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Studying on an EUB?

Discussion in 'Electric Upright Basses (EUB's) [DB]' started by Guimdonatron, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. I've been searching around and I keep getting a lot of different opinions on playing an electric and acoustic upright.

    I am currently enrolled in school studying string bass, however I came into school with only a history in bass guitar. I play a fretless electric so I understand the whole intonation jump, etc. etc.

    I am not looking for an opinion on bass guitar and upright technique. I see them as two COMPLETELY different instruments with slight similarities. So I am studying upright with proper upright technique. I am also studying from Simandl's method at the moment through a DB professor.

    I have been playing on a crumby 1/2 size acoustic bass that I am renting from my school. I had to replace the strings as well as buy a pickup for the upright since in jazz band I have to amplify the bass. So I am not even going to be playing unmic'd at all. None of my gigs have been in such conditions. So utilizing an amp will always be the case, ergo not even a true acoustic sound.

    My main beef with the acoustic so far is its size. I cannot practice my acoustic rental at my apartment due to the loud sound it creates. I, instead, have to carry my double bass around school all day and it is a big strain in terms of comfort (especially the back), convenience, and just all around experience. Unlike every other grouping of instruments (i.e. woodwinds, brass, percussion), strings have no room designated to be stored. Therefore I cannot leave my bass anywhere and I have to continue this inconvenience of toting this massive bass around all day for 12 hours or more. So I have to always have my bass with me even to the bathroom or it could be stolen and I am stuck paying $3,000 on a bogus bass.

    I do not have the money to buy a high quality acoustic bass either so I am looking at spending about $700-1400 on an Electric Upright Bass IF you guys believe studying on an electric is okay. Do the chops transfer back and forth well between DB and EUB? Also is bowing similar, such as positions between neck and bridge (e.g. bowing at the bridge is played much slower for longer sustains, etc.)?

    All in all, I plan to own a true DB when I graduate and can afford it, however, for now is an EUB okay to study on or will it hinder my training?

    P.S. I do not intend to be an exclusive DB player. I have no intention of abandoning my playing as an electric bassist. I primarily play jazz/funk/r&b/latin/eastern/dub/fusion and I do not intend on being an orchestral player. Bowing is primarily being utilized for intonation purposes and for experimental playing, e.g. Dan Berglund of E.S.T. or Chris Wood of MMW.

    I know this is a long read, so I TRULY appreciate all of your time. Thank you very much and I look forward to any help!
  2. I found bowing to be more difficult on an EUB, because the mass is really centered compared to a acoustic double bass and could turn around the length axis much quicker.

    If you only study popular music on a double bass, it doesn't matter if you get a good EUB, but if you want to bow, also play classical orchestral and perhaps also classical solo stuff (which is the main topic in most classical education), then you need to get a real double bass.

    ALso a lot of people think an EUB is again a different kind of instrument like double bass fretless bass guitar. Keep in mind that you don't have the resonance from the body, even if you pick the signal up for an amp. Sometimes people use effects to make the sound more interesting, but it moves away from the double bass sound. Listen to Eberhard Weber (most albums of the Jan Garbarek group until 2006) and you know what I mean.

    To make a real double bass more silent there are several ways, that could be combined to do that. Use a damper on the bridge, cut foam in the form of the f-holes and close them with it (glue a larger sheet of foam on top so they cannot fall inside) and put some isolating material under the endpin (i.e. foam with a hard plate on top to distribute the force). It will not get as quiet as a solid body EUB, but much quieter than before.

