Transition stories

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Samie, Dec 6, 2004.

  1. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    Cris and other DBers,

    How was your trip from BG or other instruments into DB? How long until you felt confident on the DB? Is the DB now your best instrument?

    I am interested in the personal stories, not just the tecnical aspects.

  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    When I got back from a boat gig in 1979, I knew I wanted to get an upright. I had this "idea" of what it would sound/feel like to play the big bass behind a singer. A year or so later I lucked into a friend who had an old Kay in his attic (he played in high school) and I bought it from him for $450. It needed a bridge, strings and a set up, luckily Jim Ferguson was dating a women (who he's now married to) who lived in Augusta and set up the bass for me (around $250 at best recollection).
    So now I had a bass. I didn't have any lessons, I just started playing. So what technique I have is brought over from electric, I never play the damn thing without an amp and I'm going through all the " new strings new amp new pickup new speaker cabinet" bull**** trying to get a reasonable sound out of the damn thing. I'm also doing stupid **** like stuffing the f-holes with foam or strapping a band around the body to cut down on vibrations because, for some reason, I can't get a clear well defined sound to cut through the band without turning the amp up and I can't turn the amp up without getting feedback. But what the hell.

    At this point, I'm doubling but playing more and more upright. And I still have enough money from the boat gig left (and doing gigs all around Augusta) to go to Berklee, so I move to Boston. And start cutting all my classes (except ensembles)so I can play sessions, gigs whatever. So, even though I'm in music school, I don't have anybody that's really helping my physical approach to the instrument. But I am playing anywhere from 4 to 8 hours a day. Which helps with the endurance, but really helped at ingraining some really bad habits.

    After a couple of years of Berklee I run out of money and move back to Augusta. Being about the only upright player in a 90 mile radius, I'm working my ass off. I'm still doubling, but I don't really use the electric for much anymore.
    About 86, I start getting really bored with where I'm living and my girlfriend and I decide to move to NYC, which we do in 87. After a couple of years here, and hearing some really really great electric players, I decide that rather than play electric bass badly, I'll just not play it anymore.

    I only play DB.

    Confident? I played DB on a gig a couple of days after I got it back from Jim. And I remained confident until the first time I heard somebody in NYC who could play with the intent, conviction and above all, musicality that I had no idea how to get to.

    Which is why I recommend getting a good teacher at the beginning rather than the middle.
  3. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    It was a big transition for me, for the orientation of the bass, the much longer string length (especially near the nut), the lack of frets, the additional physical strength, et al. I absolutely wanted a teacher when I heard Edgar Meyer do the Bach suites and realized what a real bass could achieve...and I got super lucky to find a really good teacher to learn from. If I could afford them I'd still be taking lessons.
  4. Steve Bassman

    Steve Bassman Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I've been playing electric bass since I was fifteen, but didn't seriously try to play upright (I played it a little in High School) until I was 30 (I'm 37 now). At first, my goal was to play strictly jazz on it, but after I got a hold of a bow I found that I really enjoyed arco playing. Soon I started taking some lessons and trying my hand at classical pieces (the David Walter Music Minus One CD is a great place to start). I still felt much more confident on electric bass, but I continued to play the upright whenever I could, specifically taking gigs that called for it. Even though it wasnt what I initially set out to do, I joined the local community orchestra who were glad to have another bass player, even if I was fairly new to the upright (they also had me playing electric bass at pops concerts). The community orchestra turned out to be a great learning experience and led to paying gigs with semi-pro orchestras, churches and theater groups. The pay was good, the hours were reasonable, the music was nice, my reading and arco chops improved and I was exposed to a whole world of gigs that I was excluded from when I played only electric. Plus, I still got called quite often to play some jazz :cool: . I wish I had made the switch sooner and not spent so many years in bar bands :bassist: . I feel that switching to the double bass was the best decision I ever made as a musician and although it's taken a few years, I feel just as confident on it as I do on electric, perhaps more so.

