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Studying db in middle-age

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by MartinT, Feb 25, 2004.

  1. MartinT


    Apr 16, 2003
    San Mateo CA
    Folks, I don't know if this has been discussed previously, but I'd like to sollicit your opinions and advice about studying db in mid-life. I'm 50, and recently started taking lessons, learning how to bow etc.

    I used to play db (self-tought, jazz and classical), when I was much younger, stopped playing altogether for 20 years (work, family, all those fake excuses.... :rolleyes: ). A year or so ago I bought a EUB and joined a local jazz band to play for fun. A few month ago I got a real bass, and found a good teacher :D .

    I seem to be making progress in developing decent bowed sound, but it is slow going. I realize that it's probably par for the course, but I wonder how others feel about the ability to learn new physical and musical concepts when you're no longer quite in your prime. I'm enjoying myself tremendously, and I'm at peace accepting that wherever I'll end up in terms of skills and musicianship, it'll be the best I can do.

    Oh, and I enrolled in a Feldenkrais class at my teacher's recommendation. Wish I had known about that earlier!

  2. Welcome to TBDB Martin! It's refreshing for me to welcome someone who's a little closer to my age (62). Many of our newer posters are about the age of my grandchildren.
    I think it's great that you've decided to get back with it! As you, of all people know, age means absolutely zip when it comes to study. All you need is your bass and a load of passion! What kind of bass are you playing?
    I'm afraid i've never heard of Feldenkrais. Would like to hear about it. If it's good enough for YoYo Ma, it's good enough for me!
  3. Lets see......I started playing again five years ago after a thirtytwo year layoff.........It took two years to get back to where I was then. I took lessons from a great teacher for two years. I quit only because I wasn't able to practice enough to justify the cost. Three years have been spent trying to improve through very active participation on various groups. Improved?.......some but not enough.

    The section that I play with now includes a retired neurosurgeon, another medial professional, an HR professional that travels five days a week and our fearless leader that played for his bread and butter. If I can find the time to practice, I may catch up to the neurosurgeon.

    You are never to old to start or restart. It is for the challange and to be able to contribute to others enjoyment of the music that is really important.

    And, oh Yes...I turned 55 last year and the neurosurgeon that I'm attempting to keep up with is 63 and having cataract surgery next week. Also, I have been told that we are one of the best community orchestras in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
  4. At 41 I am not quite as long in the tooth as some folks but I didn't take up the bass until the age of 39. It is easy to notice the physical disadvantages of being a "mature" student but I also see some advantages--mainly mental things like a little more patience and possessing the knowledge that one does possess all knowledge.
  5. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I think that one of the things which makes musical education most valuable for kids is that, if they are even the tiniest bit sensitive to the point, they experience learning as a process. They ARE able to pull things off in June which they could not do in September. That notion (if recalled) can help later when they're frustrated with biology or whatever.

    Lucky Martin gets the flip side of the same coin. You will have the rare chance to experience the joy of beginning, and you're in a state of mind to appreciate it, too.

    Go get 'em, and c'mon back!
  6. I'm 53, and have been studying for two and a half years, and I'm playing in our community college orchestra.

    I've got a great teacher, who is somewhat of a perfectionist. I told him when we started not to teach me like the 51 year old man with no prospects for a musical career (that I was), but to teach me as if I was a young and eager kid, with his whole life and potential career ahead of him. He complied, and I have never regreted this approach.

    While I will never have my young daughter's ability to quickly absorb information and act upon it unselfconciously. I think we older folk, do have drive, self-discipline, and the ability to analyze and focus that many younger players won't have developed yet.

    The two big draw backs that I have seen are that when physical injuries occur (overuse injury) rebounding is slower, and in performance, I am too uptight - too much emotional and intellectual baggage.
  7. MartinT


    Apr 16, 2003
    San Mateo CA
    Thanks for your encouraging responses! It's good to hear from fellow midlife bassists (i.e. all of us in the 40-80 age range :smug: ). I hang on to my Dad's example, who played viola until he passed on last year, played in orchestras and string quartets all his life and wasn't afraid to join my (then) jazz band for an occasional cameo, all with a day time job and raising the family.

