adopt the position that we are a bunch of grumpy old men who won't take time to help out a beginner. What you are hearing is a chorus of experience that has learned (the hard way in many cases) that a little instruction goes a long way.

    (2) Consult the newbie link at the top of the forum. I would imagine all your questions along these lines will be answered there.

    (3) The Simandl book is used by many teachers. Even though it is a method book, it begins with relatively easy to read exercises and progresses from there. A teacher can make many recommendations along these lines.

    A few other words of advice:

    Fill out your profile. Knowing where you are physically and musically will enable some of our more knowledgable brethern to assist you.

    Wear a thick skin when visiting the DB forum. Sometimes you will be told what you need to hear--not what you want to hear.

    Be prepared to have your username mutated. It is not an insult--just tradition.

    Welcome to the Dark Side of TB.
  3. The best advice I could give is find a teacher who plays UB and EB inform this teacher of your goal to one day play UB in a jazz setting and start from there. It will be much easier to prepare for the switch and find a good bass when you are ready.
    Good luck,
  4. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Gee, Badly
    I don't know, $4,000? $10,000? $20,000?
    As you improve your playing, a couple of things can happen: You will be able to make the instrument you have sound better. On the other hand, your requirements for what's acceptable performance from a bass will change. You may be lucky and buy one bass that's good for the rest of your life, or maybe you won't. That's just how it is.
  5. Maaaven


    Jun 24, 2003
    Pasadena Area
    I share your interest, and took the plunge last summer.
    See my China -> Germany thread below on choosing
    an instrument, and get someone to help you chose your
    first one. That is important.

    I took only a few lessons, but have been steadily working
    through books, videos, DVD's, attending live gigs, reading
    magazines (IBS stuff is great), and reading everything I
    can find online.

    Learning to get comfortable with the instrument is the
    first step and the two VHS set by Todd Phillips helped
    me with this a lot. I would sell you my copies at a discount
    if you want them, as I have moved past them.

    Paul T
  6. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    I'm in the same exact boat, a year farther along. I played violin for 10 years, though, which (I believe) gave me a huge head start in terms of intonation and some aspects of technique.

    (1) How difficult is it to move from an electric bass over to a double bass?

    Difficult. It's a tough, painful instrument. Expect a month of pain while you develop new callouses. It'll be hard to play for more than a few minutes for several weeks. Get a teacher! You can hurt yourself on this thing!

    (2) What kind of investment am I looking at for a good double bass that I can play for years? I don't want a beginner bass that I'm going to trade in 5 years later; I want something that is a good quality bass that I can play for years.

    TB consensus = stay away from the $4-600 Chinese E-bay basses. Check www.urbbob.com for some fairly well regarded beginner basses in the $1-3k range. Expect to shell out around $2k once everything's taken care of. "good" basses are $8k-$60k and up -- unlike electrics, there's almost no upper limit!

    (3) Can anyone recommend any good self-study bass books that I can use with my electric bass right now in order to improve my ability to read music?

    Almost anything will work for music reading training. Pick music you're interested and start hacking away at it. I like Motown, so "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" is great -- lots of transcribed bass lines that let me work on my reading, as well as my funk lines.

    Oh... and use the search function -- it's very useful, and lots of this stuff has been discussed at length already.
  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Hrm... sounds familiar. I think I'm doing the same exact thing, only that I started playing fretless bass seriously in November and picked up my first DB this weekend! I think here's a few things that is helping me:

    1) Intonation is hard. Get a pickup for your DB and hook it up with a chromatic tuner (like the Boss pedal is good) and watch your intonation while your practice. I think over time it helped me pick it up faster. Any crutch is good to learn with, just don't become dependent on it. As a jazz guitarist, I would also sing my lines when I tried to solo. That helps me depend more on my note choices rather than visual patterns on the fretboard.

    And get the best teacher you can afford. There is no substitute. Glenn Richman (my teacher in the SF Bay Area) saved me alot of trouble. Glenn told me that technique for EB is different from UB, so he got me playing with more of a UB technique on the fretless. That helped my transition alot. But I didn't realized I like UB so much then, otherwise I would've not bothered with the fretless and gone straight to UB.

