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Dilema Plywood vs. Carved at the $1500-$2500 price point

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by armybass, Nov 11, 2010.

  1. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I never, never advocate a plywood bass purchase unless it is a steal as in $400-500 on Craigslist, or a travel bass.
    Arco is too discouraging on plywood, and arco practice is key to nearly any serious involvment with the instrument. Especially if you don't have 10 years to waste finding out if you are one of the few geniuses to not need the bow, but you have an interest in orchestra playing already, so problem solved.
    I have a wonderful bass that has more than held up next to instruments 20 or 30 times the price that I paid: just under 3k for around '95.
    repairs, being careful with your instrument and paying attention to weather/humidity in and outdoors are part of being a serious double bassist. Just dive in and deal with it!
    Look at used basses, cheaper carved and hybrids.

    I get the feeling most are trying to justify over spending on a ply bass themselves rather than help the OP in these threads.
  2. When I talked to him in June, Steve told me he had one remaining Wilfer ply.
  3. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    Denver, Colorado
    I'm not sure if they are any good. All I'm saying is if he can get there, there are a bunch of basses in his price range to demo and he can assess whether they would suit his needs. He has a DB performance degree, so I'm assuming he can determine if a bass could work for him. Note how I didn't recommend buying one sight unseen or suggest that they were "as good" as carved Shens or old Juzeks.

    Personally, I'd only really be interested the Wilfers (for pizz/slap) as I suspect the cheap hybrids and carved basses are just that. I got an Eberle ply ( which you used to play sometimes, Jason :) ) that I picked up locally and probably wouldn't have bothered to look at if I didn't just waltz into that shop during my lunch break one day. Nothing special, or worse, I guess?

    I think its been made clear in this and other threads that getting a carved bass for 2k is like getting a car for 2k; they are usually under priced for a reason and you could easily spend more than your initial investment the first time you take it in for a repair...
  4. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I've had my bass for 15 years and I haven't even spent that much on repairs and I do take it in. If you pay attention and buy wisely and be careful with it you will probably only need a set up every few years.
    With the enconomy the way it is you can surely find something in that price range.
  5. Hmm. Interesting Damon, and a bit surprising. But what you bought for 3K in 1995 would surely be 7K now don't you think? I don't know what the others motives are but mine are to keep someone from buying a piece of junk that doesn't even sound any better than a ply. Carved certainly doesn't mean it's going to sound good. 3K probably means it isn't set up worth a damn. Set up surely matters ALOT when learning to bow don't you agree? That means a well planed fingerboard, properly set neck with good overstand and a well shaped bridge. I'm currently out there looking at instruments in the 7K range and don't find many worth spending the money on. I can't imagine things get better at 3K. I will say that I know an excellent bass that can be had for 5K but then, I'm up out of the range of the OP. I don't advocate buying a ply for anything but thumping but if that's all the cat can afford then I do recommend getting something that has a good set up and in good health. I agree that a serious player should get a carved bass if they want to study the bow, I just don't think it's really possible at 3K to find a good bass with a proper set up?
  6. Looking at the heading for the thread "carved bass in the 1500-2500 range"...I mean, what are we even talking about here?
  7. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soquel, CA
    :eyebrow: Really?
    I happen to have a laminated bass that sounds very nice under the bow. It is professionally set-up and professionally played. I'm certainly not implying that it would hold it's own against a well seasoned carved bass in an orchestra but it is much better than many of the carved basses that my luthier and teachers have heard under the bow.
    This is a rebuttal to your blanket statement that all plywood basses are sh!t (period).
  8. armybass

    armybass Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2001
    Once again, thanks for all the input. I never dreamed I would get this kind of response on what I figured was a dead horse type of question.

    Let me clarify a few things though,

    I am not a beginner nor new to the bow...I was a string bass major in college (20 years ago.... man I am old) but spent most of my time in the Army Band as an electric player and or playing EUB's.

    I am not looking to take a symphony gig or go on tour as a bass soloist. I mainly play jazz gigs and would like to do some community orchestra playing.

    I hear many of you saying that a carved bass for under $5K would be junk. I can tell you the one I had, a Joseph Weiss I purchased from Washington Music in DC, was a very good bass for the money. Was it a Juzek... no way but it seemed to be a well built instrument and I had no issues with it at all and gigged the crap out of it for most of 2005 through 2007. It served me well and I did not lose a dime when I sold it.

    I started on a 1940's King Moretone and I loved that old plywood doghouse.