    To reply to Paul's question re: bass, I ended up getting a Chinese carved bass (it's not labeled, but the luthier said it is a Violmaster bass). I had spent quite some time checking out instruments, both new and old European, Christophers, Eastmans etc. and this one spoke to me, both in sound and how it is built. The top plate is very nicely grained spruce, back is nicely bookmatched maple. I'm learning how temperamental a good bass can be, it plays and sounds differently almost every day, quite a change from the plywood instrument I played in the 70's. It came with Spirocores, which I've exchanged for Helicore Orchestras for now to give myself a bit of a break while learning to bow. I'm very happy with the bass, and even my teacher (plays in SF Symphony) was impressed by it.

    Feldenkrais is akin to Alexander technique, in that the objectives are similar, but the methodologies are quite different. In a Feldenkrais class, the teacher directs student verbally through a series of (mostly small) body movements with the overall intent to learn how to generate movements with the least effort by using the appropriate muscle groups (usually different from what you've been programmed to do during the years). My bass teacher indicated that it would help relieve tension in the right forarm and learn to bow using the thorax and back muscles more consistently. The nice thing about Feldenkrais is that it is tought in many community recreation centers, and the cost is relative low ($10-15 for a one hour session) since these are group classes rather than the individual sessions from an Alexander teacher. I trust it will help, I feel really good following a class. There's a ton of info and links on www.feldenkrais.com if you're interested.
  8. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    I'm enjoying the heck out of this thread. I'm 49- for a couple more weeks, at least- and in the last year started studying classical technique in fits and starts. I've played BG and other stringed instruments in various ensembles, and UB in a folk-rock group a few years ago, but my first exposure to playing music was as a percussionist (i.e., a drummer who can read) during my school years. I'm diving into the classical world in part to keep up with my little 10 year old nephew (he's already well into the second Vance volume) but also with the idea that maybe, just maybe, I could get good enough to play in a community orchestra one day.
  9. More of us here than you might think.

    50 here, playing again for around 4 years after a haitus of more than 20. Gigged pretty regularly in my early twenties, then dropped it cold, daunted by the economic realities and also afraid I didn't really possess the right disciplines at the time.

    This time around, I have far better disciplines and at the same time quite modest ambitions, and therefore far less pressure on myself. This makes playing almost always rewarding, almost never frustrating. I try for ensemble playing opportunities (jazz and classical) and gigs (sometimes one-offs, sometimes extended) whenever I can. But I generally limit myself to decent music, decent players, okay venues and good camaraderie, or some acceptable combination thereof. I practice seriously in stretches of 2-3 months, then break for a while. Occassional spurts of lessons, but as often, I act as my own teacher. (Don't jump on me here, I know and strongly agree with the view on having a proper teacher that prevails here at TBDB. My own approach just happens to be right for me at the moment.)

    I'm pretty sure I'm now a better bass player than when I was young, and certain I'm a better musician. Somehow that relaxed, at ease, mature sound and feel that I so admired in my idols as a youth just came to me, along with the years and graying hair, despite that I wasn't playing all those years in the interim. Funny, eh?

    I have spent a lot of time over the past year studying Alexander Technique (and have read Fieldenkrais and tried some on my own - they're related, but different) and have found this to be a real help in bass playing, and also pretty darned interesting and rewarding in and of itself.

    Curious to hear how some of the other confessed "born again" bassists here got back into it. In my case, having scarcely thought about the bass for many years, inexplicably I began having recurrent bass dreams. Kept waking up with with a head full of muddled dreamy images involving spruce wood and ebony, and heavy, tensioned strings under my fingers, the buzz and spring of a nice bow, and the vibrations of a bass's sound. Sort of vaguely lustful, certainly quite sensual. This kept up for two or three months and I gradually realized my subconscious was trying to tell me something, so I got a bass. (Then another and then another, and so on...)

    ain't life and the double bass grand?
  10. BTW, around 2+ years ago I recall seeing in the ISB newsletter a small classified ad, seeking people to be interviewed for a study on "midlife" bass students. Thought about responding at the time but never got around to it. Now I'm unable to locate the ad.

    Anyone here know about this, or notice it at the time, or able to find it? Seems that just on this thread we've several people who might be interested in participating if the study is still ongoing, or reading the resulting paper if there was one.
  11. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I'm 43: a pup, I know. EBG since 14, DB for about 5 years only, though. Lots of gigging experience locally and I've never stopped playing (although I can honestly say there was a long period there where I wasn't really paying attention too well.)

    I'm pretty much self-taught in music after starting with guitar lessons Lo, these many years ago. About 4 months ago, though, I finally got with the program and started studying DB with a local teacher. This development I credit to TalkBass, by the way...