    - Steve

    Garagiste likes this.
  5. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    I dont really have a transition story since I am just begining my DB era. So far I go to lessons once a week but I have no DB to practice on yet. It has only been a couple of months, not much progress without practicing at home. My DB should be fixed this month.

    I started this thread because I am fascinated with transition stories from the bass and other instruments into the DB. I think that I have been avoiding the DB, running away from it, although I always loved the instrument. Maybe it was fear, or maybe it is intimidation. Maybe I will be no good at it, who knows.

    I am a pretty acomplished EB player, been playing all my life. Somewhere along the line I decided that it was more fun to play for myself and for things that I liked, so left the pro world.

    For the past 4 years I have been playing frettless only, playing jazz and learning tons from the amazing internet. That is were I saw this picture..


    I loved the pic, playing music with no cables for you kid, I wanted something like that for myself. I also loved the swing - jazz sound. The BG depends to much on electronics. I just want to be able to pick up my instrument and jam with the sax player in the park.

    o well, we will see how my progress goes.

  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I was a jazz piano player up until about halfway through '99. I also played BG in a society band to pay the bills, and to support my teaching habit. I was playing some jazz on both fretted and fretless BG, but nothing earth-shattering, and nothing on the level of the piano gigs I was doing. In '99, at age 35, several important things happened:

    - I was becoming increasingly frustrated with my "career" as a pianist, since there were fewer and fewer pianos in town on which to perform, and I ended up playing electric keyboards most of the time if I wanted to work. I was discovering that I absolutely HATE keyboards for live performance.

    - Five years after the end of an unsuccessful first marriage, I became engaged to the wonderful woman who is now my wife. We both come from large families that we are very close to, and we didn't want to move away if we could help it, so we got a house here in town.

    - A few months before the wedding, I became aware of some health anomalies, and went to get checked out. The short version is that I had to have exploratory cancer surgery of the type that I would only know the prognosis after the surgery.

    - About a month before the surgery a student at the university found me an old bass that had been abandoned in several pieces, and I took it to a guy here who put it back together for $600. I got it back about a week or so before the surgery. I was in a weird place, since I didn't know if I'd have to do chemo, radiation, etc, or whether everything would be fine.

    Right after the surgery (which revealed a clean bill of health :hyper: ) and while I was still strung out on painkillers for a couple of weeks, I was stuck at home and couldn't keep my hands off of the bass. I remember playing mostly ballads along with records, since that's all I could keep up with. Ironically, the recording I played along with most was a Lynne Arriale cut of "Wouldn't It Be Loverly", with Patitucci on bass. I just couldn't get over the plush low end and growl that the DB put under the band on that tune. I played my first gig a couple of months later, started taking the DB to my (previously) BG gigs soon after, and then made a deal with myself to give up practicing/playing the piano (translation: the KEYBOARD :scowl: ) for five years to focus on DB and see what happened. That period just expired this past July, and by this point, I'm hooked.

    The cute answer would be, "I'll let you know", but in reality, it took about 3 or 4 years. I feel pretty good about being able to cover the basics of most gigs at this point, but feel I'll be striving to get better for the rest of my natural life.

    Yes, by far. :) I've sold all of my keyboard gear some time ago in order to burn that bridge (although I still have my grand piano in the music room of the house), and I sold my last BG about 6 months ago to help pay for my new LaScala, which is the second great love of my life at this point.

    You got 'em! BTW, if you have a higher resolution version of the pic you posted, I'd love to get one. That's a great picture! Good luck with your journey.
  7. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Those are some great stories and p histories of some of our DB's here.

    Well I got hooked when I auditioned for music schools on BG (yuou can stop laughing now). Everyone looked at me like "that was great playing, where is the REAL bass."
    Fell in love with Mingus and saw Edgar Meyer play a small recital at a church. This was around '96. So my current teacher helped me find a DB. Got one. Four lessons later told me to get a DB teacher. 2 years of music school, then transferred, and didn't take the bass with (mistake #1). I don't regret my change of majors in college, but should have brought the boat. Eventually had to sell the DB for financial reasons.

