Doing my homework for first DB purchase...

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by wheat, Nov 18, 2005.

  1. wheat


    Oct 30, 2005
    I've played electric bass for 20 years, but I'm finally ready to try out upright. Outside of playing a few in shops, I don't have any experience with them. I also play fretless electric bass (for the last five years or so), but I know there's a world of difference between upright bass and fretless electric. I want an upright primarily for playing jazz but I'll probably also use it for rock/bluegrass gigs.

    So I've been reading through all the newbie-wants-a-DB threads here at TalkBass. I appreciate all the advice I've seen here in a few weeks of lurking. I'd like to spend somewhere between $1.5K and $2.5K (including shipping and setup). I haven't yet found any shops here in Charleston, SC that cary uprights. So this will most likely be a mail order purchase. I have found some dealers in Georgia ( and North Carolina ( and I may be willing to drive (6-7 hours from here) to check out some basses (Ronald Sachs, above, carries a full line of Shen and Christopher. So that's probably worth the drive for me).

    Here are the lower end plywood/laminate basses I've seen reccomended here. I realize that there's variety and that buy by brand/model doesn't work as well for DBs as for electric basses, but I may not get to play one before hand, so I may have to put more confidence in brand than I would like:

    Christopher 200 series ($1850 from
    Upton Hawkes model ($1700 from
    Upton Medio Fino model ($1700 from
    Samuel Shen SB100 model ($1950 list at
    Englehardt ES1 Supreme model ($1759 from

    I'm just looking for any additional advice/opinions on these bases or others in the same price range (spending $5K-$10K on a bass is not an option for me). Also, does anyone know of decent shops close to Charleston where I might try some out? Finally, is anyone familiar with the shops I've listed?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Welcome wheat. The guys will probably start chiming in soon about all the research you've done. Sounds like you're on the right track. Don't forget that there is the possibility of renting a bass too. I kinda wish I started doing that first before I bought my first bass. Not so much because I wasn't sure about playing DB, but simply cuz I had no experience with DB's in general. Makes the time when you actually shop for a bass for real more valuable. Second thing is, don't be in a hurry to get a DB. Play as many as you can.

    And oh yeah, Find a teacher. Not just for learning the darn thing, but also helping you pick out one and another source of opinions.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Columbia SC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    How bout spending $3K? There are a couple of Ahnoldt's und Vill's New Standard Clevelands for sale on this site. They are GREAT basses, just search CLEVELAND or LA SCALA and you'll find that the owners absolutley love them.
  4. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Darn! For $2.5k you can have one of Upton's hybrids. That price includes their great setup. Options abound.
  5. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    If I were going to buy from that list, my choice would be Upton.
  6. fish slapper

    fish slapper

    Nov 17, 2005
    Newberg, OR
    Hey Wheat;

    I'm only a couple of months ahead of you in the DB world. As a fellow noob I defer to the advice of the old hands but wanted to give a nod to the notion of renting. I, like you, have over 20 years of electric bass experience but I can verify that the DB is a whole different animal. Just the larger scale will put things in a whole new light.

    Anyway, I was looking around to purchase having only the advice on the neewbie threads here (which if you haven't read, I also highly recommend). I happened on the idea of rental and let my fingers do the walking (Google, not the yellow pages) and found two shops in Portland (not exactly a huge metropolis). Fortunatly, we have Pete's Bass Shop here in Portland which is everything you need in DB. I'm sure you can find something similar in your neck of the woods. Here is a comprehensive listing of almost every DB business in the US:

    Renting has been great in that it has allowed me to get my feet wet and learn the instrument before dropping the comparitive big bucks. When I am ready, I feel I'll be making a more educated decision.

    Oh, and by the way, get a teacher. Best advice on here from the vets.

    Good Luck! The DB is harder than I thought but also very addictive.
  7. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Inactive Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I didn't see much talk about a Bow. Don't go too cheap there either or you will need to add ear plugs to the list. You can buy a better Bow and keep it as you upgrade to better Basses. It will make a world of differences.
  8. Ben Joella

    Ben Joella

    May 31, 2004
    Boca Raton, FL
    Dito to that. Good luck!
  9. Of your list, I think the Uptons and Shens are a better choice than the Engle. I can't speak about the Chris. One of the site you listed had pretty good prices for the Shens (I believe the prices included setup).

    My experiences with rentals have been pretty terrible - some of the instruments were good, but in poor shape and very poorly setup. The end result is that they were not enjoyable to play, especially not for someone new to DB.

    But if you rent through a real bass or string shop, you might be OK, since hopefully they will have spent the time to do a decent setup.

