Learning to play the double bass is popular with those who are looking to join the band as well as players of the electric bass guitar. Because double basses are tuned the same as 4 string electric bass guitars, many music students are hopeful that the skill they’re developing with an electric or acoustic bass guitar will transfer over. Before you purchase a double bass, there are some things you should know. That’s why we’ve decided to put this helpful guide together.
What is a Double Bass?
The double bass, also known as the upright bass, standup bass, or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra. Unlike the bass guitar, it is not a member of the guitar-family of instruments. It’s the only modern bowed string instrument that is tuned in fourths. Although the double bass is popular in the orchestra, it’s also commonly used in the concert band, chamber music, jazz, 1950’s style blues, rock and roll, rockabilly, psychobilly, country music, bluegrass, and folk music. The double bass is played with a bow, commonly, but can also be plucked. In classical musical training, the focus is placed on playing the double bass bowed, while those who pursue the double bass to play in other genres of music often prefer to pluck the instrument.
Does Size Make a Difference When Buying a Double Bass?
The first thing that you should know when buying a double bass is that they are very large. For younger music students, who you may be shopping for, they are often prohibitively large. Most children aren’t able to comfortably play the standard size of double basses until they are in middle school. Younger students who’d like to learn to play a double bass can start out with a smaller bass guitar, such as a starter electric bass guitar or smaller acoustic bass guitar. Though they won’t get the practice with a bow, they’ll still learn a lot about playing the bass. Depending on what their ultimate goals are, whether it’s to join the band at school, play music professionally, or simply to express themselves artistically through music, starting off with a smaller bass can be a good option.
If your child is insistent on wanting to play the double bass, there are smaller ones available. Most double basses are ¾ size. However, there are ¼ size double basses that are made for students to learn on. The difference in full height between a ¾ size double bass and a ¼ size is about 10 inches. One drawback to this is that when your child grows larger, you’ll have to upgrade to a larger instrument, which can be costly.
The other important thing to take into account when you’re considering the double bass is that it’s a difficult instrument to transport and store. Unlike other band students, who can take their instruments with them to and from school, the double bass takes a little more effort to move around. It’s possible, and some musical programs have double basses that your child can use to practice with, so it’s a good idea to find out what your options are before making a purchase.
If the size of a double bass isn’t an issue for you or your child, and you’ve decided it’s time to purchase one, you’re probably wondering how you should decide which one to get.
Should I Get a Student Double Bass or a Regular Sized Instrument?
If you’re buying an instrument for someone who is just starting to learn, there are student double basses available which are ¼ size, or around 61 inches tall. Keep in mind, the standards for double bass sizes are defined loosely, with significant variations occurring from one manufacturer to the next. These student double basses tend to be a bit less expensive than ¾ size double basses, but are usually still more than $1000. On the other hand, if you’re purchasing a double bass for an experienced bass player, there are some important things to consider.
What are the Different Materials used in Double Basses?
There are three general categories of basses: laminated, hybrid, and carved (sometimes called fully-carved). Laminated double basses are made of plywood and are usually the least expensive. Because laminated double basses are made of plywood, which is not the ideal construction material for wooden instruments, the sound that they produce can be described as more pinched. Despite this, laminated double basses are preferable over other types for musicians who want to play rockabilly, bluegrass, and jazz. They are also advantageous for young double bass students. ¼ size double basses are frequently made of plywood. It’s important to note, however, that laminated double basses aren’t necessarily low-quality.
Hybrid double basses have a carved top but the back and sides are laminated plywood. Hybrid basses are good for beginner and intermediate students, who will appreciate the resonance that hybrid basses have compared to laminated basses. Because they are made from higher quality materials and produce a better sound, hybrid basses are typically more expensive than laminated double basses. Hybrid double basses are ideal for those looking to spend less than $3000 on a double bass.
Fully carved double basses are the most expensive, costing anywhere from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands. Because this type of double bass continues to mature and develop rich, complex sounds, they are well-suited to experienced and professional double bass players.
Should I Rent or Buy a Double Bass?
If you’re looking for a double bass for a smaller child, and you don’t want to pay more than $1000 for an instrument that you’ll inevitably need to replace, you should look into rental programs. Frequently, these instrument rental programs will offer discounts on bows, rosin, and an instrument bag. If the shop you’re buying from has a rent-to-own program, you can apply the money spent on the rental toward the inevitable upgrade.
For all your instrument buying needs, head on over to Music & Arts. With a wide selection of high quality band instruments, you’re guaranteed to find the double bass you’re looking for at a low price.