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Beginning URB


squeennyzim

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So my friends and I went to a jazz show last night at the Eastman School of Music and all of the players were on URB. I've always wanted to learn that but I never had the resources or the musical ability, until I started picking up electric bass. Now I've got a couple of questions I hope someone can help me with.

 

I'm fairly short (5ft 6in) and my hands are fairly small. That said, I've gotten used to moving my hands around the neck on an electric bass. While I know that the two are very different, is there a physical limit that would prevent you from being able to play URB?

 

Second, I'm lucky enough to be near a few very talented bass professors. However, I'm not quite at the point where I'm proficient reading music (I play on a fretless) to the point where I can read off a page and translate it onto the neck. If I can find a bass to rent or, even better, find one that the school has to practice on, should I try to acclimate myself to playing it and getting used to the tone before I start plunking down cash on lessons?

 

Finally, I'd love to hear some stories or experiences with URB. I've done some reading about it from the archives on here, and I've always loved watching people play them, and I think I have the drive to be able to learn it and really internalize it. I know some of you have done a lot of work on the upright bass and I really want to make sure that this is something I'll stick with. So please, any tidbits of advice would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks!

As I was going up the stairs

I met a man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

I wish, I wish he'd go away

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Originally posted by squeennyzim:

I'm fairly short (5ft 6in) and my hands are fairly small. That said, I've gotten used to moving my hands around the neck on an electric bass. While I know that the two are very different, is there a physical limit that would prevent you from being able to play URB?

No. I know quite a few people with small hands that are terrific bass players. You might have to alter your technique slightly to compensate, but a good teacher can show you the way. Also, URB's come in different sizes. Standard is a 3/4 size, but I know shorter people who play smaller scale basses. In case you are worried, keep in mind that the size of a bass does not (usually) correspond to how loud it is (if that's a concern).

 

Secondly, I highly, highly recommend getting a teacher when starting out. URB is not like electric bass. You can pick up bad habits, and really do harm to your body if you don't use the proper technique.

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I just got done doing a jazz gig at the Jazz Factory in Huntsville, AL. I am very happy to see someone post a URB question right now.

 

I think if you have the love of bass or upright you'll be fine at it no matter what your physical limitations (as it pertains to a large instrument)may be. I second the suggestion that you should get a teacher, to avoid developing bad habits.

 

You may want to look into buying a cheap URB. I bought a Cremona SB2 over the internet for about 700. It was a great investment (cheap, decent sound, no worries about transport since it is cheap, practice at home). I have been very happy with mine.

 

Good Luck.

We must accept the consequences of being ourselves-Sojourn of Arjuna

 

Music at www.moporoco.com/nick

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Hi there Squeennyzim! Well let's see here....

First I should point out that Dave or Bob will be able to answer your questions far better than I but here's my 2 cents.

 

First. No, you are not too short to play double bass. If you were there would be no bassists in Jr./Sr. High School orchestras. And though the neck and board are quite different than the electric, you should be able to adapt to the instrument pretty quickly. Using a bow however. will be a new and interesting experience.

 

You should also be aware that transporting the bass will pose certian challenges as well. Rufus Ried's book "The Evolving Bassist" gives some valuable information on this topic. I highly recommend his book if you don't already own a copy. You probably ought to pick up a copy of Simandl while you're at it! :D

 

I feel that you should try to start lessons as soon as you are able. The Upright is a physically demanding instrument and it is all too easy to develop bad habits which will impair your ability to make steady progress and could cause you actual physical problems in the long run.

 

You should be able to find a bass to rent at the school or in a local shop,especially considering where you live.

 

As for my own story, I happened into playing double bass unintentionally. I was a junior in high school and I had been taking electric bass lessons for awhile. But my teacher had gone on tour ( See the "Influences" thread).

 

No matter how hard my teacher had tried, I had never been able to make very much progress with music theroy which was something he was quite passionate about. So he had recommeneded that I talk to the orchestra director at my school whom he played with in the Lubbock symphony orchestra. He taught a music theroy class and Mike (my teacher) felt that it would benefit me to get in.

