Best double bass for beginners

Best Double Bass for Beginners

15 minutes

So, you’ve decided to learn the double bass? Congratulations! You have chosen a distinctive and versatile instrument that gives you a musical gateway to practically every genre of music from classical to world music, rock and pop to jazz. First things first however, with such a wide range of beginner instruments out there, which is the best double bass for beginners to choose to get started?

In this article we will give you a few tips to guide you through the main considerations when choosing a double bass, and recommend the best instruments to start your musical journey.

What To Consider When Buying A Double Bass

Size

Like people, the double bass (also referred to as “upright bass”) comes in all shapes and sizes, making it possible to select exactly the right instrument for an individual player.

For an adult beginner, the choice of size will depend not only on their height and hand size, but also on the shape of the double bass itself. Double basses are usually either “violin shaped” or can have more rounded “viol shape” shoulders which can make them easier to play, especially in thumb position.

Best Double Bass For Beginners

The type of music you wish to play is a factor here too: the bigger the body, the better the sound will be on the lowest strings. Many orchestra double bassists choose a large instrument for this reason but conversely, a smaller double bass is usually easier for a beginner to play and can work much better in solo and chamber music, as well as jazz.

Unlike the other string instruments there is no standard “full size” measurement for double bass, and many adults decide that a “three quarter” size instrument is plenty big enough!

For children, “mini” basses are available in a full range of fractional sizes: 1/16, 1/10, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4. Pupils can start off from as young as five, although seven/eight years is a more common age for a new beginner. Your teacher should be able to advise you which size to get, but if in doubt size DOWN. It is tempting to give children “room to grow” into an instrument, but playing a double bass that is too big can cause problems with posture and technique, and sometimes even injury. In general, the double bass should be slightly taller than the person playing it, and the player’s left hand should be at about eye level when playing in the first position.

The table below gives a useful starting point:

Age of child (years)

Size of double bass 

4-6

1/16 or 1/10

5-7

1/8

7-9

1/4

9-13

1/2 

14+ including adult

3/4 

Price

Sadly, such a large instrument as the double bass will never be cheap to produce, but it is still possible to get a basic quality starter bass complete with bow and gig bag for around £700, just like this model from Starter Instrument maker Gear4Music.. This level of instrument should provide a solid start, particularly for the younger bassist, but as with most things in life you get what you pay for and it is worth spending as much as you can afford on the best double bass possible.

Deluxe Solid Top Bass
Made by Gear4music
$ 899
/£750
  • BUILD: Quality Canadian Spruce & Maple Body
  • COMES WITH: Bow & Hard Case
8.3/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  8.3/10

Kept in good condition, string instruments tend to hold or even increase their value over time so they are a good investment! A budget of around £1500/$2000 will get you a good quality plywood bass which will immediately produce a better sound more easily for beginners.  The Archer model below has amazing reviews, and I have a couple of students who have one and love it. 

Having said that, plywood basses such as these may not suit a more advanced player looking to develop their tone and their technique in thumb position.

Archer Size Professional Double Bass
Best for Intermediate
$ 1,800
/£1,400
  • FINISH: Professionally Hand Carved
  • WOOD: Canadian Spruce & Maple
8.8/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  8.8/10

For those able to spend a little more, or looking to advance beyond the beginner instruments, a price range of around £3000/$4000 will get you a superior quality solid wood double bass able to produce the best sound at all levels. I really love the Stentor Arcadia Bass.  It’s a brilliantly built instrument that sounds lovely.

Of course, it is possible to spend even more than this, especially if you are looking at older or professional quality double basses.

In addition, any double bass can be easily and significantly improved by a professional set-up and a new set of strings. More about this later!

Stentor Arcadia Bass
Best for almost pro
$ 4000
/£3250
  • FITTINGS: Full Ebony
  • SELLING POINT: Individually workshop tested
9/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  9/10

What Style of Music Do You Want To Play?

As mentioned above, one of the best things about playing the double bass is its versatility. It is equally at home in practically every genre of music you can think of!

