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Switching from bass guitar to double bass, advice?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by amacintosh, Nov 19, 2006.

  1. I've been playing bass for just over a year now, and am thinking of switching over. How hard is it to get used the the scale difference? The finger technique switching? Is the bow holding the same as violin (I played for a few years)? and anything else you can tell me.
    thanks a lot
    sorry if this is a repeated topic, I didn't have time to look through old threads.
  2. Tritonis


    Jul 20, 2006
    There's a big difference, and you're going to have to really dedicate yourself to learn all the technique involved. But once you begin to be able to play, your electric bass technique is going to skyrocket.
  3. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
    If you're sticking to the same genre of music, then the bass line you play may be pretty similar to what you would play with the BG, but that's about it. The technique is totally different. I did the same 10 months ago. Get a good teacher, get a good double bass, and work hard. If you have a great ear for pitch it will be easier, if not you will have to work hard(er) to get your intonation down. But double bass is a fabulous instrument and, in the opinion of many here on this forum, well worth the significant effort required to learn it well.

    You will see in one of the threads under "Bass Humor" - the TBDB FAQ. Everyone always says get a teacher. Haha, it's a big joke. But there is a reason everyone always says it.


    ps. I grew up in Canada, but have since kicked the habit. In fact, just got back from a 3 hour sailboat race in 80 degree weather. I shudder to think of the weather in my hometown - Ottawa - at this time of year.
  4. Thanks for the advice, I'll have to find myself a teacher, I've been learning bass guitar myself.

    to Jim:
    I'm only 16, so 80 degrees means absolutely nothing to me, I'm in the metric generation. But having converted it to Celsius (27 for those of you similarly Fahrenheitily challenged like I, I understand now...it was 4 here today (39 for you Fahrenheit people).
  5. Ludwig


    Aug 17, 2006
    There are two bow types, german and french. French is similiar to the violin bow grip, but still there are some differences in holding and moving the bow. The german bow hold is totally different. In using the left hand, usually you have just two half steps between index finger and middle finger, middle finger and pinky (Simandl technique). There are people using all four fingers of the left hand, similiar to bass guitar. Because of the greater distance between two notes, a pivoting motion of the left hand around the thumb is needed in this case. In my opinion that makes good intonation much more difficult. Having started with Simandl, I get much better intonation using 3 fingers and shifting instead of using 4 fingers and pivoting.
    You can try to teach yourself, but I recommend getting a teacher, too (at least for some months at the start). There are risks to injure yourself using a wrong self tought technique with the forces required to play the double bass. In most cases, the way you learn to play (sitting/standing, 3fingers/4fingers, german/french bow) will match the way your teacher is playing (people tend to teach what they know and use themself). Keep that in mind when selecting a teacher, if several are available and you have a preference how you want to be playing.
    If you don't have/find a teacher, please at least get some first personal advice and demonstration from an other player. Not everything can be learned and understood from books.
  6. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    Andrew Miller plays in Symphony New Brunswick. You could contact him through their website. He'll get you off to a good start.
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Yes, you're probably sick of hearing it, but I want to add my voice to the "Get a teacher" crowd.
  8. I have had mixed results so far, probably because I am so much of a spaz to begin with. The pluses for me have been that DB is giving me a better handle on scales and voicings that utilize open strings, something that a lot of BG players and guitar players tend to avoid. Also DB has helped my ears because tone and intonation are so much more variable on the DB that I have to pay more attention.

    Now for the minuses. Firstly, I now sometimes get confused in the lower register on BG. My head isn't totally wrapped around switching between 1,2,4 and 1,2,3,4 fingerings to the point where it is automatic. The second problem for me is that a combination of chronic joint and tendon problems (I have trouble with both hands and feet among other places) along with some probably common but unfortunate DB beginners techique issues have injured me to the point where I have had to stop playing both BG and DB completely for about 6 weeks so far. I do not anticipate being able to play agian for quite a while more. After doing some reading and talking with people I have learned that it is fairly common for folks who are moving from BG to DB to injure themselves. IMO it is really important to go very slowly at first, get the help of a teacher to correct any developing technique problems and limit your DB time at first even if things feel OK. A few days or a few weeks later things may not feel OK and at that point it may be too late. The injury may already have progressed to the point of being a major problem. Playing DB can be intoxicating, especially at first and it is best to not get carried away. I am learning that the hard way.