    ...Years later found myself needing to play music again (a few years at a desk job for me put things in perspective). Got a Fretless BG. Although it didn't feel right (as my instrument), it confirmed that I wanted to start playing again.

    Moved to NYC about two years ago and finally just got a DB again about six months ago. Even though it isn't all that pretty and it feels like home.

    I'll be selling my BG gear soon.

    The bug has bitten. The picture is great.
  8. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain

    Wow, amazing story!

    The picture is from matthew garrison's home page. Its him with his father jimmy garrison.

    Matt is a great BG player, his father played DB with Coltrane.

    The picture moved me when I first saw it about 6 years ago, I really pictured myself playing the DB for my kid. Back then I had neither, no DB, no kids.

    soon, soon
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You know, that may answer the question as to whether someone considers themselves primarily a DB player or a BG player.

    Is this a picture of
    A. Matthew Garrison with his father?
    B. Jimmy Garrison with his son?
  10. dodgy_ian


    Apr 9, 2001
    Newcastle, UK
    Never been really interested in DB til about 6months ago when got asked to do one of my regular theatre gigs on double - needed the cash and wasn't up for letting someone else take my slot so I said yeah i'm up for the challenge.

    Ridiculously fortunately my friend gave/lent long term me his 1905 DB (this is a sweet sweet instrument) and as soon as I started playing it I felt summat really click. It felt a lot more natural than my EB and I'd been playing it for two weeks! 6months later i'm hooked and being asked to play all sorts of stuff, most of which is way beyond my league (classical stuff, West side story in two months etc) but i'm griting my teeth and getting on with it. I still really love electric, but for jazz its really got to be double bass really...

  11. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I've always thought that picture -- which totally rocks, I agree -- really suffers from being B&W. 'Cause, judging from the pattern on his pants, you know in full colour Jimmy's looking super clean...
  12. Steve Bassman

    Steve Bassman Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I need more friends like that!

    - Steve
  13. dodgy_ian


    Apr 9, 2001
    Newcastle, UK
    yeah right - every time I play it I pause and think just how outrageously blessed I am to be able to play it.

    Some of the older guys (40ys+ pros) were almost green when I showed it to them and told em i'd been given it :p

    Wow. Just been practising the soul intro to The Chicken (+ the chicken) on it and me fingers hurt - its still a beast of an instrument to play however old it is!!!1

  14. oliebrice


    Apr 7, 2003
    London, UK
    re that picture, its from Val Wilmer's wonderful book "As serious as your life", which I reccomend to anyone interested in free jazz. Shes a great photographer as well as writer, all her work is well worth looking out for.

    so far as personal stories about the bass go, I played guitar (not bass guitar) from age 10 - 21, realy wanted to play the DB from about age 14 but couldn't afford it, dreamt of playing one until my partner pointed out I should try and rent one. It turned out cheaper to buy it and sell it back (I was about to go travelling for 6 months), and when I got back from travelling a bought a decent bass. I hardly ever play guitar anymore, and was taking the bass to gigs I was booked at as a guitarist (!), and now, nearly 2 years later, am starting to feel like I'm beginning to be able to play music on the thing...
  15. Dennis Kong

    Dennis Kong Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2004
    San Mateo CA
    Play both now...
    I started up again about 4 years ago and stuck to it for a change... I originally started up in college about 30 years ago...and quit-- much to my teacher's dismay & my parent's delight. ( I was finishing college & wanted to sound like Jaco)

    Al Obedinski, my 1st teacher ( played with the who's who of the 50's & 60's jazz world- Sonny Clarke, Art Pepper, Chet Baker, Frankie S., Barbara Streisand, Joe Pass, etc. etc) always encouraged me to play. But at that time DB was considered "passe" and just "old folks music". ('70's)

    After college,('80's) I got a job in the corporate world, and they didn't like me and I didn't like them. So I took up EB again
    and started to play in different R&R & Blues bands.('85). on
    my days off.

