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Advice for a Player Please

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by herndonbassist, Mar 18, 2009.

  1. herndonbassist

    herndonbassist Low Down Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    I know that soliciting advice on an Internet forum is like asking for a hailstorm of fury, but alas, I'm a glutton for punishment so I'll give it a go. For background, as can be seen in my profile, I have been playing electric bass consistently for about 19 years now. I am very serious about the playability of my instruments, and own some very nice player quality instruments that go out with me to many club/bar dates. I do all of my own setup on those instruments, and have built quite a few instruments (doing more than just assembly), speaker cabinets and various other non-musical woodworking projects. I do NOT consider myself to be a luthier, nor claim to be an expert in ANY of this, just wanted to point out what I might be capable of doing.

    I've been mulling this over in my head for about a year now, and just can't make up my mind. I have also read through all of the newbie links, and am still faced with my quandry.

    I have on permanent loan from a very good friend of mine a G A Pfretzschner 3/4 bass. I would assume that this is a plywood bass, but haven't done too much to inspect it. When it was lent to me, I was informed by the owner (who used it in college with a symphony that he played in) that it would need new strings, a new bridge, and a new endpin.

    I have now been playing this bass for about a year (Bluegrass, Folk and Americana) and have learned enough to know that he was right in his assessment.

    a) The strings are COATED in rosin, and have tons of knicks in them, so they need to be replaced. I also realize that there are strings that would be better suited for my style of music (not the classical he was playing). I do not bow, but would not rule it out in the future.

    b) The bridge is SEVERELY warped, and it appears that it was put in upside down at some point, as there are string shims on the higher strings, and everything looks just plain wrong.

    c) The ebony part of the endpin is seriously cracked, and odds are wouldn't stay together once a minor dissassembly is done.

    Now, with those facts in mind I have been looking at the Gollihur site and have priced out the replacement parts that I need which come to $207. I am not completely certain that I would be comfortable doing anything but the string change (and even that with the help of the owner of the bass) but if I were, I would gladly spend the money. So I'm looking at (conservatively) another $300-400 in labor bringing my total to $600 for this instrument which I do NOT own. I'm not cheap, so this isn't a thread asking how to save money, I just want to know from some experts... would I be better off spending $1500 and getting a nice properly setup instrument out of the box? I cannot justify a high-end carved top right now, but I keep looking at the laminates on Bob's site thinking that's what I should be doing.

    Thanks... sorry for the long winded post, but I had to keep typing so that everyone would think I was still working :-D

    I just realized that you can see the bridge problem in this pic:
  2. fender_funk_man


    Feb 19, 2009
    From what I know about uprights they can be a little tricky to set up properly. However in saying that if the body is in good shape then just pay someone to do it. I do all my own work on my electric basses but I leave the pro's to do my upright.

    Cool thing about uprights, all those jazz greats like mingus and chambers all played plywood basses. Orchestral basses are much more expensive but they just dont sound that good for non-classical music. Part of the reason that Jazz has that distinctive sound is because of plywood basses. If i were you I'd just go for the new instrument.
  3. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Yeah, I wouldn't invest several hundred dollars in someone else's bass unless I had some sort of agreement with them that made it worth my while (like investing $x in repairs gives you x amount of time I will let you hold on to the bass).

    A decent entry-level ply bass is generally good for what your musical needs seem to be, but what really matters is how it sounds to you.

    Another idea...
    If you're going to be borrowing this for a while, you could:
    Buy new strings.
    Buy a bridge but do some research here and fit it yourself (it'll take you a full day, but save you about $200-300).
    Ignore the endpin.

    Your total cost would be less than $200.

    Then keep playing the bass, and save your money. When you return it, consider the bridge your "thank you" for borrowing it. If the strings are still good, then you can put the old strings back on, and use the new ones as spares on your new bass. If their getting old, well, you would have spent that money on strings on your own bass anyways.
  4. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
  5. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    You got that right!

    Not even close. Sorry. Jazz greats played ply basses? Well, some did but most did not and do not. PC was reported to have a ply but sure didn't play on one exclusively. If by "orchestral basses," you mean fully-carved instruments, then nothing could be further from the truth. They are typically the preferred instruments for jazz. Now, if by "orchestral basses," you mean those fully-carved instruments that have a dark, powerful sound, then some folks would argue that they are not well suited to more modern jazz playing styles and sound. For those folks, it is usually the smaller, somewhat "brighter-sounding" instruments that are preferred. In either case, there's just no doubt that it's the fully-carved instruments that dominate among jazz pros and not plywood basses.

    To the OP: I'd opt for getting a new bass rather than sinking money into the loaner. Save some $$$ for a nice "thank you" gift when you return the bass. :)
  6. herndonbassist

    herndonbassist Low Down Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    Good thoughts, I was debating doing the bridge and scrapping the endpin for now...

