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Contrabassetto from the ground up

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by flatback, Nov 15, 2014.

  1. flatback


    May 6, 2004
    I have commissioned Andrea Spada to make a Contrabassetto for me. I think his designs are excellent and what I have been looking for for along time. I have been talking with Andrea about the instruments for some time and finally decided to go for it. Although they are not cheap, these are fully carved expertly designed small bodied basses that have removable necks, will fit into an overhead bin and have big sound. My aim is to have this be my main bass for both travel and gigging locally, and to have my other bass set up differently. Although I was initially attracted to the Aleppo design I have ordered the Zagora model. I think this will be the first Contrabassetto in the USA and I am really openly trying to help Andrea bring this wonderful bass into the hands of musicians here who might dig it. Anyway Andrea told me a few weeks ago that he would be traveling to Austria to buy wood (from Rio De Janeiro where his shop is) and I thought it would be great to show the story of this bass from the beginning. below are pictures he just posted of his visit to the tone wood shop in Austria
    I love seeing the pictures of tone wood in this state and cannot wait to watch it progress into my bass.
    I am really curious about what other bassists have to say about this idea.
    The proof of course will be in the sound....
    I'll post more pics as it moves forward but check out his web site and tell me what you think...


    Dec 14, 2007
    I travel too much and loose most of my chops when I am away from my basses for extended periods. A flight case that meets 50 lbs and 62 linear inches, with contrabassetto inside, would make this really useful for me, and other travelling bassists. What is the mensure on these? I couldn't find it on the web page.
    Did you go down to Rio to select the model? I liked the sound of the Aleppo, but that could be the difference in recordings.
    salcott likes this.
  3. flatback


    May 6, 2004
    Well I am going off of my faith in Andrea and recordings and video right now. Part of my interest is that the design is so good that I really think Andrea needs wider recognition and I thought I would put my money where my mouth is and be the first. I intend to make my bass (once it arrives here) available to other bassists to try, and check out.
    I don't have any financial interest in these basses, but I do have an interest as I have for years (here on Talkbass.com) of finding new and interesting products and bringing them to light....(Troll Mic, MPM Adjusters, Vektor PU etc.)
    I think there are measurements on the site for the instruments. He makes a hardcase for flying and a custom softcase. Andrea is Italian living in Rio and from what I can gather has made quite a few of these basses for players down there, and a few in Europe but none so far here in the USA.
    I have been playing a bunch of really good Chinese basses lately, and I suppose if there were 10 million of them around the world there would always be a decent rental to find somewhere, but I really like my own bass set up for me, traveling with me. I also like the idea of a smaller bodied bass in general. I once played a 5/8 bass that just knocked my socks off, (but I've played a lot of 5/8 basses since looking for that same thing and not finding it...)
    AndreaSpada likes this.
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I would be interested in hearing from some builders/luthiers what they think about a bass built in South America and coming to live in the states. I understand the wood is European. I know many basses coming over from Europe have problems when they hit Chicago, although a new Golia has been fine here for a few years now.

    I don't know if your location in California is similar in climate to Rio, but that may be something to consider.
  5. flatback


    May 6, 2004
    I'd be really interested to know too. I know two things: one is that his basses have been around the world including here before without issue. Also Andrea (depending on interest of course) my look for a partnership with an American luthier. BUT first things first. I really want to get the instrument here and let it settle and see where we are at and if there are and troubles. I am so open to hearing any opinions about whether any of you out there for example think these basses are of great interest or mild interest or no interest. Do you like the aesthetic of a fully carved small body bass(as opposed to the other designs out there like the Chadwick or Gage or Emenance?)
    Of course it is too soon to know before anyone has played one, but Andrea's designs really appeal to me (but my needs may be different from many of you)
  6. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    They are beautiful looking basses. The overhead component sure makes the concept desirable. I guess I would want to play it to make sure I like the feel and sound enough to use in a particular situation. The kolstein busetto travel bass sounded good to me but playing it really threw me... I think the Merchant and Volante basses are good solutions and feel and sound good.

    I think I still may prefer the idea of neck off 3/4 in a case. But, I think it could depend on the aesthetics of the band, also.
  7. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I've had a fair amount of dealing with Roberto Giormenti in Buenos Aires (http://www.auday-giormenti.com.ar/homee.htm) and tried to get several dealers interested in his basses (one of which is here: http://www.talkbass.com/threads/giormenti-hand-carved-bass-for-sale.1110907/)

    He uses (at least in his higher end basses) European woods, Indian ebony etc; they are a little bit over built and heavy but his carved basses sound as good as the shop Wilfer/Pollman etc for half the price.

    I've also had some discussion with Alberto Solari (also in Buenos Aires) about building me a small cornerless bass, but have not gone beyond the preliminaries. Both makers have been very easy to work with.


    bassmastan likes this.
  8. basic74


    Dec 28, 2012
    keep us posted, i would like to hear how this instrument works
  9. Please keep us updated on this; I'm very interested in this sort of thing in general, and particularly in these basses, as they look excellent.

