Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by relman, Dec 20, 2000.

  1. Ok, here's the deal.
    I need to learn how to play double bass, and i'm going to ask some very very dumb questions, ok?
    What's the tuning on the bass?
    any tips that i should know?
    Beware! i am a bass "guitar" player but i do know thory, so there.
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Welcome to the dark side!
    Tuning is the same as a Bass Guitar.
    Tips: be prepared to spend a buncha money for a bass, spend more time than you ever dreamed possible trying to learn to play it in tune, and finally, be prepared to go through about six months minimum of physical pain as your hands and arms adjust to the completely different physical nature of the instrument. If you are as stubborn and hardheaded as a whole herd of mules (do mules run in herds or packs?), you can do this on your own; or you can start by getting yourself a teacher to help you through all of these hurdles.

    Just in case you were wondering, I am stubborn and hardheaded as a million mules, and have to this point gone it alone (though I'm going to start with a teacher after the X-mas break). In the first 6 months I was playing, I a)sprained both wrists trying to do BG stuff on DB; ...b) got tendonitis in both arms trying to fight the instrument in order to get the sound I wanted;....c)ripped big greasy, puss filled holes in all four fingers of my left hand and the first two on my right; ....d)walked around with a backache from not knowing how to hold the bass on long gigs until I figured out what would workfor me;....there's more but you get the picture.

    If that sounds like fun, go for it. If not, try asking a teacher for help before any of the above-mentioned stuff gets as bad as it did with me. Either way, good luck, and like I said, welcome to the dark side!
  3. Going it alone is the worst possible way to learn bass.
    You risk ingraining bad technique which will take twice as long to undo as it would have taken to learn the right way. A teacher can help you avoid pain. This is one area where the expression "A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" is true. (End of speech, unless challenged)
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    No challenges from the defense, your honor...the point I was trying to make was similar to the whole "don't touch the stove burner because it's hot" scenario. When I started, I didn't believe that the burner was as hot as everyone said. At this point, after burning both hands, I believe it, and have signed up with a teacher at one of the schools where I teach for the coming semester.

    Relman - Knowing theory helps, but it only helps you figure out what to play, and does almost nothing to tell you how to play it on the DB. I have a M.M. degree in music theory/composition, and thought that I wouldn't need a teacher because of this. I am now signing up for lessons, and am very happy about it, since I know that I will make much more efficient progress with knowledgeable help than I did without it. The stove is hot. I agree with Don - find a good teacher, and again, good luck!
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Ed -

    Who gave me that advice? If you really want me to answer that in detail, I'll have to do it off the board to avoid starting any potential flame wars with my subversive ideas about music education...but I can safely say (I hope) that some of youse guyzz on the forum served as part of the cyber peanut gallery...

    Also, you ask where I was working last night. From this I deduce that you either a)Have been talking to (ALL HAIL) Bob Gollihur, or b)you cleverly noted the time of my last posting and deduced that the only reason in the world that anyone in their right mind would be posting on the forum at 3:00 A.M. was if they just got in from a late gig & were trying to unwind. Well, if the reason you asked was b), you were WRONG! Actually, I had a gig (I'm dead serious) which started at 4:30 A.M. and went to 9:00 this morning, so when I posted last, it was right after I had just got up and was drinking that first wonderful cup of coffee of the day. Anyway, the bread from this horrid gig was more than enough to cover the cost of the new K&K "Golden Trinity" mic that just came out, so I ordered one the other day, and Bob & I had a laugh over the phone about the gig that was gonna pay for it. Let me know if he spilled the beans on me, so I can plot my revenge...
  6. rablack


    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    Starting point - check the archive here and the FAQ page at for some good information. Go to for an education and to tap into some good resources. (All Hail Bob Gollihur)

    The one primary, non-negotiable, don't even think about doing it any other way, tip is: get a teacher. You absolutely must start out with correct technique or, as Chris Fitz points out, you're gonna hurt yourself. Even if all you can afford are a few months at first - take lessons.

    Next tip - remember, even though they are tuned the same and play the same role, the DB is not a bass guitar. It is a different instrument so be prepared for frustration when you start learning.

    Next tip - learn to use the bow. Even if you never intend to perform with a bow practice with it. You can't hide bad intonation like you can when thumping along.

    Welcome to the dark side. I hope your "need" to play DB is equalled by the discipline this wonderful beast requires.
  7. How times (and bodies) change. I can remember going after gigs to an after hours joint in Frankfurt (not Kentucky) that admitted only waiters, cooks, waitresses, musicians, etc. who had been working in clubs that night. They started at 4 AM, but considered it merely a continuation of the evening. It used to be that NYC joints didn't close until 4 AM. Now, I'm nodding off at 9:30.
    Peace, everyone.
  8. skit


