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chrisd783

Upright bass advice needed please

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Hi all

The sharper among you will have some idea of the nature of this post from the thread title. The say the devil is in the detail, so here's a bit of background...

I have played electric bass for around 15 years in various cover bands, and the odd original project. I have always had a serious case of GAS for an upright, but could never justify the expense to 'er indoors as it wasn't something I needed for gigs. Luckily, my current band are just starting to move from pubs and clubs into the wedding/corporate market, and we have discussed offering an acoustic set in the day as well as the full band gig in the night as part of our pricing options. So I FINALLY have the green light! 

What I don't have however is the funds. I have some gear I'll be putting up for sale on Monday and I'm confident of raising £500 that way, and I could potentially add another £100 if I cash in all my brownie points, so looking at a maximum overall budget of £600.

I have never actually played an upright for any length of time. A mate of mine has one that he brings to jam nights in my local, and I've spent the odd 10 minutes here and there arguing with his at these nights, usually under the influence. I'm under no illusion that I'll have to throw considerable time into getting to grips with it to get to gigging standard, something I'm looking forward to doing; I'm nothing if not tenacious. 

What I'm specifically after from the awesome pool of knowledge this community provides is the following:

1) Is my £600 better spent on a new beginner's upright bass (Gear4Music or something of that ilk) or a better quality second-hand instrument that may be a little 'road-worn'? 

2) I've dipped my toe into the online learning resources in this area. There's A LOT. Any advice on particularly good/bad ones? 

3) If anyone reading this made the transition from electric to upright like myself, what did you find most difficult? How did you overcome this? Any other specific advice from someone in a simialar situation to me?

4) Finally, if anyone happens to have an instrument they're looking to move on within my price range, and ideally not a million miles away from south Wales... you know what to do ;) 

 

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for any help or advice you guys can give me. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Hi Chris, 

I made the same transition 6 or 7 years ago, so whilst not being a lifer with a font of knowledge these are a few things I've realised since starting. They might not be right, it's just my opinion. 

Firstly, as long as you're prepared to give doublebass a proper chance it's brilliant. Completely different to electric bass yet similar enough to not feel out of your depth. It's easy to think a lot of bass lines would just be easier with an electric bass but I like the way a DB makes you play differently. 

1. A second hand bass will almost definitely give better value for money, but I bought a new one (Gedo) because I knew nothing about DB and while used represents better value for money, a couple of repairs that weren't spotted could be costly. That said a new bass will benefit massively from a proper set up which will cost and you will need a decent set of strings as the ones that come on any budget bass will be horribly off putting, Innovation do a fantastic range of strings at excellent prices, sub £100, strings can get eyewateringly expensive but second hand is also an option as they can last years. If the option is available then an adjustable bridge is helpful for a beginner as you can experiment to find a height that you like. String height preferences on DB can vary wildly. If you are amplifying then a cheaper ply bass can be better than a lovely fully carved bass as it'll (usually) be less resonant so will have less tendancy to feed back. Obviously the tone will probably suffer but what good is incredible tone if it's howling with feedback? Also a ply bass will probably stand up to a bit more abuse if dragging it around venues. Now I have a little bit more knowledge I would definitely buy second hand over new, unless money really wasn't an issue. 

2. I think any online resource that you can get along with is fine. No point trying to follow something that you can't get on with because someone said it was better than something else, use what works for you. I know it's frowned upon but I stuck some side dots on mine to start with, for reassurance mainly when on a loud stage. Ignored them mainly but a quick check every now and then helped I found. 

3. The thing that was hardest to comprehend was why hadn't I done this sooner. It can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be and I threw myself in at the deep end by gigging almost immediately. There's a bit of a story I'll spare you from but I just played simple lines to start with and as confidence built I expanded the complexity of the lines, essentially learning how to play on stage. 

4. I haven't got one for sale 😁

As I said at the top of this post, these points are what I, being in your situation, have discovered in the fist few years of playing and are by no means 'right', and will probably change as I progress but hopefully will be of some help.

Good luck with the new avenue of music 👍

Edited by Maude
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I would say that Thomann is the way to go. I bought one several years ago for around 500 quid and I loved it. 

You will need to change the strings as they aren't very good but I cant fault the bass itself.

I should add that mine was played pizz and slap style. 

The only reason I sold it was a lack of space,  but I still regret it..I just cant get on with a bass guitar. I need to find some space somewhere again lol

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Posted (edited)

I know nothing about DB and like it even less.  But if its any help I do know a DB player.  She approached a guitar drums duo she liked and propositioned them, admitting she knew sweet FA about bass but was keen to learn.  She started DEAD simple - just playing root notes.  Then as she grew in experience she slowly added other notes.  This is was years ago and now both she and the band are well regarded in the region and well en-gigged.  I still hate DB, but hope this anecdote helps in some way.   

Edited by lownote12

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I'm not really sure £600 is enough to get you into a double bass.  Double basses cost £1000s not £100s.  A £600 double bass is kind of the equivalent of a £50 electric bass - there is just so much more material in them.

