Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playing the Upright String Bass

My other passion besides blogging is the upright or string bass. I played bass guitar for years, not very well because I was too lazy to really study music and learn. So I was always searching for the right note on the neck and the right sound.

A couple of years back the old bass bug reawakened from its long sleep and soon I had spent a wad of dough on a Fender bass guitar and a Fender bass amp and started to practice a bit. What I really wanted, though, was a "dog house," an upright string bass. I just loved the sound of a double bass, which is yet another name for these lovely stringed instruments.

I now have one of those too and have been practicing mostly on the upright or double bass, and using the bass guitar when I am tired of standing and want to sit down and practice. The neck and the notes are the same, but the bass guitar has frets and the upright doesn't. The upright is my instrument; the bass guitar is secondary.

I have been playing scales and arpeggios (chords) on the bass for the past 2 or 3 weeks, taking pains to use the right fingers and learn every note's whereabouts on the long bass neck. This practice has done wonders for both my ear and my manual dexterity in playing. Repetition and muscle memory is the key; play it so many times that you could do it in the dark.

The 4th finger of the left hand has to be trained for playing bass, and greatly strengthened, because it hurts like hell holding down those big thick strings with your pinky. And you have to use your pinky so you can stretch your hand far enough to play well. After a couple of weeks of torturing my pinky and hating the pain, I noticed tonight that it is much stronger now.

I feel like I could beat up a pack of Hells Angels with just my pinky. I don't think I'll try it though, just in case I'm wrong.

I want to play mellow jazz. I figure I'm about a year away, but eventually I will play with a jazz trio or quartet. You can count on it.

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