custom order basses

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Al Smith, Oct 25, 2003.

  1. I've been dreaming about ordering a "new" bass. How will a $15k to $20k new bass compare to a same price "used" bass. The dream pictures are at Lakeberg, Martin and Gruenert. Thanks for any thoughts. - Al
  2. IMHO, that is too much money for a bass that you don't get to play 1st.
    It's more than enough money to find a great bass. I'd get to an area of the country with alot of options (north eastcomes to mind)
    and take alot of time and try basses.
    The quality of a bass is not objective, at least not in that price range.
    The question to answer is what instrument will give YOU the most for your $15k.
    With used, you may also get a better idea of the bass' health. (where it's likely to crack etc...)

    Good Luck,
  3. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    A handmade new bass in the $15-20K range represents an excellent value, providing the maker is accomplished and the instrument is to your taste. Anything you buy should be subject to a week or two trial period so you can assess it in a variety of situations, and be sure it fits your hands and body. With advances in knowledge about wood, you'll find few new handmade basses which will crack or deform, providing you pay attention to avoiding extremes of temperature and humidity. The traditional bias toward older basses (and away from newer ones) is quickly turning around, as many bassists find the optimal combination of tone, playability, value, and stability in high-quality new basses. BTW, please don't think that bass makers are getting rich at these prices. A good handmade bass can run into 500 or more hours of skilled labor (less for certain shops, which use duplicating equipment but don't generally talk about it). Add in the costs of materials, fittings, the time for sourceing and ageing the wood, etc., and you've really got a mediocre return for the maker. But it's a labor of love as well as a business...
  4. I agree with Dave. In my experience, basses that have been played alot are "played in", and that sound is the sound that that particular instrument has and will have and hopefully, will just keep sounding better with more playing.
    With a newer bass, the sound it has now will be getting better, probably quicker, because the molecules haven't begun to carve a "path" in the new wood. I'm a firm believer in this. The way I understand this is, the molecules actually start a path of least interference or resistance in the wood, particularly in the carved top and particularly when playing long bows. Once this pathway starts, it continues through the life of the bass getting less and less interference. I always imagine this is kinda like a river of sperm trying to get to the egg...the egg being perfect sound....God damn i'm out there!
    Anyway, I would never try to find my dream bass without seeing and playing it, no matter what!
    I like to stay away from that word USED when it comes to DBs, because in most products we want or need, that word has kind of a negative impact. In stringed instruments this just isn't true.
    If you're up in or near Seattle, you should go and hang out a Hammond-Ashley and educate yourself by reading How to buy a double bass under BASSES here on TBDB. Also check with all our luthiers here!
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I agree with Paul that basses do generally improve with age and playing. But "molecular paths"? Is there any scientific evidence for this theory? The one I subscribe to is very simple: over time, much of the material in the wood's cell walls dries out, causing the cell structure to become more porous (hence, more sonorous). Scientists have confirmed this using electron microscopes and comparing old violins to new ones. That said, it's my humble opinion that a new instrument should sound good the day it is strung up. Sure, it will usually improve with age; but that's part of the fun, as you get to be the one to experience the improvement! Yes, Paul, you are definately out there...but compared to Dr. Pecanic...fuggedaboudit!
  6. Al here, Thanks to all for your prompt, well thought out and well written replies to my post. Al Smith
  7. Arnolds post must have come in right when i was posting mine.
    As Arnold says, the bias on older instruments is turning around and i have my own ideas on this. The art of lutherie is at the very highest it ever has been and is in the case of our insrument in particular. Bass makers, in most cases are making basses only. In the days of the masters, RE:Strad ( who, to our knowledge never made a bass ) bassists could not afford to comission an instrument from a master maker. And the master, in turn, didn't particularly want to use their good wood on a big bass. Basses also took too much room up in the shops. Modern bass luthiers LOVE the bass and concentrate entirely on this instrument. Also the modern tools help out some, but most makers try to avoid using tools that cut their working time when quality becomes affected. Granted, the quality of some of wood isn't what it was, in particular ebony. But of course this has to do with species endangerment. And because of this, makers, including bow makers, are making in-roads to coming up with other, indeed sometimes better, materials to work with.
    I gotta stop now...I think i've posted on about every heading we have this morning.
  9. Who's talking about electrical instruments?
    You're on the Double Bass side....
    There's one in every crowd...

  10. Sorry Paul, but I'm with Arnold on this one. PBS and Nova have a history of periodically showing crackpot violin experts that claim to know the "Secret". They once had this "professor" from Texas that claimed the secret was soaking the wood in urine. The same guy was back a few years later hawking a new "secret" that was different, but just as off the wall. I've read a lot of research on this subject and "molecular paths" is not something that has been accepted by any of the mainstream acoustic scientists I've read.
  11. ahh yes, the urine guy. lol... Back on the subject though, what sort of price ranges are new, handmade basses going for these days? I realize that there is going to be a difference between a big name maker and some guy who people don't know, and also in the materials used etc. but a general idea of a fine instrument with good wood, made by someone who has made some instruments already and knows what he's doing.
  12. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Was that Professor Nagyvary? I've seen him mentioned on the tobi list?
  13. BINGO
  14. Now, you luthiers are gangin' up on me. Where's Nick? Hey, what do I know? I'm just a bass player. If that's the case, i'd better quit telling people that. I liked that story. Although, for the life of me, I can't figure out why someone would " hawk " a story like this.
    While I might possibly have your ears, I PMed Nick, asking if he had a site or some way I could see his work, since i've seen everybody elses that I know of. Any way you guys could help me convince him to show me his work?
    Nick, maybe you didn't check your mail, but how about it?
  15. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    My cats tell me it works like a champ.
  16. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    OK guys, going off topic, but an amazing story of just how weird the theorizing can get. This is copied from a post made at, and it's precious:

