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Can someone explain what a "Shop Bass" is?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by rkfromChi, May 31, 2005.


  1. rkfromChi

    rkfromChi

    Jan 14, 2004
    Chicago, IL.
    Hey Guys.

    While reading the performers credits from the Yellowjackets '97 album "Blue Hats" I read that Jimmy Haslip was playing an instrument called the Shop Bass on the album. Can someone explain what this instrument is?
     
  2. ispider6

    ispider6

    Jan 30, 2005

    To my knowledge, a "shop bass" is usually a bass that is thought to have been built in the shop of a certain maker but not necessarily by the maker himself. It may have been made by an apprentice or other worker within the maker's shop. It can also be used to suggest that the instrument was made by a contemporary of a certain maker and in that certain maker's style. For example, a Giuseppe Fiorini "shop" violin could have actually been made by a contemporary such as Monterumici but didn't have a label so no one is exactly sure who really made it. But since it's in the style of Fiorini, they call it a Fiorini shop violin. I am not aware of any other definitions beyond these. I'm not sure why Jimmy Haslip's bass would be listed as simply a "shop bass" without listing a certain maker or style.
     
  3. "Shop" bass, hmm.. Is that the one British Leyland makes? ;)
     
  4. "Shop bass" is often used to refer to an instrument built in a production- oriented shop. This was common in Europe in the early 20th century. Violin making (and other instruments of the family) was a sort of cottage industry, where a shop owner might employ or contract local craftsmen to make component parts, then assemble them in- house. One person might make only necks, or carve backs, or whatever. Parts were often machine carved then finished by hand. The completed instrument might or might not bear the maker's label. Some might bear the label of the distributor who commisioned the making of the instrument. Some instruments made for export to North America might have a label in English. This bulk production approach is in contrast to the luthier who singlehandedly completes all aspects of instrument construction with his own hands.
    Shop basses can be very good instruments.
     
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Eric, how sure are you about that? My understanding was more what SPIDER said, what you're talking about sounds more like "factory" bass. WHich can be nice basses, mine is a Mittenwald factory bass.
     
  6. Not hardly at all.
    From my experience, some people use "shop" and "factory" interchangeably. With the proliferation of oriental BSO's, the distinction you make is one worth making, between a "hand- whittled quality" shop and a "crank' em out fer profit" factory. In today's global economy "factory" means something different from what it meant in early 20th century Europe.

    I've had people refer to my Czech as both. I call it a factory bass, it has an export- style English language label, the plates were probably machine carved, the scroll is asymmetrical enough that it must have been hand carved. I don't much care what it's called, it sounds good and I'm not selling it.
     
  7. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I had a "shop" bass during college and right after. It was not made in a factory.
     
  8. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    The word Shop Bass or Shop Violin or shop anything just means it is speculated not to be made wholy by the masters own hand.

    Shop Basses can be Cottage industry like in German/Czech Basses where Tops, Backs, ribs, Necks, lining, blocks are all made in different houses/shops and assembled at the Brands' premises. Shop Bass is a very general term and most often means it was a 'old'/small factory type or semi-production Bass rather than a one-at-a-time hand made job, BUT.. not always.

    I am currently looking at an old English Shop Bass (c.1780-1820). This Shop employed Vincent and Joseph Panormo, Bernhard Fendt, Bernhard S. Fendt II, Richard Tobin, John Carter, Edward and Arthur Betts as well as the Shop Master John Betts (a.k.a. 'Olde Betts').

    A Bass by any of these great masters or combination of them greatly out weighs most of the non-shop Basses in the World. I will take a good Shop Bass over an 'average' individual hand made Bass 7 days a week.

    If I do get this Bass, I will do my best to find out whop made what part or who made it all if that is at all possible.
     
  9. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    The idea of a single individual making instruments by himself is
    a fairly recent concept. Stradivari employed almost every maker in Cremona at one time or another. So did Nicolo Amati and many others. I make both individual completely made by me basses and Martin Sheridan Workshop basses which I make from white basses or parts. I consider these to be shop basses, and they sell for less since they take about half the time to complete.
    If you always wanted to live in poverty, try making basses completely by hand. Using only candlelight will add authenticity to the experience.
     
