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Switching From Electric to Upright Bass

If you have learned to play an electric bass, but have always wondered if the upright bass might provide a more satisfying experience, the answer is it depends. They are significantly different, from the way they are held to the way they sound, it is an entirely different type of musical experience. To really know which one is right for you, you need to give the double bass some time as you get accustomed to the way it feels.

The size and price of the upright bass

The double bass can look intimidating with its shear size, but the sound it produces is unrivaled in the music world. For those who have a smaller stature and perhaps originally chose the electric bass because it was better suited because of its size, there are different size basses as well. Having something smaller than the “full-sized” double bass does not diminish the experience. The smaller size just means that you will be able to more comfortably bow and execute the large fingering gaps.


Because of its classical, iconic appearance and the way it is made, the double bass is typically more costly than an electric bass. If you are not as adverse to purchasing a used instrument, you can get a bass for considerably less, although you will want to have it checked out by a professional before purchasing. A professional will be able to tell you if there are any problems with the bass that might affect the sound. Knowing the state of a used instrument is very important before investing in a stringed instrument, whether it is an upright bass, violin, guitar, or electric bass.

Restringing the double bass

Once you purchase your instrument, you will need to get accustomed to a very different method of stringing it. You will need to align the strings with the pegs, but you will also need to run them down along the neck and across the bridge to produce the correct sound. If you do not properly place the strings on the bridge, it will change the sound produced by the instrument. There is nothing comparable to it on an electric bass, so it is best to be aware that even the simple act of stringing your new instrument will take some time to get accustomed to. Apart from restringing it, you should leave all other changes to a professional.

Playing the upright bass

The biggest difference will come when you actually begin playing. Bowing and learning the fingerings will feel awkward at first, especially since you will also have to learn how to hold it upright. Getting the right grip on the bow will likely take a couple of practices and several reminders. Practicing in front of a mirror to make sure you are bowing at the correct 90 degree angle is also vital for making sure you are producing a strong, clear tone. The fingering will be a little easier since your fingers are trained on working with strings, but the stretches to reach the different notes will prove challenging. Also, double basses do not have markings to help you learn where the notes are. While you are first beginning, you should have lessons with a teacher who can teach you to tune the instrument, and who can properly place tape on the neck to indicate where the notes are. Even though the upright generally only uses two fingers, the large distance between those notes can make learning where they are more complicated than an electric bass. Once you have trained your fingers to find the notes, the tape can be removed without leaving a mark on the bass.


photo credit: Jsome1 via photopin cc

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