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Choosing a bass for intermediate player

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Mr. RC, Dec 26, 2002.


  1. Mr. RC

    Mr. RC

    Oct 31, 2002
    New York, NY
    I've been looking on talkbass for a while now trying to find information for the purchase of my first bass. Like many other bassists I am faced with the problem of budget. I have been saving up money from gigs and will probably have at the most $2500 to spend. I primarily gig playing jazz but have also got some classical gigs (recently playing Handel's Messiah) and made the all-state orchestra. I am very serious and plan on having my bass for a while. My question is what type of basses did you guys play before moving up to more expensive instruments and at what point in you career did you purchase them. How did you guys' early basses compare to something like the Christopher Hybrid?
     
  2. I've no idea how tall you are, but even if you're smaller (shorter) than average, go with a 3/4-size if you possibly can - the reason I say that is that if eventually you want to upgrade (you will! you will!), you will find that a 3/4 is much easier to sell than a 1/2 or 5/8-size. That being said, the really important thing is to take advice from your teacher... er, um - you do have a teacher... don't you?...

    You should be able to do pretty well for $2k5, especially if you try used, or even some of the new Chinese basses, providing you're selective, and you take your teacher (you do have a teacher... don't you?...), or someone with expertise you trust, to help you choose. You need to touch/feel/play or even have someone else play whilst you stand back (a bass sounds totally different when you're 30' away from it). Look around for a luthier - you might want to ask your teacher to point you to a good luthier, and accompany you when you go shopping for your new bass (er, um - you do have a teacher... don't you?...)

    Hey, good luck in your hunt!

    - Wil
     
  3. Mr. RC

    Mr. RC

    Oct 31, 2002
    New York, NY
    Yes I do have a teacher. The problem isn't actually in choosing a bass but in finding one that I will be able to use to be able to compete with other bass players. I play a Kay that is my school's but I would like to upgrade to something that will take me through college and will allow me to compete for gigs. Essentially I am asking how many of you guys played on mediocre basses before you shelled out the money to to purchase a 5k+ bass. I know someone said that they played a czech plywood for about 15 years until upgrading. I would like to know if it is possible to be competative with a bass such as a Christopher plywood or carved.
     
  4. Before I could afford a mediocre bass, I played a crap bass.
    I suspect everyone here started out the same way as you.
    The Christopher bass at $2,000 is a good value; the New Standard plys made by Arnold Schnitzer are very good, but cost more.
     
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    And Merry Xmas to you, Don...check's in the mail.
     
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'm the one with 15 years on the generic Czech ply. I was playing jazz and usually through an amp. I would probably still be playing it today had it not been destroyed.

    If you're playing or planning on playing acoustically a lot, then get yourself a loud bass even at the slight expense of tone. If you're going to be doing half and or so, then go for the tone. If you're going to be using the Stick a lot, then look for a carved-top something at least.
     
  7. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    played a kay for my first six years. it wasn't set up astoundingly well and didn't sound good arco. at the time, though, i didn't know that, and practiced practiced practiced.

    in jazz it's possible to make a well-set-up, inexpensive bass sound very good. individuality, personality, and solid playing will get you hired long before the quality of your instrument.

    that being said, i second ray's comment about a carved top if you're playing arco. i haven't played a ply that sounded rich enough arco to satisfy, though i haven't played the best of them. otoh, a carved top imparts some of that rich character into the sound of a bass.

    and think resale value.

    good luck,
    sean p
     
  8. Sean Smith plays Michael Moore's old Kay, which he used for many months with Benny Goodman. Sean has recorded it many times. I have it on a Bill Charlap CD and it sounds great.

    P.S. to Ed:I'm not exactly orchestra primary (which I assume you mean by legit), and thanks anyway, but I'm not in kpo's league, just in case he's reading. He doesn't talk to me since our set-to, this will only make it worse.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I started on a seriously crappy bass before moving up to my current mediocre Czech carved bass (which I love dearly). If you don't believe me, see the thread "Asses on Fire" for pictures and more details.

    About the size thing: I'd look for a 3/4 bass and just learn to deal with it. One of my students is 5'0" and 100lbs soaking wet, and she absolutely HATES her 5/8 bass whenever she hears it next to a 3/4. She's tried out my bass, and can handle it just fine. So - on this issue at least - size doesn't matter.

    Ray's advice about volume (for acoustic playing) vs. tone (for amplified playing) is an excellent one. One of my students recently bought a fully carved Christopher flatback for about $3000 which is a good deal louder than my Czech bass, but doesn't have nearly as focused a tone. It's great for him because he likes to play unamplified Bluegrass type gigs, and the volume comes in handy. For me, as a jazzer who loves to record and who plays a lot of gigs that require amplification, I prefer a bass with a nicer tone. YMMV. Good luck.
     
  10. Mr. RC

    Mr. RC

    Oct 31, 2002
    New York, NY
    Thanks for all the advice. Answering Ed's question I am getting a good amount of jazz gigs. I just wanted to know what type of bass would I need to help me be competative for jazz gigs and maybe some small classical gigs once I finish high school and college.

    I called a local violin shop yeserday about Christopher basses and got offered a great deal on a series 400 fully carved roundback bass. Apparently due to a change in humidity the center seam on the top of the bass seperated a bit. The owner said he would reglue the seam and also place something to prevent any future seperation. Because of this Christopher gave him a discount on the bass and he passed it on to me selling it for only $1500 with set-up. Today I went and tried it and absolutely loved it. I can really notice the difference between that and my Kay especially in volume and its tone in thumb position. I put a deposit on it and will be picking it up next week after the repairs are finished. I did plan on waiting to find a bass but can't let a deal like that slip away. Anyway thanks everybody for all you help with my questions and research.
     
  11. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    I agree, but I have heard the oppisite. There is a bassist in town that is a pretty good player, but I have heard her skipped over a few times on the call list. because her sound is awful. She plays a poorly set-up beat to hell Englehardt with a Fishman into a Fender amp.

    As an interesting aside, most of the older cats in town don't seem to mind, but the younger ones from North Texas or Central State do.

    Monte
     
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    There is some gradation between the Salvation Army setup that you mention and a $50,000 pile of stuff. Beyond that, her sound thing might be a matter of taste as well as budget.

    For 15yrs I played a generic Czech plywood through a GK MB200 with an Underwood, and one of the most common compliments was on my tone. The whole pile cost about $1000.

    In the end, the sound is in your ears and hands (Ray's Mantra).
     
  13. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    Well, that is definitely true. In her case, spending a little of that gig money on setting up her bass right and getting better strings would go a long way.

    When she plays my Juzek she sounds like a different player.

    Sound is in the hands and ears, but there isn't much you can do with a set-up that is hard to play and produces little sound.

    Monte
     
  14. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    True, but setup is not a huge expenditure. If she was not compelled to get some work done on her fiddle after playing something set up well, then we're back to the 'taste' (or maybe priority) thing. No one is that strapped that he couldn't get his bass setup well with the period of a year. If she's happy with her setup, then she's happy.