    New User

    Reged: 08/01/02
    Posts: 1

    Re: Just for fun. Wacko violin makers and repairers--
    #148241 - 08/01/02 08:27 PM Edit Reply Quote

    O.K., here's one for Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Several years ago my girlfriend and I were traveling through a small northwestern town on vacation. We were taken off the main road due to a detour, and came across a small farmhouse that displayed a crude handmade sign that read, "Violins for Sale and Violin Magic Done. Open". I took the bait and stopped out of curiosity. When we pulled into the driveway, we noticed the oddest thing; each window of the house displayed an old violin top with grotesque faces painted on them. They reminded me of Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkins. This spooked my girlfriend enough to where she would not leave the car. I, on the other hand, was only further intrigued by this unusual choice of window treatments. I know that "violin people" can be quite eccentric at times, so while I found this to be odd, it didn't frighten me. When I walked up to the front door, I heard the strangest noise coming from the inside of the house; the sound of a chickens clucking. Yes, that's right, I heard chicken noise coming from inside of the house! I knocked on the door and about thirty seconds later the chicken noise stopped and an short elderly man answered the door. Now I'm not trying to be cruel, but he was the spitting image of the troll dolls that were sold in the 1960's. He wasn't scary in appearance, as his face actually was warm and friendly looking, he just looked like a troll to me. I told him that I had seen the sign in his yard and wondered what kind of violins he had for sale. I also mentioned that I was curious about the chicken noise I heard coming from the house. He told me that the chicken "music" was from a cassette tape that he had made, and then proudly stated that chickens are the lost secret of the Stradivarius violins. I held back the laugh that was brewing in my throat and followed the fellow to his workshop/bedroom. I couldn't have prepared myself for what I was about to see. In this room there were about fifteen stuffed chickens strategically placed on individual shelves. While this is strange enough, the chickens were very poorly mounted, and were grossly misshapen in appearance. Fortunately, the smells of turpentine and varnish resins were able to mask most of the smell of the chicken "caricatures". His twin size bed was in the corner of the room, and was also adorned by some of his handiwork; a comforter made out of tanned chicken skins with the feathers still attached!! The sight was surreal. I asked what he had for sale (with the desire to expedite my departure), and he explained that he had violins that he had personally performed chicken magic on. He went on to say that Stradivarius had taken his chicken secret with him to the grave, but he had rediscovered it in a dream. He stated that the Stradivarius secret is the use of chicken brains to seal the pores of the wood prior to varnishing the instrument. I kidded that chickens are known to have pretty small brains, and it would take quite a few to seal a violin. He didn't seem to see the humor in my comment. He took a case from under his bed (I was expecting it would also be covered with feathers, but it was not) and showed me his most prized "specimen". I was saddened by what I saw. There was a 1928 Roth violin that had been stripped of all its varnish and refinished with his "chicken concoction". It was mottled grayish pink in appearance and the finish was rather rough. Out of morbid curiosity I asked him what type of varnish he used to cover the violin after the chicken treatment. He said that he used polyurethane from the hardware store, which he then would "rub out" with chicken droppings. He said that chickens eat fine sand that is later deposited in their droppings, and it is an excellent abrasive to rub out the finish. The "troll" then gave me a big smile, and I guess that I was supposed to feel lucky to have been given the gift of the "chicken secret". I asked him how much he wanted for the Roth amalgam, and he told me $250,000. That was all I needed to hear, it was time to leave before I got plucked. On my way out of the door, I asked him what the violin tops with faces in the windows are for. He told me that they are to scare away the spirits of dead chicken hawks that would try to harm his violins. I couldn't help but laugh out loud. I guess it takes all kinds. Too bizarre!! When I told my girlfriend what she had missed by not going in the house, she just about split a rib. We still kid each other about the weird experience with the chicken troll!
  17. So, do you get a meatier sound from carnivor urine?
    Is the sound more reedy when using herbavor urine?
    Canary urine for a brighter sound?
    Elephant urine for a darker, heavier sound?
    You sure wouldn't wanna leave the instrument locked in your car on a hot, sunny day.
    How do you humidify an instrument made of such tonewood?
    Glad I'm not a violinist, imagine putting that under your chin...
  18. That's a great story John. I've heard some pretty strange stories over the years, but that one ranks right up there with the best of them. The sad part is that is probably true. Nobody could write fiction like that and get away with it.
  19. John, that story goes in my archives!!!!

    I laughed my ass off...Thanks!
  20. But he never did play that violin.... :bag: