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Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by SimandlsButt, Jul 10, 2016.
Epiphones. Steve Swan has some New Standard Clevelands that have a vintage-Epi finish and look great online. Haven't been to see and play them as it could wind up being an expensive trip...
A friend has a blond Wilfer here in Germany.
And Pollmann, of course.
I have seen two kinds of light colored finishes on the King Moretones, a more conventional amber lacquer finish and a semi-opaque "limed" lacquer finish, which was commonly used in american furniture in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Gibson used these limed finishes on various solid body mahogany and korina guitars that were made in the late 1950s - early 1960s.
The two reasons I have always heard for "blonde" finishes being relatively rare are that many people equate dark finish with old bass which is often desirable in the market, and mineral streaks. The first one is pretty easy to understand. A lot of the old instruments we see have really dark finishes, and those tend to be the most expensive therefore "best" instruments on the market. Most of them did not start off that dark but have aged to become that way, but most of us are not going to be around for 100+ years for our basses to naturally age over time. That dark/aged/worn finish says quality and mojo to some people just the same as the bright/new/shiny bass look screams cheap to some people, people shop/hear with their eyes a lot of the time, and thus you end up with a lot of dark coloured basses on the market.
The mineral streaks and different colours in the wood people don't think about as much. Poplar which is quite popular in bass making, can have some really grey/green looking streaks through it. Most people find that really ugly to look at, but you have no idea what's in the wood until you get working with it. If you have a great looking piece of wood that could turn into a rib/back and as you invest hours of labour into it a nasty looking green pops out when you are bringing it down to final thickness, that can make a blonde coloured bass unsalable. If that same rib/back is to be made into a darker coloured instrument, in the varnishing process you can make that unsightly streak into something very aesthetically pleasing. Things that would add character to a darker coloured bass quite often are seen as flaws/undesirable in lighter coloured instruments, even though they do not alter the sound of the instrument. No one wants to spend all the time and money involved in making a bass to discover on the last couple of passes that there's a big green strip in the wood, so blonde/light coloured basses tend to be rarer as a result.
Some of the rare 1939-41 Gibson plywood basses had a golden amber finish instead of a sunburst.
Interesting stuff... A couple of follow up questions: are there any FULLY CARVED blonde basses? And is it true that some jazz and classical players look down on blonde basses as being cheap and rockabilly? I.E. will a blonde bass prevent you from getting jazz gigs?
I recently sold an early special Shen SB 300 carved back 7/8 from 1998 that was made out of german maple. The finish was a light amber oil varnish that was gorgeous.
There are so many refinished older european basses that now have light amber, almost clear spirit or oil varnish finishes that it would be difficult to make the case that it has ever held anyone back from a jazz gig!
There are some makers and shops out there that do make fully carved blonde and/or very light coloured instruments. I haven't seen very many true "blonde" instruments like the Engelhardt Swingmaster, but there are plenty that are more of a golden/amber finish out there. We have access to some really fantastic looking wood now, and a lot of makers are using a finish that really lets the figure be seen, instead of really dark finishes that can hide it. It ultimately comes down to the maker or shop as to whether or not they want to make such an instrument, but it wouldn't hurt to ask if you have someone in mind and are looking for a bass to be made.
As far as looking down on them in an orchestra/jazz setting, I mentioned before a lot of people hear with their eyes. There are plenty of conductors out there that think bright looking bass means bright sounding bass, dark looking bass means dark sounding bass, and it is pretty rare for an orchestra bass section to lean towards a brighter sound. There are also some musicians that think only an old instrument can be a good instrument, who again hear with their eyes. It is also pretty rare to find a really great instrument that brightly coloured, so a lot of people wouldn't give it a fighting chance.
Will you lose gigs because of it? Maybe. There are absolutely people who hire based on a particular aesthetic they are going for. That can also have more to do with your haircut/colour, dress, age, or anything else than the bass you are playing. Sometimes that can be a real drag, other times you realize that you really don't want to work with someone who cares more about the colour of your instrument than the sound coming out of it.
Let's not forget King basses, as someone has just posted some nice pics of a blonde one.
I find the really blonde ones hard on the eyes, but have no difficulty with a "butterscotch" patina.
I nearly bought an older King a few years ago that had come by a 'nicotine' finish honestly (ie., by being in hundreds of bars and Legion halls over many decades). I think that, just like when you find asbestos in the workplace, it's best to leave a finish like that undisturbed.
Is this blonde?
It's a Wilfer (Roland). Yes, it is fully carved, and no, it is not cheap. Will you lose gigs because of it being so flashy? Maybe. But I'd be surprised.
I would say that is dappled. And it is stunningly lovely.
Salt and pepper? I agree it's quite beautiful, but in a slightly disturbing, masculine kind of way
Upton makes blond basses, but requires a more deluxe wood upgrade to make it work right. They are pretty, but I like the darker finishes.
..and a 5 string. Neat.
I ordered a blonde hybrid Chadwhick so I assume you can get a blonde Shen. I came up playing with a guy named George Cremaschi who had the most amazing blonde Juzek. It looked and sounded incredible.
I have seen some old amber finish Rubner basses in past, possibly from the 1930s?
That is the coolest wood figuring I've ever seen on a bass!