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Should I? (noob here)

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Henry Davis, Apr 15, 2015.

  1. Henry Davis

    Henry Davis

    Apr 15, 2015
    Sorry to come in with this out of the blue, I love the bass (upright) and I need some advice.

    I started bass in 6th grade, and played through 7th. I loved it, but when I moved to California there wasn't an orchestra anymore and my parents didn't think it was smart to invest in another one without an orchestra to play in. I've dabbled a bit with bass guitar and various other instruments since then, but I've been longing for what I consider a "real" bass ever since.

    I'm 28 now, back in college studying engineering, and I have the chance to join a bluegrass ensemble class that's friendly to beginners, and I've found a local place that'll rent to own me an upright for about 50$/m. It'll fit my tight student budget, but affording a private bass instructor on top of that is beyond me.

    What I'm thinking of doing is reteaching myself based on my memory of technique and my old books (which I had saved), and filling in the gaps with the internet and YouTube videos. Then there's the ensemble class for actual feedback, and I may be able to mooch tips off the school bass instructors if I can squeeze some of their time out in between actual music students.

    I'd really like to pick bass back up. What do you guys think? Should I go for it?

    I've been occasionally lurking the forum here a while, I'd value your feedback.
  2. If you can afford it, great. Just remember, the instrument is only the first expense. You'll eventually need other gear, like replacement strings, bows, bow re-hairs, rosin, cases, sheet music, and routine instrument maintenance. Etc., etc., etc.

    Before you start, it's worth hiring a professional to take a good look at the instrument and give you two or three lessons just to get situated. Rental basses are usually pretty beat up and can have useless set-ups or major design flaws. You can also really hurt yourself if your technique has any serious problems or if the set-up is particularly harsh.

    You could also post some pictures here (in the Basses section) for some armchair diagnoses. What is the brand? Final price tag?

    Edit: By the way, if you're only interested in Bluegrass than whatever strings come with the rental are almost certainly not ideal for you. Hop over to the Strings section and see what the Bluegrassers are using.
  3. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    As far as getting back into bass - I say go for it.

    As for the bass, we need information on it to make an internet assessment.
  4. Henry Davis

    Henry Davis

    Apr 15, 2015
    Thanks for the replies guys, I appreciate it! I'll try to get the brand and pictures sometime today.

    What I can tell you now is that it's new, rather than used, total price 1650. It comes with stand, case, and rosin. It's a pretty small town, not a lot of turnover in the store.

    As for my interest, I'd say it's pretty general. I'm looking at starting back up with bluegrass, but I do like a lot of other kinds of music. My siblings play violin, viola and cello (yeah, we were one of THOSE families) so I'll probably be trying to pick up more classical with them again eventually. If we can all manage to meet up. I'll do some reading up on strings though.
  5. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    A couple of comments:

    1) I would not worry about the strings. Whatever is on the bass will be fine to get started. But you should have a look at the setup of a rental bass. Even if you take a small metal ruler and a business card and do a quick check of string heights at the end of the fingerboard and the nut. You can search here on this forum and find a lot of basic info on those dimensions.

    2) You need to be aware that most people who play bluegrass bass are self taught and typically have very poor left and right hand technique. Both are critical if you want to get a good sound and to be able to play other than the simplest patterns without straining yourself. I very commonly see the following, even among professional bluegrass players: - bass held at right angles to the body, thus inhibiting access to the lower two strings; - left hand wrapped around the neck with the thumb sticking up in the air, thus collapsing the width of the hand and making it very difficult to play patterns that don't have a lot of open strings, and also making it difficult to finger notes on the lower two strings; - and plucking of the strings with the right hand fingers held perpendicular to the strings and too far away from the bridge, thus cutting down sound production and adding strain to the right hand. You need to get some kind of instruction on the basics, preferably before starting: 1) the "Claw" for the left hand; 2) How to position and balance the bass against your body; 3) how to use the right hand to pull the strings. If you don't want to pay for 1 or 2 lessons with a bass teacher, at least check out some general double bass instruction books from the library. Through interlibrary loan you ought to be able to check out a copy of Rufus Reid's book which has a pretty good section on these matters. The Ray Brown book doesn't have a lot of descriptive text, but it does have good pictures of the hand positions of one of the finest bassists of all time.

