Aluminum Acoustic Double Bass Club

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by dhergert, Apr 8, 2019.


  1. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Hmmm, interesting... We're definitely past the 3 month mark that you experienced with my SilverSlaps E and A, but I suspect the thicker E and A may be less susceptible to this kind of failure. I'll sure bring it up of this happens with them.

    I'm actually pretty happy with my sound and feel, but there's so much else out there in the way of strings that I'm very very curious. I've actually got 2 of each of the new SilverSlaps and 2 each of the new dirty guts sitting in the bass bag waiting for me to change strings when the time comes, so unless I get really anxious I won't be trying anything different for a couple of years.

    I've avoided steel strings on my metal bass to try to keep the tone more "like wood", but have wondered about TI SuperFlexible Solos possibly as an E and A. Have you tried SuperFlexible Solos on your PFretzchner?
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
  2. bigshiny

    bigshiny Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2010
    St Louis MO
    No I haven’t. I’m sure the innovation was a manufacturing defect. I was already using all plain gut on my 1937 Kay when I purchased my Aluminum in ‘01. So I just continued with gut. Now I’ve tried Blast Cult Low Lifes, but for Slap I just can’t stand steel. Again, my opinion. I keep those for backup on the road. They tune up quick.
     
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  3. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    So, we finally got our newest album out, and this album has a number of professionally recorded and professionally played examples of my Alcoa in action. I actually am playing banjo for the whole set of songs, but our band's bass player strongly prefers my Alcoa. The album was recorded last summer, it is a 2x CD album with 27 tracks, and my Alcoa is the only bass used for this album; it was used on all but one song which was done a cappella.

    Here's one track with the Alcoa, "I Am A Pilgrim". (This album is all out on YouTube and is also available at most well known online outlets if you're interested.)

    Strings were a complete set of SBW Deluxe "Dirty Gut", I had not yet swapped in the E and A SilverSlaps at the time this was recorded. The Alcoa was DI'ed into the house system for all of this album, and I didn't have my K&K Dual Channel Pro ST blending pre-amp in the signal chain at this time, so this was just the bridge wing piezo of a Vic's Model C running straight into the system.

     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
  4. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Toronto
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    TOPIC: Celebrity Alcoa bassist!

    Hi all,

    Not sure if I’m following protocol, given that there isn’t a separate page for ALCOA stuff, but here goes anyway.

    I was watching Candy Candido in this Youtube clip



    when I realized he was slapping on an ALCOA bass. If you look at the tuners and the button (visible especially at 00:11) they’re very ALCOA. At 1:26 you can see some aluminum glint where the top meets the rib (just in front of Joan Crawford’s nose - no really). You can also see the front of the bass when Candy slaps from 1:08-11, and the double painted purfling is pretty distinctive. For those that have a working ALCOA (mine is waiting on polishing and setup), what do you think of the sound? Metal or wood??

    Mr. Candino, I know you’ve done research for an ALCOA book. You’re also practically related to Candy (save for the one letter difference in your last name!). It’s therefore only logical that I ask: Can you tell TB readers where this bass is now? ;)

    Cheers,

    Paul
     
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  5. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    From the sound I'd guess gut on *un-treated* aluminum. The neck joint and fat neck look pretty Alcoa. The original tuners that are on my Alcoa are German labelled and may be the same independent worm-unders as are on the one in the clip, although I'm pretty sure these German tuners were also used on other basses.

    If you watch carefully as the bass player is bringing in the bass you can just make out a glimpse of the unique upper portion of the Alcoa F-hole on the left side of the bass (at around 5 to 6 seconds in) along with a ~2" tell-tale dent in the top. Yup, it's an Alcoa, and even at a maximum of 5 years old by this film's production, this Alcoa is already a little beat up (at least one dent, and paint on the left shoulder chipping). I wish the cameraman would have spent more time on the important stuff like the instruments (the tenor guitar is pretty interesting too).

