Need some advice.

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by cryfok, Jun 23, 2008.

  1. cryfok


    May 28, 2008
    brooklyn, ny
    Hi everyone,

    I've been reading these forums for a few months now, and they're terrific, so thanks to everyone's commitment in keeping up the site; it makes for incredibly informative reading.

    I need a bit of uncensored advice, and I'm hoping someone or many of you will give me your honest feedback.

    I became very musical at a fairly young age, and began playing [electric] bass when I was 12 or 13. At 16, I started playing double bass, and pretty quickly thereafter was a member of some fairly advanced youth orchestras and community orchestras.

    I went to a non-conservatory college, but only for a short time, after which I stopped focusing on double bass (mostly because I didn't own an instrument), though I continued to play electric bass and guitar in rock-oriented bands.

    This next chapter will seem familiar to some: I started working to pick up a few extra bucks, while focusing on my band, and, well, one job led to another and the next thing you know i'm 13 or 14 years into a career fundraising for the arts.

    About 4 or 5 years ago, I rented a crappy, student-sized chinese bass for fun, and ended up playing for a local community orchestra in Brooklyn. I guess I had some decent chops still in me as I ended up principal of my section within a few months. I played in the orchestra for a few years, but the demands of my job ended up sidelining my playing orchestrally, even as a hobby.

    A few months ago, a close friend who studied at Oberlin lent me a beautiful, carved-wood bass for a project I was working on. And that's when it happened: I got the bug. Bad. Started reading this site, and others, religiously. Watching YouTube videos of Jeff Bradetich and attending (as an audience member) masterclasses with Tim Cobb. I play for a few hours a day. I think I still have the chops, though I am pretty rusty.

    So, the current status is this: I'm about to turn 34. I've not studied classically in a long time, and I never finished my Bachelor's degree in performance. Judging from this site (and elsewhere), the competition seems stiff. Still, I'm oddly not scared away. (I'm actually more frightened by the fact that I'm NOT scared away!) I know that with some practice, I can get to where I need to get to.

    Here's where I need some advice from you guys. Will someone (a professional player, a professor, whatever) please tell me to run away from this if it's a really bad idea for a 34 to get started? I've actually started looking into undergraduate programs because I've got it so bad. I read this site though, and some of the younger players are enjoying summer festivals in Aspen (or Switzerland), festivals and/or programs I don't even think I'm eligible for because of my age. In other words, I don't know if the community will let me back in. Considering the cost of a good bass, a good bow, a good instructor, and a good school, it could be a very expensive road for me to start walking down if this is going to be the inevitability. Not to mention a long road: I am honest with myself about my playing enough to know that I wouldn't be where I need to be to start doing auditions for another couple of years yet (at which I point I would be nearing if not in my 40s). And the other quandary is this: because of my age, I know how expensive life is. I want a family, too.

    So, I'm looking for someone to tell me "believe in your dreams, man - if you work hard at it, you can do this; screw your age and what everyone else thinks about it" or "take it from me and save your $100K; the road is so tough and long and iffy that, if you really want to keep playing, you should make it a hobby". I'm a realist, and I know that networking is extremely important, and so if the community (both from a peer perspective as well as from a hiring section's perspective) is not going to be forgiving, then it's not going to happen, and I'm ok with that.

    I appreciate everyone's honesty in their feedback. The double bass is an absolutely majestic instrument, and I consider myself lucky to have had the exposure to it I've already had.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Nagrom


    Mar 21, 2004
    Western Canada
    Follow your dream. There's no telling where it will lead you. The alternate is spending the rest of your life wondering what might have been. Or, you can wait a few years, and start then.
  3. Low8va


    Mar 13, 2008
    First off, I applaud your willingness to even consider the extreme challenge of entering the bass world at this stage of your life. That takes guts. I think you should consider preparing a list of excerpts and solos and then taking them to a few known established pros to get their impressions. Until you put your feet to the fire in this way, you won't really know if you have the necessary ingredients to move forward. You would be competing with people who have been studying the craft for their entire adolescent and adult lives. That doesn't mean you couldn't compete, but you may find you have some ground to make up. The flip side of the coin is that, if you move forward, you will have made a commitment on a level that few will have found necessary, and it may make you more hungry for success. This could work in your favor if you feel you have what it takes after this prescribed testing of the waters.

