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Struggling Beginner

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Garagiste, Mar 19, 2014.

  1. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    I'm about 2 years in to learning upright coming from electric bass. This is the hardest thing I have ever done. I have a good instrument that is setup well, I have some good teachers around, I have the Ray Brown and Simandl books plus plenty of great videos on YouTube. I make use of an app called iReal Pro that plays tunes back to me without bass. But geez Louise, learning this instrument is emotionally and physically exhausting. It's rewarding when it sounds good (in brief spurts) and I am already playing some tunes on upright with my band. But can someone please agree with me that yes, this is a VERY, VERY DIFFICULT instrument to learn?
  2. It is, but it's worth it. The books are great, but a teacher helps big time. They will help refine your technique so much and that will help you so much. The pain your describing will be helped with a teacher as it is most likely related to technique. You live in Brooklyn, so you have plenty of teachers available. Even if it's for a few lessons, it'll help you so much. I come from your background so I do know where your coming from. Practice and dedication will be your best friends. Also, put down the electric bass for awhile to focus your energy on the double bass. I've gone through times where I spend a little bit of time here and there to practice the electric or when I ignore it for several weeks because I'm focusing my energy on the double bass. Good luck man!
  3. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    Just wait until you get to the bow!

    Seriously, I agree with you, the double bass is a tough instrument. Tough physically, tough intonationally, tough rhythmically, tough melodically, tough mechanically, tough luggably!
    Many folks think it takes about 10 years of dedicated (3 hours a day) practice to master. I've been at it about 6 or 7 years and plan to keep going because it just gets MORE rewarding to me as I improve.
    Add jazz as your genre and forgetaboutit!
  4. Yes, it is very difficult. I played 2nd chair in high school, concentrated on BG exclusively after graduation, picked upright back up after 25 years, and after playing DB again for almost eight years, I still feel like a beginner.
  5. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    +1, it's really challenging. after 3 years of continual lessons my intonation is still half of where it should be. There are brief transcendent moments of near perfect rhythm, pitch and feel, that's what leads me on
  6. oren

    oren Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    +1 on all the above.

    I started the same journey about 10 years ago, and still feel like at best an intermediate on the upright.

    My first teacher (Doug Miller in Seattle) said at my very first lesson: "This is a big instrument and it will hurt you if you don't play it right. Luckily, there's a couple of hundred years of tradition on how to do it right."

    And +1 on learning to bow. I've been working hard at that for about a year now and find it really, really hard (and frustrating). Luckily I have a great, patient teacher (Marlene Rosenberg in Chicago).

    Keep at it - it's worth it!
  7. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    It's the toughest instrument i've attempted to play, having played baritone horn, bass guitar, and electric guitar previously. But hey, that makes it more rewarding in my opinion.

    Here's a question, which instruments are MORE difficult than the upright bass? Not an easy question to answer, and i am having trouble coming up with any.
  8. I don't think there are any.
  9. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thanks for the encouragement everyone. I think part of the challenge is that I'm very focused on using the bow ("the bow doesn't lie") which I know is a good thing. But there's a lot of extra noise. It's funny though how your ear evolves and the fender just starts to sound artificial and thuddy and you start to crave the sound of the upright. And hey, if I want an easy instrument to play, I can always play guitar. There is just no substitute for the sound of the upright bass and it comes with a steep learning curve. But we get to belong to an elite club.
  10. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    One other thing which I mentioned before is this app called iReal Pro. I'm sure there are other apps that do the same thing. But it's super helpful to be able to take a tune like Body & Soul and play in any key, any tempo. The Aebersold recordings are great but this is a whole other thing. My piano player turned me into it and it's helped me get to a place of playing much faster. I recommend it highly to beginners.
  11. How about church organ? Play basslines with feet, while cranking out melodies and chords on two stacked keyboards, changing registers... And deliver all that in a way that folks can sing to it. That seems pretty hard to me.

    I am reluctant of saying the Doublebass is supermonsterdifficult, because this statement is self-fulfilling. I mean, tell yourself it's hard and it's going to be hard. It may be physically demanding. But difficulties should be tackled with a good teacher and any good teacher can use his own bits of the centuries of tradition to make it actually kind of easy.

    I know we all like to be hugged from time to time by someone whispering into our ears "Yeah, right, that's a tough one." But I feel that most of the time, the one who hugs can help more by encouraging then by affirming the difficulties.

  12. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    Not sure, but I can think of two possibilities: trombone - a fretless trumpet, so to speak, and singing. There's nothing to support you when you're singing, no fretboard to glance at, no black keys, no valves, just you.
  13. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Violin is a lot harder than DB - the notes are much closer together and come by at a faster pace!;)

    And pedal steel is killer, too, what with the seven (7) foot pedals and four (4) knee levers to change tuning on the fly plus the volume pedal that you use to mute every pick attack...

    And did I mention the two necks with different tunings? ;)
  14. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I agree it's sometimes hard to toot our own horns without feeling bad about it :) Obviously there is no right answer, because sometimes its about HOW you play an instrument that makes it difficult. For example, playing some virtuistic piano concertos seems pretty freaking difficult, but just playing a few notes on a piano is the easiest thing to do in the world.
  15. Someone looked at me as if I had lost my mind when I made the same statement about trombone, then they thought about it and it startedmaking sense to them. I have also heard singers change key without meaning to for every verse of the song they were singing unaccompanied.
  16. hepcatbassist


    May 8, 2013
    I'll just say this as a fellow beginner... Yes, DB sucks to learn, yes it's hard, yes it's demanding...but honestly, is there any more beautiful instrument in the world you could play? I think it's worth the struggle. It's worth it to me when every day I feel like my bass and I are getting more and more connected. It's a privilege to play DB, and kudos for all of us for taking on this challenge :)
  17. pbass888

    pbass888 Supporting Member

    Jul 8, 2009
    New York, NY
    I can recommend a great teacher, Joe Solomon. His lessons make it just a bit clearer and are very inspirational for a new upright player like myself. He works you hard and is steeped in the tradition... Couldn't ask for more. Pm me if you need contact info. Though I still gig with the fender he has moved me away from wiggling my fingers a lot and on the path to my goals.
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    A hearty second recommendation for Joe Solomon, he's the one that got me making some kind of sense when I play, as opposed to speaking gibberish.

    On that note, I'd recommend a couple of things. Sure, Band In a Box and other programs that play back whatever tune you program into them seem like a good idea as a way to "learn tunes" when you're starting out. But I'd spend more time working on songs with just the metronome (and in a method that I got from Joe, who got it from HIS teachers, Lennie Tristano and Sal Mosca, and that I outline in this thread); when you are playing and have accompaniment that keeps chugging along no matter what you play, you have relinquished a lot of responsibility. Playing with just a bare bones metronome keeping time, it immediately is apparent that your line, either accompanying or solo, is solid in the time stream or not, is communicating the harmonic structure or not, has melodic meaning and intent or not. And the better you know the composition , the more your ear is going to insist on making note choices that are compelling, that move the music forward in a meaningful way. Because there is nothing else doing that but YOU.

    Sure violin is hard cause it's a little old thing and trombone is hard because there's a learning curve for intonation. But I would say that the only instrument that has an analogous physicality, that is something you have to practice every single day in order to maintain the physical ability to move forward, is the trumpet.
  19. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    It isn't hard with the right Teacher.
  20. Mesa


    Mar 20, 2008
    Holly Springs NC
    Not that I yet play the upright worth a damn, but I would say with certainty that learning the upright has been far more difficult than the trombone. I will also say, however, that developing an ear for intonation while learning the trombone has helped quite a bit with the bass.