I'm learning bluegrass bass, at the moment, but I really want to eventually play classical music. However, teachers are incredibly expensive and I cannot afford one right now. Should I try to teach myself now or should I wait until I find/can afford a teacher so I don't teach myself bad habits?

I play over 16 other instruments and I only had a teacher for two; piano and organ.


Well, the bowed string instruments are certainly among the easiest to get technically wrong. I tried to learn cello for more than one year before taking lessons (at the age of 16, incidentally), and not much came of it. Even incredible musical polymath Rob Scallon's cello stuff, while definitely impressive in a way, is really nothing that could be called good cello playing in a classical sense. So if you eventually want to play classical music, you very likely won't get around some real lessons.

But I agree with Tim: bad habits aren't impossible to get rid of; some of them may hinder you a bit longer than if you'd learned it properly straight away, but among the bad habits you'll learn also a couple of good skills automatically, and most importantly get a rough feeling for the instrument, so I'm pretty sure it's better to start badly than to not start at all before learning properly.

Landscape (sketch)

In particular, I do think you can become a decent Bluegrass bassist autodidactically. There certainly are quite a lot good self-taught Rockabilly double bassists around.

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    bowed string instruments are certainly among the easiest Yay! to get technically wrong ... oh. – Lee White Jul 10 '17 at 7:49

You're obviously a seasoned musician, who maybe doesn't even need to pose the question! Teaching yourself will involve finding the notes with the left hand, and I guess for bluegrass plucking the strings, not arco. The notes should be pretty apparent, so no problems there; I'd get started, and later find a teacher to sort out how to bow, which will be needed for the classical stuff. As a current player, go for it. I don't think any 'bad' habits can't be sorted later, but if you're making some good in-tune music, that's nearly going to be there anyway.

  • I'm not really a "seasoned" musician; I'm 17, haha. Thank you for the answer! – Amolith Jul 9 '17 at 13:23

I taught myself the double bass. But I did buy a text book and could already play the cello! There is no way you will play classical music without a good left hand technique ( and there are several to choose from). I see a lot of blue Grass / rockabilly bass players ( and bass guitarists) moving their whole hand up and down the finger board with their fingers bunched like bananas; in classical !usic there are just too many notes to play too far apart for that to work. After 30 odd years, I cracked and took a couple of lessons (£40) and got past a big block I'd been stuck at for years. Worth it now and then just for a heads up. Good luck.

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