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Transitioning from electric bass to stand up bass?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by squeally dan, Apr 17, 2009.


  1. squeally dan

    squeally dan

    Mar 30, 2008
    I play funk rock but would love to get in to rocabilliy and I also like bluegrass. I assume the upright bass is totally different than electric & I would love to hear people's experiences how they transitioned from electric to stand up. I'm not a real big guy and don't have really big hands. Does that play in to it much?
     
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not at all. I have the smallest hands of any guy I've ever met and I can play upright fine. It's a lot more physical, so it does take some getting used to, but if you learn good technique, it'll be fine.
     
  3. PocketGroove82

    PocketGroove82

    Oct 18, 2006
    Chicago
    For very basic rockabilly and bluegrass, the transition really isn't that hard. I had a bluegrass gig within the first two weeks of acquiring an upright bass. I had no real technique but I could play open strings, find the roots and keep the root/fifth pulse going.

    You are right in thinking the approach is totally different, but having a foundation in the electric did help me a lot when I first started goofing around on the upright. Then, I started getting serious about the upright, using the bow, and working to develop my classical and jazz chops, learning thumb position, perfecting my intonation, fixing all the bad habits I developed. Well, that's when it consumed my life. Eight years later, I'm happy to say that I don't embarrass myself all that much anymore. Only about 50% of time. ;)

    Mastering the upright will kick your butt, teach you the true meaning of the word "Callus", and you'll either love it or hate it. For me, the transition has been anything but an easy one, it's not something you can just pick up an instantly be good at. On the positive side, it's doubled the amount of gigs I can do, enriched my life, deepened my appreciation for different styles of music, and given me a life long pursuit.

    If you love the sound enough to want to play upright, you shouldn't be concerned with physical limitations. Big or small, once proper technique is developed, it doesn't matter at all.
     
  4. squeally dan

    squeally dan

    Mar 30, 2008
    Guys-
    Thanks for the info.

    A couple follow-up questions:
    1. Can I learn it without a teacher and not develop too many bad habbits. Like I said, I love bluegrass, rockabilly, and that type of music. I love the Red Stick Ramblers cajun-type stuff also.

    2. Whats an affordable upright that is good enough to learn and gig on.
     
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    1. I sort of learned technique by myself by watching Youtube vids and getting a few tips here and there. But I don't recommend it. Getting a teacher could have saved me a lot of work and made me a lot better than I am.

    2. Englehardt, Shen, and Christopher are probably the top low end basses. And Kings are a little more pricey but are nice basses that are built like a tank. But my favorite low end bass is made by Upton. They're kind of a high end low end bass, though. I researched for two months before deciding on Upton, and I'm glad I did because I've played many other basses since then, and none of them sound or feel as good as mine until you get up into a much higher price range.
     
  6. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I have to be the "upright snob" here. I teach orchestra - double bass - and I really believe you need a teacher at least to begin with. You need to learn the proper techniques. It's not the same as an electric.
     
  7. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Very different technique. You can fake your way through it without a teacher, but without quality time with the bow it is incredibly unlikely that you will ever truly play the instrument in tune.

    My old teacher had a bass built before Christopher Columbus was born! Comparatively, the electric bass is about 50 years old and still has no standardized technique.

    Yep. Lessons= better at any instrument.

    Lotsa hard work but good news- your playing on the electric will skyrocket from the additional hand strength, you'll learn how to play every single note with additional conviction, and plus, girls dig the big bass!
     
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Actually, electric does have a standardized technique that's been taught in schools for about 40 years now.
     
  9. squeally dan

    squeally dan

    Mar 30, 2008
    Do folks really use the bow much in bluegrass or rockabilly?
     
  10. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    What schools have a standardized electric bass technique? When I was teaching college there wasn't even a curriculum... this was a big dog school too, fwiw. Just look how many discussions of OFPF vs 1-2-4 we have.


