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Any Jazz bassists trading in their carved basses for plywood?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by kerrycares, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. kerrycares

    kerrycares Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    After years of playing jazz gigs on my Juzek I decided that the practicability and expense of playing a carved bass on gigs that were 99% amplified just didn't outweigh the "sound quality" not playability of a good plywood bass. Are their any other jazz players that did the same and are "happy" with their decision?

    If "yes I'm happy" please share what type of bass you replaced it with.

    I am considering purchasing a Shen SB100.

    Thank you
  2. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    I understand that some choose not to haul a fine carved bass to all gigs. It's another thing, though, to replace that bass with a ply, as opposed to having a ply as a backup. FWIW, I've found it neither impractical nor expensive to take my carved bass wherever I'm playing. To each his own but, even though most of my gigs involve amplification, the playability, sound, and response of a carved bass are still highly desirable to me.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Life's too short not to play the bass you love.
    PsychoScout likes this.
  4. I have a friend who did that. He replaced a carved bass (or perhaps just carved top bass) with a full plywood. I think he liked the thump and attack of sound coming from the plywood. I don't think it was because it was more 'practical'.
  5. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
  6. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    When I only had one bass it was carved...but I had to make compromises in order to get it to do "everything"- which ultimately meant it wasn't necessarily the best it could be at "anything"- which was fine...

    Until I got a second bass- my Shen SB80. :hyper:

    Now I have two GREAT basses that I dearly LOVE! :)

    The carved bass became my Classical instrument. I got a C extension and put Flexocor 92's on it. It will be a while before I hit the wall with this bass and "need" something better. :cool:

    The ply became my "everything else" bass- which translates to mostly Jazz, but also a lot of Country and Western, Blues, Roots, etc... This bass wears Gamut guts- all Pistoys except for the E, which is a copper wound medium. I can do everything I want with the Shen- arco, pizz and or slap. :D
    I'm also not afraid of anything happening to it!

    I agree that when you start amplifying a bass that you really lose a lot- especially the louder you get. I have always had better luck amplifying ply's, ymmv. Fortunately the majority of my Jazz gigs are played without an amp- so I got that goin' for me.

    Would I lose the Shen and pull that duty with a carved bass if I had the opportunity? IDK...

    I don't think I would get rid of a carved bass to get a ply and have it be my only bass though...

  7. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Whether the audience hears the nuances of the sound you make on your best bass is a question which quickly reaches the existential level. If you play WITH anyone else that instrument's sound will affect how people hear your bass. If you play FOR anyone sitting more than about six feet away, the distance will change how people hear your bass. If you play IN any enclosed space, double that or more.

    In short, it's a question which can't be answered because both the performance and the listener effectively change the sound.

    But one thing is for sure: Although you can't make it better you sure can make it worse. Why would you want to sound like anything except your best? That's a slippery slope, man. That's one very small step from saying, "It's only a jazz gig so who cares if I PLAY well?"

    Next . . . .
  8. You might also regret getting rid of your carved bass if you plan on hitting a recording studio. Or if you decide to use a mic.
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    + many. I am blessed to have a great main bass, a ply copy of it as a backup, and the use of a fantastic Shen SB-100 that belongs to the school where I teach. I use the two basses in the office for teaching and rehearsals. When it's time for the show, I always take the main bass because it sounds better. On Saturday night the venue was the center for the arts, tonight it's a little dive bar in Germantown where they only clean the men's room once a decade, if that. The same bass goes to both gigs because I sound better on it than on anything else. Life is too short to do otherwise.
  10. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    DURRL advised me way back during a bass purchase (now my current bass) that you shouldn't "downgrade" unless you really have a good reason. The only instance I've heard someone doing that is Michael Moore going to a ply Christopher but I guess other folks would know if he's still playing that bass.

    As far as your Juzek goes, it could just be your bass - not carved basses in general. I know one person who bent over backwards trying to make his Juzek sound great but he couldn't really every pull it off despite the amounts of money he plunged into it. I think there's plenty of instances where a carved Juzek was just mediocre working bass.

    I think you owe it to yourself to shop around, try more basses, try other carved basses and you'll probably find that there'll be ones out there that are worth the cost and trouble that give you the opposite experience of what you're saying with the Juzek. After my experience with my current bass, I would not hesitate to let go of a bass and upgrade to a better instrument if it's going to help be break through the next 20 plateaus alot easier - so long as I can afford the cost.

    I love my current bass and does everything I need it to... but taking my own advice I should also be open to trading it in someday.
  11. kerrycares

    kerrycares Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    I'm trying out a Shen SB100, Shar Soloist (carved) and a Stengel.
    I have played the Shen and the Shar and both sound comparable.

    I have rented out my bass to Richard Davis, Esperanza and a number of other prominent bassist that also prefer not to travel with their prized carved bass so the issue was really a durability and risk question with a good sounding plywood serving as a suitable compromise.

    If I could find a plywood that sounded nearly as good as a carved bass I'd scoop it up.

    I don't play any classical gigs so that is why I asked the question from a jazz bass perspective.
  12. ethnotime


    Sep 24, 2006
    New York, NY
    I got real dark on my carved Juzek and went so far as to try to sell it. I was so frustrated with my sound that I decided to get a cheap plywood that would 1. serve me better on low-paying gigs 2. possibly be the in-betweener while I search for another carved bass. I ended up getting a good Kay and playing it for a while gave me some perspective on sound. Plywood definitely has its own thing but after a while I really missed the carved sound because there's a certain depth and subtlety of sound that you cannot get with a plywood. That point realized, I went back to the Juzek and experimented with tons of strings/pickups that I would have previously never thought of using. Eventually I found the sound I like and today I still play the same Juzek. I thought I would still use the Kay for other gigs but instead it ended up sitting in the closet and is now my backup bass. (yet even as a backup I feel weird playing it!, I'm a one-bass kinda guy) I would like to upgrade the Juzek to a nicer carved bass someday but for now I'm very happy with what I've got.

    Anyways, I turned out to have a positive experience trying a ply after years of carved bass. I say pick one up and try it out. I've never played a Shen but from what I've read on this website it's a can't-lose instrument. After playing one for a while you might feel differently than you do now.
    good luck.
  13. Jonathan74


    Apr 19, 2011
  14. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004

    The Juzek aside, with which you are not quite happy (but see ethnotime's post above), have you ever owned/played for an extended time a really nice carved bass? Your profile lists the Juzek under "previously owned gear." Is it gone already? What percentage of your playing is on DB vs. BG?
  15. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I replaced my carved top bass with a plywood, and I'm very happy with my decision to do so. The plywood is ugly and difficult to play, but it has better projection and has a sound I like more. I guess it depends what you're going for.
  16. Will Kelly

    Will Kelly

    Mar 3, 2010
    Same boat here. Sold the carved.
  17. jazzbill


    Jun 4, 2010
    Richardson, TX
    I bought a shen sb-80 as a backup to my $10K carved bass. I took the shen out once. Too me the dropoff in sound and playability was not worth it. I'll play the one I love and take it to the luthier when it needs maintance or repair.
  18. kerrycares

    kerrycares Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    I loved my Juzek, I hated repairs.
    The Juzek was sold last year.
    My playing is about 50/50 DB vs. BG.
    The Juzek is the best quality bass that I have owned but I have played basses in excess of $100k in value.
    As I am not a full time musician I cannot justify the purchase of a $15k bass.
  19. kerrycares

    kerrycares Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    thx, great input.
  20. kerrycares

    kerrycares Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    Does anyone have any experience with the other two basses i'm considering?
    Shar Soloist (carved) and a Stengel.

    All of the input is deeply appreciated!

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