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So im teaching myself double bass..

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Peter_00, Jun 17, 2003.

  1. Ok so I've been playing electric bass for 4 years (im 16) and the local Conservatorium offered me the loan of their double bass 6 months ago. They didn't have a teacher for it and neither do I but I took it anyway and now im to my neck in gigs (two orchestras, two bands, two jazz groups, and a local musical in two months) and im sightreading my way through. The thing is I can keep everyone fooled that I can play but not myself... I've got the opportunity to go to a 'real' double bass player interstate next month to get a lesson but what im asking is.. do you think I can get to a level to be accepted into a major music university in 3 years? because im breaking my neck and i need to know if its gonna pay off.

    feel free to post any opinions advice etc.
  2. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I don't think I'm out of line in saying the advice you'll get around here is: get a teacher. As a mostly self-taught musician (I've had lessons, but not anything that I intensively carried for years), that's the advice I offer as well.

    Not that it can't be done without one. People teach themselves all kinds of crazy stuff they shouldn't be able to. It depends completely on the individual. I get better and better at learning as I get older, and I'm 42 now. When I was younger, I didn't have a real clue how to learn and how I learn. Learning was haphazard then, even though I thought it wasn't. It's much more directed now.

    When I took on DB, though, I quickly realized that I will never get to where I want to be without a teacher. I'd been playing EB for over 20 years, lots of gigging, lots of theory and understanding what's going on musically. Still, you'll never learn thumb position playing on your own. You'll bring your EB concepts to the DB in terms of fingerings and moving around the fingerboard, and you'll quickly realize that it's not efficient to play that way.

    You've got a good, well-defined goal in setting your sights on entry to a music program. You're really giving yourself a handicap, though, when you take it on by yourself.

    Let's assume that, with or without a teacher, you work your ass off for the next three years. Let's also assume that, under either scenario, your playing ability is just as good (unlikely, but let's assume.) Know what the difference will be? WITH a teacher, you'll be working on a goal-directed program and your ANXIETY level will be much less than under the no-teacher scenario. It's hard to relate to ANXIETY LEVELS when you're very young, but, believe me, it's important.

    Depending on how you look at it, learning DB on your own either takes a lot of cojones or a lot of stupidity. The worst thing about it is never being sure that what you're doing is right (or not wrong, which is not exactly the same thing as "right".)

    Essentially, it amounts to the hard road or the easy road. Even if you're capable of doing it (and not everyone is) and you've got good musical talent, why take the hard road?
  3. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    Get a teacher. I was in your situation -sorta- in that i was taking lessons for bass guitar along with playing DB in several bands. I did play cello so the fretless unlined ebony board isn't a problem nor was the different right hand position. BUT the left hand-it's not the same as bass guitar, if anything i'd say go to a symphony concert or get a good book to try and cop some hand positions from it. My bass teacher also plays DB so when i first started we put down the guitars for a bit and focused on the double. If you're dedicated you can do it. Thats all
  4. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maybe the question should be; do you want to do it? You could pull it off in three years. Most orchestral players are pretty motivated people, and they compete for a few coveted spots in orchestras, many of which are unfortunately on very thin financial ice these days. Things are maybe a little better for jazz players now, in comparison to twenty years ago. Depends on how you want it to "pay off" in the end.

    You might as well go for it, and get a teacher if possible. There's no rule that states you need to jump into college upon graduation. If you need more time to pull the DB stuff together, do that with a teacher, and get some basic courses out of the way at a community college at the same time. Or do some travelling and listen to people who play for a living. DB is a lifetime investment, and it tends to make little paybacks along the way.

    PS...that "breaking your neck" feeling subsides after awhile. It's physically hard to play DB, but you can do it, even if you're teaching yourself (I know, I've never had a bass lesson in my life). You can trust your instincts to carry you, as long as you check into TB once in awhile and ask questions about the specific stuff you want to know.
  5. I know I need to get a teacher but I'm one of two people in about a two hundred kilometre radius that play double bass. I'm just stressed out to the max because of all these different situations and I'm only just managing each one..