    I wish you the best of luck. Making music as a living is a privilege. I sincerely hope it works out for you.
  4. mattfong


    Jan 14, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    I'm no professional (though I hope to be), but here's my two cents.

    I'm thinking that if you decide not to start playing again, you'll regret it. By the looks of it you truly love the instrument and so you shouldn't pass it up. The community will let you in. Music has no age limits - I'm the back up bassist for a rock band who's members are all at least twice my age.

    Another thought - if you love what you're doing enough you'll succeed. You might not get famous or whatever (hey, you never know...), but you'll do well. You pretty much said it yourself: "I know that with some practice, I can get to where I need to get to."
  5. If you can play, you can play. That's what it comes down to.

    I would say... keep that principal chair. Time in that seat is the best thing you can have when it comes to playing in higher-grade orchestras... because you know what the principal is doing, you can anticipate better.

    Remember, the principals job is coordination with the rest of the orchestra, watching the other string principals and the conductor, and setting the bowing. The sub-principal's job is to make sure the rest of the section gets the info they need to do their job, and that's who they should be watching (often the rest of the section can't see the principal's bow anyway).
  6. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    You say you'll be 40 by the time you are at your playing peak. Well, you'll be 40 anyway. May as well be 40 and doing something that turns you on.
  7. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Inactive

    Apr 6, 2007
    Good advice. There is a musician of 32 at the University of Toronto that recently left his job to take up the Double Bass...he seems FAR happier now.
  8. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I'll echo the "believe in your dreams concept" BUT I'd like to inject a dose of practical reality. You say you want to have a family. Now, of course, it is quite possible to have a family and be a top-level professional musician. Examples are all around us. What is not clear is where you are on that road. What is also not clear is your current state of employment and whether you could weather a period of little to no income (back to the family thing). You seem quite realistic about the difficulties of initiating this career at age 34. I have little doubt that, if you have the talent (some very good advice given by Low8va), then you could make this dream work. The question is, whether you can make more than one dream work simultaneously. So, this, like so many things in life, comes down to a matter of priorities. It's easy for folks here to cheer you on and say, "Yeah, go for it!" You can't have it all. On the other hand, you can have some of a number of different things. There are many examples of members here who have "day jobs" and who also play DB at near-pro or pro levels. I'm one who has a day job but never considered myself to have the raw talent to be a pro. My message should not be taken as one of discouragement or nay-saying. Far from it. Rather, my bottom-line advice is set your priorities and then go full steam ahead realistically.
  9. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Of course, go for music on some level, but be realistic about the possible outcomes. There is some great info on the realities of life in the classical music world on Jason Heath's site,, starting with his Road Warrior series. Check this out before making any decisions.
  10. cryfok


    May 28, 2008
    brooklyn, ny
    Just wanted to say thanks for everyone's great advice. Low8va - which excerpts would you recommend I prepare? Eric, thanks so very much for sending along that link to Jason's blog; it's a terrific site.

  11. us_soccer


    May 16, 2007
    upstate ny
    I agree with drurb. Definitely be willing to follow your dream and to do something you're passionate about! But, you should remember that all choices involve tradeoffs. Might this make it harder to start a family soon? Yes. Might it make it harder to _support_ a family if you give up your day job for now? Of course.
    But it's not impossible either. Just makes it a bit more difficult, and that's your tradeoff.

    If having a day job that still allows you to play a lot (with others, on your own, etc..) and that's enough for you, then this could be a happy medium. But if you're really feeling that urge to totally dive in, you've weighed all of the tradeoffs, and you think it's worth it, then GO FOR IT!!

    I also want to echo those that have been saying that the bond of music transcends all ages (and races as well). Just an example: I often go to a local jazz jam, and on the same night, we've had in the combo: a 9-year old drummer (who by the way is amazing), and an 80-year old bass player and 80 year old trombone player, (in addition to myself, a 34 year old piano player).
    if you can play, you can play -- come jam! don't care if you're 9 or 90!
  12. Salty

    Salty Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2005
    New York, NY
    May I suggest the following: I think in order to not potentially lose your mind, you have to cultivate a VERY clear idea of what it is exactly that you are expecting, what you want, and how realistic is it.