    I appreciate all of the great input and much of what you all have said has given me lots of good things to think about. I am a single dad now with a 15 year old who is playing upright for the first time in his high school symphonic band. I am teaching him now and have really been enjoying getting back into the bass with him but I am not looking to go out and spend thousands of dollars on a bass for myself. I am now paying for two bass players habit... that is pricey enough :0)

    Thanks guys
  9. Well, in that case it seems that you had your answer all along. Go and buy another Joseph Weiss. You were happy with it before, you'll likely be happy with it again. When you post on a forum such as this you will get a lot of responses from professional bassist that might even find it difficult to imagine being a hobbyist on the double bass. Good luck and congratulations on having a son who is interested in pursuing the instrument. Some of these replies might be useful when he wants to upgrade in the future.
  10. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I have seen MANY very playable Chinese carved basses that were coming through Best Instrument Repair in Oakland (some hybrids were under 2k) as well as seen several students come up with decent used carved basses under 3k.
    There is the price anything is "worth" and the price people will sell for when they want it to move.
    I have NEVER heard or played a plywood bass that would be inspiring to practice daily, I have used them for gigs and even recordings that went just fine, I have played a few New Standards and other surprisingly good sounding ply basses but all the carved basses I have ever played sounded better and just as important behaved properly.
    That is my experience, which is fairly extensive. If you are enjoying your ply bass (which probably says more about your own advanced techincal ability), then great. It has just never proven to be an experience I would reccomend.

    Also, there "set ups" and "set ups", having competent luthier get the action playable and having the thing overhauled in a high-end shop like Gage's are two different things!
  11. Well, if that's the case I guess it's good news for people who want a carved bass. I'll pass that info along.
  12. Maxvla


    Nov 1, 2010
    Oklahoma City
    Oklahoma Strings
    I'd argue that setup is easier for a primarily arco player than a primarily pizz player. Most pizz jazzers and so forth really hammer their strings which makes a properly planed fingerboard and proper bridge/nut height crucial. Arco players tend to be much less fussy about these things and will play on whatever they have without complaint even if I notice it isn't how I would want it to be. Also, since the string moves much less when bowed, you can set the strings and scoop the fingerboard lower and more slight, respectively, and get away without buzzing. This makes it much easier on the fingers in terms of pain and also flying across the notes with ease. An action height where the string is just barely off the fingerboard, but still doesn't buzz is a dream to play. It's rare to be able to get it just right to have this situation, however.

    @ OP

    One other thought to put in your head... Depending on what bass your son is playing, you might want to look at this as the upgrade for him in the future. If this might be true, make sure the bass you are buying now will be a real upgrade over the bass he's currently playing. If he's already playing a $1500 bass, it might be worth your while to find a way (payment plan, saving longer, bank loan, etc) to get a bass that will make a difference.
  13. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    I've played a lot of plywood basses and owned some. They caused me a lot of frustration as a student. Obviously there are good plywood basses, but IMHO if you have a desire to advance when playing arco, it is far more likely you will progress reasonably with a decent carved bass vs. a decent laminated bass, IMHO and IME.

    IMHO, you should raise your budget and look for a good older carved instrument, or perhaps an Upton or other hybrid. I guess this is just an echo of what the other guys have said. :cool:
  14. conte2music

    conte2music Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2005
    Dobbs Ferry, NY
    A good bow and a solid, well set up plywood or hybrid may get you farther than a mediocre carved bass and a glasser.

    Hybrids can yield wonderful results...The top plate of an instrument is more important than the back.

    A Christopher from Mike Shank, a Shen from Arnold Schnitzer, or an Upton Hybrid would get you in a great place.

    It's mostly about setup and strings anyway!

    Best Wishes!
  15. Menacewarf


    Mar 9, 2007
    To make an obscure analogy I feel like a master at playing mathematical discreet poker just made a rare blatant move.
  16. Rosebud


    Jan 3, 2007
    I second Mike Shank in PA it's a bit of a drive from va but it's worth the setup.
  17. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    I vote for laminates. Hip hip hooray!
  18. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    This I'll agree with, I upgraded my bow long before I upgraded my bass!

  19. conte2music

    conte2music Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2005
    Dobbs Ferry, NY

    Mike does really wonderful setups! Also, Mike and Linda are as kind a couple as you'll ever encounter. A woman I went to college with had one of his Christopher Busetto Hybrids...it played and sounded great! I think they are in the $3,000 range.

    You and your son should take a visit to Hershey Pa. Visit Chocolate World, go to the Coco Diner, and then go bass hunting in Elizabethtown!

    The Shens seem to be a good value as well, and many fine dealers have them...Nick Lloyd, AES, Cincinnati Bass Cellar, Upton, Bob Beerman...etc
  20. I play a Thompson Hybrid that I purchased new for $2300 with shipping, setup and a realist pickup. I am very satisfied with it. You can hear and see video of other Thompson Hybrids on String Emporium's website. I made the plunge and bought it without playing it based on the return policy and was not disappointed in the least.

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