Upright Bass Fans? Players? Let's hang

Hey all. I know we’re - for the most part - electric players around these parts.
Buuuut -

Anyone out there an upright player? Former? Current? Future?

Questions? Favorite Players? Tips?

My main touring gig for the last 10 years was on upright playing Americana, Folk and Bluegrass.
I’ve been almost all electric the last year (left the touring band) and I just picked the upright back up for some jazz gigs.
I haven’t played a jazz gig in maybe 6 years??

It’s such an amazing instrument, and the way that the electric and upright inform each other, give tips to one another, help and hinder each other is pretty amazing.

Anyway - if anyone out there is a player and wants to get some upright topics worked out, go for it. If anyone is an Upright-Curious player and is thinking about devoting the time, money and real-estate (a legitimate issue) to the instrument, chime on in!


I’m super curious about the upright bass. How easy is it to move from a non-upright bass (for lack of a better word–I play an accoustic/electric) to an upright? I love the upright, but I’m pretty intimidated. The cost, the size, the fret-less-ness. And for now, as I’m in my first year of learning bass, I can just leave my bass unplugged and my mistakes aren’t as noticeable. Advice? Ideas? I know someone who has a 3/4 bass, which seems much smaller and maybe is a good transition instrument?


Cool! Glad you asked.
I’ll hit all these in order here:

It is… both easy and not easy. If you want to move to the upright and make sound on it, after having played a bass, you will understand how it works. The instruments are tuned the same, same strings, just standing up. Some people transition and just use their ear and electric knowledge to make it work. In that sense, it’s easy.
If you’re interested in playing with a bow, or learning the instrument well enough to play some jazz tunes and take a solo, it will be a steeper climb. Because it’s so much bigger and fretless, it can be a challenge to learn the fingerboard to the point of comfort.
So, I think it really depends on the end goal. If you want to play some bluegrass tunes, it’s pretty easy.
If you want to play some jazz standards, it can be trickier.

The cost is a giant hurdle, and I don’t know how to get around that. I’ve seen decent basses for under $1,000 on Craig’s List off and on, but you have to be willing to look and try.
The size can be challenging, but I’ve seen great players of all shapes and sizes. Annnd… it takes up tons of room in your car/apartment/house. If you have room though, it is a very impressive art/conversation piece to have around.
Fret-less-ness is something that demands time and practice and good ears. All good things for a musician to commit to!

3/4 basses are the standard size bass that people use. There are smaller basses and, if you’re under 6 feet tall, have smaller hands, or want an easier transition from electric, there are 5/8 and 1/2 size basses that are cute little things, and the scale length is closer to electric.

My advice is:
Find an upright that you can play and try out.
If a friend has one, ask to borrow it for a day or a week (if it’s not too precious and fragile and valuable).
If a store has them for rent, maybe rent one for a month?
For any upright bass, before you rent it or buy it or commit to it in any way - CHECK IT OUT WITH AN EXPERIENCED UPRIGHT PLAYER. Being able to play an upright has a lot to do with how the instrument is set up and built.
If you get a shitty bass with a terrible set up, it will be painful and unplayable no matter your skills and efforts.
So - if you are interested in getting into the world, find a helpful upright player to help you check them out.

My main advice/point is this:
Find a way or opportunity to get the instrument in your hands and make sounds on it. If you like the sounds - if they speak to you - make a go of it on the upright.
The number one important factor for getting into an instrument is that you love the sound of the instrument.
So - If you love the sound, find a way to try it out.


Hope that’s helpful! Holler with any follow up questions.
I just played a 3 hour jazz gig at an Italian bar last night, and there is nothing like the sound of an upright. It’s worth the effort, if you have the time and space to spare!


There may have some fret stickers for you to stick on as a cheat sheet. It might need to move up to have some more notes variations. :yum: I just guess on it.