    Regarding the *un-treated* thought, I've just played this clip for my wife, who hears my Alcoa all the time; mine has acoustical paint generously applied to the inside back, plus it has a pretty thick powder-coat finish and synthetic strings. This is pretty subjective, but to her ears the Alcoa in the clip sounds noticeably more metallic than mine.
     
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  6. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Ben Noblit and his ALCOA workin' the crowd; try that with your 200 year old carved bass!

    69248769_10101223597522623_2074230695844118528_n.jpg
     
  7. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    We're slowly making our way up from Southern California to Seattle for our Alaska bluegrass cruise that leaves on Tuesday. Friday night we stayed in Bakersfield CA, Saturday night in Redding CA. Tonight for our anniversary we're treating ourselves to the more upscale Portland Rose hotel, in the middle of town right next to the Willamette river. Tomorrow night will be somewhere in Seattle.

    We're not into marathon driving anymore, up to 6 or 7 hours on the road per day is more than enough, as we're trying to not be exhausted when we get onto the ship. Driving has been fun, as we're trying to take in landscapes and colors of a land we've never seen before. Even in summer, scenery is getting exponentially greener, prettier and more lush as we go north. It's easy to wish we lived in some of these places.

    Each night my wife and I have played a little music after dinner, tonight I got the Alcoa out of the bag for a spin. The hotel consierge mentioned he played BG when he saw me bring the double bass in, so after my wife and I were done playing I took it down to show him; this was later in the evening when his shift was quiet.

    He and the restaurant waiter had played BG and guitar in a band together, so they both took a look and admired the Alcoa a bit. Neither had been near a DB before but they realized that the Alcoa is rare and isn't the standard affair, so they both had questions about its history, setup and they wanted to see some demonstration.

    I let them both play at it a bit too, they got a kick out of the thick neck, high action and thick strings, and they remarked about how hard it is to do hammers, lifts and slides on such a big instrument. I showed them a little DB pizz/slapping which they also enjoyed.

    The Alcoa sort of attracts attention, even in a big cosmopolitan city like Portland where you can see just about anything, and before long we had a number of hotel guests asking about it. We'll see a lot more of that on Tuesday as we get started on the cruise. If it's like our previous shorter bluegrass cruises, by the end of this 7-day cruise we'll probably have talked about it with 300-500 people, most who have never been near a DB before.

    As I show it to people, my conscience reminds me to try to represent the Alcoa as what it is, sort of a gentle, somewhat optimistic characature of the rest of the double bass world. Many people get that, but more don't, so I'm often left hoping their next DB exposure will be to a different and perhaps more standard variety of DB, just to round out their experience. But I do expect that for most of the people I show my Alcoa to, they're going to be shocked when they see a DB made of wood.
     
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  8. FiddleFixr

    FiddleFixr Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2016
    Ontario
    Luthier - Jan's Fiddle Farm
    This one also has about 160 hours shop time, mostly in sanding & polishing. Cost of supplies much higher than anticipated, but I can't remember anything anymore, the aluminum dust gets everywhere.
    VERY COOL INSTRUMENT !!!

    IMG_3790scale.JPG

    IMG_3795scale.JPG
     
  9. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    We're in Skagway AK today... Yes, we made it to Seattle and onto the ship with all the instruments. No issues with CITES woods or instruments and security as we passed onto the ship.

    The cruise has been great musically. I must be the only person on board with a double bass and of it, my banjo and my mandolin, I have been playing the bass much more than everything else, for jams, for an extended workshop and was even asked to sit-in (plugged into the FOH system) for one of the ship's bar bands. It's been great fun. Our band has an on-board gig tomorrow for which I'll be playing banjo, but our bass player is here and will be playing the bass.

    There are probably 8 banjos, 6 mandolins, 4 fiddles, 10 to 12 guitars and a tenor guitar on board. I'm really glad to have the Alcoa here. It's challenging to get around the ship with it, like in particular through narrow doors and hallways, revolving doors and circular staircases, but it's been very much worth the extra effort.

