I got Charles Chuck Traegers new book on bass luthierie a few months ago. The book is controversial, but some of the controversy seems to center around his ideas, and some of it around his personality. So I thought Id write a little review of the book, just the book, itself. Im not a luthier, but Ive been interested in basses and their repair, maintenance and history as a sort of hobby for many years now. Having read the book, I think there are some things in it that are really good, well accepted advice on bass repair, some things that are a little different, some things that are maybe outdated, and some ideas that are a little out there. The difficulty if youre a beginner, or an interested player, is to know which is which. Sometimes you can tell, because CT includes chapters by his editors (David Brownell and Bill Merchant) describing the more common way of doing things. But often, his unique ideas and solutions are just mixed in with more commonly accepted methods and techniques. So, to help anyone who might not be able to tell which are which, I hope to bring up some of these techniques, and ask our Talkbass luthiers to comment, and suggest alternative techniques which might be more common, or in their opinions, better. I want to try to be careful not to reprint CTs book (how would you feel if you wrote a book and someone reprinted it for everyone to read free on the internet?), so Ill focus more on what solutions he offers, and the alternatives, rather than the how of doing them, unless its really needed. I hope the moderator (that fella who looks like a cat) will help out in being an objective ear on that one. I think I can keep away from that danger zone by framing the questions well. Also, Ill obviously focus on the less accepted stuff, mostly leaving out what I think is OK. If anyone with the book thinks Ive left out something they want to know about, please bring it up. So first a brief overall review. Reading the book, I think it's written as a history, a document of CTs work, ideas, and solutions in luthierie. While its being marketed as a guide, even as a bible or whatever, I think he wrote it out of a desire to have his work and ideas documented more than anything else. It seems he really found his own path in luthierie, and hes proud of it. The first-person narrative style of the book is really that of some old guy recounting stories. Hes telling stories of the challenges he faced as a luthier, and the solutions he came up with. He talks a lot about things in terms of problem-solving. At least once he clearly states that I no longer use this repair method, but it worked well for that time. (I couldnt find the exact quote, but Im pretty sure thats very close) Why include something like that in a repair manual? It makes no sense. But in a history of your work, it makes perfect sense. Theres also evidence of this in the structure of the book. At the end of the book, there are several chapters by David Brownell and Bill Merchant. They describe alternatives to CTs way of doing things. To me, they seem to be the more commonly accepted ways. But putting them in the same place as his solutions would interrupt his narrative, so he puts them at the end, even though its more confusing. On the other hand, in some chapters Brownell and Merchants methods are interspersed with his own. I believe thats because in these spots he thinks one method is as good as another, and doesnt have any particular pride or strong opinion associated with his own way over the others. The first-person writing style can be a bit confusing at times, but it also makes you feel closer to the author, as if you were in the room with him. I think that since the intent seems to be to create a personal history and to get you to understand his motives/thinking, instead of just lay out a bunch of repair techniques, the first-person thing is all-in-all a good choice. Another little problem seems to be CTs tendency to make sweeping generalizations, without qualifying them. One obvious one is violin corners make for a darker bass (I paraphrase). Is that really true? I dont know. The only people who might know this are those who have dealt with lots of basses, and among those, it seems that many havent noticed this. It really seems like this is a matter of opinion, but its stated as if its accepted fact. Once you read the whole book, you kind of realize that many of his statements just leave out the My experience has been that part, since the whole book is really about what hes noticed over the years. As some on Talkbass have pointed out, a little rewording would make the book more effective and helpful. I used to have a college professor who did the same thing. He would make these sweeping statements, sometimes even crazy ones, but in the context we could understand what his point was, and that he was showing his convictions. And in fact we loved him for it. But I think writing a book that will be read by people who dont know you might call for something a little different. These complaints aside, I think the book offers a vast an interesting collection of knowledge and ideas about the double bass. I hope that in this discussion, we can try to put that knowledge into a context of what some of our (and other) luthiers are doing, so that the folks buying the book will be able to get the most out of it. The book is divided in to 5 sections, 1 a general introduction, 2- a chapter on his ideas about setup, 3 general outside repairs, neck and scroll, repairs to the open body of the bass, 4 alternative repairs (Brownell and Merchant) 5 misc (varnish, bows, appraisals) I think Ill try to address each of those separately. Section 1 Philosophy Much of whats in this section is uncontroversial. Theres a chapter (by Brownell, but echoed in CTs comments) which gives a list of 6 reasons why hide glue is uniquely the glue to use for string instrument repair, what the definitions of preservation and restoration are, and statements like Do no harm! That is, do not alter the original makers work unless it is necessary to do so. It states that you should already know about glues, woods and tools before starting anything in the book, gives a list of other books that youll need, including the Weisshaar book, etc. This section is also where Traeger introduces his thesis of optimum sound which he defines as the greatest volume of string vibration amplification for the least amount of energy put into making it. He offers several anecdotes from his playing career which led him to pursue this as the sort of holy grail of the bass. He clearly separates the idea of tone from sound, the first being a subjective matter, and the second a more objective measure of volume and projection. For me (and Im a mic guy ), I feel that these days, tone is maybe the more important consideration. I play acoustically an awful lot, but if I find myself in a situation where acoustically I cant keep up, I just plop the mic in front of the bass, and make it louder. So a bass that isnt quite as loud, but has the tone I want, is really better for me. For our luthiers, I wonder, whats more important to your clients, volume/projection or pure tone (especially if you have to get one at the expense of the other)? I wonder if this is different for the classical player in a section, and a jazz player who has the option of mics/pickups. Anyway, this concept of optimum sound informs his whole concept of bass setup. He makes some initial mentions of what this means, but goes in to more detail in subsequent chapters, and so will I . Also, he mentions A0-B0 matching for the first time in this chapter. I have, in my box-o-bass-stuff, an old article by CT on bass setup. Published in 1996, it includes much of the stuff on setup thats in his book. But theres nothing on A0-B0. So he seems to be a fairly recent convert to A0-B0 matching. Ive not yet tried this stuff, so I cant comment. I understand theres a thread discussing it here, so Id be happy if someone would post the link to that discussion. My next post will go into the meat and potatoes of section 2, Setup For the Optimum Sound. I guess the real question in this opening post for our luthiers is, how important is this concept of optimum sound, as CT defines it, to you and your clients? Do you often sacrifice projection and volume for the more subjective tone? Is it different depending on what kind of music the client will play? Or the situation theyll play in (section vs combo etc)? How do you deal with your clients requests for both a great tone and as much volume/projection as possible (if these are competing needs are they?) Is it more important for some basses and not for others? Do you recommend to your clients that they do certain things to their setup to enhance the instruments sound, even if they dont bring it up? Or do you even think this is such a big deal at all, is it really your responsibility to adjust each bass this way? Brent PS that gets us to page 18 .