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Switch from bass guitar

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by vlado, Apr 6, 2006.

  1. vlado


    Mar 14, 2006
    Buje, Croatia
    What are some basic things to learn about the switch from bass guitar to double bass?
    I´ve been playing bass guitar for more then 15 years now, the last six or seven it was fretless most of the time. I always wanted to get my hands on a double bass and few months ago I got it. It was in very bad condition and a lot of work was needed to set it up, but now it´s almost finished.
    Now I don´t know where to begin. However similar it seems, there´s still a lot of differences between those two instruments and the way they´re played. One thing is the fret board: my fretless bass is fully marked, when I started using it that was a great help and I really like it that way. Now the double bass comes and with it a question: should I put some marks on the fret board or leave it the way it is. Marks would sure help me to find my way on the beginning, but...?
    Also a completely new issue of using a bow...
    I guess some of you have been through something similar and found the answers to those questions. So, if you can offer some advice or maybe name a book that could help solving my problems, please do.
    Thanks a lot in advance!
  2. Kam


    Feb 12, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    Find a good teacher.

    I switched over "on my own" in high school because the jazz band director wanted string bass on swing tunes. The bad habits I picked up doing that...man. If I could do it all over again I would definetely have found a good teacher, and completely respected the string bass as an entirely different instrument and approached it completely fresh, from a technical standpoint.
  3. +1 on what Kam said. And, yes you should put some tape on your FINGER BOARD (not fret board on double bass). I know alot of pretty successfully bassist who switched from bass guitar. Good luck.

    EDIT: I recomend a German bow. I use french but alot of people who swhich from a bass guitar that I know prefer german. I wanted German when I first took up bass when I was little. I never used a german but at first the french really hurts your hand when learning the propper grip.
  4. Sippy


    Aug 1, 2005
    Yea find a good teacher.. I did and it helps. Also It's weird.. the double bass is different than the bass guitar. Yet knowing the bass guitar helps tremendously. I've had two lessons and already know all the positions on the fingerboard (playing fretless bass guitar helped a lot too) it trains your ears. I'm playing some Monk tunes and Miles tunes. After having my bass for a week! Unfortunately the only thing that doesn't come quickly is my hand strength. So I can only play for about 15 straight minutes and then I need to stop.
    Please don't underestimate the power of a good teacher. I'd never have anybody tackle the bass guitar without an instructor, and the double bass is so much easier to develop bad habits with! Good Luck! The Bass is a lot of fun!
  5. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Well, the fingerboard tape issue has come up here before, and I'm not an advocate of that at all. I guess it works for some people. If I spent any time at all looking at tape on my bass, I'd have to spend any income earned on a chiropractor. Plus, it seems to me that you need to link up your hands and your muscle memory to your ears, which will tell you where your fingers need to be.

  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I'm going through the same transition - BG for many decades - picked up my first real DB last year and the more I play, the more I'm getting into hearing things like scales, rather than just fingering patterns, as I did on BG.

    So I have a book by an English Classical player on approaching scales on DB and he talks about how - OK Octaves, fifths and fourths are fixed - but other intervals depend on the context - so any markings are going to be slightly wrong ....?

    Initially I found the idea of no markings - to be very daunting - but now I think it is all part of the total experience and am enjoying how it has made me change my thinking about playing and music in general! :)
  7. Robert


    Nov 14, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    For me, a small piece of tape at 3:rd, 5:th, 7:th and 12:th "fret" was very useful the first months when switching from bass guitar. It is VERY frustrating if you just can't find your way around the fingerboard, the tape helps when lost and makes it easier to remember the positions in "muscle memory".

    Today the tape is completely removed, I still can't play in tune, but at least I'm not using my eyes trying to. ;)
  8. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    It works the other way, too. Although I started plaing BG long before picking up a DB, my DB playing has radically changed my BG playing. First, I now tend to play BG with a more Simandl-like fingering- 1,2,4- particularly on fretless, which I now prefer over fretted. And I don't squeeze the neck between my thumb and fingers anymore- I was showing a friend how you could play BG without using your thumb at all, and he thought that was kind of neat ;-)
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    But it's easy to find most of these positions through harmonics or just by the physical nature of the bass.

    So - where the fingerboard meets the end of the body is 7th "fret" as you call it and I can check against the open D or the harmonic.

    In position - finding the 7th easily as above more or less gives you the 5th as well - which you can also check against the string above - say G on the D string against open G - or against the harmonic.

