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$2-5k Plywood Basses (or the Real World of Hybrid and Carved Bass Care & Maintenance)

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by SteveFreides, Dec 11, 2013.

  1. My own opinion of what kind of instrument is best suited to my needs is plywood, and that's what I play now.

    I don't hear much talk of _better_ plywood basses because it seems, at a certain price point, people will choose a hybrid or a carved bass. Having just read this


    and reading that you have to care for a hybrid more or less like you have to care for a carved bass (feel free to disagree, but that's probably a different thread, too), I'd like to know what people around here might buy if they were given enough money to buy an entry-level hybrid or carved instrument but, like me, had decided to put their money into a better plywood bass instead.

    So, let's talk about plywood basses that might be in the $2-5k price range - anyone own, anyone owned in the past, anyone care to comment on whether it's simply worth the maintenance difference to spend, e.g., $3500 on a hybrid rather than on a plywood bass?

    E.g., last Sunday, I subbed as organist for a friend of mine in church Sunday morning then went straight to my own bass lesson. I put my plywood bass into my not-so-minivan at 8:30 AM and it sat in the church parking lot for a couple of hours in freezing weather - would you do that with your hybrid or your fully carved bass? And there was, of course, the rest of the day - into the sort-of-heated car, into my teacher's house for a while, back into the car, and finally back into my whole-house-humidified home where you're pretty much guaranteed 35% relative humidity, +/- 5%, all winter, and it's air-conditioned in the summer.

    Or am I exaggerating the care and maintenance of a hybrid/carved instrument, and do you leave it in the car for 3 hours in freezing weather on a regular basis and just deal with getting it repaired, perhaps every few years, as needed?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. I, personally, would not treat a carved or hybrid bass that roughly. My winter gig bass is an EUB. The carved basses stay home relaxing at ~50 percent relative humidity.

    Low humidity, not temperature, is what damages carved basses. Spruce is softer than maple and maple moves a lot during humidity swings, so something has to give. If your bass was built and maintained properly, and you're lucky, a seam gives and that's it.

    The idea behind hybrid basses is that the back and ribs don't really move, which exerts less stress on the solid top. The Shen hybrid I had seemed very stable, but I didn't abuse it and owned it for less than a year. For the past 12 or 13 months it's been living all the way up in Ottawa so it's probably being subjected to some fairly extreme weather, and I've heard no complaints from the new owner.

    Did that answer your question? I'm not entirely sure what you're asking...
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  4. I wouldn't treat any of my instruments that way. Slab basses, guitars, acoustic guitars, upright basses... you name it. If I had to play DB and those were the conditions, I would buy a ply or like the sheriff said, get a eub.

    If there is an issue, I don't think you will be able to wait a few years for a repair. For instance, if a seam opened, if you wait a long time, it can open more and the rib can deform, well that's what I was told. I bought a carved bass that had an open seam for probably a year or two... maybe more since it was sitting dormant. The rib was indeed deformed and had to be reshaped.

    Here in south east Pennsylvania, I do take my carved basses to gigs. They come inside as soon as I arrive to the venue or home though and there are These in the ffs.

    Ply basses are as real as hybrid and carved. "Don't believe the hype."
  5. Right, and that's my point in starting this thread - I have a plywood bass, and if I upgrade, I'd like to get a better plywood bass so that I can continue to treat it like I treat my current plywood bass - but I'd like to get the best sounding plywood bass I could find for my $3500 rather than getting a hybrid or a carved bass, so I want to know what's out there.

  6. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    If I had a plywood bass, I still wouldn't leave it in a car in the cold. I just don't think that's a good idea.
  7. I understand it's not a good idea, but my reality is that it's going to happen sometimes so I'm looking for the best compromise for me, namely a better plywood bass than I have now.

    I know, I know ...

