BASS GUITAR TO UPRIGHT BASS: The Top Ten mistakes migrating players make...
(not in any particular order)
- Thinking that Upright Bass is just a big bass guitar. It isn't. It's a very different animal. Be prepared to learn an instrument that is completely new to you. And while they are tuned the same, you seldom play as many notes as you might play on a bass guitar. You use different techniques, and play using an entirely different mindset.
- Using Bass Guitar plucking techniques on an Upright Bass. Don't play with the tips of your fingers, curl your finger a bit and play with the side of your finger, put some meat on it for that big sound. And don't pluck it, pull it back and let go cleanly so the moving string doesn't scrape against your skin. If you want a big sound, play big!
- Gripping the neck like a baseball bat when stopping (putting your finger in place) a note. Your position in relation to the bass (rear corner) should allow you to apply leverage using bass against your body so you pull back against the fingerboard with your fingers. This allows pressure to be applied more naturally, freely, and without clamping down. Related, and possibly helpful point: your BODY "holds" the bass up, not your hand.
- Calling the fingerboard the fretboard. There are no frets. Easy mistake, but easy to fix, too -- you don't want other players to make fun of you.
- Buying cheap and getting cheap. Tools don't make the carpenter, but crappy ones can affect the project. The instrument, bridge, strings, etc., all contribute to the sound, and poor results discourage progress and reflect poorly on the musician trying to overcome inferior tools. If that's all you can handle, do everything you can to make it perform up to its potential, leading to...
- Living with a poorly set up instrument. Playing upright bass is enough of a challenge, why handicap yourself? Invest in yourself and have the bass' playbility maximized by a pro, and if you can't -- visit my Double Bass Links Page to find all the wonderful resources out there to help you learn more about doing it yourself.
- Blindly believing what another random bassist says. Also, buying into Internet wisdom based on frequency rather than accuracy. Everybody has opinions, I seem to remember a saying about that... Regardless, in life as well as on the internet, you have to consider the credibility of the source. Worthwhile opinions usually come from people with a wider range of experience, though the length of a player's experience does not necessarily make it quality information -- breadth is important, too. The net is a wonderful resource, but you should do your due diligence before buying into "the best strings I've every played" when the writer is someone who has only ever played two different string types in his life. (In fact, you better check to see if this Bob Gollihur guy knows what he is talking about.)
- Ignoring the bow. Respectfully, don't. Using a bow when practicing is a great tool for discovering your intonation... or the lack of it. We can get away with murder when plucking; bowing reveals the true pitch and helps you to correct bad intonation. Also... when you successfully draw out your first big open E string note using the bow, you'll really understand what playing bass is all about! Get a decent horsehair bow and don't cheap out on rosin(s); you're going to love it!
- Not getting lessons from a competent teacher. If you don't learn the fundamentals of baseball you'll never be a decent player. Same thing goes with bass playing. If your budget is tight, contact a teacher, and at least get a couple introductory lessons to start off on the right foot. And refer to #7 - anybody can say they are an upright bass teacher. Lessons from a schooled player will probably be more valuable in the long run.
- Not practicing or playing enough. Take every opportunity to play with others, especially if they are better than you are, but also if they are not. Listen, interact musically, and learn. But then... that goes for any instrument, doesn't it?
Back To: Knowledge Base (FAQs)