    I have an "arco bass guitar" built by Tobias Chennell, in the UK, but he seems to have sort of dropped off the map, which is a shame. It's a fully carved flat back instrument constructed more like a viola da gamba than a modern bass. The sound is very nice, but delicate. The balance of sound is very even, though it doesn't have the full dynamic range of a full-sized instrument. In any case, I've played it in concerts and on recordings, and always receive compliments about the sound (trust me - it's not my terrible playing that gets the compliments).

    Right now, that little bass is sitting in the UK going unplayed, while I'm in the US with my 3/4 bass. If I could find something that I felt would take the place of both instruments, I would be happy to just have one that I travel with.
  10. flatback


    May 6, 2004
    Hey do you have any pictures of the Arco Bass Guitar? That would be cool to see. Will keep you posted. Been talking to Andrea about bent endpins...I use an Egg Pin and love the balance of it (although I play plenty of basses without) ...but with a body that small it might be balance and weight is less of an issue...
  11. At first, hi to everyone! Glad to meet you all!

    I'm back to work after some days in Europe, where I bought some woods for my next instruments. Next days I'll post some details about my design concept as well as some construction details that characterise my contrabassettos. A special thanks to flatback for such an enthusiasm and, above all, for the trust in my work.

    I'm considering it a very important experience, to me, which is also the first in the North American market. I'm sure the opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues from talkbass.com will be very rewarding, especially knowing that here criticisms are always constructive and very well-founded.
    I'm available to anyone who wants more information.

    Thanks you all,
  12. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005
    looks like nice work - more specs would be nice
    AndreaSpada likes this.
  13. As promised, I'm starting posting more details of my contrabassetto. At first, a little story...

    Still in 2007 I have a customer who needs a small travel bass. He was unsatisfied by some commercial options out there and, as he is a classicla/jazz musician, he want a travel that could work effectively for pizz as well with arco.
    He asked me to think in something... I had already conducted many researches in regard this topic, and I present him with the design of the first contrabassetto, which today is the Damasco. He liked it a lot, but he want a smaller - thinner instrument - and, as he already have some aesthetic references, asked me to make something a bit different. I built for him a semi-acoustic instrument - dubbed Lhasa - which was similar to some other commercial solutions. It's a very playable instrument, but it's not what I though it's the right path to follow...
    So, I decided to target only on my own design and specification, and to develop some different models to accommodate different aesthetic needs. I built other prototypes on the gamba design - dubbed Odessa -and, after that, I developed the Damasco, which became my most successfully model. This is the instrument I'm playing in my avatar...

    Today I offer to my customers four different models: Damasco, an hybrid Gamba/Pear; Aleppo, a traditional Gamba; Zagora; a Violin's corners; Samarra, Pear shaped.

    All those model share the same internal construction and overall design concept.
    1. They are dismountable, to easy travelling as possible (although you can easily travel with it assembled, with a proper hard-case)
    2. You can travel with it in the luggage compartment of a common airplane, when disassembled; I personally often do this
    3. They offer almost the same ergonomic of a conventional bass
    4. The sound is powerful and rich
    5. They are ACOUSTIC instruments, which can be amplified with less hash and troubles then a conventional double bass
    6. The bridge, top and back works exactly as a double bass - but they are optimised to produce the most result with the less material
    7. They have sound post and bass bar, specially conceived
    8. They are light weight
    9. They sound like a very good professional double bass, although - intentionally - lacks some of the subwoofer sound spectrum usually linked with amplification troubles
    10. They have a lot of sound, you can record them with mic
    I offer them with a carved or flat backs, only built from traditional top notch european woods. Sorry, no plywoods or less than master quality woods by now. They are NOT second class instruments. They are made to measure, traditionally carved, conceived, hand finished and varnished and carefully adjusted for the best possible results. I'm a professional double bassist, with many years of experience in orchestral, jazz and modern music, and with lots of years of experience in setup so many instruments for so many customers. I'm committed to adjust any instruments to the specific needs of my customers, from the ground up, starting from the selection of woods and features (string length, ribs height, kind of back...).

    The contrabassettos are not a direct replacement for a double bass in every situations. There are gigs you need a more traditional aesthetic and look. For such situation I offer the Amalfi, which is a conventional travel bass.

    * Please, forgive my "not too good" English communication; I'm italian born, living in Rio de Janeiro, I do not usually speak very much in your language...
  14. flatback


    May 6, 2004
    Andrea Posted these pics today. His new basses are beautiful.

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    Last edited: Apr 8, 2015
  15. geoffbassist

    geoffbassist UK Double Bassist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2006
    Founder - Discover Double Bass
    Wow, that's a beautiful instrument! I would love to try one of those out. That's some superb workmanship!
  16. geoffbassist

    geoffbassist UK Double Bassist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2006
    Founder - Discover Double Bass
    Is that instrument designed to be a travel bass...perhaps a smaller 3/4 with removable neck?
  17. flatback


    May 6, 2004
    Yeah thats what it looks like to me....Andrea is going to start on my Contrabassetto soon...
    geoffbassist likes this.
  18. geoffbassist

    geoffbassist UK Double Bassist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2006
    Founder - Discover Double Bass
    That's going to be a really exciting build. I love the idea of a smaller bass for those gigs where lugging a full size upright is a bit of a hassle...It's a great design.
  19. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA

    What is the playing string length, the mensure, of these instruments?
  20. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    What is the string length of these instruments, please?

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