Back up bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by NickyBass, Mar 15, 2014.


  1. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2005
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    I am hoping to get a little perspective on a future purchase. This is not a hybrid ~vs~ ply thread; I know all the pros and cons. It is more about what is more practical given the situation.

    Right now, I am playing 90% classical and I don't foresee that changing too much in the next few years. My main bass was made by Seth Kimmel. I believe that basses are made to be played and I generally don't fear taking my instruments out of the house. I do treat my instruments well. I wipe them down every time I finish playing and when they are not in my hands, they are in their cases. But, I do realize that they are for playing, not for stressing over. I like this little gem that I heard on TB: If the gig is safe enough for me to be there, it is safe enough for my instrument.

    However, there are certain situations where a backup bass does make sense; outdoor concerts, tight pit gigs, maybe a club or two, or when the Kimmel needs to be in the shop.

    The obvious choice, tonally, is a Shen SB150. The hybrid would get me closer to the tone that I want than a ply. I am not worried about cracks or maintenance. Things happen, but I would rather repair a crack on the Shen than my other bass.

    But, just being realistic, I am considering how often I will use the bass. It certainly makes more financial sense to get the lower cost plywood Shen SB100 or SB88. Especially if I am only going to play the bass a few times a year. The other thing that makes me like the the idea of a ply is that it would be a completely different tone that I can use for other genres.

    One other bass that I've started to consider is the Upton Bohemian ply. I have never played one, and this is also more than I want to spend, but I am just entertaining the idea for now. I would have to hear the Shen hybrid next to it to see how I feel.

    I really like the idea of buying a newer instrument. I have played a few older plys and they are nice, but I like the idea of having a back up with the same string length and D neck as my main instrument.
  2. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: Genz-Benz Amplifiers
    I would go for the hybrid. I spend a lot of time these days going back and forth between my nice French bass, a pretty good Kay, and my folding bass (also ply) for fly and road dates. While my plywood basses are great, and serve their purpose very well, I always feel a little unsatisfied when playing them. It's unfair to expect a plywood bass of any kind to compete with a good carved bass, so I'm not really complaining. What I'm saying is, if you have the option to get the hybrid, you'll be much happier the few times per year that you do play it. And you'll probably get more money for it should you sell it.

    By the way, I had coffee with Kevin MacConnell the other day, he's on the road a little bit these days and was around Nashville for a couple of days.
  3. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Location:
    Connecticut
    My thoughts, exactly. :)
  4. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2005
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    Thanks for the replies. At first, and putting cost aside for a minute, the Shen hybrid seemed like the obvious choice. However, I threw the Upton in the mix because I am wondering if it might get the tone of a Shen hybrid, but with the durability of a ply. In my search, I played a Pfretzchner ply that was set up so nicely as to put it more on par, tonally, with most hybrids that I've played. It had a new fingerboard and bass bar, so the construction helped to make it sound better too. Unfortunately, that bass didn't have the dimensions that I was looking for.

    The other nice thing about the Upton is that I can customize it to be more personal and they are two states away should I have any issues.

    Jeremey, I haven't seen Kevin for 12 years. It would be nice to catch up.
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  6. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Location:
    Connecticut
    No ply bass will match the tone of a good hybrid. What you've pointed out, however, is that there are other factors to be considered, including design, ergonomics, durability, potential for customization, etc. Add to that the fact that some plys can achieve a very satisfactory sound and it seems you should pay a visit to Upton's shop for some first-hand (literally :)) experience. Of course, play the Shen as well.
  7. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Playing the various different options will likely help you make a choice a lot easier than just talking about it. While I think you would likely be happier with a hybrid if the majority of your playing is classical playing with a bow, there are some pretty great plys out there as well. How you feel about that difference is going to depend largely on what it plays and sounds like to you, and how much money you feel like putting into it.

    Upton also makes their Standard in a Hybrid, and if you pay them a visit you might find they have one of their own basses used, or something else that works for you in your price range. While you will likely be most happy with something that you can customize and get "more bass" for, it's really easy to end up outside of your price range when you start going that route. While it wouldn't be a Kimmel, if you want it to be the bass you play on a few gigs a year and don't have to worry about, sinking too much money into it isn't going to help with that.
  8. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2005
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    Normally I would agree 100%. However, the problem that I'm having at the moment is more about practicality than tone. And I guess it is two fold. First, I am going into a new purchase knowing that it won't be my main instrument. I know the minimum that I want in the bass, and I'm not sure if I should invest more than I need to. Like I said, cost aside, the Shen SB150 seems like the obvious choice, but I wanted to get some other perspectives on the practicality of specifically having a bass for 'back up' purposes. IE how much will I use it ~vs~ how much do I want to spend.

    The second part is that if I raise my budget, I am still torn between a very nice sounding hybrid or a ply that I can customize to my preferences in regard to feel.

    I should give John a call to see what he has to say about the wood selection process at Shen. They get a lot of good reviews and I am leaning toward an SB150.

    I'm really not stressing it too much, because all three are nice instruments. I just wanted to discuss the crazy thoughts in my head. :)
  9. KUNGfuSHERIFF

    KUNGfuSHERIFF

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2002
    There isn't a damn thing wrong with a Shen 150 in my experience. The one I had was nice enough to convince me to step up to a Rogeri Willow, and the 150 I had was one of the ones with a cosmetic veneer on the top, which are allegedly inferior to the non-veneer examples.

    If that's the direction you're thinking of going, I know where you can get a 150 for under $2k (plus tax) if you're willing to make a day trip out of it.
  10. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2005
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    Interesting. Where might this be?

    From what I read so far on TB, it seems that most people have a similar experience with the Shens. They get a lot of good reviews.
  11. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
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    Endorsing Artist: Genz-Benz Amplifiers
    Buy an old Italian bass and make the Kimmel your backup.
  12. BrettBelanger

    BrettBelanger

    Joined:
    May 13, 2013
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    I'd say go with the Shen, I've had an SB80 and currently have a 7/8 SB200 and they are/were both great. I just recently got a new bass so now I have a main and a backup. I play an outdoor brunch gig every Sunday though so I know the backup will get used.
  13. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2005
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    Although I prefer Jeremy's suggestion ;) , it looks like I am going to go with the Shen SB150.

    Like you guys mentioned, I will be happier playing the hybrid the few times that I get to play it. I spoke to Josh at Upton, and he was fantastic to talk to. Although I think the Upton Standard would be a great choice, a hybrid would give me the sound that I want. An Upton hybrid is a lot more than I'd like to spend, although I am sure they are great instruments.

    Thanks for all the replies.
  14. BrettBelanger

    BrettBelanger

    Joined:
    May 13, 2013
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    Post pics when it's all over!
  15. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2005
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    Sure thing. It should be here this weekend, and then it needs to be setup. I hope to have it by the beginning of next week.

    It is a gamba shape hybrid, without the veneer on top.
  16. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    Location:
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Disclosures:
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Me, too - some of the best advice ever to appear on this forum! ;)
  17. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2005
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    I've had the bass at home for a few days. It still needs some adjustments, but I wanted to play it for a few weeks before bringing it back to the shop for a final setup. So far, I am impressed with the instrument. Once everything is dialed in, I think it is going to fit my needs really well.

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