    Thanks everyone
  6. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Hey, here's another piece of advice, if you don't mind. Too much work to handle? Squeeze more money out of 'em!!

    Just remember that this music deal is supposed to be fun.
  7. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Please do yourself a favor and read Todd Coolman's comments at WWW.TODDCOOLMAN.COM Especially pay attention to what he tells potential college music students. Also, get at least a few lessons so you don't hurt yourself mishandling the behemoth.
  8. Dondi


    May 3, 2003
    The post from the self-taught player brought me right back to my high school days. I was self taught, but pretty experienced on electric bass, and in my junior year of school I decided to persue a classical education. My school lent me a bass over the summer and I went at it like my life depended on it. I borrowed a Simandl book #1 and some of the music that the orchestra played and went to work. I had no problem playing in the orchestra that Autumn (I was actually the only kid that could tune the other kids' basses).
    The real test was auditioning for college. I played for a jury for the City University of NY Bachelor of Music program. Boy did I NOT fit in with the other kids, who all seemed to have gone to the H.S. of Music and Art. I felt like a gorilla in a suit. I somehow got through some scales and a movement of a Vivaldi sonata.
    I passed the first round of auditions and had to suffer questions like "how did you learn to make a vibrato on your own?" and "How do you get your intonation?". Well, I moved on to the second round and without knowing it played for several performance professors, including Julius Levine.
    In the end, I didn't make the performance progam. I found out that the professors didn't know what to do with a kid who had never had a single lesson. I didn't fit the mold that they knew. They were afraid to invest in my lessons.
    I later hooked up with Mr. Levine, who thought that I had made the program. When he found out that I didn't, he was a little upset. He then most graciously offered me lessons at a fraction of his normal rate and told me that he only needed one semester to get me legit enough for my detractors to know I was ready for the performance program. His prediction came to pass and I spent the next four years studying with the college paying for the lessons. I am a freelance player in electric and upright bass I'm happy about the many types of gigs that I can play.
  9. In reading the original poster's post and that of Dondi, I am thinking of Francois Rabbath, one of the most gifted and inspiring classical players, who claims to have taught himself. Growing up in the Middle East without any teachers around, except an instructional book he had located authored by the French bassist, Edouard Nanny. Not having a teacher led him to invent many new techinical innovations for the instrument, which some feel are better than traditional technique (specifically, his thumb rotation technique for the lower registers and the crab technique for the higher register and his invention of the bent endpin, which is very helpful for short or overweight players). I see that some very reputable players, such as Mark Morton, first principal bassist of the Columbus Symphony, and Eugene Levinson, first principal bassist of the New York Philharmoni, have authored instructional method books that appear to utilize a concept or two that Rabbath invented on his own.

    I have a teacher and I totally agree that the best thing is to have a great teacher. However, the stories of the original poster, Dondi, and Rabbath, suggest that certain very talented and musically gited individuals can probably accomplish more with a little knowledge on their own and an open experimental, creative spirit than people such as myself with a great teacher. And maybe these will be the people, like the first discoverers of tranditional technique, who will bring new and valuable innovations into the field.

    How about the phenomenal Wes Montgomery, who didn't read music and had no teacher for jazz guitar? Because his wife allegedly complained that he was playing too loudly at home, he gradually came to prefer playing with his thumb, which introduced a totally new innovation in jazz guitar (that also included his soloing in octaves and other innovations). It must have been very interesting how he recorded so many amazingly beautiful and musically perfect recordings towards the end of his life, where he is soloing in front of an entire orchestra of musicians who knew how to read music! And what about Jaco Pastorius introducing the "fretless bass" approach to electric bass playing?

    Clearly, the original poster and Dondi are very creative and gifted players who managed to accomplish a great deal and to obtain a lot of gigs on their own prior to having a great teacher for traditional technique, which I am sure only made Dondi become even better, which I guess is his main message.

    However, how in bass education, do we balance the benefit of having a great teacher for traditional technique with not stifling the important experimenting and creative innovative spirit that will introduce new ideas and approaches into a field and ultimately move the field forward as a whole?