? This guide to the jazz double bass for beginners will explain the and its accessories and give you some tips on where to start when it comes to learning the .
The is one of the iconic instruments of and it is present on most recordings. Also called the or , it is usually played by plucking the strings while in it is mostly played with a .
Although the is cumbersome, physically demanding to play and surprisingly quiet in volume compared to its cousin the , there is nothing quite like its rich, percussive sound.
The name ‘‘ reflects the ‘s principal role in the orchestra, to ‘double’ the part an octave lower. It is tuned in fourths, E-A-D-G low to high, like the bottom four strings of a guitar. The is a transposing , the notes sounding an octave lower than written. It is used in many styles of music, including country and bluegrass.
If you’re looking for some help in getting started on the , you’re in the right place. Read on to find out more about learning how to play the bass, buying a new or second-hand instrument, set up and maintenance, accessories and a few listening recommendations.
How Easy is it to Start Learning D?
It is quite easy to learn the rudiments of the and begin playing with other musicians, especially if you have some musical training already. Beginners start to play the open strings and gradually learn the notes on the fingerboard while developing a consistent plucking or bowing action.
To learn good habits and make good progress, it is best to take . With poor , even playing for short periods can result in hand cramps and blisters.
A good walking basslines, reading music in bass clef and other essential skills. should be able to teach you a good playing , how to compose
Many of the greats studied with classical players to develop their and knowledge of the , also using method books such as Simandl. The principle of using the natural weight of each arm to hold down the strings and draw sound from the applies to both classical playing and .
Some of the top players have published method books, including Ray Brown and Ron Carter. Music courses and are available online too.
To play well requires ear training and knowledge of , and this can be learned from any good musician, such as a pianist or saxophonist.
courses and summer schools are a great way to learn and start playing with other musicians, but the recorded history of is the best learning resource of all.
Experienced often transcribe music from recordings to adapt and incorporate into their own playing.
Buying a New or Second-Hand D
You can buy a new with a and a soft padded case for less than $1,000. This will be an made out of durable laminated wood (plywood). generally come from a factory in Eastern Europe or China.
For around $3,000 you can buy a new that is fully carved, usually from solid pieces of maple and spruce with an ebony fingerboard. These make a richer and more detailed sound.
More expensive instruments are made with more care and attention, using better quality wood and fittings. You can easily spend $20,000 on an maker). handmade by a luthier (
Between these price points, there are lots of well-made second-hand instruments available, including German and French instruments from the late 19th and 20th century.
Many of the classic recordings were made on instruments like these, probably because they were the ones available. It is generally accepted that basses improve with age, as the wood dries and vibrates more freely.
If you decide to look for a second-hand , there is always a chance that you will stumble across a bargain, particularly if someone is looking to get rid of a that is not being played and is taking up space at home.
Set-up and Maintenance
The is so big that if parts are poorly fitted or out of alignment, the becomes very difficult to play. Setting up is a vital job and includes adjustments to the bridge height, soundpost and other areas.
A new will most likely need a set up by a luthier before it sounds its best and is comfortable to play. In contrast, a second-hand that has been used and well-maintained might not need a set-up. An old neglected may need some restoration work and a set-up.
Carved instruments can suffer cracks, which need to be glued. It is best to get an checked by a luthier before you buy it.
What About BRental?
Renting a is a good way to start while you get a feel for the and decide whether it really is for you. Many music shops and education providers rent instruments for a small monthly fee.
Types of D
Basses vary in shape and size. The in the family and some basses resemble other instruments in the family like the , or . was developed in the 15th century as a
However, there are variations in shape and size, which show the influence of another family of stringed instruments, the viols. Some have a rounded or ‘swell’ back and some have a flat back.
There is no standard size, although most adults play what is considered to be a 3/4 size , with a scale (length of the vibrating ) of about 42 inches or 106cm maximum.
players use various accessories to meet the needs of the playing that they do. A (French or German-style) is essential for playing .
To make the using a bridge-mounted pickup, fed to a small amplifier. At concert halls, the sound engineer might put a microphone on the to amplify its natural sound through the PA system. more audible in a band setting, most players amplify the
A will easily fit in most hatchback cars with the back seats down. A bottom-mounted wheel is handy for moving the around. Many players perform standing but it is very useful to have a stool for the option of sitting down while you play.
Many of the classic recordings were made using gut strings, an animal product. Metal and hybrid metal-wrapped plastic strings are now the most popular types of .
Strings can last for at least a year before the sound quality deteriorates and players are known to use metal strings for several years.
There are plenty of legendary jazz players to get inspired by.
For many, Ray Brown and Ron Carter are the personifications of taste and swing. Jimmy Blanton and Scott LaFaro were virtuoso players who died tragically young.
Charles Mingus was a great and one of the finest composers in . Dave Holland, Christian McBride and John Patitucci are some of the modern greats.
We hope you found this guide to the double bass for beginners helpful. A double can be an expensive purchase so we recommend renting before buying an affordable and getting it set up well. Remember also to invest in tuition to develop your playing ability and get the most enjoyment out of playing.
Find out more about the greatest double Jaco Pastorius or learn more about the Miles Davis collaborator Paul Chambers in our roundup of his greatest albums.
in . Head over to our articles on jazz-funk icon and bass virtuoso
The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!