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What's the age limit for acoustic bass Guitar Playing?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by PhilM13, Oct 30, 2004.

  1. PhilM13


    Oct 13, 2004
    Note "Guitar"...as in "not" an upright acoustic bass.

    I am 49, and just got a 2nd Hand Washburn AB-20 a
    month ago. It is my first Acoustic bass and I have only
    owned a Short neck Hagstrom electric bass.

    I am just getting back into music after about 15 years
    (pre Internet) of not playing. I no longer have the Hagstrom.

    I like the sound of the bass and I am having good fun just
    jamming with one friend on Acoustic guitar.

    I got an acoustic bass as its just all nice and simple
    and don't want to be bothered with electrics in my
    "old ?" age.

    Anyhow.....on to the post subject.....

    After powering in for about a month of solid play, my little
    pinky is starting to feel it, and the time has come to limit... (read force)
    myself to a more strict play time itinerary.

    The combination of being a full length neck bass and the
    high action due to being acoustic, has had me wondering
    at about what age a healthy hand an arm would probably
    not be able to play this thing any more.

    Maybe I should have got an electric bass and just a small
    Amp. The lower action would certainly make a diff.

  2. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Give yourself more time before you make the decision to get an electric. After 15 years your fretting hand loses alot of it's bass-specific muscles.

    Also, trying to get a respectable amount of volume from an unplugged acoustic is difficult. I would be careful to not stress your playing hand by playing harder to get more volume.

    Play slowly until you start to feel pain/tired, then give it a rest for the day. It will come back if you keep with it.

    If after another 1-2 months nothing has changed, maybe an electric would be better for your health.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    There are plenty of guys who play the upright bass well into their 60s and beyond so I'd say you just need to build up your muscles again. Take it slow and relax while playing.
  4. well, i wouldn't go to the electric if you really want to play accoustic. i believe rob allen makes a short scale bass, that really sounds good...i think its called the mouse or something...plus you could buy it with low action i suppose...
  5. boogiedown


    Nov 1, 2004
    it also helps to stretch your hands and fingers before you play. sort of bend your fingers backward with your other hand, but dont do it hard enough to hurt.
  6. PhilM13


    Oct 13, 2004
    Yeah Superbassman,
    I did try one short scale Acoustic bass.
    Sounded like puss compaired to mine.
    Easy to play though. :)

    Anyhow....I'm now on a 2 hour max practice every
    second day on bass, and Acoustic Guitar on the other day.
    Yeah.....Back into Guitar as well.

    That seems to be working OK so far.... :rolleyes:

    My Jams go for about 2 1/2 hours max once a week at present.
    It's Good fun and doesn't worry the rest of the House.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Isn't it the case though, that with Double Bass you are using more of your arm muscles to hold down the strings and that this is a very different technique to an Acoustic BG, where there is more emphasis on finger and wrist strength - especially if you have a very high action?

    Also - as people have mentioned, on an ABG it's very difficult to get sufficient volume, whereas with a DB's larger body and bigger strings, you have a better chance, with correct technique - of achieving a decent level of acoustic volume?
  8. JohnBarr


    Mar 19, 2004
    Central NY
    Hello Phil,

    I just started on bass about a year ago at the tender age of 53 and my first , and so far only, bass is the Washburn AB-20.

    I got an ABG for the convenience of practicing without need of an amp (though I bought a small practice amp), the freedom to move around the house with it, and because I like the thin body, thesound and the good looks of the AB-20.

    While I don't regret the decision and think the AB-20 is a good guitar, I've figured out it's shortcomings and the drawbacks of ABG's generally for beginners and for practice (the good and bad points of ABG's generally have been discussed at length elsewhere.)

    What I’ve found, as you point out, is that the action tends to be high, especially as you go up the neck. It’s a bit of a bother but to be honest I’ve never tried to adjust the truss rod. It doesn’t strike me as a major physical problem but if you see difficulties in that area, I suggest trying a set of Tomastik Infeld Acousticore strings, they have less tension than most other strings so the high action is easier to manage. I just moved to a set from D’Addario taperwounds. More finger noise, but less tension and they sound great.

    It took a good two months for my hands to develop. And they felt strange during that time. Limit your practice to an hour /day or ifyou do 2 hours take a good 10 minutes in the middle. Never persist if you feel pain or stress, but overall, I believe you’ll find the discomfort goes away as you develop. Check out one or two fretboard finger exercises. You may have a book that has some or guys here can recommend some. I’ll post my favorite later on if you’d like. It just takes one or two to help your hand muscles. But do some regularly for now. After a while I’ve found that regular practice is enough to stay in shape physically.