    3) Don't let my comments about bluegrass bassists above influence your idea of joining a bluegrass class. Bluegrass is a blast! I play a lot of it. It's a music where you have to really concentrate on doing the job of the bass, which is to support the band. The patterns are simple, but there's a lifetime of learning in putting just the right (simple) note in just the right place at just the right time in just the right way. Highly recommended. Just don't copy what you see most of the pros doing; their techniques work for them, but will be limiting if you want to branch out. Playing with standard technique will not hurt your bluegrassing a bit.
  6. Henry Davis

    Henry Davis

    Apr 15, 2015
    Thank you everybody for your advice, I knew you guys were great, but it's been more and faster than I expected. Here it is. Eastman vb80. I've heard good things about them. Is $1650 a ripoff? It's new, and the only one in town.

    turf3, thanks for your specific advice. Those are all technique things that I actually do remember somewhat, so thank you for the encouragement to not slack on them. I have noticed a lot of bassists being sloppy on those things. I'll see what I can find as far as someone to review my technique as I get started.

    Thanks again everyone. Another quick question: how do you guys store your bass when not in use?

    Attached Files:

  7. It's the cheapest Eastman model, and $1650 is on the high end for price but still within reason. A little digging finds prices between $950 and $1700. I would guess the $950 sellers are doing minimal set-up work. If your shop did a good job on the set-up, it might be a fair deal.

    It also looks like the strings on that bass are the useless Chinese wires most factory basses are shipped with. Most reputable shops throw those out upon delivery.

    In that price range, I'd be leaning toward a Christopher if you can find one. Where are you located? You might be closer to other retailers with better selections than you realize.
  8. Somebody took the time to add adjusters to that bridge and taper the crown correctly, so hopefully the setup isn't too bad.

    Playing music, especially with other people, can add so much to your quality of life. (At least that's what I tell myself until I'm reminded of how nuts most musicians are, ha ha ha...)

    If you have the free time and $50 to burn each month, I'd absolutely encourage you to get back into it. Why not? I absolutely agree with those recommending at least a few lessons to help you reacquaint your body with the bass. Remember, you're probably taller and stronger now than you were the last time you played bass, so the interface will be very different. I happen to have old, existing hand, wrist and back problems that could have potentially ended my playing days had not an experience teacher slapped me around until I learned to hold my bass and bow correctly.

    I would not, however, advise you to purchase that particular bass. Date her for a while, sure, but keep your options open until "the One" comes along.
  9. I don't know how Eastman does it, but, where I was working, Christopher always sent their basses with pre-fit bridges and adjusters already installed. We would usually cut the bridge top down a little bit, re-tap the adjusters so they turned more easily, and then stain it. The real work was planing the fingerboard and re-reaming the end block to fit a higher quality end pin.

    Edit: Just for fun, I'm going to run through all the shop's added costs before an instrument went to retail.

    I was a newbie working a little slower than the professionals in the shop, but I was also paid accordingly. I'd usually spend about 3-4 hours on each instrument from start to finish, which cost the shop $36 to $48 total for labor (the pros could do it under two hours, but they made more than double my hourly wage). The cost for sand paper, oils, electricity, etc. was negligible. We would add a new set of strings (house brand, maybe $80 a set wholesale) and a name brand end pin ($100 - $150 depending on what was available). Everything else came with the instrument, including the case.

