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Building an Acoustic Bass that plays at a decent volume

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by JellybeanChic, Jun 1, 2002.


  1. Hello all,

    I was curious what your thoughts were on this. I asked it once before, but not to professional luthiers... so here it is.

    If you make an acoustic bass with a body containing much more volume that current abgs have, could you make a playable bass that would compete volumewise with an acoustic guitar?

    (Asside from recreating the stand up double-bass that is... :) )

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
     
  2. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    Tacoma ThunderChief basses do it.

    They can even be louder if you dig in.

    Peace
    Nick
     
  3. If you scroll to the bottom of the page of the link below you will see a bass archtop made by Bill Moll. Acording to what he says the bottom and top plates of the archtop can produce a bigger sound than what is being achieved with the traditional Dreadnought type body. I don't know, I've been very unimpressed with what is offered in the way of ABGs except for an old Guild I tried a few years back.

    http://www.mollinst.com/archtop.html
     
  4. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    Have you tried a Tacoma?

    Ive unfortunately only heard a Guild on the Nirvana Unplugged album. I have heard they are loud though.

    Im interested to see how that archtop sounds.

    Peace
    Nick
     
  5. Yeah, I've tried the Tacoma, Martin and all the stuff that the guitar center has and Mars for that matter too. I'm pretty much resigned to getting an URB if I decide to go acoustic. I've heard of a cello being tuned down to bass but I haven't had the chance to try that. The archtop may be the way to go but a $6,500.00+ I may never see one, unless I build it myself.
     
  6. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    Wow you live in Homestead!

    I thought I was the only South Florida TBer.

    Well anyways, back to the point....

    You say the Guild was more impressive than the Tacoma?

    Ive heard theyre good, but havent had the chance to play one, and doubt I will soon since Im pretty sure Guild stopped making them.

    Peace
    Nick
     
  7. Yes it was, but take into account that individual instruments have their own voice and tone is pretty subjective.

    I found that the Guild had a consistency in range lacking in many other ABG from the E to the G, each tone had a similar voice and volume. Some of the ABGs I've played sound like a different instrument on each string and the volume of the G was much louder than the E, this would cause undue work on the player to achieve any kind of consistency in performance, as you can imagine.
     
  8. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    I agree that the ABGs you see out there mostly don't get it done. Check out what Harvey Leach does, though. You'll have to click on Archtops and then putter around:

    www.leachguitars.com

    I've never played one, but something that looks like that is what I've always wanted. Can't afford it, though.

    I did order an ABG (for < 1/3rd the money) from Jon Shuker, which I should get within a month. I'm hopeful that this will be at least playable as an acoustic instrument. Check it out:

    www.shukerguitars.co.uk

    You may have to scroll a bit.
     
  9. Harvey Leach makes a beautiful instrument and I see that he speaks of the volume issue. My understanding is that with the archtop the top and bottom plate move to greater degree than the top and bottoms on a flat top.

    The Jon Shuker acoustic bass looks nice, I bet that neck feels wonderful let me know how you like it. Are you going fretless? The fret edge markers are a good idea, I haven't seen that before.
     
  10. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    I'm going fretless 6-string, with lines (because I'm a lazy so-and-so). I've never seen a 6-string ABG, but that's what I play electrically, so I figured I'd stay consistent. I'm encouraged by the fact that Jon developed this design in conjunction with a classical maker; that gives me a bit more confidence in the instrument's acoustic potential. Though of course I won't know until I play it. I'm not expecting miracles, the laws of physics being what they are; but I'm hoping for a real bass instrument, albeit necessarily on a smaller scale than a DB would be.

    I'm still waffling on the strings. I'm thinking T-I, but I'm wavering between the Jazz flats, which a lot of folks here seem to like for the DB vibe, and the specific ABG set, which is bronze on a nylon core. The ABG set sounds like it would be very light, but who knows, it might work better ....

    I intend to post a review after I've had the ABG for a while.
     
  11. bwbass

    bwbass

    May 6, 2002
    WA
    I have to admit I'm pretty skeptical about how well a 6-string ABG can perform acoustically. I'd love to hear how this bass performs when it's all together. Getting a big guitar-sized box to respond in a (low-B) range where double basses don't even do that well would be enough of an uphill struggle for me, without having to stiffen the top enough to withstand 50% more string tension! As a rule, lighter, more flexible tops respond quicker and make louder guitars than heavy, stiff ones.

    Probably the best performing ABG's are the old Ernie Ball Earthwood bass and the Mexican Guitarrons, both of which are enormous and have lightly braced tops that tend to cave in and fail with time and use. Live fast (or loud), die young, they say!

    Then again, the majority of ABG's on the market today have shallow bodies and/or laminate tops, so any well-made solid-wood bass with a largish body will probably sound better overall.

    As for strings, I've played the nylon-core TI's on a couple of fretless ABG's, and while they sound killer, they're very low tension and don't produce much acoustic volume. Flatwound strings tend to have significantly higher tension than comperable roundwound strings of similar gauge, because the string is all metal and doesn't have the air gaps that a round coverwire creates. I'd check with the string manufacturer and your luthier before putting a flatwound set on your new bass.
     
  12. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    I have a Tacoma 5 string and the B is pretty good.

    The B is not great, but its more than good enough for playing with other people. Tacoma has obviously taken time to design their basses and bracing paterns.

    I think that a 6 string would work fine.

    Peace
    Nick