Arnold S's Ergonomic Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by myrick, Dec 6, 2004.

  1. There have been several interesting discussions here of late on innovative bass design ideas. I'm slowly gathering ideas to commission my ideal bass-for-life at some point in the future. I'm not turned off by these modern, functional deviations from the traditional, and want to learn more about what works and what doesn't.

    Recently I've enjoyed looking at and reading about Arnold's Ergonomic Bass. (see it on , halfway down the page). I find this idea of putting some left-right asymmetry into the upper and lower bouts to make it more playable while still maintaining sound production capability to be interesting.

    I wonder if the master himself, or anyone else who has played one of these basses (how many exist?), could comment on how they sound and play. I'm pretty sure this would be a nice bass to get one's arms around, but how does it sound and respond compared to a conventionally shaped bass ?
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I have played the Bass recently. I thought it was nice for a new Bass but I didn't get a chance to play one of his other Basses that were normallly shaped, if there is such a thing. I don't know what this shape really does for the feel and sound unless I play a regular model of his side by side.....
  3. hotchkiss


    Jun 6, 2004
    I played the bass during the summer (04) at the Boston Bass Bash. I thought it had a nice full sounding lower register for a new bass, a relatively sweet upper register, and was remarkably comfortable to play and get around.

    Subjectively, I think the design accomplishes the goal of projecting a full sound from a bass that plays like a smaller model. It was fun to play too.

    As Ken notes, it's hard to know what to compare it to, as every bass can be so different, even those made by the same maker with the same materials.

  4. Only one exists. It was a bear to make, especially the bending.
    I had the pleasure of having it for 10 days. I've heard it in Arnold's shop, in my house, and on stage at symphony rehearsal. Everybody in the section played it, and every one was floored by how easily it plays. This bass is a case of form following function. Arnold had specific ideas about sound production as well as ergonomic sense, and these ideas determined not just the shape, but some construction concepts that I'm not aware of anyone ever employing before.
    The results -
    Large volume of sound for a 3/4 bass.
    Lightning quick response to string movement. Another orchestra player brought it to his rehearsal, and everyone in the section said he was rushing. It's just fast, thanks to Arnold's ideas about construction.
    Great tone with both arco and pizz strings.
    Extraordinary evenness of tone and volume throughout.
    And pizz on the E string? Great big balls.

    I may add to this later. I just wanted to get something out there.
  5. Wow, thanks Don. Fascinating. I'd love to play it someday. If I'm ever in the neighborhood....

    Tell us more when you have some time. What else is in there that makes it repond so well ? Who owns it now ? Any more in the works ?
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I'll be up there again in a couple of weeks...... I'll play it a little more and try to give some details if i learn anything new. I don't know what strings are on it now but I will only get to test it in the Shop as-is the day that I'm there..
  7. prelims222


    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    If all goes well, I'll be up there monday after next to try some instruments. I'll make sure to give it a good look (it should be hard to miss)..
  8. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Nice design. Looks like a less radical take on the Pellegrina viola.
  9. Actually, you won't. It has been bought by an orchestra bass principal. Interesting to note that the orchestra conductor has this big thing against new string instruments. He had two things to say:
    1. "Is that a new bass?"
    2. "That doesn't sound like a new bass."

    But while you're there, check out the Maggini copy that AES was commissioned to make from a plank of aspen. The grain is breathtaking.
  10. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I appreciate the comments and attention, Myrick. However, use of the word "master" ought to be reserved for makers like Stradivari and Amati. I'm a pretty good luthier, but I'm no Strad.
    I'm happy to report the bass recently sold, and I'm contemplating building another to bring to the ISB convention next June. This one will have a shallow round-back, and a few minor tweaks. I'm thinking of doing an antique-looking finish as a goof. I may enter it in the makers' competition to raise a few eyebrows.
  11. you're too humble.

    you've made some drop-dead gorgeous basses, and by all accounts they play as nice as they look.
  12. I am the proud owner of Arnold's Ergonomic contrabass, and I couldn't be happier. I saw the instrument at Arnold's web site and I was taken by its look and the concepts behind it. I got the bass to Florida and tried it out for a couple of weeks, loved the way it played and sounded. My last test was to take it to our Orchestra's big hall (1600 seats) and hear it compared to other Basses. It was amazing, this bass sounded as good or even better than the nice old instruments we played it against, the projection was unbelievable. My conductor is a real new bass snob, he thinks that if isn't 200 years old with an "inni" at the end of its name it can't be good. He noticed the bass at rehearsal and commented on how "new" it looked , asking where wy other bass was, was it OK? After Rehearsal I wasplaying it for some people and he heard it, his eyes looked up and he said " that doesn't sound like a new bass". Then came over and had me play across the entire range not believing that a bass could be so even. Anyone interested should talk to Arnold, he was great to work with and a very nice guy too.
    I plan on making it my new solo bass, if you are interested in hearing the bass it is replacing (Josef Reiger Mittenwald, 1821 Big full size with Busseto corners) Go to or

    And if any of you find your selves in the Sarasota Bradenton area of Fla give me a ring and you can play the bass. Thanks again Arnold.
  13. Gee. Where have we seen that before?
    Congratulations, you lucky SOB.
  14. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    :eyebrow: language !

    ...gonna scare 'em again :D
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Unless I'm greatly mistaken, there's a real nice interview with John in DOUBLE BASSIST a couple fo years back...
  16. Don't worry, I don't scare that easily
  17. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    This thread's nearly a year old but its probably the best place to ask - how do the holes in the upper bout rib work out?

    Obviously they help the player hear the instrument better - but do they rob the bass of any projection out the front? I guess not, judging by Don's comments.

    How's the bass a year later?
  18. The bass referred to in this thread did not have the holes. It was constructed slightly differently.
  19. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    DONOSAUR -where you been? Alexanderin'?