    With a good 3/4 acoustic bass you might be able to play purely acoustic with a piano trio if they don't get too loud.
    Get a bass buggie or something similar to move the bass around. It helps with my heavy 4/4 5-string acoustic bass.
    Ask the school what to do with the bass and what about if it gets stolen when you need to go to the toilet. Make it their problem, not yours. You can suggest that you need to lock the bass anywhere in the school on a water or heat pipe (I know, not a good idea), if you cannot find a solution for you. So take a chain and a padlock with you to lock up the bass next time. Then you can show them you really mean what you say...
  3. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    It's not really the same thing (this from someone who plays both). If you are having to study Classical and bowing techniques this is especially true. I would go for an inexpensive ply bass (you can get those used in a lot of places in the US for what you have budgeted for your EUB) and get a decent pickup. Unless you are playing screaming loud Rock and Fusion the DB will do just fine with a decent pickup.
    +1 on getting a bass buggy or cart.
    BTW, what does your bass teacher say about all of this? Is he aware of the issues and can he be of help here?
    A 1/2 size is kind of odd unless you're a High School student, and even then unless you're really short I'd still use a 3/4 just for scale length.
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I own all 3 - BG, EUB and DB - I went through the same journey, the same arguments and in the end I just wish I had switched to acoustic DB earlier. I found that the EUB was actually more difficult for intonation than DB and while it was more portable it was no help in terms of being a practice tool, as it was so different to DB. With DB you can really get under the strings and you have the physical reference points of the body as well as feeling the sound. The EUB is my least favourite now and while it has its own unique sound that I find valid, nobody wants that sound unless you are somebody as famous as Eberhard Weber ! ;)
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I remember when I used to think that way.

    Part of what your teacher should be working on with you is sound production. Unlike (even fretless) bass guitar, when you amplify an upright, what you get is a louder version of the sound that you get from the instrument. So if you have a weak, unfocused, thin, non projecting sound acoustically when you plug into the amp you get a LOUDER weak, unfocused, thin, non projecting sound. So working on a getting a big, open, projecting sound all the while maintaining a relaxed and tension free approach can ONLY be worked on by playing an acoustic instrument.

    Likewise working with a bow. Again, I used to think that the only reason for a bassist who was going to play primarily pizz to use a bow was that it would help with more accurate intonation. And true enough, it does. But the first thing I found was that all of the work that I did to get a good, solid sound with the bow made the sound that I was hearing/going for pizz that much deeper and richer. The bow made me start hearing the sound of my instrument differently.
    And the second thing was something I got from Dennis Irwin by way of Neal Miner (and those are two names you should really check out); playing long tones arco does more than work on intonation, you really start exposing weaknesses in your physical approach especially in the left hand. And the stronger/more solid your left hand (and I mean fingerboard hand if you aren't right handed), the bigger and more projecting your sound.

    After all that, I might be one of the few people who would say that the ONLY reason to play double bass is because you really want to. It's not a moral issue, if it's just an instrument of commerce, then I'd suggest switching majors and becoming a doctor or lawyer. You make more money and you have to deal with fewer assholes (unless you're a proctologist).
  6. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    There are differing opinions on it, obviously.

    I say if you get an EUB that is set up like a double bass, and take double bass lessons it will be fine.
    You can get a better EUB for the money than a double bass. If you are logging time at school with a double bass and use that technique on your EUB it should be alright.
    I'd get one with some wood in it, and practice unamplified.
    Also, get a teacher who will let you take lessons on their bass.

    I let Reggie Workman borrow my bass this weekend, and I practiced on my EUB and it was fine.

    A $700-1500 EUB is always going to be useful for late night practice, travel and loud gigs. Once you get to a certain point you won't want to go near a double bass in that range.
  7. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    If you go this route, the Eminence is probably the best choice, although you'll have to look for a used one. It's as close in feel as any EUB I've checked out to a DB.
    Of course, as long as you avoid cheap Chinese BSO (Bass Shaped Objects) on Ebay a cheaper DB can usually be sold for about what you paid for it, IME. The DB market tends to be pretty stable, generally. You can upgrade and get your money back from the cheaper instrument (old Englehardts and certain Kays are OK in this regard-I just can't get my head around how expensive these '$300 wonders' have gotten of late!).
  8. One thing to look out in difference between EUB and AUB (DB) is the neck angle to the body. Many EUB's have neck angles that are close to the body, giving a stick like feeling, while on an AUB/DB the neck angle is greater. This can give a very different feeling playing the two in regards to posture. Looking at main artists who use the EUB in shows (ie. latin players), many hold it upright vertically and play in mostly one position in the middle of the neck. Playing jazz, or classical lines on something like that would be very different.

