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Carruthers Electric Upright Bass

Discussion in 'Electric Upright Basses (EUB's) [DB]' started by Richard Simon, Sep 22, 2004.

  1. Richard Simon

    Richard Simon Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    ...to a Carruthers? Just played one of those today, and it would require a radical re-programming of pizzicato technique--too much pull, and the strings override the pick-up.
  2. Never tried a Clevinger but own a Carruthers since about three years now (or is it already four?) and was wondering what you meant by "--too much pull, and the strings override the pick-up." ?
  3. Richard Simon

    Richard Simon Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think it was John (Carruthers) himself who stood and watched as I struggled to produce a clean sound out of a Carruthers EUB at their headquarters yesterday.

    He opined that my pizz attack was too aggressive for his bass. I was used to higher action and the need to "pull" sound out of my "violone."

    I began to see his point: the Carruthers responds to a light stroke--you don't "dig in" as you would on an acoustic--and I wasn't comfortable giving in to that sacrilege: I'm from the old school that believes you "earn" the tone you get with a combination of a well-made bass and a mostly vertical, fleshy pizz technique.

    Have you had to alter your playing style when you switch back and forth between Carruthers and bass violin?
  4. Okay, I understand what you meant now.
    Yes, I had the exact same problem.
    The Carruthers' fingerboard scoop is very shallow. You get tons of 'mwhaa' and infinite sustain. Plus there's no room to dig in, as you noticed.
    In fact, the first thing I did was to replace the strings with orchestral ones, to get a fat warm tone.
    A few months later I went to my luthier to fix the fingerboard scoop and get a normal DB setup.
  5. Mike Carr

    Mike Carr

    Feb 5, 2002
    Hong Kong
    Hey Richard,

    Now you know why I so happy to get rid of my old Carruthers Bass. Going back and forth between it and a real double bass was allways real weird, because of the way the Carruthers' fingerboard connects to the body, all the way down. I was well on my way to major problems with the tendions in my right wrist by trying to "alter my technique" to be able to pull a fat sound out of it. It does have it's merits though, if one wants that kind of Jaco "mwaw" sound a Carruthers will give that to you, all night long! Plus , these basses are allmost indestructable. John really builds them solidly. But I know you (for those that don't, Richard Simon is one of the top jazz bassists in Los Angeles, plays with many heavyweights!) and I think that you will be much happier with the Messenger Bass that is for sale. It's one of the more natural sounding of the solid bodied E.U.B's out there. I tried one at the NAMM show a few years ago and liked it a lot! I'm into a different thing these days with the Eminence, which is hollow, that's why I like it, but if I were to go the solid-bodied E.U.B. direction again I'd probably want to buy this Messenger Bass, the price he's offering for it is good!
  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I have a Carruthers EUB for silent practice and outdoor gigs. The action came stupid-low and it feels "more upright" having raised it. The neck feels OK but the unplugged sound makes me think that it could sound a lot "more upright" than I've been able to accomplish. Mine sounds like an undistinguished upright played through a bad amp. I have noticed that it sounds better through mediocre guitar amps than through my hi-fi DB setup, which makes me think that John R&D'd it using a Fender Deluxe or suchlike.

    I'm damned if I'm going to alter my DB technique to make it conform to Mr. Carruthers' notion of how I should play. (I also set up the factory Bartolini preamp for 18v operation to get more headroom. When I pull "regular" it doesn't crap out like it used to.)

    And so, for those who wonder, "Is an EUB a first step toward DB?" here's my two cents: EUBs can be useful tools and at some point in the year I'm happy to have one. I'm not an "electric upright bassist" and don't want to be one at this point. Not to slag anybody else in their own journey . . .
  7. Richard Simon

    Richard Simon Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thank you, gentlemen, for your insightful input.
    Like you, Sam, I would be happy a couple of times a year owning one of these hybrids, but I haven't the know-how to twiddle the electronics, nor the willingness to spend precious resources on fingerboard scooping, bridge and pickup replacement, etc., on a thing I'll rarely play.