  • The cheapest new bass at Bass Bags is £1100 (not set up) or £1280 (perfectly set up)
  • The cheapest new bass at Thomann is £598 (and a new set of strings for it will be another £100 or so, full setup around £150)

Still:  toe in the water and that. 

Sounds like the plan is to play acoustically, in which case something half decent would be good - but if the band will let you hide a small amp, then fitting a magnetic pickup (yet another £100) gets around most issues with the bass itself and just amplifies the strings; it will sound a lot like an EUB, but look more authentic and get you closer to the day you want to spend bucks on a really nice double bass!

Second hand will give you a better bass for a given cost ... generally.   In time you may end up spending money on it; but it spreads the cost at least; a quick scan through the usual places, shows only this at under £600 ... but it might actually do the job.

This one? https://www.gumtree.com/p/double-bass/double-bass-3-4-michael-poller-beautiful-condition-/1348333529

(reviewed here on an old thread :

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

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Posted (edited)

What’s important is the set up. Any bass (whether new from Gear4music or second hand) needs a good set of strings and a setup. 

My first bass was purchased from a professional for £450. I spent about the same on a new set of strings and a set up and it’s now incredible sounding and playing.

I’ve now upgrades to a Bryant which is a whole world apart but it still needed a £400 set up.

Edited by Burns-bass

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How committed will you be to DB? I ask this because in the long run you’d be better off upping your budget to £1,000. Yes, it’s a bit of a jump but it’ll be a real investment. Go down to Ben Packham in Kent and he will fix you up with a really nice old ply, or even possibly a hybrid, that will have a decent setup. That’ll keep you going for several years. According to the music you play you may feel that you never need to upgrade.

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1 minute ago, bassace said:

Go down to Ben Packham in Kent

Had a look on his site (https://thedoublebassroom.com/) whilst poking about for cheap basses; everything he lists is over £3000 (and very well priced at that for the quality).  Does he have a hidden back room (a "bargain bassment" perhaps?).

+1 for an old and well setup ply bass btw

No setup will make a  bad bass into a good one, but even a good bass won't work without being properly setup and, unlike an electric bass, it's not something you can do by yourself .  Decent dealers and owners will sell basses that ARE properly set up .. Thomann etc probably not.  Worth factoring in when comparing prices.

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Posted (edited)

@headofire has just posted up an old Hungarian ply DB on the FS forum here for £475 with decent strings and he also mentions a choice of pickups. He also knows his onions re DB matters.

That would be an inexpensive way to try things out ... thats if you can get down Brighton way or meet somewhere mutually convenient

Edited by Clarky

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You've got some great advice here Chris.

I agree that you'll get much more bang for your buck from a 2nd hand bass. The one Clarky recommended above could be just the job.

Last year I bought a similar bass from Ben at the Double Bass Room, but one with a carved top. I had it on approval and brought it to the bass bash, where I was fortunate enough to meet Nick A and bassace. They both gave it an unequivocal thumbs up. It cost just shy of £1000, but it wasn't well set up at all. That was another £200 or so, including the strings. There's an almost identical one in the For Sale section, which might still be available...

That's way more money than you had in mind, I know. But as others have mentioned, if you can stretch your budget to about a grand now, you'll be glad you did. My first bass was a £500 Gear4Music ply, and it did me well for years. But I wish I'd discovered sooner how much more fun it is to play on a bass that "really has a voice", as bassace so memorably put it.

Good luck in your quest, and let us know how you get on...

 

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the nod Clarky! This bass plays and sound really well, I don’t go for a super low action (less tone..no volume) but I am able to set it up low if you like. It’s lower than I generally use myself though. The strings are pretty fresh too I’ve hardly used it. 

Send me a message I bought this on a whim and it’s a great place to start.

Edited by headofire

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As ever, all good stuff here and nothing at all that I'd disagree with.

One strong recommendation, though, would be that you try out as many DBs as you can before making a decision and a purchase. Use this forum to find DB players near you who would be willing to offer you an hour playing their DB (and a cup of tea, and maybe a digestive biscuit).

Different basses obviously feel and  sound different, just like electric basses, but the differences can be  magnified with DB simply because they are so physical. You will usually find also that string choice is even more significant than on electric bass, so a bass that you try and fall in love with may be because it's strung  with Silver Slaps (my  personal favourite - blame Clarky) whereas the others you played were strung with steels.

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1 hour ago, Happy Jack said:

As ever, all good stuff here and nothing at all that I'd disagree with.

One strong recommendation, though, would be that you try out as many DBs as you can before making a decision and a purchase. Use this forum to find DB players near you who would be willing to offer you an hour playing their DB (and a cup of tea, and maybe a digestive biscuit).