    Just my 2 cents,
  9. B.C.


    Jun 28, 2005
    I did the same about a year ago. Get a good teacher and you will adjust fine. Switching back to BG is a bit of a change, but my BG technique has gotten better. They are two completly different instraments though, but you can do it.
  10. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    1) Do it! It's fun!
    2) A teacher will be invaluable.
    3) Get the simandl method book. Read, learn.
    4) A lot of folks will scoff at this...When I brought my first DB home, first thing I did was get out the tuner, and some whiteout, and put little bitty dots on the side of the fingerboard at 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, etc. 4 years later, they're still there, I refer to them only intermittently, but they were of great help at first, to me, YMMV, ect. Wish I'd started at your age.
    5) get a teacher;)
    6) Whatever bass you get, make sure someone qualified puts a really good setup on it, strings, bridge, soundpost, etc. This can turn "nearly unplayable junk" into Pretty playable and acceptable."
    7) Spend as much as you can, and get "a real bass," not some cheap ebay chinese junk. You'll hate it, sell it for nothing, and maybe give up before you've had a chance to play something that would give you "the rest of your life in enjoyment." Don't expect to get anything worth having for much less than $2,ooo...
  11. I was wondering to myself how to make marks on the fingerboard without looking stupid. When I was learning violin (way back in 2nd grade) my teacher had us put dot stickers on the front of the fingerboard at the marks. How easy would it be to take off the white out without damaging the bass if I were to rent a bass from someone?
  12. get a teacher and a much larger car.....it's going to take way more room hauling it to gigs
  13. Well, when I get a car, I'll make sure it's large enough for a DB, I don't even have my license yet, I spend spare time playing bass, not learning to drive.
  14. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004

    Use dot stickers that can be peeled off, not "white out". Use a hole puncher on self sticking label paper and you have peelable dots. Better yet, use your ear and forget the visual cues.
  15. fish slapper

    fish slapper

    Nov 17, 2005
    Newberg, OR
    ...and man, am I weak. :crying: I found some stick on dots at an office supply store (I imagine they're intended to color code items on a chart or something infinately more useful than DB cheater dots). You get a whole roll of them which makes it easy to take them off and "test myself". But I still like having them especially in a jam or band situation where I have problems hearing myself. :ninja:

    BTW, to the original poster, I'd almost recommend getting in touch with a teacher and getting their take on things before I buy the bass (definately before the bow as someone pointed out, french or german will depend on your teacher's preference).
  16. If you have been playing bass guitar for only a year and are self taught, you are really doing yourself a favor to start double bass now. Get a Dbass and a teacher at the same time. In the end it will greatly improve your bass guitar technique as well and give you a good grounding in understanding the music you are playing. The bow thing is really not optional. To develope the best left hand technique, you need a bow in the right hand, if your right-handed. It will sound terrible at first, but eventually it will be the best sound you've ever heard.
  17. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    Yes, there are different schools of thought on this. I'll tell you the one to which I ascribe. Forget the dots! You shouldn't be looking at the fingerboard or your hands. Ultimately, your intonation stems from your ear and the tactile landmarks (the feel). I know there are even some pros who mark particularly special locations up high on the fingerboard. That's a different animal entirely. In the end, you should find a really good teacher and abide by the method he/she recommends.
  18. Toy Sun

    Toy Sun

    Nov 21, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    Discounted Gear: Eden Amps
    Go slow, realize that you need to be careful to build up strength and flexibility... no way can you practice long hours for a while. Don't overdo, 'cause you could injure your hands.

    I'm surprised no one else said this....


  19. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    I've been playing the DB for about 2 weeks now, the e-bass for a few years so take this opinion FWIW.

    I tried no dots for a week or so and struggled. I've had dots on the 2nd, 4th and 5th "fret" and now it's coming. The dots help me see where my hand is supposed to be, and how far apart my fingers are supposed to be stretched. Now that I'm feeling a little more comfortable, it's probably time to remove the dots.

    Also, I think the DB uses different hand / finger muscles than the e-bass. I have no doubt that as the hand builds strength the DB technique will come along.
  20. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Obviously, my DB doesn't have frets on it, otherwise I wouldn't be putting dots on the fingerboard, would I?

    I won't be needing a bow anytime soon.

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