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Is doubling on the upright bass ever a bad idea?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Sgroh87, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. Sgroh87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    I got my first electric bass when I was in middle school, but I didn't get serious about playing until about a year and a half ago (when I was 25). Since then I've been pretty serious about my playing: taking lessons, performing several songs in public, studying theory and acoustic science, and spending on average 45 minutes a day six days a week with an instrument in my hands. I listen to funk, rock, jazz, hip hop, and folk on a regular basis.

    I've decided that I want to learn upright bass; at least, I do in theory. I love the sound of it, I love the image it gives to the audience, I love that it can be played acoustically and be heard, and I love the powerful sound of a bowed bass.

    However, some people have been saying discouraging things that worry me a little bit, especially the time investment involved in learning a totally new instrument. Some people have said that if I can't dedicate at least an hour and a half every day just to learning the upright then it wouldn't be worth the effort. I'm currently trying to get into management with my current company which would limit my playing and practice time significantly. I'm also a little concerned about the cost, because while I can buy a really nice electric for $1600 bucks, I would be getting a beginner upright with the same money.

    I think that were it not for the fact that it can't be bowed, I'd rather get a fretless Godin and a portable amp, save a couple hundred bucks, and not have to worry about the portability issues or the totally different technique I'd have to learn.

    I feel like I'm at the edge of the diving board and about to make the big leap, but at the last second I'm having doubts. Can someone help me out and push me over the edge?
  2. I live in dallas and I have a pretty nice beginner upright you could try and buy if you like it. If that helps. I don't have a cheap bow for it, but I'm asking like 1300 with a soft case. I don't know I felt like it might help to see options close to you. That's my input. I play electric and upright but started the opposite way, on upright. It's a challenge but it's very rewarding.
  3. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    MO, the upright is a lot of work over years, but everyone is different, so you might find great gains in less time, or slower gains in more time. How will you know if you don't try?
    I'd recommend renting an upright for a period, 3 months to year and then decide if it's for you. If it is, the effort won't matter no matter how long it takes. The same is true if it's not really for you - the effort won't matter no matter how long it takes.
  4. the upright does take time to learn, and lessons are a very good idea. Plus, to say the obvious, it's a big thing and you have to lug it around and take care of it.

    That said, I don't think doubling could ever be a bad idea. I get so many more gigs because I can play upright as well as bass guitar. It opens you up to jazz, roots rock and bluegrass gigs as well as whatever you are doing on bass guitar. Plus, I just love the instrument. I am starting to get decent at bowing now, not just pizzicato, and that opens up whole new areas creatively.
  5. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    I'm also an electric bass player and have just bought my first upright (which happens to be electric). Although I spend, as you, 45 minutes a day with me EB, as well as having to work on and learn songs to play with the band(s) I'm in, I still want to try to learn to play the EUB.
    I had similar concerns as you but realized, in the end, it's not a race. I will devote as much time as I can, when I can. I feel any time spent with it is good time spent.
  6. To be more specific -

    That first point is just not correct. You have to practice, but an hour and a half a day every day isn't necessary to achieve facility to get gigs. (I assume your target gig isn't the New York Philharmonic or something.)

    The second point is fairer, but some of those "beginner" uprights are pretty nice. My first Upton, a standard plywood, was in that price range, and that bass kicks butt - I still gig with it all the time. So you may have to look around in that price range, but I think you can get something that you can live with.
  7. ^^^^
  8. lowfreqgeek


    Mar 15, 2010
    Albuquerque, NM
    Endorsing Artist: Regenerate Guitar Works, Honey Badger Pickups, Westone Audio
    I bought my upright at age 34 - after playing EB for 25 years. Wish I'd done it sooner, but I was gigging within months and the upright is now my main gigging instrument.

    So no, it's never a bad idea to double.
  9. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    It's a musical choice. If the music you hear is about electric bass and you're comfortable with that there's no need to play DB just to say you play DB.

    It's not like it's a box to check in life or something. "500 standards, check. Phrygian tantric major, OK. Road gig, right. Bachelors in Jazz Performance, yeah. I must be a real musician now . . . oh ****, I forgot to learn DB!"
  10. Bass Man Bru

    Bass Man Bru

    Mar 25, 2014
    I started on acoustic upright and just recently bought an NXT 4 EUB. I am having difficulty finding 4th position where my thumb would rest at the neck transition. Has anyone found a good way to put something on the back of the NXT neck so that you could feel 4th position? I'm considering placing some tape on the back on the neck, but is there a better way to go? Thanks for your thoughts.
  11. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I was an "uptight bass operator" for about ten years. I was a typical bass guitarist interested in playing stuff like bluegrass and jazz where bass guitar isn't always appropriate. So I found a used upright for $300 (those were the days!) but didn't have a clue about to play it.

    Then I was offered a gig requiring upright so I was out of the frying pan and into the fire. It took exactly one gig to know I needed lessons :help: and I spent about two years studying with Ed Friedland (long before he became the Bass Whisperer).

    As soon as I started doubling my phone was ringing off the hook...this was the early 90s before the swing scare...because many bandleaders would rather have a barely competent upright bassist than a very seasoned bass guitarist.

    Those gigs introduced to a whole group of musicians I had never rubbed elbows with before, which led to landing more gigs, etc. One bandleader told me that everyone in town had recommended me...I was just a beginner but that was how scarce upright players were at the time.

    Today there are more doublers so I have more competition but since I'm already established in my local scene I'm still in the enviable position of being able to turn down gigs.

    Then there are the musical benefits. Learning the upright led me to totally rethink my approach to bass guitar...for the better!

    Anyway, as others have posted see if you can rent a bass and take some lessons. That way you'll know whether it's for you or not.
  12. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Playing doublebass is highly impractical, but very rewarding. I agree with others who have said that it's not necessary for a bassist to play upright. It does tend to open you up new people and playing opportunities. But, it's a commitment. I think the key is what's calling you to it and how loudly is it calling? If it's really something that you feel like you have got to do, then probably you'll never been fully satisfied on BG. If not, there's plenty of great music to be played and a lifetime of learning available on the instrument you're already playing.

    I don't believe that playing DB makes you a better BGist or vica versa, maybe a little bit over a long period of time, but as has been said in other threads, no more than studying guitar or piano would also make you a better musician on the BG.

    I personally don't enjoy playing music traditionally played on BG on the DB, though that's a choice and there are people who do it very well. On the odd occasion when someone asks me to play some rock and roll, hip hop or something, I love the opportunity to pull out the BG for that. It just feels like the right instrument. It's easier to amplify, easier to carry, easier to play in tune and tone.

    No one should discourage you if it's something you really want to do and are ready to put some work into it. You got a nice offer from a fellow Dallasite who you should probably visit with a pizza, if he won't let you pay him something for a lesson and try his bass and talk with him about playing. That would tell you more than we can.

    I do know a good teacher in Dallas if you decide to get started, PM me and I'll be happy to put you in touch with him.