Classical vs. Non Classical Bass Questions

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by pedro, Dec 27, 2004.

  1. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    I'm sure that there are certain carved basses that are held in high regard by classical musicians and some that are held in similar esteem by jazz players but are there some that work equally well for both? And if so, what are they and what kind of price range do they fall in.

    Finally, I'm curious what the differences in set up are for an orchestral player vs a jazz player. String height, type of strings, etc.
  2. jmpiwonka


    Jun 11, 2002
    good question and i am curious about the same.

    i would like to add a question.
    can we have some examples of recodrgins of basses that are considered good for jazz and maybe ones that would be good for classical.
    take for example a bass like mingus' on one recording, or jimmy garrisons bass on say a love supreme or another recording.
    this has been bugging me because i hear a bass played arco and it sounds real brittle and kind of scratchy, is that considered a good jazz tone and not desirable for classical......the exact recording i'm actually thinking about at this moment is sunra's "cymbals".

    i thought that this question is inline with your question pedro so i hope you don't mind that i mentioned it.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    The only problem is that a recording won't tell you anything about the sound of a bass when you get into higher pedigree. You need to hear it, and feel it in person. It isn't only sound, but volume, projection and spread which a mic can't pick up.
  4. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    [[i thought that this question is inline with your question pedro so i hope you don't mind that i mentioned it.

    Don't mind at all Jeff.
  5. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I have been fortunate to own several Basses that have been good for both but especially for Orchestra during my Pro years in NY and now as a retired Bassist still playing.

    The Sound that Most orchestra Players in the USA and probably the UK go for are those dark sounding Italian and English Basses that usually do NOT have that Pizz Growl so favored by Jazzers.

    Very few Symphony players will string their Bass up to play for Jazz let alone play it in a Club with close contact to people. It is not very cost effective if you get my meaning.

    I had an Old Italian Bass that was too dark sounding for any of the Pickups on the market at the time (1973-'75) to even work (Polytone, Barcus Berrie, Underwood). I eventually took the Barcus model meant to paste to the Bridge and Inlaid it like the model they make with Bridge included. The External Piezo was different that the Br/pu model. I also used Spirocores or even Rotosound Synthetics for Orchestra made in the 70s. They worked best with lower tension (like todays Obligatos) and Spiros next.

    The Bass being so old and mellow bowed smoothly with any string and was a Killer Jazz Bass if I could get out the Highs. Since I did commercial type work I could afford a Bass like this back then. The 2 restorations I did (major in '73 and minor touch-up in '75) ran about 3K. That was almost a car in those days and that was just the repairs to get the Bass in gear after purchasing it.

    In Germany and Austria (Vienna) they prefer the old German, Bohemian, Hungarian and Viennese type Basses. They are different sounding but then again the German Bow players there have a style of their own. You rarely see one of those Basses in the USA as they Prize them as we do the Great Italian and English Basses.

    The French fall somewhere in the middle as so many were commercially made like the Gremans but with a larger Cello like shape on many of them. Some of them bow great and some are a bit on the 'whiney' side tone wise. The make great Jazz Basses and moderate Orchestra Basses. I have owned 2 of these.

    The Factory type German/Czech Basses we see so often in USA is because many of them were made to be Exported here to begin with. Most of them are not Evenly graduated for tone and smoothness. The are often machine carved to a specific dimention and slightly hand finished. Scrolls/necks often made by different shops and sold to factories for assembly.

    I have owned several of these as well as having one in restoration as we speak. Many of them can be improved but some unfortunatly not.

    The better the tone for Orchestra, the higher the price usually. Good Jazz pizz can be a particular Bass, set-up, strings or a combination of all..

    It's a hunt to find the LAST Bass you'll ever buy !!... I found mine.. I retired after 20 yrs of playing.. sold the Bass to move and buy a house.. And then started playing again.. I miss my Bass but have a few nice ones to replace them. I don't have many Jazz gigs (nor look for them) to test the Jazz-ability of my current Basses but I know that they can cut any job with or without the Bow..

    The lowest $ Bass to my liking that can do both for me that I have run across starts at 25K and up.. That's me.. my taste.. you may be pleased with alot less but playing in 2 Orchestras locally now has helped to refine my taste for the "Pure Fundamental" Bass note..
  6. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    Ken thanks so much for the input. You have obviously been around some fine instruments during your career.
  7. Leco reis

    Leco reis

    Sep 2, 2004
    Astoria, NY
    I have the dream that I can get something for less then 25K$ since I am not a rich musician .
    It is not easy since everyone thinks their bass is worth thousends and thousends.
    I see in NY alot of top Jazz Players that can bow really well playing basses that are not in that range.
    I have played in some shops the so called 30 K 40K Basses and most of them are just name pedigree and to me they sounded like crap.
    But I am still searching

  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    the Hawkes Panormo copies sem to be pretty highly sought after basses by jazz players - Jim Ferguson, Peter Washington, Buster Williams, our own Robin Ruscio, etc.

    hmmm. I haven't met many symphony players doing jazz gigs. I do doubt that Dave Grossman hauls the Panormo out to play Sofia's. But Charlie doesn't seem to have any problem dragging the Vuillaume to gigs ( I can't remember the last time there was a brawl at Iridium or the Standard and the chicken wire has been gone from the Vanguard for a number for years now), nor Percy his Ruggieri. Unless, of course, you are disputing the appellations of those two basses as well?
    DONOSAUR seems to make the decison based on which bass sounds better set up for arco, rather than dollar value.
  9. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    [[ I can't remember the last time there was a brawl at Iridium or the Standard and the chicken wire has been gone from the Vanguard for a number for years now),

    ROTGLMAO!! Ed, now I'll have that image stuck in my head all freakin day. LOL!