Bass advice sought

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Inga51, Jan 6, 2014.


  1. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    Hi all, I'm still a relatively new DB player, picking it up a little over a year ago, but having played EB for many years.

    I am currently renting a Fritz Steinmeyer bass according to what it says on the label inside the bass, which I believe (based on what I'm paying to rent it and that it's listed as a HS student instrument), is a cheap plywood instrument. My main playing situations at this point are at home (for practice and pleasure), at church in a small band with (mild) drums, guitar and piano, and most recently I've started using it in community musical theatre productions. I'm currently rehearsing in a 12 piece band (including 3 keys, drums and brass/woodwind) for the production of Young Frankenstein. I play both pizz and arco in all playing situations probably about 60% pizz : 40% arco.

    For amplification I'm using an EAP pickup with the matching Ehrlund Pre-amp, running into a LittleMark III into a Bergantino HR112EX(?) which is my EB setup. Most venues I play have some FOH support but the sound engineers aren't very qualified to get the best out of individual instruments and sometimes are limited by old / dodgy equipment. I'm not in a position where I want to start changing the amplification setup even though I know it may limit my on amplified quality. With the setup I can send a clean signal to a desk where needed.

    My main issue with the current bass is that the E at first position on the D string, and the same note at third position on the A string seems really quiet compared to other notes on the bass. Given that the same note on different strings is affected that would rule out a string issue (in my mind) and point towards some sort of dead frequency on the bass. Is that likely/possible? Is that fixable?

    The second issue with the current bass is that the B at 2nd position on the G string (and to a lesser extend at 1st on the A string) is really 'boomy'/resonant compared to other notes. When playing Pizz I am quick to damp the string but the body of the bass still seems to sustain the note. This is making amplifying the bass rather difficult. The boominess can be heard clearly when playing purely acoustically. Is this fixable?

    With those issues in mind, I believe I will soon be in a position to purchase my own bass and would most likely invest in a fully carved instrument. Unfortunately here in Perth Australia there are limited choices for instruments/stores and quality luthiers. I will most likely need to travel to the east coast to have more choice and it seems that many people over there are pushing the upper end Chinese models of Jay Haide, Christopher and the Romanian Gliga basses. There are some second hand European basses on the market like Hoftner as well. So I'm not sure if I should be looking at the new Chinese stuff or the older European ones. The Chinese ones seem to start at about $6k with better models in the $8-10k range, and the European ones seem to sit more in the $10-15k price range.

    I'm wondering whether these fully carved basses that I'm looking at are likely to suffer from similar issues as the cheaper rental that I'm currently learning on, and if correct setup of both the rental and the better instrument could address these issues and even out the sound across the fingerboard.

    I know that's a lot of questions and information. So I would be super appreciative of anyone who takes the time to respond with their thoughts/input/feedback on the situation.
  2. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    I'll bite.

    Your E problem: Some basses have note(s) that just really don't speak very well. Dead notes tend to be quiet like what you mentioned. You can sometimes influence them a little bit with adjustments, but they tend to be stuck with the bass. Wolf tones are notes that don't start very well with the bow, don't resonate, and just sort of grunt out of the instrument. You can sometimes eliminate (or often move them) by adjusting the mass/vibrating length of the string with "wolf tone eliminators". They are basically brass weights that you attach to the string between the bridge and the tailpiece. It can be a bit of a trial and error process, but generally speaking they have favourable results. There is also a thread over in Setup & Repair about tuning the afterlengths on your bass. I am guessing that this could be responsible for the B's really jumping out. In a nutshell, there are a lot of different parts of the instrument that need to come together to make a great sound. When they come together "too well" on some notes, you end up with notes that really jump out.

    Both of these problems could potentially be fixed on your current bass, and they aren't big adjustments.

    As for a new instrument, I have been pretty impressed with a few of the newer Jay Haide basses I have seen recently. I personally do not like "antiqued" instruments, but they played/sounded great. Christopher basses have a pretty good reputation around talkbass as well but along with Romanian instruments you have mentioned, I don't have experience with them. Older instruments can be a really good way to go with double basses as well. As long as they are in good health: no open seams/cracks, well repaired etc.

