Carved Chinese Bass - Should I / shouldn't I?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by BelfastBass, Apr 18, 2005.

  1. Hi guys/gals

    I need some help and advice here! I live in a part of the world which is not exactly overflowing with DB purchase options! So much so that I've booked flights to GAS in Germany next week.

    However, locally I've just discovered the following - a 3/4 fully carved, 4-5 year old bass with spruce top and maple ribs and back. The varnish is a really healthy looking oil varnish. The luthier who has the bass has offered to do a set up and sell for $3,000 / £1600 pounds - this bass has never had a set of strings on. The luthier bought it new and has had it in storage ever since because he deals and works almost exclusively with violins, violas and cellos.

    It's a beautiful looking instrument - the curved back is particularily nice and overall the workmanship seems very good. I'm afraid the attached photos taken with my camera phone do the instrument absolutely no justice.

    I'm revisiting the luthier on Weds - he's fitting tailpiece, bridge, strings at the moment so I'll have a chance to listen & play then. What I'd like to know is if it's possible to find a worthwhile carved Chinese bass which isn't a Shen? Does anyone have any experience of such an instrument? In fact, can anyone offer a guess as to the make of THIS bass - there doesn't appear to be a label. In terms of value for money - does this seem like a reasonable deal. I'm pretty happy that this instrument will be a couple of notches up from my hybrid Zeller but any words of encouragement/warning would be most welcome!

    Thanks for getting this far and excuse the rambling.....!

    Rod. :help:

    Attached Files:

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    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I play a fully carved Christopher, and it is actually one of the better sounding basses I have played. There are some good ones out there....
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Beyond Shen and Christopher, I've seen this high end chinese maker called Xuechang Sun. Never played their stuff but does anyone have experience with it? They're supposed to be on par with the high-end Chrissy's, Shens, and Eastmans (dont' forget Eastman also builds basses in China too) from what I can tell.

    Anyhoo, a 5 year old bass is one thing, but if it's been in storage and hasn't been played regularly and you havent even heard what it sounds like - I wouldn't be in a rush. Especially if you've got your flights books for bass shopping in Germany. I'd play it first, fly to Germany, and then make a decision if you come home empty handed.
  5. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Is it just me or does that finger board look kind of so-so? It looks like rosewood that's been stained black. Not that rosewood doesn't get used for fingerboards. It just jumped out at me in the picture.
  6. Guys thanks for the info/advice so far. I guess I'd be happier if the bass had a label or some form of ID however reliable! Is it unusual for DBs to be stickerless? I know the fingerboard is ebony - photo just not very illuminating!

    I'll give it a lash on Weds - let you know how it sounds and maybe take some better photos of the fully kitted out article. If anyone can shed some light on it's origin, I'd be really grateful. Had thought twice about going to Germany after all, but you've talked me into it!

  7. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I've a question for you... if the luthier bought the bass new, doesn't he know what factory it came from?

    It is common for basses to not have labels. Could you post some pics of the scroll/tuning machines? That might help with the identification.

    Take the bass out "on trial" for a week or two and play it. If you can, get it into the hands of other local pro-bassists. Do you have a teacher?
  8. Hi Nick - bit of a strange guy this luthier (hope he's not reading this!). He also has 2 old German basses in his possession - one a very old 3 stringer, and despite a couple of attempts I wasn't able to secure a look at either! I think it's safe to say he doesn't give too much away but I do know he bought the bass from a dealer in England.....I'll keep trying.

    Had a photo of the scroll and machines but not suitable for public consumption - will try again on Weds.

    I think I'll get a fair idea of the potential of the bass when I play it on Weds - I've been around a few corners and played (but not owned) a few nice basses. I have a sound in my head which I'm aiming for. No teacher I'm afraid, and I mean this in the nicest possible way .....can't learn too much from anyone 'round these parts apart from some orchestral players who are great at what they do. Anyway, I've been playing for 30 years and managing to make a living for 15 of those so gotta be doing something right!

    It's a great idea taking the bass on trial - if the luthier's had it stored all that time, he'll hardly notice it gone for another week....! Cheers.
  9. a. meyer

    a. meyer

    Dec 10, 2004
    portland, oregon
    I've got a Christopher 7/8; it's been a great workhorse bass with a huge sound. They're about $3000-$3500.
  10. One thing more...according to the seller the bass is 4-5 years old, but how can you be sure if he doesn´t tell? What I´ve learned about stringed instruments, is that storing them unstringed and without tension is not the best possible way. So now you don´t know how long it has been lying there unstringed.

