Just starting: cello v. bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by tegnoto89, Jan 23, 2009.

  1. tegnoto89


    Dec 24, 2008
    I'm currently an electric bassist, I've thought about moving to double bass within a couple of months. However, I have, for a long time, wanted to play cello, and I was curious as to whether the skills I'd learn on the cello would translate well to double bass after a couple years. Price isn't an issue; the rentals where I'm going are really really cheap. What do you guys think?
  2. Brandon Tuomiko

    Brandon Tuomiko Inactive

    Oct 28, 2008
    Omaha Nebraska
    I was the same way. But reversed. I played violin for a year. Then I wanted to play cello. But that was not possible as the school did not have a cello for me to play. So there was a bass. So I played that. ANd about half a year later I got a cello. By then I was too far into the bass. So I did not play the cello and sold it.

    I do regret it. THe cello was a beautiful instrument. Great sound. Harder than bass.

    The cello is tuned in 5ths, bass in 4ths so the strings are different. CGDA I think.
    Bass is eadg.

    The fingering is similar, But you are holding the cello different and it will throw you off. but Do try both. They are cool instruments.

    I just started playing the cello again. I like the Bach Cello Suite No1. That really famous song. so i started cello again.
  3. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    The answer is always "yes", unless your resources (time, and money) are limited in such a way that forces you to prioritize. In which case, the priority goes to whichever you have has pulled you the strongest and the longest.

    Regarding transfer of skills, while many tangible ones don't exactly line up, many less tangible ones transfer to whatever instruments you play. IMHO it's always worth it....
  4. Bass Barrister

    Bass Barrister

    Nov 4, 2004
    I've played both, starting on cello more than 30 years ago. They are very different instrument requiring different techniques. As Brandon pointed out, bass strings are much heavier than cello strings and require a different bow technique to get strings to vibrate. The spatial differences in first position DB is much greater than the cello and also requires a different technique.

    They are both wonderful instruments but need to be approached as distinct learing adventures.
  5. Gyoon


    Nov 12, 2004
    Toronto, Ontario
    This might be a little off topic, but I have a fretless electric bass player friend of mine that claimed his cello training was a real asset, esp. with intonation and LH fingering.
  6. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I started cello lessons in 4th grade, and got to the point of playing in the community symphony while in high school. Our public schools had no string program, so I picked up an electric bass in 7th grade, to play in the junior high jazz band. I had visions of the bass making me "cool." That never happened, but I enjoyed learning jazz. Then a double bass (from the defunct school string program) fell into my hands when I finished high school, and I set the cello aside until... recently my kids started string lessons and I had to get the old cello out again.

    Going between 5ths and 4ths tuning doesn't seem to be a problem. When I got the electric bass, it only took a few weeks during summer vacation to get up to speed, by working my way through the Dotzauer book. I never figured out frets, and eventually yanked them out of my bass. A teacher set me straight on bass fingering by making me learn the Simandl method.

    When I started taking double bass lessons, I got a French bow. My bass teacher complimented my bowing and fingering techniques. When I played for him at my first lesson, he said: "Obviously you play bass like a cellist. There is nothing wrong with having a cello influenced technique, so long as you learn a few skills that are specific to bass as needed."

    My view is that, so long as you are prepared to deal with the obvious differences between the instruments, training on one instrument will be beneficial to the other, should you decide to switch at a later date. Regardless of which instrument you start on, you will learn the process of developing and refining your technique, intonation, bowing, reading, and so forth.

    On the cello, I have given myself the task of playing the prelude of the sixth suite, sometime within the next year or two. I know at the outset that I will never reach the level of being able to play it at tempo, or perform it without embarrassing myself, but I just love that piece and want to experience it as an insider.
  7. Basses are used in a lot more styles than cellos. Bluegrass, rockabilly, old rock-n-roll, blues, jazz, tango, classical, etc.

    Cellos are more restrictive. You can either play classical music, or um...
  8. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    That's certainly a consideration, and one reason why I migrated to the bass. When I started college as a math major, I knew that my musical future on 'cello would consist of sawing away in the back of the section forever.

