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How late can one learn Upright Bass?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by BawanaRik, Aug 24, 2012.

  1. BawanaRik


    Mar 6, 2012
    New Jersey
    I'm getting near 60. I've noticed that most UR bassist started by the time they were teens.

    I "play" fretless and enjoy it. I like the feel, the in touchness of it all. I can't help thinking that an UR would be more of the same.

    I also realize that it's a big investment in time and money.

    Should I grow up and give up or is there a better than 50/50 chance that I could learn to play an UR?
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I didn't start playing upright until I was 25 or 26. The reaason that I started playing it was because I started "hearing" that sound, internally, more and more until I had to start playing. Had to, not wanted to. Double bass is double bass, it's not a more robust fretless bass guitar. If this is something you HAVE to do, then do it. If you're 60, all that means is that you won't be a 59 year old prodigy. Find a teacher, find a shop that'll rent you a good quality bass and see if your desire to get THAT sound is greater than the amount of effort you need to put into a fairly physically demanding instrument.
    But the bottom line is - what do YOU want? Nobody else can make this decision for you, all we can do is enumerate the reasons we did or did not decide to play this instrument...
    salcott and RedVee like this.
  3. BawanaRik


    Mar 6, 2012
    New Jersey
    That's part of the issue. I hear Stand By Me and want that sound.
    Reiska likes this.
  4. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    I say go for it! You have a 99% chance of learning to how play UR, how well is up to you. But you have a 100% chance of not learning the UB if you don't try.
    I started studying the UB on my own (no teacher) with a Simandl book and a roll of masking tape to mark the positions at 20 and was playing my first pro gig on my 21st birthday. (FYI: I do not recommend this. I couldn't do it the same way today. Times and conditions have changed. Get a teacher!) I was smart enough to teach myself the correct fingerings from what I call the bass player's bible:Simandl Book 1, so I never had to unlearn any of those Haden choke hold fingerings;)
    I am now 72 and I am playing better than I ever did. I practice every day, some days a few minutes, others a couple of hours. One thing I missed by being self-taught was the use of the bow. About 5 years ago I decided to grit my teeth and just do it! (The same thing I'm suggesting to you). It was like a whole new instrument. I'm hooked! I'm not going to scare Quarrington or Meyer, but I'm loving it.
    Just do it!
    salcott, RedVee, WillieB and 3 others like this.
  5. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    I am a couple weeks away from turning 50. I started double bass about 18 months ago (after a lifetime of experience on woodwinds, and no experience on strings). I don't expect to become a top orchestral bassist, but I continue to make progress. My goals are in jazz and country music.

    I think an adult's ability to focus, and to practice things that are not immediately fun, knowing the results that will eventually obtain, compensates for any loss of brain flexibility compared to a young person. It's my theory that starting young helps a lot in the quest to become one of the very tip top virtuosos, but not so much to become a competent player.

    If you already successfully play fretless BG, I think you will be well suited to begin double bass (always with the proviso that they ARE different instruments, but there is still more in common between fretless BG and DB than - say - accordion, or recorder, or knitting.)
  6. mlz77096


    Oct 16, 2007
    Houston, TX
    I started after 60. I'd of started sooner had I known it would be so much fun. Go for it!
    oren, zontar, RedVee and 6 others like this.
  7. Once you're dead, it's too late.
    zontar, RedVee, WillieB and 8 others like this.
  8. Big Brother

    Big Brother

    Feb 13, 2011
    San Diego
    Roving sub-demon
    I think after about 9PM the neighbors might start to object
  9. nputtick


    Apr 28, 2008
    Hey. I'm nearly 59 and just starting on upright! Don't put me off!

    Of course you can start at any age. Your learned musicality will more than offset any reduction in dexterity.

    I think it also helps to have an aim. I play electric bass (mostly fretted, some fretless - also piano/keyboards) in a jazz/blues quintet and a lot of what we play would work well with upright bass. I'm finding though that the positions and fingering are often very different, and I can't get either the same speed with either hand, or shifts of position. Never mind, I'm relearning and loving it.

    Go for it!

    GKon and rwkeating like this.
  10. Do it. I was about 42 when I picked up my first DB. I'm now 65 and still gigging with it, in fact I get more work with DB than I do with EB. You wont regret it.
    WillieB, PauFerro and GKon like this.
  11. kreider204


    Nov 29, 2008
    Beautiful! :)

    Seriously, OP - if you think you would enjoy it, and as long as you don't have any serious health issues (e.g., arthritis) that you think would be a problem, there's NO reason not to. Sure, maybe you'll never become the best player in the world, but you absolutely can become a minimally competent player in a year or two of hard work - and given how few upright players there are compared to many other instrumentalists, that will be plenty to get you some gigs. DO IT! :)
    PauFerro and GKon like this.
  12. Matt R.

    Matt R.

    Jul 18, 2007
    Huntsville AL
  13. MostlyBass

    MostlyBass Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    I once had a beginner in her early 60s. She made amazing progress for a student of any age!
    PauFerro and GKon like this.
  14. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    I started at 50. I wish I had started sooner but I am enjoying every bit of the process.
    PauFerro and GKon like this.
  15. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    started at 48, (now 50), really enjoying learning the upright as well as learning to read music, play arco and especially learning jazz!!
    PauFerro likes this.
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I started in my mid-30's, it's never too late! :)
  17. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I started at 30 and 9 years later I'm finally enjoying the noise I produce, at least most of the time.

    But music playing should be a selfish endeavor mostly. So what if you XX age now? You play for yourself first and enjoy the adventure of learning.
  18. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    I'm with the above guys. I started when I was 49. For me (don't take the metaphor too seriously or too far...just the idea), it was like having children. I looked upon it with intrepidation for years, and once I did, I kicked myself for waiting so long.

    Unless there is a physical detriment that only you and your physician can know, it's never too late to start anything, whether a new hobby, a new relationship (My mother just got married again at 71 "the old fashioned way" -- she outlived the first two!), a new career, or a new instrument.

    Am I "perfect" at it? No. But I gig regularly and the bands I gig with enjoy it as much as the people we play for.

    Just remember that just as the UK and the USA are "two great countries separated by a common language," double bass and electric bass are "two great instruments separated by a common tuning."

    Welcome to double bass!
    PauFerro likes this.
  19. playbass0410


    Feb 8, 2008
    Started with EB with about 14. ..... time passed by ...... years floating away like fine sand between my fingers ...

    Finally, started DB with 46 and found my love, my passion that the EB never quite was.
    If the EB was a beloved friend the DB is my once in a lifetime love.

    That means YES, do it, go for it, do it know.
    If it is the same to you as it is to me, it adds to your life every single day....

    And .... I do not know why?????? But there are lots, lots, lots of musicians or non-musicians that start late with DB. Maybe its 'cause older ones are more into Jazz or classical music and that the big brown beauty seems inapproachably to younger ones??
  20. bobsax


    Jan 16, 2011
    Southern Oregon
    Hey Turf
    I also have been doing woodwinds for my whole life (I'm 51)and started DB last year.
    I wanted to get into bluegrass and I started jamming in a few months. A lot of bluegrass tunes can be played on open strings only. I recommend Academy of Bluegrass with Missy Raines

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