    I think you might experience some reshaping / sinking of the top after you´ve had it set up for a while. A week´s trial will not be enough to tell.

  11. Apparentely nobody's impressed with this bass....I am. That carving of the top, under the fingerboard doesn't look like average work to me. I think the fingerboard is fine, although it does have the bevel. No biggie. I like the looks of this bass, but haven't a clue what it is. That carving under the board makes me think French...but?
    Please do post some pics of the scroll...front back and side.
  12. I have a Chinese bass which looks somewhat similar to the one you posted. It's a "Dual Joy" and the figuring of the wood, the varnish, and the carving under the fingerboard, all look familiar. I've been realy happy with mine, and other players have commented favourably on its sound, and playability. Mine originally had the bevel on the fingerboard, but my luthier took it out as part of the set-up.

    FWIW -

    - Wil
  13. Wil...any chance of you posting pics of your bass? Especially the carving part of the top that we're talking about?
    Is the 'Dual Joy' actually the name of the company or this particular model or?
  14. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I own two higher end Shen Basses. They are made well, play well and sound great for a new Bass. They are not as good most likely as a hand made USA, Italian or other Bass in the 20-25K range but for the price, construction, materials and sound they are a good Value.

    I have seen other Chinese made Basses at the NAMM shows and some of them look great. Most of them have poorly designed neck sets and the strings will be too high unless you cut the bridge lower or move the neck out. The woods often look good as does the construction. Finish quality varies as well. Usually, these Basses are un-playable to my taste or not strung up at all so it's hard to judge them.

    When I first tried a Shen at NAMM, it was fully playable and sounded good. Kolstein (Baker model) was about the only other Bass I have seen with a good set-up at NAMM. The E.Wilfer Basses were no better set-up than the Chinese.. A shame in my opinion.

    Have your teacher look at the Bass and make sure it does not need a neck re-set. The bridge should be at least 6" off the body in the center with Low Low Action/string height. 6.5" is preferred to clear the 'C' Bouts better when bowing and for greater volume of sound.
  15. Thanks Paul and Will. Paul - interesting you should mention the bevelled fingerboard....hadn't given that much thought but I guess I will. Am I right in thinking the bevel is favoured by Classical players? I can make a decision on whether to take some thickness of the top or bottom as part of the set up and I'd love to get some more advice on this bevel thing.....

    Although by no means new to DB, I know a bit more about slabs so any help here is greatly appreciated. Not only is there a shortage of basses where I'm based - good, experienced advice is hard to come by so thanks again guys......
  16. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Actually, the longer you can let a bass acclimate without stringing it up, the better. Especially with basses from Asia, where the climate is different and many of the makers don't have the luxury of seasoning their tonewoods properly. When a bass is made, many stresses are introduced into the wood. Letting the instrument season and relax for a while is a good thing; sometimes it'll pop a few seams or even develop a weather crack or two--no big thing. Then when you string it up the wood is more acclimated to both climate and the bass' internal stresses. Arto--why should the top sink because the bass has not been strung up? This seems counter-intuitive.
  17. The round FB has just become the standard for Jazz and Classical bassists...or any other genre you care to mention.
    Don't forget though, that beveled boards were the standard for many years. There's usually enough meat on a new board to take the bevel out as Wil's luthier did for him.
  18. Ken, that's great advice regarding the bridge - something to look out for tomorrow. I did notice one immediate minus the last and only time I saw the bass. The machines are more than just a bit cheap and nasty despite the apparently good workmanship everywhere else. I know these are changable but is this a bad sign......? I'm certainly going to take some better photos tomorrow because of the response from everyone here and I'll post them on Thurs......
  19. Hi Arnold - that's quite reassuring.... maybe my luthier had this in mind all along? I've seen and heard fiddles and cellos he has made ....they sound and look beautiful.....I'm starting to get a little excited now.....!
  20. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    I would think that if the thing has sat for 5 years unset and hasn't popped open, it probably won't. Consider the extra aging time before set-up as a bonus. I know the Dual Joy folks from trade shows, and their instruments are fine in general. I haven't seen their basses. There are a handful of Chinese makers out there trying to do a good job of making, and they are in that group.