    If I reach from behind the body , then my 2nd finger naturally finds the 12th "fret" and I can always check this with the harmonic .

    So - there might be a case for the 3rd "fret" - but the rest seem totally unnecessary to me...?
  10. Anon2962


    Aug 4, 2004

    whoa...get yourself a good teacher and there's no reason that the french bow grip should hurt!
  11. Robert


    Nov 14, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    You are absolutely right. But it is very frustrating feeling totally lost when being new to an instrument. I think the tape can help in this way, minimizing frustration and help to visualize the fingerboard. It is also quite difficult to check harmonics and open strings during a tune (at least unnoticed). :)
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well - of course during a tune you relate to the physical references - although there can be frequent occasions to use open strings to check intonation.

    But I was mentioing harmonics as a way to check you have the right place when practicing and then these positions get burned into your mind..

    I just think that these particular positions are unnecessary - now if you had said : "a tone below the octave" - I could understand that!

    But what you call "7th Fret" is so easy to find anyway, by landmarks in the physical nature of the bass, that I can't see the point of having a marker there...? :confused:
  13. When I first started I didn't have a teacher in 5th grade. So it was just quite hard for me to get used to the french grip. Personaly I think french is the best type of bow. But, when I first started the strings teacher told me there were 2 grips. I tried the german grip on french one day and she got mad because I didn't have a german bow. Never got one. It's french all the way baby.
  14. Nadav


    Nov 13, 2004
    Atlanta, GA
    I recently rented a DB and I'm now making the switch. For the first few couple of weeks I tried making it on my own without a teacher, basing my technique on what I saw when watching other DB players. I also put tape markings on my fingerboard to help my intonation.
    When I found my teacher he immediately made me take the markings off, corrected my physical hold on the bass and taught me what DB right hand technique should look like (I was basically playing it like a vertical electric...) I can also see my electric playing improving.

    I'm only having my third lesson next week, but after three weeks of shifting exercises and proper technique, my intonation has already improved tremendously (better than it was when my fingerboard was marked), my ear is getting better, and like Bruce said, I am starting to actually hear and understand what I am doing rather than relying on patterns.

    My biggest problem with having the fingerboard marked (other than hindering my ear) was that looking at the fingerboard caused me to move the bass away from my body where it should be, so pay attention to your position if you do decide to mark your bass.
  15. Bellbass

    Bellbass Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2004
    Montreal, Canada
    Welcome Vlado! I did the same a month ago and bought a DB after 25 years of BG. I decided to go the classical way (although - or because - I was self-taught on BG) and could not be happier. The work with the bow is so helpfull with left hand strenght and intonation and it opens up a whole universe I did not think was available to me (I should be ready to join an orchestra this fall!!). I plan starting jazz lessons in a few months once the basics are well integrated. So my advice - taken from a bunch of guys here - would be get a well trained classical teacher and work hard on the bow! (By the way, I use the french bow and the suffering is now in it's declining state). As far as markers on the neck, well, I take things slowly with each position and am concentrating in getting the intonation right before moving up the neck. I feel no need then to put tape on my DB.

    Welcome to the Dark Side!!
  16. vlado


    Mar 14, 2006
    Buje, Croatia
    Thanks a lot, guys! I will do my best to find someone who can teach me. It could take some time, though, ´cause I´m not really sure if anyone is doing that in my area. Can you recommend me some book?
  17. Bellbass

    Bellbass Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2004
    Montreal, Canada
    I'm working with "Nouvelle technique de la contrebasse" (New technique for the Double Bass???) by one of the great master: François Rabbath. Although the title is in french, all the commentaries are also in english and german. There are numerous threads on methods that could help you on this site. Did you read the newbie threads? They're very helpfull for beginners like us.

    I did not notice you were from Croatia. We spent our honeymoon last year in your wonderfull country (mainly on the dalmatian coast). Two weeks of pure paradise! We were totally under the charm of its natural beauty and its rich historical and cultural heritage. A true gem!
  18. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I agree that the Simandl 1-2-4 fingering is one of the major things that I've incorporated into my electic playing since I began playing double bass. I tend to use my 3rd finger mainly in the upper positions like you would on DB.

    Also, DB playing, especially arco, forces you to keep your left hand pressing the strings firmly to the fingerboard. I find that this habit improves tone production on the electric,too.

    On the other side, I find I have to ease up on my right hand pizz when going back to electric. After playing upright pizzicato, I find that I pluck too hard and can get string buzzing and a "crapping out" tone on electric.

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