  8. kcandme

    kcandme Supporting Member

    This is the reason Dr Maddy developed his line of instruments manufactured by Alcoa.
    At the music camp he started in the late 20s here in Northern Lower MI, the instruments were stored over winter in a non climate controlled environment.
  9. mindwell

    mindwell Supporting Member

    Aug 17, 2006
    Wichita, KS
    Acoustic USA endorser
    Thread subscribed. I'm leaning higher-end full ply for my next instrument. Especially interested in Upton suggestions/experiences.
  10. Let's back up. Why couldn't the bass come into the church with you?
  11. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Now where getting somewhere. :D
  12. The bass could have come into the church. I often am carting lots of other things already, e.g., sometimes I play prelude/postlude on a classical guitar, and sometimes I bring along a small amp for that. I realize I am violating the 11th commandment, Thou Shall Not Leave Thy Bass in the Car When Thou Possibly Could Bring It Inside. Maybe I should have titled the thread, "Sinner Leaves Bass in Car."

    OK, seriously, I realize it's not a great thing to do, and I also realize that it's going to happen sometimes, or more accurately put, I want it to be able to happen when I'm feeling crappy and just don't want to schlep one more thing. So, no disrespect to anyone intended, but my original question stands - I'd like to hear about better plywood basses, if such things exist. Or, hey, maybe $2000 is kind of it when it comes to plywood basses and that's that - I don't know, that's why I asked. My money isn't burning a hole in my pocket and this isn't a purchase I'm planning to make any time soon - just trying to educate myself a little about what the options are.

  13. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
  14. That's a good question and as someone that brings their bass into places (for a while I brought my bass to the dance studio where I learn tango and after I would go to my bass lesson) it was a pain through all the doors and stairwells and the worry I had no matter where I put the bass that it would be 100% safe and out of the way (small dance studio).

    But hey, if you could bring the bass in, worries would fall dramatically. Hopefully that is an option.

    I'll be keeping an eye on this thread too because maybe I am a worry wart. 2 hours may not be that long in a well padded/insulated bag.
  15. That's a very good thought (New Standard) - would love to hear from anyone who plays that.

    A LaScala plywood looks very nice, and they're not too far away from me either, a little over an hour by car. Hmmm.

    For anyone following along, my current love affair with plywood basses began a few months ago when I purchase NickyBass' - it doesn't look like much, but my playing certainly hasn't yet reached the point where I can bring out everything it's got to offer. Another bass for me will happen when I reach that point, which I hope might be in another year or so.

  16. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Better than what? What are you trying to improve related to your current bass (what is it, by the way)? I've played both New Standard models in their various construction varieties and they are terrific basses.
  17. Eric, a good question - my current bass is uneven in sound quality. Some notes you have to bow just so or they get weird, and my teacher tells me those notes aren't me, they're the bass, and we also know it's not my setup - had a good, very complete setup done including planing the neck, and the neck is a solid bit of wood, and it's got new strings, and basically I've done everything for it I can do.

  18. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I used to play BG at a church and often would have to leave to play a musical or a classical concert. This meant I would need to bring my DB with me and so I would have a BG, a DB and a rig that needed to be hauled into the church with me. At no time would I consider leaving my DB in the car, summertime it would get very hot and winter time your dealing with a vastly differential in temperatures i.e. outside vs inside. Then there's the question of someone breaking my car window to take the bass or consider taking it and not going through with it leaving me with a broken window.
  19. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    If you want ply, I would start with Shen SB80 to find out if that floats your boat. The one's I'm experienced with are good value for the $$$ soundwise. The New Standards are in a different league and around 3x the $$$. Play as many older basses as you can, maybe you'll find a gem.
  20. Eric, I've never played a Shen SB80, but I suspect what I have is in that league.

    If anyone knows where in the Northern NJ or even Bucks County, PA areas I could play one in person, I'd do that. NYC is, of course, also possible - we're close by.

  21. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I find this a very interesting question...

    In general, is there a price range where a plywood bass may have a good chance of outperforming a hybrid or carved bass of the same price?
    Or, is it always better to get as much carving as possible for your money?

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