    I should have pointed out that the friend I'm borrowing this from has every intention of letting me use this as long as I desire (as long as I'm actually using it). He's a very good friend, and his wife whispered to me "he's never going to take it back"... SO I'm not counting on that, but it's something to think of.

    Thanks for the thoughts!
  7. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Here's one article on bridge fitting

    Bob Gollihur also has a pdf article that he would probably send if you PM him.

    And there are a few threads on the subject.
  8. Robert,

    I work in D.C. and there are several good luthiers in the area. You might have one of them check out the bass and recommend what needs to be done now and what might be put off.

    If this were my bass, I'd get that bridge off as quickly as possible. That looks like a pretty serious sway in the photo.

    If you need a luthier recommendation for the area, PM me and I'll send some contact information.

    Good luck!
  9. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Yeah that bridge is seriously warped!!
  10. herndonbassist

    herndonbassist Low Down Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    You think?


    FWIW... It's been in it's current position for about 10 years. I'm fairly certain that my buddy did a string swap while enjoying a few adult beverages in college, which ultimately led to this issue as it is today. I keep waiting for it to crack.
  11. RobertUI,

    I see you list carpentry and electronics as hobbies. You are a hands-on guy. Swapping these parts is not magic but there is some risk of damage. Ownership is the main issue. Opinion - here is what I would do:

    1. Try to buy the bass so it is yours to work on. If you do not own it then get professional help which can cost several hundred keep that in mind when buying it.
    2. Get that bridge off before it falls on the top.
    3. Buy the parts.
    4. Try to match the taper of the end pin so it is a plug and play swap.
    5. Install a new cable tailgut too.
    6. Check the forums for best string for what you play.
    7. Take an afternoon and fit the bridge. Once again there is plenty of info herein.

    Good luck.
  12. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Get a pro to fit a new bridge with adjusters and generally look it over. This is too critical to try and do it yourself, and since you can keep the bass as long as you want, if you ever give it back to your friend, that can be your thank you.
  13. herndonbassist

    herndonbassist Low Down Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    All... thanks for your points (all very well taken) with this decision making process. Here's what I'm planning to do...

    1) Buy strings that will suit me (this needs to be done regardless)
    2) Buy the adjustable bridge from Bob G.

    After speaking with a couple luthiers, I understand that I will not insult anyone by bringing the bridge and strings, so I will just be prepared. I figure that the strings and bridge can just be passed along to the owner of the bass as a "Thank You" regardless of whether I get them installed or not. (I'm going with HIS pizzicato string preference for the time being) I have also gotten some very kind offers to try out some different basses/setups/strings so I'll be doing all of that first.

    I looked at the end-pin this weekend, and while it's broken (the foot no longer adjusts properly) it IS functional. There is enough meat where the cable connects that I don't have any concerns with the functionality, I also got a chance to speak with the owner of the bass, and he's THRILLED that it's getting used.
  14. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Make sure you get the right size bridge for your bass with wings that will accomodate a pickup.
  15. herndonbassist

    herndonbassist Low Down Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    Thanks for the note... I currently own the Fishman BP-100 transducer pickup (and preamp) and am very happy with it. As I understand it, it should work on just about any bridge, but I know that the bridge I'm looking at will certainly work with it.


    I wanted to point out that this is the bridge that I'm planning to order. I've measured a few times, and it seems like the perfect replacement for me (I am very aware that the bridge will need to be carved/shaped/manipluated for proper fit.) http://www.gollihurmusic.com/product/1158-3_4_UPRIGHT_BASS_ADJUSTABLE_BRIDGE.html I am pleased that Bob Gollihur includes a nice instruction set as well. I am a VERY cautious person, so if I get his instructions and am NOT 100% confident, I will NOT be doing this work myself. I have also been talked with a few players that I know and respect who have offered their assistance as they've done bridge swaps themselves.

  16. Well if this is the case, then basically you have a double bass given to you for free. So if you have the bass fixed up with a new end pin assembly, strings, bridge, maybe have then fingerboard planed, you're still spending only a few hundred dollars, and your still $1500-$2000 under budget of what every one else had to do, like you know, actually buy the bass first.

    Since you saved so much money on acquiring the bass, why be so cheap on needed repairs?

    Think of this, say you spend $500 on repair, and say you check at your local store and can rent a similar bass at $80/month. Well than after 7 months of having the now-fixed bass, you've already re-couped the money spent on repairs and are now just saving cash that would have been spent on renting. That's not even taking into account the time you've already spent with it. Now what if you were to continue using this for years?

    I thinks its smart to just get the bass fixed up nice and properly. Pay the bill and then use it as much as possible. Once the 7 months are done, any more time spent on it is free.

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