  10. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    Well put,Martin.
     
  11. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    What's a white bass?
     
  12. This is an interesting perspective historically as well as socially. We associate "shop" with handmade and quality, usually with European instruments and we associate "factory" with mechanization, unskilled luthiery, and poor quality Asian Instruments. In fact it is between Markneukirchen Germany and Schönbach (Luby) that the handwork "shops" became mechanized factories. It was a German inventor in the 1900's who first patented a machine that could shape the plates of violins without hand carving. All that was required was finish work and assembly, which could be done in the "shop" or factory by comparatively unskilled labor. The issue at the time was economic as usual. It involved doing away with the expense of the Bohemian violin part carving cottage industry centered around Schönbach (Luby) in favor of German factory labor across the border in Saxony. In defense, Luby, once no longer Bohemian or controlled by Germany set up it's own factories. After all, you only need one master luthier to set up a factory. So Germany's attempt to monopolize the industry actually paved the way for it's expansion to other countries in the form of mechanized factories, which were first set up in Germany. The goal was to "crank 'em out fer profit";- German profit. Mechanization was rampant in every industry at the time. It was the only way to remain competitive. To a degree that is still true.

    Of course the whole circle is that once you have a bunch of students advancing to better instruments they come back for the handmade ones as symphony players and without the cheap student instruments that mostly get destroyed, there would be no symphonies is in medium sized towns and cities. You could say that mechanization actually increased the demand for handmade instruments in the long run by saturating the populace of potential players. The small fully handmade shops still survive in an age of mass production where students can simultaneously afford "factory" instruments at a modest price.
     
  13. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    Actually the Mittenwald and Mirecourt area were the 19th century equivalents to China(and Bulgaria "The China of Europe") in regards to pumping out masses of cheap instruments. Not that there were not respectable luthiers in both places but most of the output of these locations was rubbish.

    SS, what did students play before "student instruments" (what you mean i think is "factory instruments" ) came into production. Certainly throughout history many bands and orchestras existed without "cheap" instruments.
     
  14. rkfromChi

    rkfromChi

    Jan 14, 2004
    Chicago, IL.
    Gentlemen.

    Here is Jimmy Haslip's explanation:

    That was pertaining to a bass that I got from MIKE TOBIAS . .
    It was hanging out in the a back corner of his SHOP . . . behind a talble
    and was used primarily to thump on and check out amps !

    I liked it and borrowed it for the DREAMLAND project . . .
    When asked by the engineer; MALCOLM POLLOCK "What bass it was?"
    I answered . . . "It's a SHOP BASS! ". . . It stuck and we listed it as such on the credits as it was a work horse for the recording !
     
  15. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    All this about a SLAB ?
     
  16. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    Generally a bass bough from a factory that is unfinished..."in the white.." White meaning the natural color of the wood. So if someone were to buy a unfinished willow bass you would still say a "white bass" or "in the white" but the wood would obviously be a different color.

    compres pas ?
     
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    I was going to say, I thought Jimmy Haslip only played BGs - mostly (Michael)Tobias basses - but I wasn't absolutely sure...?

    Although, it was interesting to read the debate/info above!! ;)
     
  18. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Well, as the late Gilda Radner from S.N.L. would say after mis-hearing the subject on which she would do an entire News Report on the 'wrong subject' and then reminded, she would look up into the camera, Smile.. and say,..."Oh, Never Mind"!
     
  19. rkfromChi

    rkfromChi

    Jan 14, 2004
    Chicago, IL.
    I had imagined something completely different altogether as well. Oh well, you guys really expanded with some great information though.
     
  20. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    The authors of the biography of J.B. Vuillaume give him credit for inventing the router recreator for duplicating tops and backs. August Gemunder who was one of many luthiers working for Vuillaume said he never saw Vuillaume make a violin. They were all made by his assistants yet they are highly sought after and fetch very high prices today. It is said that Vuillaume varnished them himself and made slight changes in carving, by touching up a scroll etc. He was a very good maker in his own right and probably worked without assistance in his early career. His brother made his basses for him in Mirecourt. To most players the only thing that matters is the final product.