    Yes, you can run into these problems with any bass. Some amazing instruments have problems, and it isn't easy to find a bass that is completely even from the bottom of your lowest string to the top of the instrument. A chromatic scale test when shopping for a new instrument up all of the strings tends to help you find these problems. It's up to you to decide if it's a deal breaker or not. In a perfect world, you wouldn't have any of those problems but in a slightly more realistic one, you hope they are in a part of the instrument you don't use very often and just live with them.

    If you are in the market for a new instrument, I say go for it. Spend as much time as you can with the instrument before you have to purchase it to make sure it's "the one" and along with the other recommended methods (have a luthier look at it, bring a colleague/teacher for some input, play it in as many "real life" rehearsals/gigs as you can etc.) try playing chromatically up each string from the nut to as far as you can to see if that instrument has any of those notes. If it doesn't, buy it and never look back.
  3. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    Thanks for your input Mike! That's the problem I'm having at the moment...being only a beginner and really only playing up to 3rd position, the majority of my playing is focused around the two problem areas that I'm faced with on this instrument.
  4. Andrew McGregor

    Andrew McGregor

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    If you want someone more experienced on the east coast to check out a bass, there's at least a couple of TB members in Sydney, myself included.

    Sounds like you have a setup problem or two on the bass you have; these are fixable, but you will have to consider whether it's worth putting the investment into a rental. Trying to eliminate the wolf tones is easy enough, since any weight at all on the afterlength should modify it... even a lump of plasticene, or more permanently the inner from an electrical 'chocolate box' connector, which is basically just a drilled lump of brass with a couple of screws.
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  6. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    Thank you Andrew, that is very gracious of you to offer. That is part of the dilemma with investing in such an expensive instrument that is so 'volatile' for want of a better word. Plus as a beginner I am in no place to judge what is and isn't a good instrument, not to mention that as a player it sounds completely different compared to listening from some distance away from the bass. And obviously anyone selling a bass, be they a shop or a private seller, is only going to give you one side of the story.
  7. SeaMist_au

    SeaMist_au

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2012
    Location:
    Australia
    I have a Jay Haide. It's a great sounding bass. The only issue I have had with it is neck warp (Melbourne humidity?) , still not quite resolved. A bit of string buzz near the nut which will be fixed when the Luthier gets back from holidays lol. Also the bass 'chokes' a bit above a D in thumb position. Still well playable but it just doesn't have that great tone you get below the high D. That may or may not be resolvable.
    I agree totally that choice in Australia is limited. Of the basses you listed probably Jay Haide is the best (and most expensive). Alternatives are older German and French trade models, usually kicking in at about $15,000 upwards.
    Adelaide has Bassworks, Melbourne has Atelier Puglisi, and Sydney has the Bass Shop. That's about it for Australia. Good luck in your hunting.
  8. Andrew McGregor

    Andrew McGregor

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    And Auckland has Pete McGregor (no relation), Wellington has Ian Lyons. And that's it for 1/3 of the southern hemisphere... next nearest places are in Japan, the US and Canada.
  9. drurb

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

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Inga51-- you've gotten some fine advice and information here. As a newbie, you may also find this link helpful as you shop.

    Happy hunting! :)
  10. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago
    I'd call that a major issue and would think green wood to be the culprit, not Melbourne humidity. If you bought the bass new from a dealer they should make it right…new neck or bass. Maybe take some pics and post in the setup and repair forum.
  11. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    Cheers. Have read through that link on a few occasions already. Lots of good advice in there to be sure.
  12. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    Thanks for the reply. I have to agree with the previous poster in thinking that the neck thing is a pretty major issue, and one that I too feel might be related to the wood being a bit green...but I'm no expert on that. There seems to be a lot of posts here where people question the wood used on Chinese basses and the quality control at the factory. I think that's why I was leaning toward an older bass that has resided in Australia for some years to help aclimatize it to the conditions a bit more. There is a Hoftner bass here in Perth that is a little out of my price range but was bought from Puglisi some years ago. He actually has two more of them listed on his site right now.

    There is actually a shop called WA Music Co here in Perth who import basses. They sell the Jay Haide basses, but the also travel to Europe twice a year to buy up used basses and bring them back here for repairs/restoration. That's where I've rented my bass from. Only problem is that I keep getting different stories about the history and price of a couple of basses that I've been interested in there. I simply don't trust what they are telling me, and when the price differs by several thousand dollars depending on who you talk too...that's super dodgy.

    Thank you all for the advice you've provided so far.
  13. SeaMist_au

    SeaMist_au

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2012
    Location:
    Australia
    I agree the neck thing is an issue. It has been planed twice and still needs a bit of a tweak I think. No charge for the neck plane though, as the bass was bought new. I can bow ok right up to the end of the fingerboard (intonation needs work) but the bass loses it's big dark tones above the D above thumb position. Pizz is subdued there as well.

    One thing, very difficult to predict is the 'eventual' way you are going to want to pay the bass. When I bought mine it was 90% pizz with arco only really for intonation practice. Now it's getting closer to 60% arco and 40% pizz. I expect arco to go up further. I just love the sound the bow can get out of the bass. Big beautiful and expressively dark.

    What I am rambling on about is really that I wouldn't have considered performance under the bow or work well up into the thumb position when I bought the bass. My love for the bow only really developed when I realised what it could sound like on a decent instrument. ( and strings lol,Evah Pirazzi's BTW). My desire to play well up into the thumb position was only sparked when I heard some solo bass playing on Youtube. It all started with Eccles being played by that guy from the String Emporium.
    Except for soloing, the Jay Haide has been able to meet all my needs, and for all I know it's simply technique issues I'm having right up the end of the fingerboard. I have to play a few other basses to be able to tell.
    And to be honest, I'm thinking of buying a better bass but I'm not sure my technique warrants a better bass. Conflicting with that the Jay Haide really is a nice sounding bass. I don't want to lose that beautiful sound I I love so much.
    Perhaps if I had purchased a crystal ball first lol......

    Whichever way you go, I can only recommend that you think of the way you might like to play the bass in the future, and not perhaps the way you are playing it now and buy the best, most versatile bass you can afford.
    If I had to do it again ( and I might) I would set a budget of around 20,000, maybe more for the right instrument. If you can call that a budget lol.
  14. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    While I admire bassists who can bust out massive improv solos and be a real feature instrument, I doubt my playing will ever take that direction. I've been playing EB for many years in a variety of groups and despite pushing by other musicians, I have tended to stay in the backline working on providing a solid rhythm section for other people to be featured. I can't see that being changed by adding a DB into my repertoire. That said, I will be looking for an instrument that will not limit a player that is more advanced than I plan on reaching. I tend to buy things that are the best of what I can afford without going OTT.
  15. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    I've just been in at WA Music Co here in Perth and they had two Jay Haide basses on the floor. One was the Panormo and the other the French. Which model do you have?

    I prefer the physical size and shape of the French, but don't know that much about the 'general' differences in tone / playability between the different shapes. I currently play a Gamba (German?) bass and it is very big challenging to handle (even though I'm 6'1" and 200lbs).

    Would greatly appreciate any feedback people have about the pros and cons of different shapes?
  16. SeaMist_au

    SeaMist_au

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2012
    Location:
    Australia
    I have the Parnormo. It is a bigger bass and It's taken me ages to find a good position to play it. I'm still not quite 100% happy but I'm getting there. It's what I was alluding to before. You start off with pizz, position feels good but then you take up the bow. Now the bass is much higher for the left hand to get to the bowing 'lanes' appropriate for the instrument, not to mention a change of strings lol. That's ok, just some adjustment. Then you try and get to the end of the fingerboard, while bowing. More adjustment. I can just reach now :)
    Then thinking maybe I need it up a bit higher to get better bow control but you can't have it too high otherwise you can't reach the end of the fingerboard over the shoulders. Still juggling slightly. I'm about 5'7", short legs, normal length arms. I play seated BTW.

    So yes, the French style bass is easier to play, but the size of the Parnormo gives great tone.
    Right now, I would sacrifice a bit of convenience for tone. The % of time I'm ever likely to be playing that high on the fingerboard is likely to be very low. But I like to push both the instrument and myself so I will be playing there eventually.

    I did get the opportunity to play each of them at one stage. I liked them all but still think the Parnormo has the edge on tone. The French has it for ease of play. Now if I can find a French instrument with a huge tone.........
  17. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Size and shape don't always equal volume and tone. While French, Italian, German, English, American etc. instruments all have characteristics they are known for, a lot of that comes down to wood selection, top graduations, and a ton of things some of our luthier friends here are much more qualified to talk about than myself. When it comes to different instruments/outlines from the same maker/factory, I would be so bold as to say that instrument is going to have more in common with other instruments from that maker/factory than the bass it is modelled after.

    There will be exceptions. Makers often do try to get the shape and characteristics from what they are copying/drawing inspiration from, so there's a chance the "French" model Haide will sound "French" and the "Panormo" will sound "Panormoish" but I would really approach them both with the same open mind. If you pick up the French bass thinking it is going to have a smaller sound and the Panormo is going to be a cannon, your ears will likely hear those things. It is really easy to make your assumptions come true.

    Try both, and see what you think. See how they feel, and if you can get around one easier than the other. Usually we can adapt to play a bigger instrument than we think we can, and there are some great videos of Tom Martin showcasing some HUGE basses on his website. They are worth a watch just to see someone get around a bass so effortlessly.
  18. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago
    I agree to a point, but think about spending hours everyday with the instrument (if you will need to, that is). If you can truly get around effortlessly, then fine, but undue stresses due to a large size that you just can't get around on with ease will only get worse with a lot of playing time.
  19. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Good point Eric. While it is often possible for us to play larger instruments, pushing the envelope too much can lead to injuries. The OP is 6'1" and Tom Martin is 5'5", and depending on the OP's playing style, how he sits/stands with the instrument etc. he could very well not be comfortable on an instrument as big as what Martin plays. I was just mentioning this as "I couldn't possibly play a large instrument" is a concern that comes up, and it really comes down to the individual bass and bassist.

    I would love an instrument that is a little more comfortable to get around as my next bass, and rib depth, fingerboard angle/overstand, shoulder size/shape/slope, upper bout width, string length and a ton of other factors will be considered when I hit the market again. Not everyone can play a Panormo/copy, but not everyone "needs" to play a small shouldered French/model bass. I definitely wouldn't recommend an instrument that could lead to injury, and I think it's crazy how a lot of players who have experienced injuries and are playing in pain have a love affair with huge instruments.

    For that reason, I point out again that size and shape does not equal volume and tone. Regardless to whether or not the OP can get around the Panormo model, it might not have a "better" sound. Even if it does, I would much rather play an instrument that doesn't have the absolute best sound if it means I don't prematurely end my career due to an injury. And if the French model is a cannon, then go for it and don't look back.
  20. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    Thanks for the input on this guys. Good points being made, and loads for me to consider. Unfortunately my choices here in Perth, and even in wider Australia are somewhat limited as stocks of basses are very low here. I think (if I am happy to travel to the East Coast) that I'll find some basses that I like, but I am beginning to question whether I'll find a bass that just leaps out at me as being 'the one'. I'm sure others have felt this feeling as well... especially me as a relative beginner who doesn't really know what he's looking for in an instrument. As a beginner playability definitely is right up there with tone, and let's be honest, looks are important if I'm going to keep this bass for a many many years.

    I really like the look and feel of getting around a French model, but the possible considerations with tone and overall volume production do concern me. Can only see what I can find.
  21. SeaMist_au

    SeaMist_au

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2012
    Location:
    Australia
    When I tried mine I went for comfort but that was comfort limited by my playing style at the time.
    You might like to do what I didn't do. Take your bow and try them all. It's not so easy when they string so many with spiros but you might still be able to compare. See if you can easily get to the end of the fingerboard. Play with the position of the endpin. Does the bass feel heavy or unwieldy? How comfortable does it feel. How does it sound? If you play seated sometimes maybe sit down with it. Really test drive it.
    It's a large investment. It deserves a good tryout.
    Having said that, when I was looking there was a little bit of choice at $5000 or below. The next price step up was about $16,000 where there were many instruments, with the Jay Haide being the only bass between those points. That's was a choice of one for me. So as you have stated we are pretty well starved of choice in this country. And the basses are expensive. It was suggested to me that maybe a flight to the USA for vastly Improved choice might even turn out to be more cost effective but it felt somewhat inconvenient lol.
    Hope you find something you like.
    P.S. Having the support of a decent luthier for the set up and maintenance of your bass is as important as any other factor. I know Ben Puglisi made quite a few adjustments to set it up nicely. Makes all the difference.

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