 

So, I went to talk to the Director. However, I found out that the class was only offered to seniors.During the course of our meeting he found out who my teacher was and became very excited about getting me in the orchestra. Despite all my attempts to convince him that I was not the virtuoso that my teacher was and furthermore I had never even played an Upright. He still wanted me in. So, I pulled out my trump card and showed him my hands and explained that I could only play left handed thinking that this would end the whole thing. But instead, he assured it was no problem, he would have one of the basses'bridge reversed and the instrument re-strung. I thought oh well at least I will learn some theroy! And to be honest I had been facinated with the Upright ever since I came to a lesson and walked in while my teacher was practicing.What a sound!

 

Anyway, I only played that one year and it was a very enjoyable experience. I learned some very valuable and surprising things not only about the bass but about music and musicians as well.

 

Well, I hope I didn't bore you too bad! :bor:

 

Good Luck with your pursuit of the Upright. It is a great instrument and whether you keep with it or not it will provide you with valuable knowledge and experiences.

 

Cheers

Nothing is as it seems but everything is exactly what it is - B. Banzai

 

Life is what happens while you are busy playing in bands.

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What can I add to this knowing the Dave Brown will be up any second now? Get a relatively decent bass and get it set up by a professional. Get a good teacher, make sure the teacher is with you when you are getting the bass set up, if possible. Assume you know nothing.

 

While this IS initially expensive, it should save you a year or 2 of pain.

 

As for the reading and theory, don't sweat it, you will be suprised how easy that gets.

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Trust everything DBB tells you without question. He will lead you to what you need to know without sugarcoating. You should also do a search on "URB" if for nothing else but more background information.

Don't kid yourself, URB is not a simple undertaking. It's a lot more than a basic transition from fretless (although not having the crutch of using frets will onl hlp you). ou will be taught the bass as though it were a classical instrument, (what with position studies, etudes, and the like).

That being said, dive right in! URB is the most rewrding instrument that I've got, although I've got a lot of work to do on it. It is a humbling experience. I will tell you this, though: after a lesson one monday night this summer, I decided to take out the bass and play, just by myself, a few hundred yeards from the music store. A local coffee house has "open mic nights" during the winter but during the summer, those musicians just come outside to play, everyone at a different place right by the coffee house. As soon as I unbagged the bass, I had everyone come by, very interested. I received two offers to join established bands and at least one comment that summs it all up: "do you know how cool you are just holding that thing?"

yup.

...think funky thoughts... :freak:
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Why would you want to practice on the instrument before starting to take lessons? To show the teacher that you don't need him to show you how to play it, or to develop a ton of bad habits that he's got to work harder to undo?

 

A teacher's job is to show a student how to play. Don't worry about your lack of ability, that's why you're taking lessons.

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Well, my reputation preceeds me! Now I gotta live up to it!

 

First: take lessons from somebody proficient in the Simandl method. This method, in my opinion, gives the small handed player much better chance of playing than, for example, the Rabbath method. You will become a master of shifting and positional playing.

 

Secondly, The size issue: The 3/4 bass is the standard size for most bassists (it's what I play.) However, there are basses that are better than others for size issues. The width and depth of the neck are not standardized, and some basses have a thinner neck in the half position area...that would make it easier. Also, certain basses have more steeply sloping shoulders than others. Additionally, learning to play while seated on a stool makes it easier for smaller folks. I regularily start kids on bass in the 5-7th grades, and use stools everywhere. I do have some 1/2 size basses, but I don't really think an adult should play one; the tone is just not there.

 

Also, the use of a softer string will help with the small hands. I would think that the Corelli Savarez med. lights with tungsten would really help. $100 investment, but they last for years.

 

Thirdly, where to obtain: Probably you should rent an instrument somewhere. You might try to compare a few basses, and find some that have thinner necks than others. The biggest stretch you'll have to do is the F-G on the E string between first and fourth fingers while keeping your wrist straight. That is half position. Actually, it is about the equivalent to a F-G# on a fretted bass.

 

Fourth, Reading: Again, this is the best reason to study privately immediately. A good teacher in the Simandl method will make reading automatic for you...bite sized pieces.

 

Fifth, Jazz--orchestra: Study the bow immediately. You can't hear a pizzicato note as precisely. Bowing is tough; I was told in college that even there, 75% of my practice was spent on the bow. If you develop strong bow technique, it will not only teach you more precise intonation, it will also open up more musical horizons for you.