    So at most they would spend a little under $300 for a proper set-up. I don't know what they were paying for the instruments and shipping, but I think the margins were pretty decent if they were buying in bulk.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  10. Henry Davis

    Henry Davis

    Apr 15, 2015
    Hm. Well I'm around Rigby area in Idaho right now. If I was in California I still have some connections that I know could find me a good deal on a decent bass, but I haven't been able to find much selection in the area. I hear Christopher and Eastman are pretty comparable, is Christopher that much better? One of the music stores I called has no basses, but they recommended an Engelhardt over a Christopher.

    I'd actually forgotten that renting this one doesn't mean I need to buy it in the end, so thanks for that. Maybe I'll just date this one a few months and keep my eye open for other deals in the area.

    Thanks again for all the advice and commentary guys. It's definitely both encouraging and enlightening. I'm excited to be getting back into it.
  11. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Bluegrassers tend to gravitate toward Engelhardts. As a more jazz/classical guy, I would probably choose a Christopher, if I were choosing between the two. Engelhardts have skinny necks that are uncomfortable to play. But try them out and see what you like. You might want to try out a Shen before you make a decision--great bang for the buck.
  12. Yeah, Rigby's pretty far out. You might have some luck in Boise, but I'd guess your best bet is in Salt Lake City. You need try a few things out and see what you like.

    I think Engelhardt basses are as lousy as they come, but some people seem to like them. To each his own.
  13. awp


    Oct 9, 2013
    London, Ontario
    fwiw I have an Eastman VB80. The shop I bought it from did upgrade the strings to Helicore Orchestra and added an adjustable bridge. I am a relative NOOB (18 months playing) but I can say that the bass sounds good on all strings and is powerful enough to be heard (and felt:)) through the house. Feels like very solid construction too. I am not saying it is the finest bass money can buy but it does seem to be worthy of consideration.

  14. misterbadger

    misterbadger Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2012
    Northern California
    If you really can't afford a teacher at this point, or even if you do decide to take lessons, Geoff Chalmers' site, DiscoverDoubleBass is a fantastic resource. Lots of free videos and great advice. If his beginner's course is anything like the walking bass course that I purchased, it's well worth the investment of time and money.
    HateyMcAmp likes this.
  15. John Birmingham

    John Birmingham

    Apr 20, 2015
    I'm an old dog about to embark on learning new tricks as well- I played electric bass (badly, I might add, but good enough for badly-played punk rock in Okinawa) waaaaay back in the day but it's been a good thirty years or better since then- and I'm set on learning the fine art of double bass. I have no illusions about it being easy or that I'll make a big fat pile of cash (or even a teeny-tiny pile of cash) doing it- of course I miss the crowd and the fun of it, so it's baby steps to re-learn everything just to play again for anyone. My main interest right now is roots rock (early Elvis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, and the like) and I grew up listening to the Stray Cats so the rockabilly thing is there as well, and of course I haven't counted out bluegrass and such as I enjoy that genre as well. I've about sold myself on purchasing a Thompson RM-100 series bass (slap that thang) with all the trimmings, but it will be a few months before I'll be ready to send Steve K. at Stringemporium an order.

    A musician friend of mine gave me the 'you get out of it what you put into it' speech, so I already know I'm looking at a LOT of catch-up work, and more so on an instrument I've never played!

    The big question on my mind, though, is: Can I really do this? Do I still have time (I'm 52 already- jeez, give me a break) to get anywhere close to performance level, or am I looking it being more like an expensive hobby?
  16. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Hi John, welcome to TB. That's a question that comes around fairly regularly around here, so know you're far from alone. Here's just a small sampling of threads that have dealt with your question:

    How late can one learn Upright Bass? | TalkBass.com

    is it to late or could i do it? | TalkBass.com

    As you can see, there are several here who started later in life. It's going to take a certain amount of commitment and practice time investment, but you can certainly become proficient on double bass at your age.
  17. John Birmingham

    John Birmingham

    Apr 20, 2015
    Thank you for the heads up on those threads, Lee- and thank you for using the term 'started later in life' as opposed to 'started in old age' :D Encouragement is always welcomed and appreciated- and now on to the fun part of actually getting my hands on something to play!

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