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Re: Why don't stand up basses have frets?

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Posted by Rich Laird on February 08, 2001 at 10:42:04:

In Reply to: Re: Why don't stand up basses have frets? posted by Allan on February 08, 2001 at 03:14:26:

: : I just joined the jazz band at my high school and i play electric bass. I have been thinking to look in to getting a stand up bass. Why don't stand up basses have frets? I am asking this because i saw so pictures and they did not have frets. And if all basses have frets, how do you know what note you are playing?

: : Thank You
: : Travis Dwyer

: Interesting point, Travis - you echo my own thoughts. I too play electric bass, and have recently acquired a double bass. At first I found it hard to put my fingers in the correct places, but after a while, it became easier. I'm sure that if you had lessons, the tutor would give you some tips on fingering, but if , (like me), you are aiming to teach yourself then using your ear is the best guide. At first, I posted some litle black (self adhesive)dots on what would be fret 1, 2, & 3 ( on a bass guitar) on the body side of the neck so that to begin with I could see just where I was, but after a while they fell off and I felt more confident anyway. I'm sure the purists will tell you that you must learn without these positional props - but it worked for me - I really only finger the first 4 positions plus open strings (= the first 4 frets on a bass guitar) - beyond that and I'm struggling - but there's a lot you can play with these 4 positions.
: If you do buy an upright double bass you'll find a whole new world opens, and a lovely new sound, (might need amplifying if you're going to play in a jazz band at school - a whole new set of problems in choosing a 2Xbass pickup too!)

: Good luck
: Allan

Some very legitimate and highly-regarded upright bass teachers have their beginning students put tape on the fingerboard to mark the notes...then gradually take it off as the student develops. The venerable David Walters of the Manhattan School of Music would be one example.

The best way, of course, is to get a good teacher and follow their method. Having played both instruments myself, I will say without hesitation that learning the upright bass is much less intuitive than the bass guitar. Check postings in the archive for more opinions on this.

As to why the instrument doesn't have's probably pretty much the same reason as why some bass guitars don't have frets. It's a different kind of sound...warmer, smoother, more liquid, I suppose. I believe that - once upon a time - there were Gamba (viol) family instruments in the contrabass range. There might be a few around these days being used by baroque consorts, etc. - I'm not sure.

Or listen to someone playing a bass viol (a.k.a Viola da Gamba) and then listen to someone play the 'cello. That might answer your question.

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