 

Good luck...if I think of anything else, I'll let you know.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Thanks for all the help, guys. I emailed one of the professors at the music school here and I'm hoping he'll get back to me sometime later today. I'm definitely more optimistic now than I was last night, because I wasn't sure if I was going to be constrained in terms of ability to play, but now I'm definitely going to find a way to make it work. I'll keep you all updated.

 

By the way, I was browsing eBay and there are basses in the 500-600 dollar range. Should these even be considered as a starting point or are they almost guaranteed to fall apart immediately?

As I was going up the stairs

I met a man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

I wish, I wish he'd go away

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BenLoy sez:
It'll cost you around $3000, but you'll never sell it. As far as plywood instruments go, they're amazing.
BenLoy, did you buy one of those? Tell me more, I am in the market for a new (to me) upright.
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Looks interesting...kind of an attempt to recreate the famous Kay Bass sound.

 

I would personally recommend carved basses by either Lemur Music or violinsetc.com, in the $2500-$3500 price range. They do offer smaller basses (sloping shoulders, thinner necks) as well.

 

But I'm still convinced that our intrepid young beginner needs to check the rental market first. He needs to try several instruments and see what his hand can accomodate.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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I am going to have to butt heads on the inexpensive bass issue...Yes, I purchased a cheap bass on ebay...Yes, I probably ran the risk of getting an instrument that was complete garbage...I look at this way...I now have a cheap bass that works great for practice, I don't have to worry about destroying it when I take it to the club because the investment is not that large, it sounds as good as many of the $ 2000-3000 range basses that I have played...

 

I use it for jazz and orchestral and it does the job...I know that there is risk involved, but to me there is nothing like having your own instrument, something you can grow attached to and feel a love for (unlike a rented instrument in my opinion), I don't have to schedule my practice around when the school is locked up...

 

I would love to own a nice 10G bass, but I am gigging on what I got and I am happy to do so...

 

But I will say one thing...Referring to the gamble, if you spend under $ 2000 you could get stuck with junk...What I am saying here is for $ 700 that was a risk I was willing to take...Don't be pissed if you do get shafted...

We must accept the consequences of being ourselves-Sojourn of Arjuna

 

Music at www.moporoco.com/nick

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what about one of those Carlo Robelli URBs? I saw one in Sam Ash for $899. I know the Electric basses and guitars and aoustic counterparts are really not that good.

 

I didnt get a chance to play it, but what do you guys think? I eventually want to get one. (Within 3 years probably).

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Nick,

 

Not in a head butting war. There's a market for everything.

 

I've spent time on these pages making my argument about these basses. To sum it all up, playability is compromised, longevity is compromised.

 

My main concern for a small handed bassist is that he needs to find one "hands-on."

 

Another caveat...the "proper" technique for fingering and bowing is made more difficult with many of these cheap basses. Consequently, young players make playing compromises to get the sound out, which later prove to be limiting factors.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Well either way it's a moot point because I, as a starving college student, can't afford to buy one yet. Nor should I at this point just in case things don't work out.

 

No response from the professor yet, but I might go visit one of the other teachers during their office hours here at the school tomorrow or Wednesday. Once again, thanks for all the encouragement and advice, it's been much appreciated.

As I was going up the stairs

I met a man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

I wish, I wish he'd go away

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DBB,

 

I will defintely have to agree when it concerns the small-handed bassist. I did not consider this for the guy. The bass I have has a huge neck, which is great for me because I have large hands. For me the large neck keeps my thumb where it should be (behind the neck). On most URB's I have played other than mine, the neck is too small and I have a tendency to wrap around the neck when my hands get fatigued.

 

DBB, I always enjoy your post and if we have butted heads on one or two topics, it in no way diminishes my respect for you and your experience-based suggestions. A difference of opinion on this message board seems to be a good thing to me as there are a variety of players and a variety of views.

We must accept the consequences of being ourselves-Sojourn of Arjuna

 

Music at www.moporoco.com/nick

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Whats the Difference between a 1/2, 3/4, and 4/4 URB? I know the size is different, but by how much, and what are other differences, for example: tone.
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