    As expected, I'm answering lots of questions about the Alcoa, especially among bluegrass-group passengers but also in the elevators, halls and passageways from passengers and staff. Concerning the Alcoa itself, I'm continually getting excellent tone reviews from both the experienced and inexperienced musicians that I'm working with.

    Of course the cruise itself has been great. At about 1/2 way through the cruise so far we've seen a number of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, otters, bald eagles, albatross, we've seen glaciers and walked through subartic rainforests, we've enjoyed excellent food and service.

    But for me the best part is the music. Great fun!

    (Side-story, the only serious negative on the trip so far is that I had my musical instrument hand tools confiscated from within my baggage, as did another bluegrass cruise passenger, but they are supposedly on board and are supposed to be returned to us upon leaving the ship, so I'm reserving judgement until then. So far not needed by me, my instrument hand tools are one of those just-in-case items I always bring with me on bluegrass cruises and to music festivals. The other guy was going to use his hand tools for a workshop, but couldn't get them back in time for it. We'll see how this plays out.)

    (Edit: These tools were returned to both myself and the other guy today (next day, mid-cruise) after it was demonstrated what the tools were for. My impression: The staff was following policy and I was just lucky with bringing my tools on previous cruises. While there isn't any question that these are tools of the instrument repair trade and not intended as weapons, from the standpoint of protecting the ship and 3000+ passengers, and without knowing us personally, the staff did what they were supposed to do. For me, I'll just leave the tools home next time.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
  10. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    We're on the way home now, driving from Seattle to our southern California house, at this point, taking our time driving the 395 scenic route. Both of us are reviewing in our minds all we heard and saw. If anyone reading this wonders if they'd like to take an inside passage Alaska cruise, I'd recommend it highly. For my wife and I it was a once in a lifetime experience that we're already hoping to do again in a few years.

    From my DB standpoint, it has been a remarkable experience. I expected lots of jamming, but word of doing a show didn't come until just a day before the cruise so that was a pleasant surprise. Then on the first day of the cruise being asked to play my Alcoa for a daily 3-hour workshop was amazing. And then being asked to sit in with one of the ship's bands was just unforgettable.

    With time off for sightseeing I probably played DB about 25 hours during the cruise. Many of these days I played 6 hours in two sessions. I carry no blisters, and my hands and arms are feeling great. So the strings are working well for touch and feel, plus they are sounding good enough on my Alcoa that people are telling me how much they like the tone.

    When I sat in with the ship's band there was a keyboard and guitar, so I had to plug into the FOH system. They provided a cable and I just plugged in, blended the pickups' volume and everything worked perfectly, no worries, no hassles.

    What a dream!
     
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  11. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Oh, and security and customs on ship entry and exit never opened any of our instrument cases. Since it was too big for the x-ray they did have a dog sniff my DB, in the bag. The dog could tell we have cats at home.

    There was never any mention of CITES.
     
  12. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    Man, I’m digging your band’s sound. That Alcoa sounds great; I wonder though if your bass player has ever thought about playing slap style? It seems like it would really lend itself to your band’s sound - plus that aluminum bass would really project with a nice slap, while also adding a nice percussive element to the whole mix.
     
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  13. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Thank you, I appreciate the kind thoughts!

    That's an interesting question...

    Our band is kind of unique in that we each arrange and play our parts on our own for each song, using the styles we prefer. There also isn't a band leader as such, we all contribute to decisions equally. We're very close, like closer than many families, we eat out together, go to festivals and cruises together, and really are close friends. And we each contribute important pieces of the puzzle to the band...

    Eric, our bass player, has much more DB (and guitar and mando and really general bluegrass performance) experience than any of us. With that in mind, we're really happy with everything Eric contributes to our band on bass, guitar, mando, voice and experience based wisdom, and I really wouldn't want to change his direction.

    That said, I play a ~45%/~45%/~10% mix of pizz/slap/arco when I'm playing the Alcoa and love how it sounds -- and lots of other people do seem to like it. I primarily play banjo with our band, but I do play DB occasionally for live gigs when Eric is playing guitar or mando. And when I play DB with other groups, I'm slapping much of the time.