    But the bass chair in the college jazz band was wide open.
  9. Lol, a wide open chair. :O

    But yes, I agree with fedex. If you're the kinda guy who doesn't like a lot of attention, then cello would be a better idea. If you like the attention, bass is the answer. At least here in Australia, you don't see many DBs, so when you do, it's an experience. :)
  10. I play both bass and cello, depending on the needs of my school orchestra (this year I started playing upright because we had no bassist) I found the switch from cello to bass very easy, with only a few adjustments needed. Also, playing bass is much more fun for me, although you don't get the melody as often as cello.
  11. scotty77


    Jan 31, 2008
    Victoria, B.C.
    Although mostly used for classical, if you check out "Jorane", "Apocayptica" or "Montana Skies", you will see that cello can be used for more than classical. And, if I remember correctly, Harry Chapin had a cellist in his band.
    Also, I know that Yo Yo Ma is known as a classical player, check out his stuff with Appalachian Waltz and Journey or "Silk Road Journeys".
    If you like The Beatles, check out "Norwegian Wood" by Tri Rococo (Oboe, harp and cello), or "The Beatles in Classics" by The Twelve Cellists of The Berlin Philharmonic.
    I'm sure there are a lot of other cellists playing music other than classical as well.
    On a closing note, check out Bela Fleck & Edgar Meyer's "Music For Two" or "Uncommon Ritual". Or, for a bit of real fun, Bela Fleck's "Perpetual Motion". Classical music on a BANJO.
  12. Brandon Tuomiko

    Brandon Tuomiko Inactive

    Oct 28, 2008
    Omaha Nebraska
    Its a crossroads movie situation. The kid plays classical guitar but he can shred for metal. Cello, you can play classical music only... sort of. But bass you can play classical music and SHRED FOR METAL!
  13. paganjack


    Dec 25, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    i don't see why some people here pigeonhole the cello into 'classical or nothing.' you guys really ought to know better. you can use any instrument for any style, as long as you are good enough. I play my cello sometimes in my folk band. I've played in classical orchestras, string quartets, used it for jazz, shredded out some metal on it- there really isn't a style that will sound particularly bad with cello. plus the ladies love it.

    I started out on cello in elementary school. in high school i picked up the DB since my jazz band didn't have an upright player and i figured i could handle it. the skills translate some, but it takes effort to get good at anything. It's more physically demanding to play the DB but it takes more finesse to get the cello to sound GOOD. Obviously you have to stretch your fingers more for DB but vibrato and some bow skills translate (if you go for French bow).

    Playing more than one instrument won't hurt you though, and having a broad musical understanding is always good.
  14. Have you ever heard of the Electric Light Orchestra? Ray Brown? Percy Heath? Oscar Pettiford?

    Sure, the cello is mainly a classical music instrument but to imply that it is only for classical music is inaccurate.
  15. I didn't. I was leaving my sentence open for finishing. :)
  16. What I meant was that you are FAR more likely to find a variety of DB teachers than cello teachers. You would be very lucky to find a cello teacher teaching a genre other than classical.
  17. paganjack


    Dec 25, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    a fair enough point. I think you would have to ask around, but i don't doubt that you could find a cello teacher willing to teach more than just standard orchestral and classical music. But yeah, i imagine there are more bassists more familiar with playing in more styles in more places.
  18. For those that would like to hear some great "non-classical" cello playing .... Check out Ben Sollee with "Sparrow Quartet" and Rushad Eggleston (originally) and then Tristan Clarridge (later on) with "Crooked Still". :D Nice Stuff !! Different musical styles all over the place.
  19. Pentabass


    Dec 11, 2007
    Check out this cellist - Kevin Fox. Definitely NOT just a classical artist.

    He can also be seen on a Youtube video.
  20. Well, clearly there are many MANY musicians who play outside the accepted genre for their instrument, as we've discussed.

    But these are skilled people. We're dealing with a person who can't play either DB or cello (well, BG gives you a headstart with DB), and wants to know which to play.

    I'm saying that a cello teacher will be easy to find, but not of many genres other than classical. There will be many cello teachers who PLAY other genres, but will not be qualified/able to teach these other styles, as there is no (?) defined way of playing them.

    Just like a builder's apprentice, for example. The builder finds that using straw in mortar is still a great way to go (and does it regardless of what he's been told), but he can't really teach the apprentice because it isn't accepted to put straw in the mortar, and he isn't qualified to teach a method other than the conventional method.

    Okay, that analogy was longwinded and probably unnecessary, but I like analogies. :)

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