True - there are fret stickers!
… there’s also pencils. I still make marks on my fretboard in pencil - especially when I’m in the studio.
Pencils are plentiful, and the graphite rubs right off the fingerboard clean. Stickers tend to leave a bit of residue.


And how would you change your strings. will you change the G string first ?


And would you be rather to age the used strings and to used them?


How would you rate ibanez UB840


I change them all at once - I think I change mine E to G - depends on where the tuning pegs are in the scroll - you have to work from back to front, basically - whatever peg is furthest away, that’s the easiest to start with.

I’m not sure I understand the question, but I’ll give it a shot: Upright strings can last a long, long time. I am playing on strings right now that are years old. When I change them, (every couple years) I don’t keep the old strings.

I’ve played on a few electric uprights and I do not care for them. They make sense for someone who travels a lot or plays a style that lends itself to both electric and upright bass. But the main distinguishing sound and feature of the upright bass is the sound of the hollow wood, the air, and the resonance of the body. So, to turn an electric bass sideways, but to not have all of those sonic features is strange to me.
Having said that - the electric uprights often have shorter scale lengths and are much easier to adapt to from the electric bass - they can be much easier to play also, because they don’t have a bulky body to get your arms around, and they can have super low action without losing the significant tone like you do on an acoustic upright.


I second everything Gio said!


THANKS! I am slightly less intimidated now, and will try to get my paws on an upright or two to get a feel. Get my husband to build me a bass garage. Then look on craigslist! :wink:


Gio: Just thought I’d peek on Craigslist–obviously would need to find a decent bassist to check it out but: here’s a 1/4 for $500! I’m 5’8"–would that be too small for me? https://sfbay.craigslist.org/scz/msg/6861238616.html


I’m not sure what would be too small, or would be uncomfortable, etc. Here’s one of the best websites for upright bass FAQ and great tips and advice on gear - this is their page about upright bass sizes. Definitely worth a read:

I will say that most 1/4 size uprights are built for young beginners - so their quality would be my first big question.
I imagine it would be fairly cheaply made?
Also, the idea with these basses is (again, usually) that the player would grow with the bass, eventually moving up to a larger size instrument (as they have larger, deeper sound).

Having said that - if the size is right (the scale length is VERY close to an electric bass) and it’s in the price range, it might be a great starter?


Once lived where two neighbors played bluegrass (banjo and guitar). They needed a bass player so I took a few lessons, bought a Upright bass (known to bluegrass players as a Doghouse bass, I do not know why. I am 5’ 8" and have small hands and bought a 3/4 which was about all available in the mountains. Basic bluegrass was easy to pickup, even with no music experience. The 3/4 was not too big until you wished to take it somewhere to play. Better have a SUV as a minimum for transport. I never was able to play beyond basic. Now finding electric more difficult to learn but learning much more.


This is beautiful! Thanks so much for chiming in.


They’ll fit in a hatchback too, including the Toyota Prius that pervades the San Francisco Bay Area where I live. :slight_smile:


My bass player friend just puts her front with the passenger seat all the way back and down, and the bass rides shotgun…
BTW–I did get my little paws on a 3/4 bass and I’m in love. I’m amazed at how much what I’ve learned in this course translates. (My friend had stickers on hers to show where the “frets” would be). My husband is thrilled that now I want to spend a ridiculous amount of money and take over the living room…Do you offer bass relationship counseling?


I’m so glad it worked out. Once you hear that giant sound, feel it resonate against your body, and feel the air move in those big beasts… it’s hard not to fall in love.

As a father of two who toured constantly and left my wife at home with one and then two little ones… I am hilariously unqualified to offer bass relationship counseling.
My wife, however, is a gold-medal, trophy-holding, world-champion bass relationship manager/counselor/commiserater-er

I can put her in touch anytime you need!


Get a bow as well, one bow takes a four beat count and keep a tempo in your heart. You will find bowing interesting.:kissing_heart:


try this as a spare tool it may be helpful if your sound rod would happen to drop. So be aware that there is a sound rod.