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transition from upright to bass guitar

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by johnhoef, Sep 13, 2014.

  1. Hi, gang,
    I have played both acoustic double bass as well as electric upright for so many years. Now I'm thinking about adding a third bass, being a bass guitar just for more flexibility depending on the gig. Being used to no frets, I wonder if it's smartest to go with a fretless bass guitar? Or is the standard fretted bass guitar a better bet for this transition? I would think some of you have done this same thing....what's been your experience?
  2. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Even though I've played the fretless bass guitar a fair bit over the years I've always found the transition from the double bass extremely difficult intonation-wise. You just don't have the physical landmarks and postural/visual perspective that you get used to on the big bass. As I said in another thread a few minutes ago as counter-intuitive as it seems I found the fretless 30.5" scale Rob Allen Mouse I had for about 6 months to facilitate a much easier transfer of DB technique than any of the 34" scale fretless bass guitars I've had ever did.

    Can you rent some slabs to see how it goes for you?
  3. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Aren't they, fretted and fretless BGs different axes? They play differently, sound differently, and you can do some things on one that can't be done on the other. Maybe pick a sound you want first?
    Jeff Bonny likes this.
  4. Jeff,
    You make a good point concerning scale length, and indeed, that would throw me off. A fretless bass guitar with the same length as a 3/4 bass??? Haven't looked into that. I wonder if they exist, and if they do, perhaps the neck would be too long to handle. But then even a fretted bass guitar would have such a different feel due to it's length. Yes, I ought to just try playing both. Or, just realize I'm an upright player. After all, my electric upright is not THAT big!
  5. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    The thing that makes the 40"+ scale length work on the upright bass is that it is in fact upright. When you drop the neck down towards horizontal as with the bass guitar the mechanical efficiency of your shoulder/arm/wrist/hand position drops way off. I think the reason the 30" short scale electric bass feels so good to me is that it's MUCH more comfortable to directly transfer the 1 2_4 Simandl fingerings so many of us use some version of. It may seem counter intuitive at first but I think an extra long scale bass guitar would not buy you much ease crossing over from the double bass.
  6. I would go for a fretted P Bass and enjoy the journey. It will sound and play differently - and will take a bit of getting used to - but isn't that the idea?
  7. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005
    functionally 36" scale is about max - there have been several 37" fanned fret type basses & someone used to build 38" scale (including Carl Thompson) but they are unwieldy

    36" can give you more of what you're used to in 'string travel' and a stronger fundamental than standard 34" or shorter scales

    as a doubler, I almost exclusively play fretless EB because of the articulation and expression that is similar to DB - also, your vibrato will be very similar as opposed to a fretted EB which requires string bending (very foreign to a DB player)

    a reason to play a fretted EB would be for pop or rock or funk styles where it's the 'sound' most associated

    and then there's the obvious - you're playing EB to have a wider range of sounds

    as someone said above you can get a real nice P bass for reasonable costs - maybe get one of each hahaha
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  8. John,
    You already have two "fretless" instruments, and it sounds like you're looking for something different than what you already have. While fretless bass guitar is very cool, it is more of a specific sound and if you already have a EUB, imho it would be sorta more of the same type sound (unless you are planning to play like Jaco, Mark Egan, Steve Bailey,etc). Where as with the fretted instruments you can achieve, sounds considerably different than what you are already achieving now with your EUB. I would also recommend getting a Standard scale instrument(Which varies a little but all are relatively close). If you do have your heart set on another fretless instrument, you can get one with lines without frets (and people won't care, even bassists;)) the lines would definitely allow you to access your current skills on upright more quickly.

    I do a lot of gigs and recordings on Upright, Electric, and occasionally EUB, and if were making a recommendation on
    another electric instrument to add to the arsenal you have described, I would say to start by checking out a Fender Jazz and P-Bass.
    Most electric basses on the market today, can trace some of there design and configuration to Leo F's designs. So it's a good place to start, and a valuable tool in which to compare other instruments by/to. You could get a fretted Jazz bass, and if you decided you wanted a fretless, you can just pull a "Jaco" and rip out the frets.:cool: I'm kidding sort of. There are a lot of great electric bass makers out there today, and I encourage you to explore and discover as many as you can before you make a purchase.

    P.S. Fill out your profile, it frustrating when members post questions, and you go to see what they already have, to aid in making an informed recommendation. Only to see a blank profile screen.