    A Yamaha Silent Bass might be the best option for that....even the Eminence seems a little flat. Try a few out...
  9. Well, I play on a 1/2 size acoustic bass because all of the other basses at my school have action through the roof. It's a major strain to even try and push the strings down, plus the sound is just awful.

    I may just consider getting my own acoustic bass and figuring something out in terms of where to store and practice. I have been talking with my jazz professor and he seems like he'll figure out somewhere for me to store my bass. As for my actual bass professor, he is not on campus and I literally only see him for 30 minutes a week for my lesson and we rarely discuss issues aside from technique.

    I'll try plugging the "f" holes and seeing what happens. I have a rubber mute that I try to use, but the low frequencies still project loudly throughout my apartment.

    Also, any starting places or solid threads to get information on buying a 3/4 acoustic bass? I don't want to waste money on a cheap bass, I would rather get the most bang for my buck, but where I live we have absolutely no shops for uprights. I'm not even sure where the closest shop is in terms of getting a double bass.

    Thanks for all of the help guys. I want to learn Classical for the sake of technique and melodic value, but at the same time I do not plan to play in an orchestra. So really the EUB isn't a lifetime choice, but rather a study instrument and that's what I was focusing on asking.

    Thanks again, mates.
  10. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    The first thing I would do is see if there's a string repairman or luthier who can help you with the action. It's totally unnecessary to keep the action that high anymore with decent strings. I don't know where you are located or your resources, but I would try to see if the school can pay for a decent setup. Even if you have to pay it out of pocket, it's worth having a playable instrument. Sorry to go on about this, but it's one of my pet peeves, having had to learn Simandl on a bass with bad strings and high action because I didn't know any better. Don't cripple you or your progress with a poorly set up DB.
  11. GrowlerBox


    Feb 10, 2010
    Nude Zealand
    This is a great place to start.

    It also helps others help you if you complete your profile, so at least we know where you are -- there are many luthiers and teachers who frequent these fora, some of whom may be closer than you think :bag:.
  12. For the foam plugging the f-holes have a look at basschat.co.uk, there was a guy describing and showing what he did. Since every basses f-holes are different you need to make them for every bass you want to use damped (hopefully ony one).
    If you get the low frequencies spread around, I'm sure they come out of the f-holes, but also via the endpin into the floor, so beyond the f-hole plugging make something to put between endpin and floor that absorbs these frequencies. I think they discussed this on basschat too. But you might be able to find this here too if you look around.
  13. Thanks for all of the help, mates. I have decided to purchase a BSX T4 Electric Upright from a local TB'er. I appreciate all of the help I have gotten from you cats, I truly do.

    In the end, the primary con that a lot of the "acoustic" players seem to raise about the EUB is that it offers the technique of a bass guitar. Since I am aware and do not intend to play the upright as I would my bass guitar, I feel that negates said con.

    I'll post results as the time comes. Thanks again for all of the help. I would just rather put my money towards a solid instrument to learn on, then going the "traditional" route and getting a barely acceptable instrument in terms of quality. Plus, I do not want to have to worry about setup/repair/etc. as I live in an incredibly humid climate with no local luthiers.
  14. GrowlerBox


    Feb 10, 2010
    Nude Zealand
    Thanks for the profile! I see you have an RH450 - great EUB/BG amp, IME, a bit less so for DB. FWIW, I got my NS CR4M before my DB, and I think it did me no harm. Same scale, similar fingerboard radius. The absence of DB landmarks possibly helped my intonation by forcing me to rely on my ear when I couldn't watch my hand; a stretch, perhaps, but it didn't hurt.

    Hope you enjoy your new baby!
  15. If you think an EUB could be played with the technique of a bass guitar, you are wrong. If you do this it sounds more like a bass guitar than a double bass and very weak.
    The absence of double bass landmarks (neck end on the fifth) doesn't help, it is important to have it. You will need to have any tactile help you can get (not dots on the neck, you won't see them).
    Also learn to set the amp differently for an EUB (to get a sound more similar to a double bass) than for a bass guitar. Less bass and perhaps more (lower) mids.

