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Larry Bartley: why study the double bass?

Larry Bartley playing Double Bass

It's a cumbersome beast, but it's worth getting your parents to buy a bigger car, says Larry Bartley

WHEN IT COMES to choosing what musical instrument to take up, the double bass doesn't come high on most people's lists.

Plenty of school music departments don't even own a double bass – or if they do it's quite likely to be in poor shape. School musicians rarely play them because they're expensive to buy, hard to hire, awkward for small fingers to play, and in the bigger sizes need a willing parent with a big car to do the ferrying around.

On top of all that, it's hard to be a star on the double bass, which is often hard to hear in a loud band or orchestra. But there are a lot more bass stars in jazz – which encourages bass improvisation – than in classical music, where there are few solo roles given to the bass.

Picture of the head of a double bass

But when you get to listen to it properly, the bass makes a wonderful, rich sound, adds a vital depth to music, and has a character all of its own. Thankfully, plenty of young musicians still get bitten by the bug to play an instrument that has no wires or buttons, and looks like a piece of antique furniture.

Most young bassists didn't play the bass to start with – classical players often started on the cello first, and most other kinds of musicians started on electric bass guitar. That's what happened to SoundJunction's Larry Bartley, bassist on Where Will It Take You?

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