Double Bass


I spent a lunch hour this week  looking for a set of double bass strings.  Once again I question my sanity for taking up this instrument.  The strings are over 150 dollars ON SALE.

Its a seductive instrument that pulls you at first sight.   In the shop, it stands there as beautiful as a piece of well made furniture, though I doubt any piece of furniture in my house cost two grand.   It’s voice is low and gorgeous when played by the right musician.   Its a physical instrument and has substance in your arms as you hold it.

But it is a demanding tyrant.   Nothing is cheap with a double bass.    My husband used to jokingly call it the “two-hundred dollar money pit”,  because any repair or upgrade seems to cost that amount.   Strings? Replacement Bridges?  Bows? Carrying Case?  Replacement of end pin and cable?  Two hundred dollars each.

From a musical perspective it requires serious, consistent practice and dedication.  It is unforgiving in technique and requires a decent amount of stamina and control to play.   Lessons are not an option, they are a necessity.  Although my bass teacher is an extremely nice guy, lessons end up sounding like this, a list once compiled by another upright student and myself:

Don’t use your third finger

Fingers further apart, your fingers are too close together

They’re too far apart space them closer

You’re going flat
You’re going sharp
You’re still sharp

Hold the neck with a C hand

Finger spacing changes in each position, getting easier going up

Don’t bend your thumb that way
Don’t bend it at all

Hold the bass with your body, not your hand

Scales, scales, scales

 You always find the hardest way to play a passage. Be more efficient

Scales, scales, scales

Pluck further down the neck, you’re choking your sound.

Keep your thumb straight in thumb position

More legato less staccato, let the notes ring.

Keep your fingers in position; keep your fingers down on the strings.

Keep your elbow out

Keep your thumb behind the neck

Scales, scales, scales

And I leave after 60 minutes feeling like I’ve made one inch further in a journey of a thousand miles.

But as much as it demands from me as a musician, it gives back in the beauty of its voice and the challenge it presents each time I lean it against my torso.  There are times when like Edgar Meyer says in the video below, that your fingers do what they are supposed to, it just feels right.

And with that I leave  you with Edgar Meyer and Bach.

1 thought on “Double Bass

  1. My brother’s long-suffering accordion teacher used to tell him he died a little every time he heard my brother play. At least you haven’t heard that yet. Keep up the hard work, it’ll pay off.

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