Double Bass

Calling all double bassists!


Starting this thread as a place to more broadly discuss double bass, in theory and practice. Seems like there are a good number of bassists here on lines, often working in more experimental contexts, so I figured it would be a great place to chat and share.


I’m debating jumping into the double bass waters after 20 years of consideration. I grew up playing electric bass in my teens (by ear), and - much to my regret - turned down an offer to study upright with a terrific jazz bassist late in high school.

The chances of me pursuing a formal education in performance at this stage in my life (32) is slim, but I nonetheless want to reacquaint myself with music theory through upright bass lessons, specifically in a jazz context. I’m also a longtime fan of free improv, so the prospect of playing double bass in that context, and even using extended techniques in a broader experimental/electronic one, is really appealing to me.

Are there any double bassists here with recommendations on how I might approach this? I’m thinking of renting for a while and taking private lessons, but would love ideas from folks here who might be operating in that more experimental realm. I’m excited about the prospect, but of course nervous as well…

Thanks!

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I don’t know the best way to get a bass but I know they are out there. I do recommend taking lessons though. I have an electric bass and started taking lessons. I learned a lot. I think any kind of music lesson would be helpful for anyone doing music. I have been trying to tell my friend to take piano lessons but for some reason he doesn’t want to. Anyway…

Does your city have an improv jazz scene? Ask one of those guys who a good bass teacher would be.

@Olivier

renting was how i started upright prior to college with my parents help.

my first college degree was in upright with jazz focus.

there’s nothing to be nervous about. you will feel this huge vibration in your chest and belly and whole body so close to mother basso.

just go for it. it’s a feel deeper than any other.

these days i just play various electrics, no upright to speak of but many years of study and experience.

can gladly augment our coffee talks with upright thoughts if ever you’d like!

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I played double bass all throughout high school. Gave it up partially because it’s not the most convenient instrument to lug around, but I will say it was one of the most fun instruments I’ve ever played, due to the sheer physicality of it. My forearms were ripped haha. It also sounds great of course.

It was also one of the most frustrating instruments, and it took me awhile to develop the muscle memory to consistently play the correct notes on the fretboard, especially in the upper registers. So I would say definitely take lessons.

Also prepare to get some fat blisters on your fingers if you don’t have some rough calluses already.

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Paging @Gahlord

I’m working as the electronics assistant for a bunch of student composers writing pieces for double bass and electronics… will post an update on here later!

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I also played double bass for a bit in high school after playing bass guitar since around junior high- it is super fun. Since that feels like a ridiculously long time ago (I’m also 32), I mostly just want to say go for it! I honestly didn’t think that there was too steep of a learning curve going from electric to upright- obviously different fingering, fretlessness, etc to contend with, but really not too bad (though my brain was probably much more malleable back then…).

Plus, rockabilly spin tricks!

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Fun topic! I’ve played upright bass for about 19 years now. I still remember my first time playing upright after playing electric and I was sweating from how much I was exerting myself. It definitely takes a teacher to show you how to be relaxed while you play and not work your small muscles too hard.

I think the double bass is such a rich resource for electronic processing. The low fundamental with the ability to draw out rich overtones makes it very suitable to manipulation (to my ears).

I’m not sure where you are but renting is certainly an option. Also Upton Bass (here in Connecticut) has some very affordable and good sounding standard instruments.

Happy to talk about bass and electronics anytime! Feel free to DM.

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Amazing! I’m actually in Boston and was looking at Upton just yesterday (though currently looking at renting through New England Strings). Will send you a dm!

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Make sure to get a bow. Pizzicato should be a special effect; bowing is the main course.

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So I’ve no idea how one should go about starting to play double bass, but here’s my story.

Around 6 years ago I had a semi-regular gig doing sound for a folk and sea shanty band. There were roughly a million members of the band, all playing different things; a banjo, a ukulele, flute, fiddle, low whistle, bodhuran, squeeze-box, cajon… Just a beautiful cacophony of folky goodness. “What we really want,” said Captain Cat, the leader of this group, “is a double bass player. That’d be awesome. Do you know anyone?” I didn’t.

A few gigs later the fiddle player and I were trading tunes (i was brought up playing classical violin) and he said to me “If we bought you a double bass, would you learn it and play in the band?” I told him this was ridiculous. They cost thousands, and even though the repetoire of the band was hardly difficult, they’d want someone with some experience.

Another few gigs went by. Captain Cat came over “We’re serious.” he said, “we want to buy you a double bass, for you to learn and play in the band”. I politely declined, not because I didn’t think they knew what they were talking about, but because it’d be too much obligation. What if after 6 months of playing in the band I got bored? I could hardly leave the band after they’d bought me a double bass.

A couple of weeks later I went down the local for a pint. I was meeting the violinist there. I walked into The Park Inn and there was a massive cardboard box next to the bar. The landlord grinned. “Kev,” I said “is this a new fridge-freezer for the kitchen?!”

“Nope.” he said. “It’s for you.”

I turned around to see the violinist smiling like a Cheshire Cat.

I’ve now been playing double bass in the band for 5 years. The band just had it’s 10 year anniversary. I went to the tattoo studio to celebrate with Captain Cat and the two backing vocalists for matching nautical tattoos.

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First some questions:

  1. What kind of music do you want to play? I mean really want to play (there are no wrong answers).
  2. Can you take lessons with someone locally at first, just to make sure your hand position and posture is good? Double bass can wreck your body if you don’t listen to your muscles/tendons/bones
  3. What’s the source of your wanting to learn theory? What do you think knowing more theory than you already know will do for you?

From there I can give more specific pointers.

32 is not at all too late to start playing double bass (too late to become principle of the New York Phil perhaps but maybe not).

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Thanks @Gahlord! I’ve been digging your 100 experimental pieces for double bass series these last few days. So much inspiration.

I have a love for late 50s/early 60s jazz (think Ornette, Dolphy, Taylor, etc.) all the way through various free improv schools, old and new. Of course, electro-acoustic music is also a constant inspiration. Which leads me to answering…

Basically I love anything that straddles the line between harmony and atonality, so my interest in theory comes from a position of “learn some of the rules in order to both use and break them”…

Working on this right now. I think I have a couple of decent leads. Happy to take this to dm if that’s easier.

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Def let’s DM! I’m less responsive this week because I’m doing some shows but will be back up for air next week.

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Update! Rental bass acquired, and my first private lesson is tomorrow. Thanks for the nudge, gang.

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