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Why the bass?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by yawnsie, Feb 26, 2001.

  1. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    Over in the BG side of the forum, there have been numerous threads recently asking how people took up the bass guitar. Flicking through these threads, most replies seem to be along the lines of "my friends were forming a band and none of them wanted to play bass"

    Knowing that the string bass is a much more difficult and demanding beast than it's electric cousin, and that anyone who is dedicated enough to play one is likely to have a motivation to someone who wants to be part of their mate's band, (which, admittedly, was the case with me to start with) I thought I'd ask why the people who frequent this side of the forum chose the bass. Don't worry, I'm off back to BG to ask what sort of pick will make me sound like Fieldy now.

    toy bassists are people, too
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Yawnsie -

    That is the funniest signature I've ever seen on the board. Kudos!

    Before I took up the double bass, I was a professional jazz pianist who doubled on fretless BG. Due to the changing technology and values in our lovely modern society, the pianos at performance venues here in town started either disappearing or deteriorating (or both) to the point where, 9 times out of 10, when I would get called for a gig I would have to bring a keyboard (otherwise known as a "toy piano"). I realized fairly quickly that:

    a) I hate playing electronic keyboards...I end up trying to play them as if they were real pianos, (which sounds like tinny electronic sh*t) and getting so depressed at the end of every such gig that I'd have to take a hot bath just to wash the memory of the gig away.

    b) The "real piano" situation isn't getting better, it's getting worse.

    c) I want to spend the rest of my musical life playing a real acoustic instrument.

    Don't get me wrong - I loved playing fretless, but I was always trying to make it sound like a real Double Bass. So when the opportunity to grab an old plywood bass presented itself, I grabbed it. Now, after a somewhat long and painful adjustment period, I'm working more than ever, having more fun than ever playing, and happy knowing that every night when I go out to a gig, I know what kind of sound I'm going to get.
  3. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    Thanks, Chris. It's not my usual signature (which is some nonsense about John Entwistle), but I thought I'd parody DEAD FOODBAG a little.

    And Fieldy, I'm shocked! After I gave you that advice on how to sound like your hero as well...
  4. rablack


    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    I was a guitarist for 10 years. In grad school some guys were forming a band and the two guitarists were better than I was so... I became the bass player. Played in pit bands, rock & roll, blues, reggae clubs, weddings etc... 10 years later I switched to fretless BG and switched genres to acoustic swing/jazzy folk. After about 6 years the move to DB was obviously necessary - I saved my pennies and took the plunge a year ago. I love the sound but it's a challenge everyday. I do miss slinging the BG over my shoulder in a gig bag - carrying the real bass around is a bitch. But that sound...

    Why do I play the DB? Well besides that Sound... when I was about 30 years old I had a nightmare that I had turned 63, bald and tubby and playing BG in a wedding band and the leader called "Heard it Through the Grapevine" for only the 3000th time in my career. I awoke in a cold sweat and decided that there was no grace in becoming an old rocker. On the other hand being the old guy on the DB playing timeless, harmonically interesting music seemed much more appealing. So in 23 years that'll be me. So I guess I'm just planning for a more dignified musical future. And then there's that Sound.
  5. AlexFeldman


    Jun 18, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I started playing toy bass in a garage band when I was 13. My first year of high school, I was playing in the school's jazz band. I listened to a lot of recordings... the first one I remember really being into was Herbie Hancock's 'Maiden Voyage'. I got really frustrated because I didn't sound anything like Ron Carter. The school had an old, pretty crappy DB. The action was /really/ high. I learned to play on that thing, despite my teacher's warning that the thing was a real beast.