    The bows that are getting such good reviews through Bob's site, would be a very wise choice.
  10. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
  11. jlilley


    Aug 28, 2005
    Mill Creek, WA
    The other upside to renting is that a lot of place will apply your first years rent to a purchase. In the case of the Bass Church in Seattle they apply your first full years rent to purchase and 50% of the second. They also offer full trade in value if you decide to upgrade. I don't know what you can find in your neck of the woods...but renting can be a great way to get your feel wet.
  12. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    I went through a similar process this year and got my first URB in August.

    Good luck in finding a luthier closer to home. I traveled three hours to get to Bob Beerman's shop in Greensboro, NC (which you mentioned as a possibility). It is a much longer drive for you, but I'll put in a good word for his service and the quality of his work. I was ordering a lefty Christopher (Shen doesn't do lefties). It took a long time to get it, but he was up front about everything and communicated quickly by email or phone. When I got the bass he had done a very good setup. My teacher and other bassists I have shown it to are very complementary, and I'm pleased with both playability and sound.

    I considered the mail-order options (Upton the most obvious) and decided that establishing a relationship with a luthier outweighed other considerations. Of course, a 6 hour drive to and from Greensboro is a pretty big drawback. Good luck.
  13. wheat


    Oct 30, 2005
    Thanks to everyone so far who has posted to help me out on this decision. I appreciate the advice and appreciate your kindness toward a DB noob like me. :)

    $99 for a bow that doesn't suck sounds like a deal to me. So thanks, DRUB for posting that (and Ken for reminding me of the importance of budgeting one in). I am tempted by hybrids in general. But I don't know if I can squeeze out the extra cash to manage that right now. Maybe my next DB will be a nice hybrid. This first one will probably be a ply, since I also need some extras (soft case, pickup, bow, shipping if I don't take the road trip option).

    I'm glad to get some feedback on the shop in NC. I've heard very good things about Upton. But I really would like to get my hands on the bass I hope to purchase, if at all possible. When you average it all in, I suppose driving my Explorer (read: big enough to haul an upright) to NC and back won't be any cheaper than paying shipping from Upton. But I'll have to decide what's the best option. I'll need to get in touch with both shops and see what sort of inventory they have before I jump in the truck with my Rand McNally.

    Thanks again and if anyone else has thoughts, please jump in.

  14. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Maybe not. I don't know what your sales tax is in NC but generally, if you purchase from out of state and have the item shipped, you can usually avoid the state sales tax (which could add up depending on the price and your state's rate). Check into it.
  15. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes!

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    Plus, Upton is advertising free shipping during the holidays. I haven't called for the specifics, but it sure has me thinking too. Can't wait for the Shens to get set up too. Dern!
  16. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Inactive Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    From what you have posted, Upton seems to be your best choice. I do not have any dealings with them but have heard nothing but good. It looks from what's posted here that you can get the Bass and Bow "Delivered" for $1,799 and with a few extras to meet your 2k budget.
    I love Arnolds Basses as he is also my Personal Luthier of choice and also own 2 upper end Shens and know the entier Shen Staff as well as Sam personally. Your numbers though seem best off with the Upton Bass/Bow signed, sealed and delevered.. Oh, and set-up as
  17. wheat


    Oct 30, 2005
    Thanks again everyone. Thanks jmain for pointing out that free shipping deal at Upton. With Ken's nod of approval, that pretty much seals it. I didn't think I'd be able to get this done for less than $2K. I just need to call Upton and see how long the shipping lasts.

    So if I'm going for an upton ply bass, is there any appreciable difference between the two models they have for $1700?. For that price, they have the Hawkes model:

    They also have the Medio Fino model:

    I've read the descriptions. The photos look identical, really. One may be a little more red than the other (I'm a fan of the darker ones, actually). All I can tell from the descriptions is that the Medio has a slightly smaller upper body, which might be good for me, as I'm only 5'8". Then again the shots of the Hawkes look really nice, too.

    You've all been great helping me out with this research. I thank you again. And if I don't post again before the end of the week, have a happy turkey day.

  18. wheat


    Oct 30, 2005
  19. Dad Bass

    Dad Bass

    Jun 22, 2005
    New Jersey, USA
    Upton is showing free shipping for basses purchased during the holidays!

    That's a difference.
  20. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Inactive Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    The Hawkes should have a bigger and deeper sound but may not be best for you. The Smaller Bass may have a quicker and clearer sound and be easier to amplify and play seeing that you are a beginner as well. Consult Upton about this. I believe they will not mislead you givin they have all the facts.