    And... Edgar Meyer uses the bow ok in Bluegrass, but what does he know?:D


    Seriously, of course you can sound ok without using the bow, but for this little piggy, "just ok" has never been good enough. YMMV.
     
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Variations on a theme IMHO.
     
  12. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Yep but wow people get defensive about 1-2-4...

    FWIW, I've been using Ed Friedland's books for years, and feel they've sort of set a new standard for electric bass pedagogy. There's some other great books I'm seeing universally with colleagues- the Motown book, the Stagnaro latin book, etc... These are all pretty recent additions to the catalog though. Some guys are still using Rufus's book, but not so much recently IME.

    For context, the Simandl book has been annoying students for more than a century. :D
     
  13. IconBasser

    IconBasser Scuba Viking Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2007
    Alta Loma, California
    Upright is a whole different animal from EB.

    I'm only a novice jazz upright player, but I can safely say I've come fairly far from when I started playing 2 years ago.

    the thing that gets the toughest is the incredible amount of physical energy upright bass requires (especially for bebop tunes, I swear every time my band wants to play Oleo or Donna Lee I start sweating).

    I absolutely recommend getting a teacher. Unfortunately, there isn't anybody in my area that teaches it, so I've had to solicit advice and pointers from some of the college bassists I know.

    Don't expect it to be easy or familiar in any way, you are learning a completely new instrument. Once you do start to get a feel for it though, it's loads of fun.
     
  14. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    LOL! I should get one and let it annoy me.

    I think one of the great crimes of bass-dom is that Ed isn't a bass superstar right up there with Vic and Marcus. He's brilliant. Fortunately he seems to be making a huge mark in instruction.

    I don't know...I just judge what was considered proper technique for electric bass back in 78 when I first took lessons as compared to now, and it really hasn't changed much at all. People do still nitpick over the small stuff, but the meat of it is still very much like what I learned way back when. At least that's been my experiences. Other than slap and tapping techniques, there really hasn't been much difference as far as I can see. YMMV.
     
  15. chicagodoubler

    chicagodoubler Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Ed may not be a superstar but that book ain't hurting his wallet one bit...
    He does an excellent job of introducing meat and potato ideas. Plus he encourages 1-2-4, which helps 90% of the students who walk into my studio.


    Maybe one reason you ain't seeing pedagogy change is because most of the good stuff had already been played by 1978.:D


    It was frustrating for me personally teaching at a major music school that my bass guitar classes were neither supported nor respected, despite drawing dozens and dozens of kids. It'll take a while for the conservatory attitude to go away... too bad Mozart didn't write any ebass parts.
     
  16. OrangeSun

    OrangeSun

    Jun 26, 2005
    Boston, MA
    I have recently taken this leap. Played electric bass for about 7 and half years when I got my upright a few months ago. Got a used Englehardt Maestro bass with a stand, pickup, two bows and a soft case for a cool grand. It had several major things done to it (for the better) and was set up well, so I got lucky. I found a teacher who was strictly classical and took some lessons on just bow. It helped me a lot with body stance and intonation. I still need to take some lessons from a jazz player, but thats for another time when I have more money available.
     
  17. jrklmx(Andrew)

    jrklmx(Andrew)

    Mar 31, 2009
    Get a teacher, he will help with positions and intonation and proper technique so you dont practice these things wrong for hours each day.
    The good part about playing electric is if you can picture what note is on your 7th fret on your D string (A) you know that (E) is the same fret 1 string below and (D) is 1 string above.
    I played bass guitar before string bass and they are completely different animals.I heard that advice from my teacher when I switched (not believing him) and he was totally right.
     
  18. spong

    spong

    Nov 20, 2006
    Ashburn Virginia
    I agree get a teacher and get the hand positions right or you will waste a lot of time. I would also treat it as a completely different instrument that just happens to have 4 strings that are tuned the same way.

    A bow is very important for training your intonation as the notes are much clearer and last longer so you can be much more effective in correcting the note.
     

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