    By asking the questions you've raised, you're absolutely on the right track. I think you have to continually check-in with yourself about these expectations.

    In one sense, there is every possibility that the experience could be everything you want and even more. I think there will be times of great excitement and surprised joy along the way. And it may turn out that because of a combination of your hard work, talent, preparedness, professionalism, and luck you could have the fantasy life that you are surely envisioning.

    Conversely, as with an pursuit, there are mountain-sized obstacles that you may encounter. How to negotiate these barriers is a tricky and often heart-wrenching exercise.

    You said "the road is so tough and long and iffy that, if you really want to keep playing, you should make it a hobby". My suggestion is to position yourself in such a way that you being the journey carefully, making sure to observe your progress and process along the way. IOW, don't quit your day job....BUT if you are determined enough, smart enough, hard-working enough, talented enough, ballsy enough, you can plan out and execute a system of eliminating the day job into professional work.

    It probably goes without saying, but I think it would be a risky move to simply give up however you're making money now and expect to dive headfirst into music money.

    Again, it all depends on your expectations. I know of many musicians who are satisfied with a musical life that isn't right for -me- personally but works for them very well. I'm sure they'd say the same about me.

    I'm going to send you a PM

    Good luck
  13. ctcruiser


    Jan 16, 2005
    West Haven, CT
    I did not get my first DB until I was 49.

    Most guys having a midlife crisis get a convertible and a blonde.

    I went back to school to get my MBA and CMA and also buy a DB.

    I think of the first two as job insurance. The DB is my 401k plan. I may not make a lot of money, but I plan to have fun!

    Don't hesitate to follow your dream! Go for it.
  14. CellarDweller

    CellarDweller Supporting Member

    May 24, 2008
    Cleveland, Ohio
    There are a lot of people who have accomplished variations of this. I am aware of a couple of lawyers who went on to have excellent double bass careers. For a prominent (but slightly different) example, check out the website "Sean Chisam's Tubenet." It is the largest tuba player board out there, and is similar to this site. The founder, Sean Chisam, was well into a career in the computer industry when he reconnected with the tuba, studied intensively, and played into the U.S. Army Band in Washington, a coveted post on a par with a major symphony. The endeavor you are describing is very ambitious, but it can realistically be done. Most people will not know your age unless you bring it up, anyway, and there is no need to mention it unless asked. Good luck on what strikes me as a very worthwhile journey!
  15. Low8va


    Mar 13, 2008
    In order to win an orchestra audition, you will have to play a wide assortment of styles. I would suggest working up Beethoven 5 (mvmt. 3), Mozart 35, 39, or 40, a Brahms symphony (#2 being the most popular at the moment), a Strauss tone poem (Ein Heldenleben, Don Juan, etc...), Bach orchestral suite #2 (Double and Badinerie mvmts.), and maybe something lyrical like the Othello bass soli. This may seem like a lot, but it is a fraction of the size of most repertoire lists for major orchestra auditions.

    These are all very common excerpts that one can expect to have to play at an audition. They also will show very different parts of your playing, so your listener will get a better sense of your skill set by hearing a varied playlist such as this one, and therefore be able to give you better advice about what to work on. I hope that is helpful. Good Luck!!
  16. +1. Life is short and all you have is now. So act on your dreams.
  17. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Inactive

    Apr 6, 2007
    Agreed. Don't let anyone stand in your way.
  18. nicfargo


    May 28, 2008
    Lincoln, NE
    Save the money! You're a dreamer and that's all you'll ever be! You'll never be good enough!

    If anyone listened to people who said such things, no one would ever accomplish something great. Everest would never have been scaled (It's cold and there's nothing up there). The first bass would never have been built (why would anyone want to make such a large cello?). We would have never made it to the moon (huge waste of money, but boy was it cool). So listen to what your heart says and chase your dreams. Otherwise you'll always wonder "what if?".