    Best and Happy Hunting,
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2014
  9. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
    Thank you for verifying what I have been thinking for many years. I have a fretted Fender Jazz and an Ibanez fretless, and like both of them; however, I seldom use the fretless on "reading gigs" where my having to look back and forth from the music to the fingerboard to check finger placement is , for me, very annoying and inefficient. Again, for me, the relatively wide spaces between wire frets are very forgiving. I have often said that all Fender players play flat.
    lurk and two fingers like this.
  10. thank you so much, you all.....I have a better understanding with your help. Have not made any decisions yet, though. My original thought was just to have a variety of instruments to chose from as a bassist for different kinds of gigs. And further, in the studio, I may be asked to play a certain instrument, and it may be a good idea to have the entire arsenal available to me, along with the experience to fill the request. I have done some experimenting with a fretted "standard" bass guitar, borrowed from a bassist friend. He also plays a fanned bass guitar, and upon trying to play that, I felt like a beginner student all over again! That neck was so foreign to me. I wonder if the sound would really be that much different than a standard bass guitar. Based on my experience, I did not notice much of a difference if any.
    Anyway, thank you all again, for the education!
  11. Although this seems simplistic, as someone who doubles on both upright and bass guitar, I agree with it. The fretted P Bass was meant for upright players to cross over, way back when Leo designed it. It is a very simple but very classic design. The fretless bass guitar came later and is an instrument in its own right. I'd make the move to a P with frets and explore other bass guitars from there. Just my $.02.
    AGCurry likes this.
  13. Oh my...it's been a while. Thought you all might like to know what I finally decided. I have four basses now....an acoustic upright, an electric upright, a Peavey foundation fretted bass guitar, and a custom fretless bass guitar. It did take some time to get used to the two bass guitars, and as you all have described, they all feel and sound different. They all have different applications depending on the gig or studio environment. It's a lot of fun to play around with all four, and at this point, I can play any of them with equal skill. The fretless bass guitar, I modified myself. It started out with a used stock Fender squier fretted bass. The neck was badly bowed, so I got it dirt cheap. Tried to straighten the neck out with clamping and tightening the truss rod, but no success. I feared any more truss rod tightening, and it would snap! Then I thought to replace the neck with a new one, and what a great opportunity to fit a fretless neck to it. I ordered a Warmouth neck, and am so thrilled with this neck. Two thumbs up for Warmouth. It is a really fine neck! It took some adjusting and sanding to get the neck to fit, but got the job done. Here's a photo of the finished bass guitar:

    Fender Squier II, with new Warmouth neck.JPG
  14. Here's what that Squier looked like when I purchased it: Fender Squier II, full view.jpg
    two fingers likes this.
  15. Of late, I have wondered if there is any worthwhile improvement in the sound of this fretless if I replaced the stock pickups? Any thoughts? If I did this, what would be a good choice in pickups?
  16. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Congrats on the transition! Sounds like you're having fun.

    What are you "missing" from the Squier? Is it too beefy? Too bright?

    Tell us what you DON'T like about it and we should be able to guide you toward what could possibly correct that.
  17. Two fingers.....Actually, there really is nothing I dislike....just wondering what would change with different pickups, and if it would be a positive change. I see so often bassists and guitarists changing their pickups. Perhaps with bass it's not as critical.
  18. Fenders made in Mexico are a good deal and well made basses. I have a Mexican jazz bass that is really great.
    gerry grable likes this.
  19. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
    I had my 1969 Fender Jazz Bass restored to original and refretted by some great guys in Wind Gap , PA brothersmusicshop.com They specialize in fine guitars, but took my bass out of nostalgia
    I had a brass nut and a heavy Badass Bridge on it. It plays great, like new. I bought it new along with an Ampeg B-15 for $500 in ‘69. They bandleader I was playing with ordered me to get a bass guitar. I was still playing unamplified upright with Kaplan Golden Spiral strings.
    When I went to the store in Jamaica Queens, he had a Precision and a Jazzbass, so being a a jazz player I took the Jazzbass. I didn’t even try it out. The deal was done in 10 minutes.
    Over the years I have wondered if I made the right choice. I didn’t know crap about guitars, but because of my big hands I think I would have been better off with the wider P bass fingerboard?
    Hope things are well, Damon. Musicians are getting slammed by this damned plague.
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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