    But the most important advice I would pass along (keeping in mind my “vast” experience) is to get a small practice amp or good headphone amp and plug in. You just can’t hear your mistakes unplugged and if you can’t hear them, you can’t correct them. Some things just don’t come out till you plug in, especially if your technique gets sloppy. How well you mute strings, dampen sympathetic ringing, control fret and finger noise: your ABG is masking this. And while I’ve been told that ABGs force you to play with a heavier attack in order to be heard, I've found the opposite, that I play way too softly, and that is just as bad.

    So, should you go electric? Probably, for the reason I just gave. But if you like the sound and feel of that Washburn or prefer an ABG in general, then just plug it in and keep going. If the physical difficulties are substantial enough, do a trade, maybe check out a hollowbody electric.

    BTW, slightly different subject, my AB-20 is weak on the G-string when plugged in. I’m blaming this on the pickup. Since it’s just in my living room I don’t care, but if I were playing for real (or for money) it would be a real issue.

    Good luck and best regards,

  9. Yeah it's true that with upright bass you use more of your arm, but but more finger is used too. I think upright bass is a much more physically demanding instrument all around. it's also true about acoustic bass guitars not being able to project as much. My reaction to that would be, that's just the way things are. If you pull the strings incredibly hard, it may be a bit louder, but the instrument will sound like crap. I don't think playing an acoustic bass guitar should be much harder than playing an electric. I'm sure there's a way for you to lower the action so that it would be easier to play
  10. Try having your bass professionally setup- I don't see why an ABG should have considerably higher action than an electric bass.
  11. PhilM13


    Oct 13, 2004
    Hi John...53 eh!, I feel better already :)

    "You just can’t hear your mistakes unplugged and if you can’t hear them, you can’t correct them."

    Yeah....I quickly realised this when I tried it with an amp
    at the shop where I got it. I try and keep an ear out for
    all that sort of thing.

    My new limit on playing seems to be working ok.
    Think the hands should settle down alright.

    But anyhow....Yes, I am starting to come to the same
    realisations on going electric. A nice action electric, and
    some effortless "Boom" would be a nice treat.

    The AB-20 is still a cool bit of gear I think though.
    Especially after trying out two brand new ABG's
    that were nearly 3 times the price that I payed
    for mine.
    I liked the Sound and feel of mine much better.

    Think I would like to keep it if/when I go electric.
    Something very cool about just being able to pick up
    a bass and play with no pluging in.
    Will always have its place for those quiet unpluged Jams.

    "bassteban"......It has no bridge adjustments and I had
    the truss adjusted to lower the action a bit, but high action
    is just how this Guitar is.
  12. you can adjust how high it is. truss rod adjustments only change the 'Relief' of the neck. the bridge saddle can be sanded down to help ease the height some, don't know exactly how much, but i've seen some pretty low ones before.
  13. you'll feel 30 years younger if you get some thomastic-infeld "acouticores". Not only they will make your bass sound rich and organic, but the tension is much, much lower so you will be able to groove and dig in a little.

    All other ABG strings suck in that they are brittle sounding, uncomfortable and abrasive to play and sound more like guitars than a bass. ABGs are inherently in no man's land: not very good guitars and not very good basses.

    I will consider honest critique on my broad statements but please do not post if you never tried these TI acousticores.
  14. halfamind


    Aug 4, 2004
    Norfolk, VA
    You should seriously consider having a luthier do a set up on it for you. My wife bought me an Ovation Celebrity in early october, and its action was gawdawfully high. I play 3-5 hours a day, and I was in PAIN after a very short time (Popeye forearms, anyone?).

    I adjusted the truss rodd to a much lesser relief, and when that wasn't enough I sanding down the bridge. The sanding was a MASSIVE pain in the ass becasue I didn't want to go too far (no backup), so it was sand, restring, too high, unstring, sand, restring, damn, unstring...

    But now, I've got it pretty damn sweet. Not even in the playability ballpark (not even the same sport!) of my 75RI Jazz, but I love playing it, the ease of being able to scoop it up and start thumpin' with no fanfare has increased my playing time even more, never mind the increased finger strength... after spankin' it for a while, I can RIP on the Jazz!