Most beginners will want to experiment with a wide range of musical styles, and any of the standard double basses on sale should enable you to do just that. However, for those with a particular genre in mind there are some additional considerations:

  • Classical orchestra music is driven by the lowest part of the double bass’ range. These notes sound much better on an instrument with a larger body which gives the pitch enough room to resonate fully and produce a great sound.
  • Conversely, the highest-sounding notes on the double bass will sound clearer on an instrument with a (relatively) smaller body. This is worth bearing in mind if you are looking to play mostly solo or chamber music.
  • String height is another consideration. In jazz bass playing, as well as rock and pop music, the upright bass is often played pizzicato (plucking) and this will sound much more powerful and effective on a double bass whose strings sit slightly further away from the fingerboard. When playing with the bow however, this can make things more difficult. It is usually possible to reach a compromise!
  • Amplification. If you want to play a lot of the more popular styles of music, it is worth buying some kind of pick-up that can be fitted to your double bass. These can either sit beneath the bridge of the instrument or attach directly to it. I’d recommend something like the Realist pickup – it’s one of the best sounding, but also doesn’t get in the way! Pick-ups are not required in classical playing, and therefore many players choose models that are unobtrusive when not in use.
Realist Copperhead Double Bass Pickup
Realist Copperhead Double Bass Pickup

New vs Second-Hand vs Rental

New is better, right? Not always! Like all string instruments, when well looked-after double basses can actually improve over time and, armed with the right information, the discerning bass player can easily pick up a bargain.

When buying second-hand, check the setup of the bass carefully, making sure the bridge, neck, endpin, and strings are all secure and in good condition. Check the body of the instrument for cracks and dings, especially around the seams- these can be expensive to repair! If possible, take the instrument to a luthier who can confirm whether or not you’re getting a good deal.

Buying second-hand is particularly worth considering with smaller sized double basses for children. It can be a very economical means of replacing the instrument as students grow every few years.

However, a brand new double bass will usually come with a guarantee from the manufacturer or supplier, offering you a degree of protection if things go wrong. New double basses for beginners usually come as complete “outfits” including a bow and case, and sometimes even accessories such as a stool, rosin, and sheet music!

Plywood/Laminate vs Carved

Double basses for students are constructed in one of three ways: plywood/laminate, fully-carved, and hybrid (or “solid top”). Here are the pros and cons of each:

Plywood/laminate double basses

The most economical method of construction, these basses are made of laminated maple and spruce for the top, back and sides

PROS

CONS

Fully-carved Double Basses

These double basses have no laminated surfaces. The top and the back are carved (often by hand) rather than machine-shaped, and the sides are constructed of solid pieces of wood.

PROS

CONS

Hybrid Double Basses

As the name suggests, the body of a hybrid double bass (also known as a “solid top” bass) has both laminated and fully-carved components. Usually the top is fully-carved, as it is the most tonally responsive part of the bass, with the back and sides being made of laminated wood.

PROS

CONS

The Value Of A Professional Set-Up

Whatever double bass you choose, it is well worth getting it professionally set-up before you start to play. As well as checking the materials and position of the neck, tailpiece, and endpin, the feet of the bridge need to be carved exactly to fit the body of the instrument even on the most basic beginner bass. Once correctly placed, the bridge should stay securely in position, held in place by the strings. This also ensures the strings are the correct height for optimum performance and ensures good intonation (tuning). You can ask for this to be done by the supplier, or take your bass to a music shop.

An easy way to improve the performance of any double bass is to take it to a luthier, who can adjust the set up to maximise the potential of the instrument. In particular, a set of good quality bass strings can noticeably elevate even the most basic student instrument for significantly less than it would cost to upgrade the bass. It is also possible to adjust the bridge and string height for maximum playability.

However, luthier services can be expensive. Be sure to carefully evaluate the cost of these compared to the cost of upgrading a musical instrument completely, particularly when thinking about laminated and small-size double basses.

Our top SIX
Double Basses
For Beginners

Student 3/4
by Gear4Music

$ 650
/£500
  • Ideal for: Budget-conscious buyers
  • Includes: Bow, Rosin and Hard Case
7/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  7/10

PROS

CONS

Hidersine Vivente

$ 1600
/£1300
  • Ideal for: Young beginners
  • Includes: Bow and padded gig bag
6/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  6/10

PROS

CONS

Eastman 80 outfit

$ 1200
/900
  • Ideal for: Young beginners
  • Includes: Bow and padded gig bag
7/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  7/10

PROS

CONS

Stentor Student

$ 1300
/1000
  • Ideal for: Buyers of different sizes
  • Includes: Bow and cover
7/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  7/10

PROS

CONS

Stentor
Conservatoire

$ 3000
/2500
  • Ideal for: Buyers of different sizes
  • Includes: Bow and cover
7/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  7/10

PROS

CONS

Westbury

Perfect for more advanced player
$ 3000
/2400
  • Type: Fully-carved
  • Ideal for: Adult beginners
8/10
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products. The professional musician who wrote this article combine many things, from the product build, manufacturer's reputation through to feedback from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.
The TedScore™:  8/10

PROS

CONS

Best double bass for beginners
Summary

There are many things to consider when choosing the best double bass for beginners.

