How To Buy Your First Double Bass.
How to buy your first double bass.
Buying your first double bass can seem pretty intimidating. It’s a lot of money to lay down: starter basses rarely cost less than £1,000, or the ones that are worth playing, anyway!
Musicana to the rescue!
Here, we’re going to take a look at the things you’ll need to bear in mind if you’re planning to get started in the world of upright basses:
Don’t go full size.
Unless you're 6 foot or taller, the chances are you'll be better off with a 3/4 size upright bass. Full size basses are pretty rare these days: even most of the pros use a smaller one, simply because without huge hands and a wide grip, playing a full size double bass is pretty uncomfortable. Indeed, if you’re below 5’2 or so yourself, it’s probably worth going even smaller, down to a 5/8 instrument.
(Don't go below that size, though: basses lose some of their sonic depth once they get to 1/2 size).
Carved v Plywood?
Carved basses are made by genuine luthiers: they're so named because these craftsmen have individually ‘carved’ the shape of the instrument.
Plywood basses, meanwhile, are made (funnily enough) from plywood, which is formed to create the different parts of the instrument. There are pluses and minuses to both: plywood is cheaper, which is ideal if you've got a smaller budget. The wood itself is more durable, too: it's able to deal with extreme weather and even being dropped: ideal for a beginner instrument!
A carved instrument, meanwhile, will have a more complex and deep tone.
The choice, as they say, is yours.
Try it/Hear it in advance.
As with any instrument, there’s no substitute for playing and hearing it being played yourself. You’ll be dropping a lot of money on your bass, so go to a proper shop and give the instrument a real listen, and get a feel for playing it.
Also, don’t go with the instrument that you ‘should’ have – go with the one that you feel comfortable playing and like the sound of. You’ll get fifty different opinions from fifty different people (us included!) so, in the end, it’s what you think that matters.
Don't go cheap!
Expect to spend at least £1,000 on a starter bass. There are cheaper instruments than this available, but they're simply not worth it. Any bass going for £400 on eBay isn’t an instrument: it’s a toy. A toy that won’t stay in tune and will feel horrible to play, and it will likely put you off learning the upright bass at all… Steer clear of the cheap models: buy your bass from a proper seller who knows their stuff.
Good brands to check out include Thompson, Christopher and Samuel Shen, all of whom are regularly found in specialist shops as recommended ‘beginner’ brands. (Don't take our word for it: Google any of the brands and you'll see plenty of other people recommending them!).
Make sure you can return the bass.
Even the most reputable brands will occasionally ship a duffer: it's just the way things are. Ensure that you buy your bass from a seller that you can get back into contact with should any issues start to occur. The ability to make swaps where necessary is invaluable.