    Finally, an ad showed up in the paper, a guy was selling an upright. It turned out to be a carved top German bass from the mid 50's. The guy didn't understand how good it was because it needed a lot of setup work. I borrowed money from Grandpa, got the bass, and took it to a local luthier for some work. A few days and a new set of strings later, I was 100x closer to sounding like Ron Carter than I had been before...
  6. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Sounded cool. Looked cool, too.
  7. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Had a ukelele at age 11, then a banjo, then a guitar. Switched to alto sax, first paid gig at 14. Fooled around with bass in high school. Went to college without the horn. Octave key got bent when my mother shipped it. At college, Dixie was king, I didn't play clarinet. No prospects at all for alto players. Took the horn downtown to get the key fixed, and there was a used American Standard bass in the shop. I swapped even, the horn for the bass. Got work on campus (can you believe they preferred tuba for the dixie group). Found a jazz club and a jazz mentor in downtown Providence (RI). Endured bad basses for years, amps were unheard of. Played avocationally for some years, gave it up for family and career. Finally had the bread for a good bass 7 years ago, came out of 'retirement' with a vengeance. I love the sound, I love time, I love laying down a foundation for the group, I love it when a guy is soloing and turns around and grins. I love being in an orchestra playing some magnificent work by Mahler or Beethoven. I love studying with reknowned teachers. I love having an instrument somebody made by hand a hundred or more years ago. I've had great experiences, met some great players. I guess most of all, I love the sound of singing wood.
  8. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    Ah, coming to the dark side, what memories. I played piano most of my life, but when I was 13 I decided I could get more chicks playing guitar. I took it up when I moved to Albuquerque, playing in local bands. I became enamored of the neo-calassical style ala Yngwie Malmsteen, which basically consists of playing Bach licks distorted and really fast for solos. I played in my high school jazz band (piano), but still had no idea what jazz was about, listening to lots of fusion. So, came to college in'90 to study music at a tiny university in Oklahoma. Jazz band director willing to let me play guitar, but they needed a bassist, so I gave the BG a try. I thought "This isn't hard", cuz we started playing easy big band stuff with the bass lines written out. Then I met a very strange cat. He played tenor, wore cowboy boots and big buckles, hailing from the Panhandle of Texas, going by the name of Earl. Oh, btw, he also sounded like Dexter Gordon. He laid on me, much like Ed, a Clifford Brown / Max Roach LP, and when I heard Valse Hot I was hooked. I thought I'd learn the real bass, so they found me a fiberglass Roth. I took it to my first lesson at a larger school, and my teacher said "Surely your school has something better than this". Found an old (c.1900) German bass in a supply closet in disrepair, took it home to Albuq. for Christmas and had Robertson's repair it. Came back, sold ALL my guitar stuff in '92 and have never regretted it even once. Trying to learn legit playing and figuring out what to do with my bow other than playing the last note of a ballad arco, I got with a teacher again and am trying to keep improving. Maybe by the time I hit 30 I'll be good enough to play places that pay more than gift certificates.....hahahahahaha.

    Monte "And now you know the rest of the story" Butts
  9. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    Yeesh, what, am I the only guy around here who started on real bass?

    Nor was I a transplant from violin or cello.

    Although I did have a few years of piano under my belt.

    Flash back to nearly 25 years ago. A dorky third grader has a dentist's appointment and arrives to school late on the day that we get to try out the orchestra instruments. The director will be packing up soon so there's only one time to try one instrument. He's standing in line for the cello when someone says, "what about this thing?" and points at the bass. Quick scramble as everyone moves to line up at the bass, including our hero. While he's waiting the orchestra director says that to play the bass you have to have be able to stretch your hands a LOT. He looks at his hands and sees how far they'll stretch. Works for him.

    It wasn' until 6 or 7 years later that I got my first BG (a Gibson EB3 which I still play). In the mean time I'd also picked up low brass (Tuba, Baritone, Valve Trombone) and tuned percussion (marimba, glockenspiel, vibraphone etc). I got my first guitar in college, nearly a decade after I started on bass, and I still approach guitar more like a bass player than as a guitarist.

  10. This story is the most similar to mine, except that I was in seventh grade at the time, had been working on piano for about a year and a half, and wanted to join the school orchestra.It was a relatively small school district, and everybody knew everybody else. The director eyed me up (I was very tall for my age)and said "Hmm... Your Dad has a station Wagon, doesn't he? Then he had me stretch my fingers, and said "Your'e a natural for Double Bass!" (Because nobody else was playing it.)
    So I immediately started taking lessons (Good Move! :)) And then About two years after that, I got a BG. (My Gene Simmons period-I apologize :oops:) Then, of course, I got into a local Garage band. ( But I was still taking lessons on DB and Piano).
    In Two more years, I was asst. Principal in the Pgh. Youth Symphony. Our first concert was Brahms 1 (I'll never forget it) My heart was pounding, and when the finale reached its climax, with those glorious chords from the Brass at the end,
    (If you've heard the piece you know the part)
    It was like being hit with a Bolt of Lightning.
    I knew this was the right instrument for me.
    I still do a lot of Doubling with the BG, But there is
    to me, Nothing that sounds equal to the singing voice of the DB as it holds down a groove, or Rumbles like a thunderstorm (Beethoven Vl) or performs sonic calisthentics,as in the Bach Suites.

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