    2) I'm pretty happy with my Christopher Hybrid. I spent $2700 for it, pickup and tax included. Lots of people on these forum are happy with their Christopher babies. If I went to a lower price range, I think I would've gone for an Englehardt.
    I dont' mind if my Christopher becomes a beater bass in the future when I plunk $7000 on an old German one.

    3) This wasn't too much of a problem for me. I grew up playing classical Piano. But, I probably wouldn't bother with exercise reading books. I would learn songs from a Real Book or try to sight read them - songs that I know by ear. That way you both learn to sight read and learn new songs. I think transcriptions also help reading ability tremendously. I think I learned to read fastest by doing a couple transcriptions, not to mention that it improved my ability to read rhythms too.

    Hope that helps. I've abandoned guitar (and will sell almost all of them) and have dedicated myself to be one of the URB minions. The chicks think it's sexy... :p
  8. Man I wish you'd been around 45 years ago to tell me this...I would've had a whole different attitude.
    I see from your profile that you list Jim Hall as one of your influences. Check under Bassists/Don Thomson...we're having a good exchange on Jim Hall and his bassists.
    IMHO, you're showing some excellent taste by listening to Jim....Congratulations.
  9. SleeperMan2000


    Jul 31, 2002
    Cary NC
    I bought a DB two and a half years ago because the sound of the bass in jazz really intrigued me. Then I bought Rufus Reid's the Evolving Bassist. I opened the book and was immediately frustrated. Found a teacher and he handed me a bow. I thought "How will this teach me jazz?" and proceeded to make horrible mooing noises, but I perservered and still do.

    Six months after I bought it I got in a bluegrass band, then an improv world music band, now I'm in a swing/blues band.

    Now that I look back I think, How the heck did I think I was just going to start playing jazz? It took time just to get a passing proficiency in bluegrass and that's a lot of open strings. And then they want you to slap!

    Same with blues, How can you play jazz if you can't play the blues? Once you can play the blues, try some swing. Once one can groove in those styles, then move into jazz.

    Your mileage may vary. I don't have a ton of time to practice. There are other approaches. I decided I bought the DB to play in front of people, and I took the approach that got me in front of people quickly. People love the big bass, so you're usually assured a warm welcome outside of jazz and classical circles for just showing up.

    I'm taking some jazz lessons now, but I feel it took two years of performance in less demanding styles and two years of bowing lessons with a classical teacher to get to the point when I can effectively study jazz and work towards that sound I hear in my head.
  10. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I started playing EB and switched after five years. I started playing jazz because I loved jazz. That was thirty years ago. I've enjoyed playing orchestra, chamber music, bluegrass, traditional american music, blues, weddings, bar mitzvahs and special occasions, but now I play almost exclusively jazz because I love jazz.

    Baldy, go with whatever moves you. You've got the bug. You're old enough to know that you're involved in a process, so enjoy the process!
  11. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Wooo! Only 4 days into playing UB and already I'm getting props! YEAH BABY!

    No really, I love Jim Hall. I think he's my biggest influence actually. Not so much because of the way he plays (which is amazing), but his approach in that he is an original. He doesn't sound like anyone before or after him, and is always tasteful and not flashy. Nothing but emotion and character.
    I don't he's afraid to sound different either, or even play differently. I'm not surprised that Bill Frisell cites him as a big influence, and like Jim Hall, is completely original in his own way too.

    I think I found my voice playing bass because it's the only instrument that allowed me to breathe when I played. Meaning that the notes can sing and take their time to be heard, something that I think Jim Hall inspired for me. Then I love Ron Carter because he seems to make everything rhytmically dance. He sounds like he's sweeping a dancefloor with his bass. I listen to Jazz nonstop and found it to be liberating because it really can BE anything and go anywhere. I'm hooked as well. It took me years to figure out that bass is my thing. Years of piano, guitar, percussion, even accordion. :eek:

    Anyways, I have a lot of work ahead to achieve these things.
    But back to the subject, yeah you should follow your heart. I think the big clue for me was that I wanted to play anything that gave me the feeling of being 'satisfied'. That's when I know it's good. Speaking of which, it was nice practicing for a couple of hours last night and find that my right hand technique is started to improve little by little. Less and less thunking and more and more tone. Felt like learning UB was a totally organic process. You only improve by doing and practicing. Is this anyone else's experience?