    After being on my own all that time, I find one of the nice things about being with a teacher is I can relax and follow his agenda for now. Let someone else drive for awhile. I'm luckly enough to have pretty good time available for practice, and I've been hitting it hard this winter. It's been wonderful.

    I love learning, I have never stopped. The advantage of maturity is you likely have some self-knowledge about your motivation, your learning style, and your real musical abilities that the youngsters may not. You can use that knowledge, going about development very purposefully. You really enjoy the development results you're getting back.

    The bow is very cool -- I'm digging it intensely.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I am exactly the same - but I'm a bit younger and still don't have enough time for DB - I plan to take up DB seriously when I am over 50 and have earned enough money to enable me to take early retirement with decent pension and enough to pay a decent teacher!! ;)

    I think this kind of thing will be happening more and more, as we all live longer, have higher standards of education and expect more out of life.

    Also - less babies are being born due to womens' choices for careers and widepread infertility problems. Less and less youngsters are taking up Double Bass - so in a decade or so - well will be the only DB players around, apart from a few "oddities" !! ;)

    But the older generation will be more numerous and will want the sort of entertainment they like (real music)- I predict a big boom time on the horizon, for 50 year old musicians!! :D
  13. Yeah, I love this paragraph myrick. Some of the guys who have been doing TBDB for a while know my situation, but in case you don't. I'm a professional jazz bassist, having played all over the world with people like Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Cal Tjader ETC. My wife, Barbara, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few years ago and I became her caregiver. The demands of caring for her took me right out of my element and I had to give up playing for a while. After losing her in 2003, I'm finally making it back now...practicing three hours a day and buying and selling basses. Alot of this is thanks to this site. I'm also teaching for the first time in my life, which is definately thanks to TB. The need to verbalize my thoughts and ideas have taken me directly into my third career in bassdom...teaching!
    This turned out to be a hell of a good thread...Thanks, Martin!
  14. Sorry about your wife Paul. Great thread going here everyone. Interestingly enough Paul when I wrote my last remarks I was listening to a new(old) vinyl LP of Stan Getz, Billy Higgins, Vince Guaraldi Eddie Duran and Scott Lofaro. I have recently resurected my 70's quad system and album collection. Great memories and great music.

  15. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Pardon my snicker. I began earnest classical studies in my mid 50's. I was over 60 when I began my studies with Michael Moore. And at age 66 I began classes 5 days a week in a 3 year program to become certified as a teacher of the Alexander Technique. I feel as if my life has just begun.

    Feldenkrais is an intellectual giant. There is some overlap between his and Alexander's methods and analysis of the workings of the mind, but I am committed to AT. I do not believe Feldenkrais would have altered the very course of my life as has Alexander. Nevertheless, Feldenkrais offers great benefits.
  16. Tell us more about this record Mark. I'm not sure if I know it...if I don't know it, I WANT it. By the way...LaFaro
  17. Since you asked...
    I too played BG for about 5 years as a teenager. Typical Rock gigs, some radio commercials. I had music in junior high, and learned trumpet, but was self taught on BG.

    20 years later I had married into a musical family (jazz drummer and singers). Meet alot of jazz musicians, and my wife convinced me to give take up BG again. Got some lessons oriented to jazz, and a little theory. After a year, I whenever my wife or inlaws were asked up, to sing with a trio we knew, I used to sit in (but no improvising).

    I had really wanted to play upright, like most of the musicians we knew, but felt the cost was prohibitive. I also wondered if I had a good enough ear for "unfretted" musicianship.

    When my daughter was born all that went out the window.

    Then when she took up double bass in elementary school (because a friend of her did) and brought one home, I could'nt keep my hands off of it. Even though it was a half size, I just loved to sound, and the...what....coolness factor? romance? tradition? It didn't matter what I played, a simple blues line, really moved me.

    It got so bad that when we decided to sent my daughter for bass lessons, my wife found a husband and wife team. We've been going ever since.
  18. I think it is a recent Greman press of an early sixties recording that was remastered in 1987 by Phil De Lancie (Fantasy Studios, Berkeley). The list includes: Side 0ne - Ginza Samba, I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face. For All We Know; Side Two - Crows Nest, Liz-Anne, Big Bear and My Buddy.

    The reverse side commentary (1963) by Grover Sales, Jr. gives a lot of print talking about a up and coming new bass player by the name of Scotty LaFaro.

    Look for it at your local record store.
  19. Thanks!

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