    Do what you think you need to do.
    I dislike tripod stand EUBs because they are more or less fixed and you cannot move. Also for getting into thumb position, a fixed bass position is bad.
    Endpin EUBs turn much easier around their length axis than a double bass because of the mass distribution, but for plucking they are better, I think.

    At least get a bass with a standard string scale length and the same neck end position than your bass at school. Otherwise you will always get problems switching between the instruments.
    (I mean even more problems than you will get with a good matching EUB.)
  16. artfahie


    Dec 14, 2007
    Bar Mills, Maine
    Since playing EUB (I have a "Messenger) while my EUB playing has greatly improved my slab playing has gone to hell... the funny thing is I now consider the slab playing almost trivial and don't really care that it has !
  17. I play upright, electric upright, and electric bass. I have an NXT electric upright, and, if this had been my starting point for playing bass, it would have been really difficult. Outside of a raised marker I put on the back of the neck, there is no good reference for the octave, or anything. Also, bowing is just OK, but do-able. It is just more difficult to get started on an electric upright. Its more or less a different technique. You just do no dig in the same way on EUB. It also has more limited uses. Where, exactly does electric upright fit in in a school setting? Not in orchestra, maybe jazz band. But, you are really missing out by not playing an upright. If you ignore upright, you might miss on on playing oppportunities in school down the line. I say find a way to go with upright. Believe me, people are much much happier when I bring the upright, vs. the EUB to a gig.

    You say your bass is crummy. There are many decent uprights in the 2K and under range. I rented a Christopher bass for a jazz camp. A $1700 bass. It sounded great and was also lightweight. Yes, the weights of uprights vary too. A lot of guys here like the Shen. Go to this site just to check out the inexpensive basses. www.gotofmi.com And, the prices here include a great setup.

    These is no reason you cannot, get a nice, low, playable set up on an inexpensive bass, either, for well under 2K or less. It is hurting you playing a bass that you consider crummy, robably railroading developing your best technique, is probably the wrong size for you, and is not set up correctly. My two nicely set up basses are super easy to play and sound great! Believe me, it is essential to great proper technique on the correctly set up and sized bass from the get go. My first bass was a horrible rental that was hurting me to play. I bought my own.

    Is there no where to practice at school? And, at least for now, get a wheel and make it easier on yourself. Nothing wrong with wheel. I know most guys want to carry their bass, but in your situation, not advised for now. Besides, people are intrigued with basses on wheels rolling around campus anyway.
  18. Thanks for the suggestion Growler! I completely forgot my profile had not even been set up. I think it will be fine. Plus I am now going to be learning on a 3/4 scale neck rather than a 1/2 size neck.

    DoubleMIDI, I was referencing the possibility of using "bass guitar" technique on the EUB to intentionally get that fretless tone. However, I was not suggesting that I would be PRIMARILY using said technique, merely I just like the idea of utilizing as many possibilities as I can get. In addition, the EUB I am getting has an endpin. I did not at all like the idea of a tripod stand. The endpin was an absolute must since I often shift my bass based on context of bowing and plucking.

    Artfahie, pardon the ignorance, but what are you referring to when you say "slab playing?"

    Bass81800, thanks for the info. Much appreciated. I'm not really worried about gigging around town at the moment while I am in school. Most of the gigs I get called for tend to be on the "weirder" side or funkier music and in this area no one will really care about the visual difference of an acoustic or electric. This town has no jazz scene really nor anything outside of hard rock and scene metal.

    I also do not have any local luthiers within a range of three hour driving distance and since I am in school I don't have time to drive far out to drop off my bass and then pick it up. My area is also incredibly humid (incredibly...) and I barely allow myself to take my electric bass outside let alone a double bass! Haha.
  19. If your area is so much humid, you should stay away from hollow body EUBs and carved uprights. A plywood double bass would be good or a solid body EUB.

    BTW, slab is a colloquial name for the bass guitar (usually for a solid body electromagnetical one).

    My first upright bass was an old plywood instrument. Very stable. I would still have used it open air, if it wouldn't have been stolen years ago. Generally plywoods are good for amplifying (less feedback).
  20. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    There are 7 professional symphony orchestras in Louisiana, I would be surprised in the extreme if those bassists were not using carved basses.