    Already this morning my left hand is getting less and less tired. I should be able to play for hours and hours in no time.
    I can't wait to get home from work to plod away at it again. :D
  12. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    I play electric 5 sting bass, and yes, it took me some time to find it. I played guitar, but was frustrated, and spent a lot of time working on chords and theory, and when I picked up bass, I started learning songs and playing with people right away. I am sure that the time with guitar and I know that the time with the theory was helpful, but there is something else. It is not that the bass is easier in the absolute, it is easier for me to express myself.

    Yes. I am amazed at how much time it takes, but I am amazed at the other side of the tunnel, how my view on something is. I start working on something, and not only do I get better at it, my view of it is different over time. And you could not have told me or shown me that new view. I had to go on that journey.

  13. Bill cites Jim because Bill studied with Dale Bruning, my ex-guitar/bass duo partner here in Denver who is one of Jim's stongest proponets, along with Ed Bickert.
  14. jmpiwonka


    Jun 11, 2002

    i hear ya on the evolving bassist, but there are some great walking lines in there, and that stuff is real good for your reading skills, the etudes around page 75-90 or so is great stuff(i think they're etudes 5-8) with accidentals all over the place to make you mess up a bunch :D (its hard to read all those when your tired from all the other school work you have to do, then you gotta go practice too)

    i too thought i would be able to pickup a bass and just go at it without a teacher and be good, one of the main reasons was that i already knew the techniques because i was in orchestra for three years in middle school........ :rolleyes:

    well i now know after three years with a good teacher that a teacher is a HUGE help whether it is show you how to play, or what you are playing right and whats wrong, if your intune or out, and what postition and fingerings would be easiest for a particular passage.

    in middle school we had tape on our fingerboards so we knew where the notes were, when i first mentioned it that maybe i should put some tape on there to help me out...well :bag:

    he made a very good point that i need to know what the note should sound like i must know if i am intune or not, basically he was making my ears better.....gotta listen

    also play all your scales with a bow because it will force you left hand to work properly or you will sound out of tune and/or muted, arco is good for you.

    be prepared for some blisters, i have been playing again for about three years and i didn't play any DB(only EB as i was out of town for spring break) and when i did go and practice again my left hand fingers hurt, but i got some nasty blisters on my pizz. finger.
    don't keep practicing until your blisters are bad either, cuz then you have to wait for them to healand that is usually a few days of no practice or they just get worse.......

    practice what your teacher wants you to until you get it right(then be prepared to not be able to play it so well in front of your teacher cuz thats how it works :D ) so that the both of you will get the most out of each of your lessons
  15. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    Hastings, UK
    1) Intonation is hard. Get a pickup for your DB and hook it up with a chromatic tuner (like the Boss pedal is good) and watch your intonation while your practice. I think over time it helped me pick it up faster.

    I'm only a beginner myself, but I've got to disagree with this. You need to be working on your ears, not your eyes. Using a tuner while you're playing will leave you dependent on the tuner to play in tune, you should be able to hear whether yr intonation is out.
    Using a tuner occasionally, to check, fine, but not generally "while you practice".
  16. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    Yeah, using a tuner is kind of cheating. Maybe it's useful if you're *really* just starting. Better to tune up well at the beginning, and continuously check your intonation relative to open strings instead. You'll start to hear when you're going astray.

    My teacher forces me to use a bow on scale/arp exercises where you develop your intonation. Very revealing, to say the least! Trust me -- you'll know if you're out of tune!!!

  17. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Like I said... it's just a crutch. Have actually you tried it? It's actually pretty hard trying to get the intonation perfectly every time even with a tuner. I should also mention that I only do this for some basic exercises or playing something like a blues super slow. I will stop every now and then while holding my last note to see how in tune I am. If you play a line in any decent tempo it's still probably going to be too fast for the tuner to respond. You can probably only really watch in real-time if you're playing really slow anyway. I'm still relying on my ears regardless, and more importantly that I know what my bass sounds like when I DO intonate correctly (with help from the tuner).

