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Basses fall into disrepair when they aren't played... huh?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Benjamin Strange, Apr 28, 2004.


  1. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    As I understand it, orchestra instruments such as bass, cello, violin, etc., need to be played so they don't fall apart. If they sit in the case, they develop problems. Can somebody explain this phenomenon to me? Do the vibrations help hold the instrument together somehow, or is it just that you notice any potential problems before they get bad if you play it all the time?

    Go easy on me now - I play a toy bass. :smug:
     
  2. They don't fall apart from not being played - they lose their quality of sound. Hence valuable violins are taken out of their bank vaults to be played once in a while to keep their value up. And of course, it follows that a new instrument that has never been played will develop.

    Why is this so? I'm not even oging to speculate. I've heard alsorts of pseudo scientific hokum on the subject. You need to atract the attention of TB members Branstetter, Schnitzer or Bollach and various other makeers and lifelong studiers of fine instruments to this forum.
     
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Vibrations help hold things together. yes, that's why when you drive your car along a bumpy road all of the things you have scattered around become very hard to move, because the vibrations are making them stick to the floor and the dashboard and stuff.

    Did you sit in science class making drawings of big amp rigs and stage setups and stuff?
     
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Maybe it's the wood gremlins! The noise of playing hurts their tiny pointy ears and if an instrument is not played they come and eat the glue.

    Yes, playing keeps the pointy eared, glue eating wood gremlins away.


    (psssst, they don't like metrognomes)
     
  5. olivier

    olivier

    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Another possible explanation is that it's the use which makes the tool. A tool not used for a long time becomes dull, gripped etc... not a tool anymore. It's the same for saxophones, electric guitars, turn tables, cars, stone axes, etc. Any tool actually has to be maintained in use to function properly. They are man-made instruments to operate defined functions. As soon as they are not used, they loose their tool function to become mere objects, worthy or not to be kept in museums.
     
  6. I think this is a beguiling idea Olivier but knives do not go dull unless they are left somewhere to corrode. They don’t sharpen either – do you remember some people selling pyramids to put your razor blades under on the pretence that they would keep their edge? Machinery tends to lose its protective oiling, grime collects in the works and things like saxophone pads go brittle with age. But for any instrument kept in good conditions, this isn’t true. And whilst the pyramid scam was complete hokum, 3000 year old Egyptian trumpets and lyres have been recovered recently that have proved playable straight from the tomb. Something must be happening that is a peculiar property of resonating wood – that for wood to resonate freely it needs to be regularly vibrated for its resonant property to be maintained. I’ve even heard this applied to toy basses.
     
  7. olivier

    olivier

    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Alright Mike. I have these two violins that have been given to me. I tune them, play them, and dust them about once a month. And I have heard a new Chinese base openning up after being played properly. So I can relate to what's going on.

    On the other hand, IMHO, I think that we should thank whoever made the Tool. But it's just phylosophy.
     
  8. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I work in a shop that has a fantastic orchestra repairman, and he says that for some reason instruments that aren't played regularly develop problems. If they are played regularly, no problems at all. Wood gremlins? Maybe.

    Perhaps this is just one of those musician myths; like the story of the really good drummer. :smug:
     
  9. Gufenov

    Gufenov

    Jun 8, 2003
    Too good not to be acknowledged. I stand (actually sit) in awe, Mr. Fuqua.
     
  10. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    Well Basstree-ax, I believe you've stumbled upon an area that is largely in dispute. Most folks will agree that an instrument sounds better after an initial playing-in. This length of time is variable based on who you ask. Figure somewhere between 6 weeks and 60 years, give or take. Whether or not continuous playing over the centuries actually helps I believe is a matter of conjecture. It is a common practice to have museum pieces played, in case the theory isn't hogwarsh.

    I have heard scientific explanations of how the wood improves for about 50 years, and then degrades after that, all about how the fibers connect to each other at the molecular level. Very sound theory, but I don't know if it works.

    I have heard folks say that great old instruments sound better today than they did 150 years ago, and some say they sound worse. How would they know, really, other than putting forth plausible sounding theories?

    You will find old instruments in vaults today that play great, and some that have popped apart at the seams. Whether anyone played them is probably not a factor, but the care/humidity/glue type/sunlight/microbes/glue-eaters/gremlins/godknowswhatelse that made the difference.

    There are more theories than you can shake a bow at, but little fact to back them up, or so I interpret.

    The important thing to understand is that if you own a genuine Strad with a loose top, a bad setup, and it happens to sound like one he had the kids come in and build on a Friday, you can still sell it for huge cash and stop working for a living.
     
  11. erikwhitton

    erikwhitton Guest

    Sep 20, 2002
    Portland, ME USA

    Thanks for making me spit juice all over my keyboard. Yuck.
     
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I exist but to serve.

    Actually the only reason I know about stuff like that was cause I sat in class making drawings of big amp rigs and stuff...