    After many years of playing EB & studying with Kai Eckhardht
    (J. Mclaughlin, R. Towner, Steve Smith), I got tired of playing R&R, Blues,& some jazz in small clubs (pretty thankless gigs too.) and decided to try the DB again as I always liked the BN music of the 60's. (could relate more to it than than R&R these days.)
    (I 've owned one for many years- but didn't have the time to
    study as I was playing 3x week and working a day gig. After
    the dot-com demise; most my gigs disappeared & my R&R band broke up ,so I took it again with Glen Richman (Bobby
    Hutchinson, Mimi Fox), ( Al & my schedules were always in
    conflict at that time.)

    For first 3 years I used to come home after work, cook dinner and practice for 2 hours a nite - 5 days week. Not much else
    except play some gigs.

    Now I play in 2 different jazz bands on the weekends and use the DB in both. However I don't practice as 2 hours a day as I
    used to ' cause I have some tendonitis in the right elbow and have to be careful.

    I'm more accomplished on EB than DB, but I get more comments on my DB playing surprisingly, than I do on the EB. :eyebrow:
  16. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I started playing EBG almost 20 years ago. I met a friend in HS who was a drummer. It seems he was tired of looking for a bass player, so he decided to make one.

    I traded my jr. high Holton Galaxy for a bass and it was pretty much love at first site. By the end of HS, I was decent.

    College landed me tons of work as a cover player and being newly married, it was definitely needed. I gigged hard until a couple of years after college when my journalism career started building steam. About 95 or so, I hung up BG completely and was content with my Gibson J-100 for self entertainment.

    In 1999, I fell into a chance to gig regular on BG and fortunately it came back fairly quickly. At this point, I was absolutely self taught.

    All seems well and I am playing as much as I care to. I'm meeting folks and having a great time. When a little over two years ago, I was asked to play "Stanley," the ex-con, baritone singing brother in a community production of "Smoke on the Mountain." The caveat: You gotta also play DB. I love theater, love to sing, so at this point, I'll do anything.

    The music is mostly bluegrassy gospel with a few wrinkles here and there. I grab like two lessons, fumble through it and find myself totally hooked on DB. A few months after the production, I get a chance to start really studying with a good teacher and now,

    I will never look back. The more I study the classical application of the instrument, develop the bow and really work to excel at DB, the more addictive it becomes.

    A year ago, I sucked bad. At this point, I only suck. Hopefully, in another year or two, I will reach the level of just being bad.
  17. Since I made the transition from birth to the DB, i'll stay outta this one.
    Hey Chas, your last couple of sentences kinda disturbed me.
    Not to get off topic too bad, sometimes a cat is too close to his improvement/ or lack of, to get a true and honest look at it....hang in!!
  18. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    Actually, I do alright (especially if I stay out of TP) until I break out the stick. Then the pain comes. :)

    I'll get it. I have been working hard on thumb position arco for a few weeks. When I first started, listeners would have hand's down opted for a Tiny Tim solo over that. Now, they might have to flip a coin. :p
  19. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain

    They say that wishes do come true...When I first saw this picture about 7 years ago, I was not even thinking of having a kid, not even on playing the DB.

    Look at me now, I have a similar pic for myself. Strange things do happen in life.

    I am still living my transition story. Its been a little over 3 months of really hard work. I am probably still stronger on the BG but the DB is starting to feel like home on my hands. Love it. Still have lots to learn, but I am more than willing to keep learning...
  20. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    That's are what it's all about, IMHO. Funny how priorities change when they show up on your doorstep.

    Is there a surplus of drummers in Madrid? ;)