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Carved, hybrid or laminate for a beginner?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by BryanM, Mar 11, 2008.

  1. BryanM


    Dec 15, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    I've been a slab player for about 3-4 years now, and have wanted to get into playing double bass for some time, and there's a slight possibility I may be able to purchase my first upright sometime between now and September. While my influence on electric bass has been primarily jazz, and I will definitely play some jazz on an upright, I hope to also learn to play arco, and think that having a laminate bass could hinder my ability to learn such techniques. At most I'll be spending $2000-$2500, but it will more likely be in the range of $1000-$2000.

    There is one music store that I know of in the Pittsburgh area that rents double basses, but as far as I know, all of their rentals are laminate basses, and while rental charges are partially applied towards purchase of a new instrument, I find their prices to be significantly higher to similar instruments elsewhere (For example, $3500 for a new laminate Engelhardt). I've also found a local luthier whose prices seem a bit too low to expect much. Unless I was misquoted or misinformed about the construction, he has several fully carved basses in the $1000-$2000 range. From what I've read here is to be skeptical of such low-priced instruments, and I've heard some speak lowly of his ability as a luthier and even say his instruments are crap, but all of these comments came from employees of 1-2 other stores who were trying to interest me in their merchandise, so I don't know whether to take it to heart or not.

    I'm quite serious about playing this instrument, even though I highly doubt I'll be playing double bass in any professional manner outside of my own gigs anytime soon, and so I thought purchasing one might be in my best interest, rather than spending several hundred to several thousand renting an instrument, even if it may go towards purchasing a higher priced (overpriced?) instrument from the store that rents it to me. Any and all help is greatly appreciated, and I apologize for the long post.
  2. bpclark


    Apr 30, 2003
    West Central, OH
    A good quality laminate is not a bad way to start. $3500 for an Engelhardt is highway robbery (Woodwind Brasswind carries the Swingmaster for $1399). $1000-$2000 for a "good" carved bass is either a misquote, misinformation, poor bass, or an incredible deal.
  3. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    My humbly offered thoughts are something like:

    - Search/read/internalize the threads here. This ground has been well-trodden.

    - Take a really good double bassist with you on your instrument auditions. Ideally, someone who plays both arco and pizz reasonably well, with some training and relevant playing experience. Even better if you have a friend who is both interested in luthiery and plays well.

    - Buy slowly, and avoid buying sight unseen. Try lots of basses.

    - Don't forget to consider string and possible setup costs if you are working within a budget.

    DB is an amazingly deep, versatile thing. :)
  4. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    That's excellent advice. I would like to add that I am a firm believer in a beginner (and anyone else) getting the best possible instrument (within reason), even if that means stretching the budget a bit. A high-quality, well set-up instrument is simply easier and more enjoyable to play. It is the beginners who are least able to overcome shortcomings of an instrument and, unfortunately, it is the beginners who often end up with them. The ply, hybrid, carved choice certainly has been well-trodden as Eric said. I greatly prefer a carved bass for any genre that I am likely to play. I'll repeat what I've said before:

    There are entry level carved basses that, from many standpoints, are far less desirable than a quality ply! Think of ply, hybrid, and carved as three overlapping distributions (bell-curves, if you will), with the mean value of "quality" being lowest for the plys, intermediate for the hybrids, and highest for the carved ones.

    Shop wisely!

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