Shen Rogeri Willow tweaks?
I've had my Rogeri for about a year now and so far I've been generally happy with it. I play in a community orchestra and quite honestly, I don't think that I need much more in a bass for that level of play. It delivers enough warmth and volume to work in the bass section. What I'm looking for are ideas on tweaks that might deliver a bit more articulation (especially on the E string) or other tonal improvements in the bass.
It's currently strung with Belcantos, but I'm open to other string recommendations. I'm also deliberating adding an extension at some time in the future. My bow is a Prochownik pernambuco with black hair.
Depending on who set it up, you can probably get some mileage out of having someone go over it with a fine-toothed comb. That might include things like tweaking the soundpost setting, making sure the afterlengths are tuned correctly and the bridge is in the right spot, ensuring the fingerboard is dressed so you can keep the strings low. If your bass responds better at lower tension, you can reduce the breakover angle by installing a taller saddle.
Trying other strings is a good idea, but unless you know someone who's got a lot of strings lying around, it's expensive to go through set after set looking for the right sound.
It may also be worth trying other bows - not that yours is lacking, but there's a certain amount of bass/bow matching that can be done. I bought my current bow, which plays fantastically on my bass, from someone who found that a much cheaper bow worked just as well on her bass.
Not much to tell you without seeing and hearing the bass. A spirocore mitt E will probably help you. It works very well below Belcantos, although you should probably explore setup issues first.
Is there any value to upgrading the stock bridge and/or tailpiece?
Probably not, assuming they are well fit. You're into the realm of the unknown. Have your luthier look at the bass.
For the money? Probably not. Also most basses (esp a Shen) will come with the proper type of tailgut.
I've done this kind of thing and spent lots of time and money trying to make a mediocre bass sound great. Minimal success. IMO, you're better off just simply upgrading to a better bass.
My advice would be just to stick to the following:
* Get a setup done on the bass if you haven't had one done already.
* Talk to the luthier and see if the soundpost is too tight (mine was). If so, get a new one made and give it a long while to settle in (at least 6 months).
* Mess with strings and string sets. Consider putting a Stark Spiro E if you want more bottom end power.
* Consider adjusting your bass and technique to allow you play with higher string heights
* Endpin mods are the only reversible things I would attempt but it can go against you. I've taken excess length off of the SS rod but immediately I lost bottom and gained more nuance on the top. I'm on the fence on this one.
Anything outside of that I'd just leave it be and move up to a better bass when finances allow. My $.02.
Changing out the tailpiece might change things too- different wood, or no wood (like a Marvin).
The problem with these things is you might only get "different", not necessarily "better". Unfortunately the only way to really know is to try...another sad fact is that you may spend a lot of time and money and end up back where you started- but at least you will have gained knowledge.
I agree that having a luthier go over it is the best way to go. You have some definite ideas of what you want and that will help a lot.
Adding an extension will throw another variable into the equation too, so make sure that is in the discussion.
Thanks. That sums up what others have said and what I suspected - it's a great bass at the price point, but not really worth investing any large sum of money into. I'll take it in for a check-up this summer and have the luthier tweak the setup a bit.
I've entertained having an extension put on a bass once I get to the point in my playing where I feel it would be advantageous, but I see that point as being years away. That will give me more time to develop my chops and get used to the Shen so that i can determine what I want from a future bass (if I decide to change).
The Rogeri Willow is a damned nice bass for the money. Before committing to the expense in cash, time and difficulty involved in selling it and finding a better bass, I'd invest short money in a better setup, different strings, etc. Different strings should probably be priority #1. IME Bel Cantos start to sound like mud after about a year, and on a dark bass like yours that effect could only be magnified.
Other folks in the orchestra comment positively about my Rogeri Willow SB-200 (with EP orchs). No other tweaks.