Different basses obviously feel and  sound different, just like electric basses, but the differences can be  magnified with DB simply because they are so physical. You will usually find also that string choice is even more significant than on electric bass, so a bass that you try and fall in love with may be because it's strung  with Silver Slaps (my  personal favourite - blame Clarky) whereas the others you played were strung with steels.

All true! Still at that budget you’re really at the very bottom end and I’d go for playability and good construction. A good orchestral bass starts around 6 figures. A good professional bass for a good player earning money 5-10000.

500/600 will get you in the door but to put it in perspective in electric bass terms it’s like spending £100 on a used squire p bass. Great thing to get your fingers going and if well set up with a good pickup it’s a great place to start on a sound instrument that won’t fold in half under the tension of the strings. 

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I bought a Zeller from Clarky (well, who else?) many years ago. It's one of the  nicest-sounding DBs I've ever played,  sufficiently so that I always try other Zellers when I get the opportunity, see if mine is somehow  'special'.

Every Zeller strung with Silver Slaps (or similar) that I've tried sounds just as good as mine. Well, to my ears, anyway.

I have no idea about current pricing,  but  I suspect that these DBs  cost around £2k new.  Mine was pristine when I bought  it,  now not so much. In the  ridiculous event that I were to sell it (not going to happen, people) I couldn't ask for more than a grand. 

For context, I've used my Zeller with originals & indie, blues and jazz, rock and rockabilly. I never use a bow.

 

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Guys I can't thank you all enough for your encouragement and advice. The BC community has come up trumps yet again, as I knew it would. You guys are fantastic, and I really am very grateful. 

It appears the consensus is a second hand instrument. I was expecting to be advised to throw more cash at it, but with two young children whose feet seem to get bigger every month and all the usual household bills etc it's just not possible at the moment. I need something to get me started, with a view to upgrading when I'm able. To that end, I'm currently taking the sage advice above and am in talks with @headofire.

I'll update this thread when there is news! 

 

Once again, thank you all so, so much! 

 

 

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On 11/08/2019 at 07:57, chrisd783 said:

. To that end, I'm currently taking the sage advice above and am in talks with @headofire.

 

A wise decision - you won’t do any better than that, indeed, you could wait years for a deal like that to come up.

I made the transition 7 years ago and of the many things I’ve learnt, one is - you have to travel for many things DB-related: purchase; lessons; workshops; concerts; gigs etc. Don’t let that put you off - I would drive to the north of Scotland for the right deal.

Although time and money may be restricted, i would also consider the occasional lesson in person rather than just on-line learning. For on-line learning, I would start with ‘Discover Double Bass’. Try not to let any bad habits creep in that may slow later development and play as often as you can!

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 I knew nothing when I started at all and bought a Thomann cheapest I could find......it has done me real real well (100 plus gigs and 5 years abuse) but I absolutely believe in hindsight that I was very fortunate with the build quality.

If I started now knowing what I do and listening to your dilemma (although not 100% sure how acoustic you mean) Id be buying second hand and have me a budget of 6-700. There's been a few stentor 3/4s for sale recently and I think they are really solid well made and great value for money and Ive been sorely tempted to buy one just because....well....just because....

Find a friend, dont be put off by the cheaper ones, try them out. I'd make sure you are happy / comfortable with the neck width, as Ive tried a few with thick necks and they feel rubbish and difficult to play......

whatever you decide just make sure and slap it hard at some point in your journey :-) good luck!  

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I make a lot of money repairing people’s stentors.. I would swerve those unless you mean the zeller basses. I had a Stentor that literally fell to pieces onstage in the heat of a festival gig. Some are fantastic some aren’t like everything. Worth mentioning they are tiny too. 

Thomann ones are better made in my experience. 

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On 11/08/2019 at 08:57, chrisd783 said:

To that end, I'm currently taking the sage advice above and am in talks with @headofire.

Fitted your Schaller on there Chris, sounds great with the innovations. 

Thanks for your faith in me! Ya must be mad.. 

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1 hour ago, headofire said:

I make a lot of money repairing people’s stentors.. I would swerve those unless you mean the zeller basses. I had a Stentor that literally fell to pieces onstage in the heat of a festival gig. Some are fantastic some aren’t like everything. Worth mentioning they are tiny too. 

Thomann ones are better made in my experience. 

Those Zellers are solid! Mine fell on its back onto a concrete floor last week. Headstock broke off but the neck joint was fine  😮  I couldn't believe it.

Edited by Cathode_Follower
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21 hours ago, headofire said:

I make a lot of money repairing people’s stentors.. I would swerve those unless you mean the zeller basses. I had a Stentor that literally fell to pieces onstage in the heat of a festival gig. Some are fantastic some aren’t like everything. Worth mentioning they are tiny too. 

Thomann ones are better made in my experience. 

then I will reappraise my views!!!..didnt realise that tbh... thanks

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21 hours ago, Cathode_Follower said:

Those Zellers are solid! Mine fell on its back onto a concrete floor last week. Headstock broke off but the neck joint was fine  😮  I couldn't believe it.

Ouch.. heartbreaking!

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