I wanna play too! Wahhhhh!

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Guss, Nov 25, 2002.

  1. -sound of man falling down stairs-
    *Thump, thump, thump, thump!*

    Bah! that's the second time this week I've ended up down here!:D :rolleyes:

    Anyway, this is a completely ignorant question I'm asking. I'm now a bass guitar player. I've been one for two years. I've recently been entertaining the idea of getting into the upright. I've always leaned towards a jazz playing style.(I used to play the sax)
    I'm completely clueless about this instrumet. Is the upright basically a bass guitar turned on end, with the same fingering postions? Same fret positions? (i know they don't have frets, but you know what I mean.)
    If I were to say, pick up one and just start playing, would I be able to make a little tune?
    Also, where the heck can I find one?

    I promise I'll head back upstairs when I get some info! Thanks.:D
  2. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    well, in a lot of senses bass guitar and double bass (upright bass) are very similar.

    four string instruments are generally tuned the same (eadg)

    fingering positions are similar, though there are many varied approaches to double bass fingerings, some of which are similar nothing you've probably tried on bg.

    the idea and physics are, of course, the same - pluck a string and you get a pitch. stop it closer to the bridge (shorter string length sounding) and you get a higher pitch.

    initially the tough things about db, i think, are that you're dealing with a much more physically challenging task than playing bg (more strength required of both right and left hands, not to mention back and shoulders, and when you get better, legs); and the lack of frets makes playing with good intonation a lifelong mission instead of a given.

    db advantages: you can play them when the power goes out, they're sexy (also good for when the power goes out), and they sound damn good.

    as for 'where can i get one?', check the newbie thread at the top of the 'basses' forum.

    good luck,
    sean p
  3. You'll also find that playing the upright makes you a better BG player, by virtue of fine tuning your ear to the nuances of the instrument, the tone, the vibrato, and the increase in handstrength will make the BG seem like a toy.
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I have been playing bass guitar for over 20 years and in the last two years have been thinking about Double Bass. So from my experience, the answer to your question is NO - you will not be able to pick one up and just start playing a tune.

    So - the first thing is that it is very difficult to go into a shop and just try one. Lots of people advertise that they sell Double Basses but they don't have big stocks of them on the walls of a shop - like BGs .

    I found it very difficult to get to try any Double Basses and those that I did - it was almost impossible to get any sort of sound out of them.

    So - Ed has mentioned how it may take you years to get a sound that projects across your room - it's not an instant thing!!

    I must admit I "wimped out" and found that Electric Uprights are much more numerous - lots of shops have stocks and they are also much easier to play.

    You can pick up an EUB and play a tune straight away - I played a gig with mine 2-3 weeks after buying it!! ;)
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    PS I do plan to get the "real thing" eventually - probably when I retire from my day-job and thus have the time to practice DB every day for as long as is needed to get a decent sound. And study music full-time, rather than part-time.
  6. Ha! I'm a road cyclist! I've already got the legs!

  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Spinnin' and standing in one spot for hours on end are different skills -- I've done both.
  8. Your're a cyclist too?:)
    Funny, I thought I was the only one!

    Also, wouldn't you agree that even though the legs are spinning, the shoulders and back are also in a constat iso-metric state for hours on end when on a bicycle?
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    You use everything you have if you're doing it right.

    I haven't biked it quite a while, but did a lot of mountain biking around the Mississippi for a couple of years, and then then a lot of off-dirt riding back in the flat lands of NW Ohio for a couple of years after that.
  10. Whydya quite? Was it the lycra shorts?
    Thats it isn't it! It was the shorts! You couldn't take parading through town, or down a road in little tight, short spandex pants, right?:D :) ;)
  11. i first learned violin then switched to the DB and electric bass. the upright and electric are very similar but do have some distinct differences like many have stated.

    for upright your going to need to a lot more warming up than with electric because with proper fingerings your hands will be stretched far and wide except when you start shifting. not to mention your right hand either a)has togher strings to pluck or b) has the bow to move

    also you must find the proper technique for what you do because if you use a bow its a whole different world.

    the standing issue could be easily solved if you use a stool but if u don't want to you need to strengthen your legs for the long overhaul of playing and supporting the instrument.

    this is just my personal opinion. i'm just a high school that's second chair bassist in orchestra and bassist for advanced band noting too special
  12. jugband


    Jan 16, 2001
    Yes, and no... They are tuned EADG, but you should see where the 5th fret is... You have a 41-inch to 42-inch scale, so the notes are farther apart.

    Even someone who was used to a 1/4 size bass, with a 34" scale (more similar to what you're used to) would have to go through an adjustment period for that difference in scale and no frets.

    Going up the "D" string, you'll find that first "A" note about 4 1/4" down from the nut. That's not exact, because the length of scale (and just about every other measurement) will vary a little from bass to bass. It IS pretty close, though, on a 3/4 bass.

    Measure it out on your Bass Guitar and see. Keep in mind that you get the same note on a BG, no matter where you put your finger between two frets.

    On a double bass, your finger IS your fret, and if it's an eighth of an inch off, that's just like one of your frets suddenly shifted an eighth of an inch just before you put your finger down.

    The other thing is that double bass strings need to be pressed down hard compared to what you're used to, and especially the right hand needs to pull them hard, by BG standards. The first thing a Bass Guitar player typically does on an upright is to get almost no volume out of it.

    Bluegrass players will advise you to hook the whole side of your forefinger against the string, all the way back to the second knuckle, and try to pull with your shoulder, instead of your elbow.

    You don't just tap, or lightly tickle a double bass string and get 30 seconds of sustain out of it.

    If you get a blister in the middle of your right forefinger, under the fingernail, it's because you're not used to putting enough "meat on the string".

    Even highly-amplified, you don't get good sound by plucking with your fingertip(s). Some people use 2 or 3 fingers, grouped as one, to get enough "Stringth" ;)

    Not likely. If you get around one in person, start playing notes on the "D" string, comparing it to the open "G" string, until you get to a "G". That will show you that the 5th fret will look like it's about half way down the neck, compared to what you're used to.

    You COULD do a simple 1-5 1-5 alternating bass line in the key of "D", as soon as you walk up to one, since it could be done with all open strings and you already know where those are. Beyond that, no, you aren't going to get any satisfaction out of just walking up to one for the first time.

    If you don't live in a large city, try pawn shops, until you find one with a double bass. Bring a tuner with you.

    In a larger city, you can look for violin repair shops in the yellow pages, call them up and ask if they also sell double basses.

    Also in a larger city, you may find a music store that carries them, especially you might find one that rents to students. Getting one of these rental basses might be your best bet for "getting your feet wet". A rental bass should run about $35-$60 per month, and may or may not have a minimum rental period.

    Mars Music used to carry Knilling double basses, but they're Down For The Count, now, so you can't ask one to dance on their showroom floor.

    BG players tend to feel the first time they actually hold a double bass is that it's like dancing with a cow... you'll come to like it, though. :D

    If you live in a small town with no violin shops, and no pawn shops, try to find a fiddle or upright bass player in a local band, and ask him/her if there's any place (or anyone) close that sells basses you could look at.