I had some luck with belcantos on a christopher 5 string, but my current 120+ year old (german?) does not like them at all
I also believe a good set up is worth its weight in gold
things to try:
- higher action
- different strings - it depends on what your "issues" are - belcantos were floppy on my current bass and the upton brecian I had before, I like permanents, currently I have permanents on E and B, and evah weichs up top and I have had really good results and hybrid capabilities - to each bass their own, I would use spiros but they are too bright and most likely flexocors if I didn't play jazz ever
- bring it to a guy who is known for setting things up perfectly, and if that guy isn't close enough bring it to a guy who is also a great bassist, a set up can make or break an instrument, i think these basses are workable and the next stop is quite a bit of money
I have a Rogeri willow that I've owned since 2007. You didn't say whether you bought the Shen new or used. My bass was new when I acquired it and over the first few years the dimensions of the back and ribs have gradually changed. For this reason it has been necessary to move the sound post several times as the back and top have changed their shape and slightly altered the distance between them. Adjusting the sound post has made quite a difference in loudness, tone, balance, and playability. One of the ribs meanwhile has developed a bulge that has resulted in open seam issues and will probably need to have some actual luthiery performed next time the seam opens, which may in turn require another slight sound post tweak.
Your bass may be undergoing the same growing pains that mine has endured with the top and back gently settling into a comfortable relationship, and if so you may find that adjusting the sound post position (a tedious process that requires experimentation and patience) solves the issues you are having and lets your Rogeri sound and play better that you thought possible.
As for strings, I play arco and pizz and have tried a number of usual suspects and a few flavors-of-the-month. Evahs have worked well but I've recently gone to Bel Cantos with surprisingly good results (except for my wallet).
Speaking financially, the last tweak that I can recommend is one that has saved me a lot of money by absolutely convincing me that buying a more expensive bass will not solve my problems. It works like this: allow an accomplished virtuoso to play your bass. If you're like me, you'll quickly come to understand that what is needed is talent and practice, not a better instrument. But by the same token if a virtuoso can't make your bass sound great, then yeah, you need a better bass.
It was made in 2012 and purchased new in April 2013. I suspect, as you say, that there are some changes in the woods as they settle in. I'm planning to take it back to the shop this spring for a checkup and was looking to see if there was anything else i should consider.
It appears that the bridge seems to be a "controversial" topic. I've received some off-line comments that the OEM bridge isn;t that great and should be replaced and there are some who say that there's not a lot to be gained. I do know that I have about a 1/2" of thread showing under my adjusters and was wondering if that was too much.
My luthier, Jeff Bolbach, made and installed a new bridge when he did the initial set up on my Shen SB180 hybrid, and I believe Shen does not even bother to ship their upper end bases with bridges or tailpieces, knowing that most luthiers would prefer to do the carving and installation themselves.
I know I have seen a wide range of bridge quality and physical dimensions on the basses I have seen, with some bridges looking thick and blocky like the only work done to them was the fitting of the bottom of the feet (if that).
I am no luthier, but I can't imagine a carefully carved and fitted quality bridge not being a worthwhile improvement over a blocky manufacturer supplied bridge.
"Has anbody seen the bridge?
I ain't seen the bridge.
Where is that confounded bridge?"
Sorry, I couldn't resist........:hiding:
sometimes they can just a little a little wood under the adjusters...a good luthier is worth his weight in gold, find one who also plays well and can troubleshoot issues from a players perspective
Seems like your bass is relatively new and you are probably the first owner. If you are located in Virgina, your climate is similar to that of Suzhou China where Shen's workshop is, which should be to your advantage as the bass settles-in.
As for your bridge, 1/2" of thread showing is more than optimum but maybe not excessive. I mean, that's how adjusters work after all, by screwing them in and out (er ahem). Do you find that you have to adjust the bridge height much between winter and summer? I like a median height of about 3/16" but then I live in San Francisco where we have relatively little seasonal variation compared to other climates. Based solely on my own experience and observations, having a half-inch of thread showing is probably not the primary cause of the issues you want to correct. That said, a well-fitted bridge of the proper shape and height can only help the bass to sound and play its best. Fortunately both bridge and sound post adjustments are meat-n-potatoes work for a competent luthier and you may wish to have both of these addressed next time you take your bass to the shop.
I read reports elsewhere of players who found that changing the bridge height significantly impacted the playability of their basses. This has not been the case with any of the basses I've owned but could indeed be contributing to the issues you are experiencing, contrary to my comments above.
Additionally, I had incorrectly stated that I prefer my bridge be cut so that about 5/16" of thread are showing. The correct distance is 3/16" or about 4.5mm, measured between the adjuster wheel and the bridge leg.
We like the Belcantos on that bass, but usually replace the E with a Spirocore or Rope Core. Other than that, the suggestions above are spot on, a trip to your luthier for tone adjustment and general check-over should get you where you want to be.
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