    Jul 12, 2001
    What if there is no teacher?
    I'm a DB newbie, too. Got mine today (3/4, massive).
    Been pickin' the E-bace in underground punk/HC Bands for over 15 years (no disparaging words about the genre please, there are great musicians out there-just listen to Victims Family...). Since I am a fan of Jazz/FreeJazz/Rockabilly/Psychobilly music I always wanted to play the double bass.
    So finally I got the thingy aaaand that DB turned my musical understanding inside out - and I love it! While trying to play that upright bass without "those marks" I finally understood what I 've been doing all those years playing together with "real" musicians - I never ever had any idea of what I was exactly doing...
    So anyway I decided to learn how to play the thing by myself - I'm just looking for some resources on how to do it technically (weblinks, books, videotapes).
    Notes I cannot read anyway-never learned it unfortunately...
    I know that as an autodidact you get baaad habits (evilevil) in your techniques - but I love that instrument - the sound, the feel and the sore hands. I cannot afford to drive 35 miles at least just to get lessons from a good DB teacher (we all have to earn our living one way or another) and worst of all, I'm doing it just for the fun of it because I'm not a profesional musician - seems to me most people in this forum are..?
    So to all of you professional (and wannabe-pro) musicians here: no offence, respect! - but it seems to me that you discourage newbie (I repeat NEWBIE) amateurs, hobbyists and enthusiasts.
    Constructive hints (e.g. on books, schools, videos, websites, whatever would be better than the good old "get a teacher" phrase, becuase not everyone has the possibilty to get goood lessons - how do we know of it's good anyway-, including me).

    As said - no offence just constructive criticism and anyways sorry for my bad english, for I am an alien...

    this is the catmiller, resigning for now... :^)
  9. skit


    Jul 12, 2001
    oooh- I forgot -
    way cool cat on yer pic - looks like mine...
  10. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    Hi there skit, congratulations on your first bass. Here are a couple of threads to check out:

    There are other threads on the subject too, browse or search.

    My teacher (sorry...:)) had me get 'The improvisers bass method' by Chuck Sher. This is the only book I have used.

    Other books I know of are
    - 'The Evolving Bassist' by Rufus Reid
    - 'New method for the double bass' (I think it is called..?) - Simandl

    Which one of these (or others) is best for self-teaching I don't know, but others here surely do.

    When you are strongly recommended to get a teacher I can assure you it is meant well - I fumbled around on my own for ten years or so, and when I finally started taking lessons it was more or less back to scratch... But back then I had no Talkbass, no books, no references at all, I just crudely adapted my BG technique, playing by the dots on the neck that were on the bass when I bought it. You are much more on the right track than I was when I started.

    So, from my experiences as a newbie, I think you also should consider:
    - learning to play with a bow. Good for intonation, great sound.
    - learning to read music.

    Good luck.
  11. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    Not a professional nor aspiring professional (although I do occasionally get paid to make music, it's not uncommon that I'll have spent as much or more money getting to make the music as I get paid). But the value of lessons is huge. Even if you only manage to make your 35 mile drive once a month, you'll learn more, faster and better than without a teacher. Make the trip.

  12. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Prepare for pain relman. I too have a new 2x, '59 Blonde S9, my hands are suing me for malpractice! I have leads on some reputable teachers, suggest the same to you. I never realized how much I didn't know till I got the Kay.

    Here's to the "Dark Side".

  13. Not to get into a "I walked 15 miles in the blinding snow with my bass on my back" sort of thing, but I do drive 2 hrs. round trip for a one hour lesson every other week. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I spent the better part of a year thrashing around, trying to teach myself the basics. My teacher had my sound improving into the first lesson. And yes, I acquired some bad habits on my own which I'm still trying to undo.
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Even if you can't afford a teacher or have to drive a long way to see one, I'd take some lessons for at least a little bit before you dive into a bunch of method books/videos. I was self taught in the beginning as well, and I ended up with some pretty nasty injuries that I could have avoided, and at LEAST one bad habit that I'm still trying to undo to this day. If you were to take even a month or two of lessons you could avoid all of that, and then you'd at least be armed with the basic physical "Do's and Don'ts" of the thing. Just my .02c.


  15. skit
    Do i understand correctly that you cannot read music? First of all, let's change it from "cannot" to "will not", because it's your choice not to read. And you won't take lessons because it's not convenient. Seems to me you're in here asking for everybody's help but you're unwilling to pay any price whatsoever.
    If the "easy" way is your primary concern, my advice is as follows:
  16. skit


    Jul 12, 2001
    hello all of you,

    thx for the advice, meanwhile I found a teacher living in our area, I understand that at least I have to learn some basics to avoid injuries and get some technique and I will take lessons, because I want to learn how to play that monster...

    yes you're right, I've been much too lazy to learn how to read notes because playing BG was not more than having fun with some friends of mine and making some noise - It's back to school for me now, seems that DB changed my life and my way of thinking about making music...


    If life is a bowl of cherries - what am I doing in the pit?
  17. This how it starts. Good move, skit.
    The more you learn, the more you will find to enjoy in what you hear.
    I'll put it another way: The dumb skit and the new, improved skit can listen to the same thing, and the new, improved skit will actually get more enjoyment out of it.
  18. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    Don, you know how to sum it up! This is really a good one :). Applies to several threads here.