First and foremost you need to work out the size of the instrument you need, set a maximum budget, and then narrow down your options to instruments that work for the styles of music you are hoping to play.

We hope the advice in this article has made the choice less overwhelming, and will enable you to make the right decision with confidence

Ted's List

Best All-Round Double Bass

Stentor Conservatoire Double Bass

Ted's List

Best Value Double Bass

Stentor Student Double Bass

Ted's List

Best Double Bass for an Adult Beginner

Westbury Double Bass

FAQ's

Is Double Bass easy to learn?

Like every instrument, learning the double bass has its challenges! However, with hard work and a good teacher it is possible for a beginner to make faster progress on double bass than on many other instruments, as its fingering system is very consistent.

How do you play the double bass for beginners?

We would always advise a beginner to start by finding a teacher. www.musicteachers.co.uk is a good resource for searching in your local area, and lessons can take place either online or in person. If you are starting out alone, however, Discover Double Bass (www.discoverdoublebass.com) has an excellent selection of high quality articles and tutorial videos covering all genres to guide you.

What size double bass should I get?

Most adults will start with a 3/4 size double bass, but if you are tall or have particularly large hands a full size instrument may be more suitable as you advance in skill and experience.

For children, a wide range of fractional size “mini” basses exist to suit beginners as young as 5! Your teacher or instrument supplier should be able to advise you which to pick according to the height and age of the child. As a rough guide, children under the age of 8 will need a 1/10 or 1/8 size instrument, 8-11 year olds a 1/4 and 12-14 year olds a 1/2 size. However this can vary enormously depending on both the child and the double bass in question, so always use your individual judgement about what your child can comfortably play.

How much does a beginner double bass cost?

Basic double basses for beginners start at around £500, plus set-up costs where required. It is possible to purchase an excellent quality beginner instrument for between £1000 and £2000.

Best upright bass for a beginner?

We would recommend the Eastman 80 double bass outfit, which is a good quality instrument with a reliable sound at an excellent price. It is available in a full range of sizes and it has been used successfully by beginner pupils of all ages.
https://www.gear4music.com/Woodwind-Brass-Strings/Eastman-80-Double-Bass-Outfit-1-2-Size/1HEY

Other reliable brands to look out for when choosing a double bass include Stentor, Hidersine, and Westbury.

WHAT'S THE BEST AGE TO START AS A CHILD?

With the development of the smallest mini basses, children can start from the age of as young as 5! However it is more usual for young beginners to start learning the double bass around the ages of 7-8 years. The double bass is also a good choice for slightly older beginners, with beginners aged 11-13 years taking to the instrument with great enjoyment and success.

WHAT DOUBLE BASS SHOULD I BUY?

The best double bass depends enormously on the individual player. However, there are a variety of good options for beginners of any age or stage. Reliable brands to look out for include Stentor, Eastman, and Westbury. The article above offers a good guide to the considerations and possibilities when choosing a double bass, and your teacher or instrument supplier will be able to provide further advice too.

WHAT DOUBLE BASS SIZE DO I NEED?

Most adults will start with a 3/4 size double bass, but if you are tall or have particularly large hands a full size instrument may be more suitable as you advance in skill and experience.

For children, a wide range of fractional size “mini” basses exist to suit beginners as young as 5! Your teacher or instrument supplier should be able to advise you which to pick according to the height and age of the child. As a rough guide, children under the age of 8 will need a 1/10 or 1/8 size instrument, 8-11 year olds a 1/4 and 12-14 year olds a 1/2 size. However this can vary enormously depending on both the child and the double bass in question, so always use your individual judgement about what your child can comfortably play.

WHAT DOUBLE BASS ACCESSORIES DO I NEED TO BUY?

In order to get playing straight away, you will need a bow, some rosin, and a cover or gig bag. You may also wish to purchase a stool of suitable height, a music stand, and some sheet music to get you started. Many double basses come ready supplied with some of these items as an “outfit” so check carefully exactly which extras you will need.

Do I need a bow?

Most beginners will learn to use the bow as well as plucking the strings, in order to achieve a full mastery of the double bass’ many musical possibilities. However, in genres such as jazz, rockabilly, and pop music, the bow is very rarely used so it is possible to manage without one if you want to play these styles exclusively. A bow is definitely required for any kind of classical or orchestral music.

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