Getting a Good Double Bass Sound

This Post is really aimed at people just starting out with the Double Bass. It could also be used by more experienced players for ideas on practicing, with the aim of improving the sound and projection on your bass. You might also like to download the Double Bass String Survival Guide from D’Addario, there is a link at the end of this Post. They also have good guide to String Tension at

String height
A guide to string height above and at the end of the fingerboard is:
For 4th tuning low-EADG-high
E string 9mm // lowest and thickest string
A string 8mm
D string 7mm
G string 6mm

For 5ths tuning low-CGDA-high
C string 10mm // lowest and thickest string
G string 8.5mm
D string 7mm
A string 5.5mm

This is just a rule of thumb to get started; each bass instrument is different and string tensions from different manufacturers are different. Aim for the lowest height that doesn’t cause string rattling against the fingerboard when a loud note is plucked or bowed.

Keeping fingers in shape (right handed)
The sound produced by the bass comes from pressing the string onto the fingerboard to get the desired pitch (note) and then plucking the strings with the index and maybe middle finger of the other hand.
It is crucially important not to press on the strings all the time. Pressure only needs to be ‘pulsed’ onto the string to make firm contact with the fingerboard when the string is actually plucked. The remainder of the time, between notes, the fingers should be relaxed.
Pluck the string near the bridge for a harsher more percussive sound, and near the end of the fingerboard for a mellower tone.

Right Hand Practicing Techniques
1. Mute the strings with the palm of the left hand and the pluck the strings to make percussive ‘thumps’, aim for a consistent rounded boxy sound.
Pluck crotchets (quarter notes) with the Index and Middle fingers alternately, the string should start out positioned diagonally across the soft part of the upper finger ‘pad’ (opposite side to the nail).
2. Now do the same but with quavers (eighth notes)
3. Now do the same but with semi-quavers (sixteenth notes)
4. DON’T pluck towards the fingerboard, instead pull the string across and outward. Use your arm weight rather than finger, hand or arm muscles. Gradually build up speed and endurance always aiming for and listening for a consistent clear sound.
5. After an initial try out then get serious using a metronome. Start at 60 Beats Per Minute (BPM) and when you have achieved clarity move up by 5 or 10 beats per minute. Initially stop at about 160 BPM or if your shoulder, arms, hands or fingers become in any way painful.

As all this becomes more familiar concentrate on relaxing while you are playing. Bass players, like drummers, play all the time, in songs or tunes – so building stamina, playing with a relaxed style and producing a consistent clear tone are absolutely essential for success

Left Hand Practicing Techniques
1. Practice ‘how hard to press’ to get a good clear sounding tone from the Instrument. Try a range of pressures, aim for the lowest pressure that gives clean clear sound, “plus a bit”.
2. Remember to pulse the energy when pressing the string to the fingerboard. This saves energy and makes for a better more consistent tone. It will also help you improve your stamina.
3. Listen carefully to the sound of each note ‘ringing’ out until it is silent: aim for sustain, clarity and consistency.
4. Now play chromatic scales slowly, if possible play with a drone on a single note playing in the background – this will help you with intonation, to stay in tune.
5. Now practice chromatic scales with the metronome. Again start at 60 BPM and once you have become completely comfortable at the current speed increase it in 5 or 10 BPM intervals.
6. Play acoustically, listen to your raw sound and then refine it,
do NOT use and amplifier yet as this will alter the sound.

Do this practice at least once a week and you will gradually
+ improve your posture,
+ strengthen your body,
+ clarify and improve your sound and
+ learn how to relax whilst playing.

The D’Addario Double Bass String Survival Guide
To download or print then click the double arrow on the right hand side to find the menu.

The Contrarian has no business relationship or funding from D’Addario Inc, they are just mentioned because they are helpful and informative at no cost.

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