    I do get a sense that many of the more traditionally minded bluegrass folks prefer a straight (no-slap) 1-4-5 approach to bass -- which is just not for me and I don't intend to change that. But I've had no real complaints so far; I can play simple, respectful, and even not slap with certain bluegrass songs as appropriate, but for me straight 1-4-5 is unnecessarily restrictive. I guess in my mind, it's time to get the bass out of the bluegrass closet.
     
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  14. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    I hear you - my band were my brothers back in the day; and still are 25 years later. We still play occasionally and it’s just like family; with everyone contributing his own flavor to the sound.
     
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  15. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    We arrived home yesterday afternoon, pretty much on schedule. Traveling by car from southern CA to northern WA, and back, produces a lot of vibration on instruments, and even safely in it's bag, my bass's sound post moved a little bit. Last night I pulled out the old 18oz rubber sledge and "gently" moved the sound post back into place.

    Alcoa basses have a ~5"x~5" aluminum square flat-topped platform welded in place on the inside back table for the sound post to sit on.


    On my Alcoa, because the top table has been repaired (welded and patched, in many places) and because I wanted to spread the soundpost/string tension over a wider area of the top so as to not stress those repairs, the top-side of the sound post is actually an aluminum platform with (originally 6, now 4) hardwood feet that make contact with the top around both bridge feet and together accomplish the role of sound post. The primary "dowel" is of oak, and the whole assembly is adjustable for length both at the oak dowel and independently at the feet, simply by moving washers and nuts around. This is a rather large assembly that wouldn't fit through an F-hole; the only reason I am able to use it is that my Alcoa has a access door in the driver-side C which was put in the bass to facilitate the original top repairs and other modifications.


    As mentioned, I originally had 6 feet on this platform, but over time it became clear that the best geometric support pattern for this -- without having rattling -- was 4 feet, so I removed 2 feet from the upper section. This sound post has been performing wonderfully in that configuration for about a year now. And normally it's very stable, but with all the driving and wheeling around that has happened with the bass over the last 2 weeks, there has been a little movement from the sound post locations that I have marked.

    I can't say enough good things about access doors... There is so much that a DB owner can control and diagnose -- mostly sound-post related, but other things too -- without having to bother a busy luthier about them. Admittedly, my Alcoa's access door is pretty crude looking, but they can be very tastefully done (as James Condino has very competently demonstrated)... In my mind, access doors should be on every double bass, in fact if I ever get a wooden DB, it will have one installed, along with an adjustable-length sound post.

     
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  16. FiddleFixr

    FiddleFixr Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2016
    Ontario
    Luthier - Jan's Fiddle Farm
    I like your trap door, its reminiscent of my wood burning stove :)
    We (wife & me) took our polished Alcoa out for its first gig. It was outdoor with sun shining and we took turns switching back & forth bass and guitar. Played it through a Markbass single 15 combo using a realist pickup. It sounded so good. We planned to sit in with the band for 3 songs and ended up playing 6. Surprised at how many people took pictures.
    The unplugged tone is really growing on me as well. Right now it has Innovation flat wounds and a couple of softwood cedar wedges under the bridge feet for warmer tone.
    All that work we put into this bass seems worth it.. I feel thankful for that privilege. :hyper:
     
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  17. FiddleFixr

    FiddleFixr Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2016
    Ontario
    Luthier - Jan's Fiddle Farm
    IMG_3865bbbbbb.JPG
     
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  18. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Very nice, beautiful polish job!

    Same experience here, it seems like Alcoas just scream out to be played. I feel very lucky to have one.
     
  19. FiddleFixr

    FiddleFixr Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2016
    Ontario
    Luthier - Jan's Fiddle Farm
    I can't figure out where the aluminum trees are grown. Asked my tonewoods supplier and the closest thing he has is silver maple. :laugh:
     
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  20. FiddleFixr

    FiddleFixr Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2016
    Ontario
    Luthier - Jan's Fiddle Farm
    Youtube video title:
    Save your aluminum popcans to make this!!
     
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  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Sep 27, 2021

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