    When I move on to learning to solo or tunes, I completely ignore the tuner really. I just stop now and then and see how close I am just for kicks. Every little bit helps IMHO. Already I found myself hitting my notes a little better this morning.
  18. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Oh I forgot to mention, I play alot of open strings normally and use my relative pitch. But if can use a tuner to cheat (like the audience really cares if you cheated to learn how to play bass) and learn to nail that first F on the D string, by golly I'll use it.

    Call me a wimp, I don't care. If it gets me to better soloing/intonation/overall playing sooner I'm going to take advantage of it. Works for me, and you should find things that work for yourselves.
  19. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    IMO, trying monitor your intonation with a tuner is more of a hindrance than a help.

    First of all, a DB doesn't offer a smooth enough tone, especially played pizzicato, to return a consistent signal to an electronic tuner. You'd be amazed how much you can vary the tuner's reading by subtle changes in lefthand pressure and righthand attack. With arco, bow pressure will also move your pitch a great deal.

    In all but the simplest of playing, an electronic tuner will offer no meaningful information anyway.

    Secondly, it is a distraction. You need to be looking at the music and keeping your brain ahead of your hands, not looking a tuner. If you are not using music, that is even more cause to be focusing on listening.

    You don't really have to play that much to train your ears to hear relative pitch, especially when you are playing things your ears already are familiar with. That's why it is important to run scales, arpeggios and even play familiar tunes. When you miss a note, you'll know it.

    The ears are essential to developing good intonation, but all the ear training in the world won't make you play in tune. Afterall, a missed note is a missed note, whether you hear it or not. More often than not, by the time you hear the note is flat, it's too late.

    The real trick is to play, play, play some more, play a little bit, play a lot, then if all else fails, play. You really should be working to hit the notes right in the first place. The only way you will ever get there (and don't take this as any suggestion that I actually am) is to gain an intimate familiarity with every nook, cranny, bump and blip on the bass.

    Have you watched a REALLY good pianist play? I am always amazed to see one do those stupid-fast crossover runs to the top of the keyboard only to lift the left hand and drop it perfectly onto a chord two octaves below middle C without even looking at the left hand. The only real way you can move your hand that far, that fast and land perfectly on three independent 3/4" wide targets is to do it over and over and over again.

    It's the same idea on bass. If you concentrate on the lefthand technique and develop through exercises on proper positions, shifts, pivots and fingerings, you will eventually play mostly in tune by default though more standard passages. For the really long shifts, you just have to practice, and practice, and practice, and . . .
  20. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Actually, I've kinda already done it - the piano thing. Not as a jazz pianist but I grew up playing classical piano (about 12 years worth). I got tired of the piano - too many fingers and too many keys. Improvised jazz on piano? I'm not that masochistic. :)

    However, before I stopped piano, I was totally into ragtime. I think that one of the hardest things was to play "Maple Leaf Rag" and keeping that left-hand stride piano bass part going accurately. This involves mostly playing octaves in the left hand that bounces around like dribbling a basketball, while keeping the melody going independently in the right. Now that took me months to master in college and highschool, much less to be able to play at a fast tempo (which I can). After a while, I don't need to think and that movement is ingrained in my hands, to the point that after 9 years of having stopped I still can play it and I dont' think I'll ever forget how to play that song for the rest of my life. There's nothing like making a piano rumble and shake as fast as you can. It's a blast, although a bit self-indulgent. :)

    In the same sense I simply just use the tuner to land on the right intonated spot. For me, I'm still off if I have to wiggle my fingers to get the right note. The idea is to "lift the left hand and drop it perfectly" on the right spot from anywhere on the neck. I'm still using my ears and listening and relative pitching.

    Learning that is the same as what I learned on piano... practice practice practice until it becomes natural. Yup, I agree there's no replacement and the only way anything will work is through practice. I'm still running scales, arps, chord tones over progressions, etc. etc. beyond doing this. Like I said again, it's not a crutch for me. Just a tool. An extra gauge.

    Sorry, I didn't realize how unclear I was about using a tuner in this way. I imagine with all this, I'll learn to use the bow and learn to practice in the traditional way as well. I dont' mind having alot of options. BTW: The tuner thing is just for starters. I will eventually abandon it once I'm good at hitting the right notes. Remember? It's a crutch!

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