    You three have provided a perfect costs/benefits analysis.

    The whole EUB issue came up last weekend: would it have been the better alternative to the DB for a gig in Central Oregon? The festival's other bassists opted to bring EUB's, but our overlapping schedules precluded my borrowing a bass there.

    After looking into loaners (and thanks, Mike, for your guidance), I opted to bring my DB in its Gage trunk. The creaky little United Express 30-seater did accommodate it, and the airline charged me $210 for the round trip to LAX. But thanks to you, Bass Brothers, I've concluded that it was worth every penny to have Bertha there with me.
  8. ad9000

    ad9000 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2004
    Leucadia, CA
    Sorry to jump in late here. Interesting reading this thread 'cause I owned a Carruthers from '92 'til '99. It was very convenient 'cause I had a road gig that required upright, but I felt like I struggled with it the whole time, less so after I stopped trying to make it a substitute for an acoustic bass and began approaching it as its own animal.
    Early on I had the Carruthers set up by Jon Petersen, which helped the playability a lot. I later added a Rick Turner pickup which was no big improvement, mainly because it actually brought out more of the unpleasant acoustic qualities (i.e. excessive "mwah" as pointed out previously).
    If I decided I needed an EUB for traveling now, out of the ones I've tried I'd go with an Azola Bug Bass, though I'm sure there are lots of other candidates out there since I was in the EUB game.
    An aside about Carruthers: Years ago I got a very poor fret job from someone in his shop and he tried to tell me the horrible buzzing all over the fingerboard was a result of the way I played - he even showed me the "correct" way to play! Much later on, when I was working with a guitar player who he was courting to use his instruments, he was almost sickeningly nice to me, even offering me deep discounts and loaner intruments. Ah, show biz...
  9. ad9000

    ad9000 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2004
    Leucadia, CA
    Sam, Carruthers told me he R&D'ed the bass by playing it through his home hi-fi system!
  10. I sent a fax and an email to John a few months ago, asking for technical info about the preamp he puts on the SUB-1.
    Never had any response at all.
    The next time I'll be shopping for an EUB, it'll definitely be an Azola, even if I had some problems with a basic BugBass about six years ago.
    The Azolas are nice, very responsive and helpful people.
  11. ad9000

    ad9000 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2004
    Leucadia, CA
    This perhaps supports my personal experience with Carruthers - that he is somewhat more inclined to provide good service for his "celebrity" clients than for us rabble.. of course I don't mean to imply that you are not a celebrity, Francois..
  12. Rick Turner

    Rick Turner Commercial User

    Jul 14, 2004
    I design and build electric basses and pickups under the Turner, Renaissance, and Electroline brand names.
    The problem with a good pickup is that it won't mask any problems that are inherrent to the bass itself. I'd expect that a more "electric" pickup...something magnetic...may be better in covering up the problems of a poorly set up EURB.
  13. ad9000

    ad9000 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2004
    Leucadia, CA
    I agree with you 100%. I hope you didn't take my comment as a criticism of your pickup, which reproduced the sound of the bass, exactly as it should have. It was a worthy experiment at the time..
  14. Rick Turner

    Rick Turner Commercial User

    Jul 14, 2004
    I design and build electric basses and pickups under the Turner, Renaissance, and Electroline brand names.
    Absolutely no offense taken. The symptoms you described are mechanical...a matter of the setup and the bass itself...not electronic. I was just clarifying that.

    I think too little attention is paid to the sonic attributes of EUBs...I'm not talking acoustic phenomena as there is generally little of that anyway; I'm really talking about the internal sonic performance of how the solid wood reacts to the strings. It trying to achieve a reasonable simulation of a "real" URB, the way the wood, including the bridge, works is very important.
  15. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    He also makes some of the most upright sounding of the bass guitars out there. He is a famous builder in his own right without Alembic. I do dearly love and own Alembic and will own a Turner at some point as well.