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Double barred basses

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by jtlownds, May 14, 2005.

  1. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    This post is directed at the luthiers out there. I'm sure that you have all seen the "Check out these hand made plywood basses" thread. The luthiers have been conspicuos by their absence on that thread. With all the flaming going on their, I can't say that I blame you. Arnold, Nick, etc., I don't see why parallel or x-bracing (as in arch-top guitar) would not work, replacing the sound post. Ken Smith made a statement that this was tried in the mid 1800s, but did not elaborate on what the results were. I suspect that serious bassists want a serious (traditional) bass, and are reluctant to spend serious money to purchase something else. I'm thinking that the "Medely Bass" is a crudely made piece of crap, however, I also think that a decent carved top with parallel or x-bracing might possibly work very well. Not being a luthier, I don't know. Could you guys give us your thoughts on how this might affect volume, tone or sustain? Would some other modification be necessary to make it work such as a lower neck set, or different type of bridge. I would love to see an experience luthier make one, but unfortunately it would probably be an unprofitable endeavor, so it's not likely to happen. What are your thoughts on this guys?
  2. I'm not a luthier either, so sorry, I can't add more than speculation, which goes like this:
    The 'standard' way of building string instruments with soundpost etc has been developed over centuries for their use as a bowed instrument.
    What if you designed an instrument purely for pizz? In that case, there might be something to learn from other instruments developed for pizz, ie the classic archtop jazz guitars like Gibson L5, D'Angelico etc. I'm thnking that a top carved and braced in that manner might have somethin to offer jazz & bluegrass players.
  3. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    ....wonder how the vibrations are transferred to the back?
  4. I'm thinking that you are thinking no soundpost;- but the Medleys I think do have sound posts. There is that Seitz bass also that had the two bars. I believe it also had a sound post too. But more to the point, the back gets it's vibe from the ribs flexing.
  5. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Lower neck sets exhisted in Baroque times but the were altered on Basses and Violins to get more volume for the orchestras from the late 18th century or so. Also, lower neck sets/bridge height makes it hard to bow and clear the c-bouts.

    Double Bass bars will make the top too stiff. As i mentioned eariler, that idea was not successful in England by W.Gilkes, son of Samuel according to one English authority on the subject.

    I have one Bass that is huge, extreemly tight grained top and has a shallow Bass bar of about half the height of a modern Bar. The Top is perfectly shaped with no sinkage after at least 200 years. As it is in restoration, the Luthier and I have concluded that the Bar is fine as-is and looking at the condition of the top. We will NOT fix what is not Broke! This Bass also has had all it's crass bars removed twice and now has a single X-brace from the Prescott era.. We will leave that as well since the back is in great condition in that respect.

    Guitars are not played with a Bow or meant to sound sweet like violin family instrument. It's construction is different. Remember this, the Italians that made most of the innovations along with some counterpart in Germany and that area made both Viols, Violins, Guitars, mandolins, Etc... Construction differs as necessary as we can see in the evouloution of each instrument over the centuries.
  6. Ken Smith:
    Agreed. There is a baroque guitar by Stradivari. It is made like a guitar and not a violin. Gasparo made violones that were definitely not double basses.

    An interesting innovation in the other direction made by a friend of mine was to add a soundpost to his arched mandolin. He claims it is brighter and louder as a result. Has anyone tried a sound post in an arch top guitar?
  7. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    I realize that many of the old violin makers also made guitars and mandolins, but they did not make arched top guitars and mandolins. That was done by Gibson in the early 20th centry to increase volume, and apparently worked very well. My thinking is that an x-braced table without a sound post would move the fulcrum point from the treble side of the table to the center and closer to the fingerboard, allowing the table to flex in both direction instead of just one, possibly increasing sound output. Your comment about double bars making the top too stiff make sense, but I believe that problem could be overcome with lighter bracing. I have always considered my basses to be "bass violins", but this type of construction would certainly take the instrument out of the violin family. I am surprise by the lack of response from the luthiers out there. I guess that they consider my questions too radical and unworthy of a response. :meh:

    PS - My thinking is for a pizz only bass
  8. Jim,

    I am not sure why the luthiers are not jumping to speculate about this. ;) It certainly is a fair and worthy question but would only be proven if it were tried. As these things usually go, an adventerous amateur or experimenter would get a wild idea like this and build the thing. A professional luthier would do it perhaps if the commissioner was willing to accept the outcome no matter what.

    If I were a speculating kind of guy, I would guess an x-braced top, sans post, would be punchy sounding and maybe good for pizz, but would suck for arco. The bass bar helps "spread" the resonances and dissipate high frequency partials. So two of them splayed wider than the usual bass bar would spread resonances moreso. That is all pie in the sky speculation and it is unwise to take any part of the instrument and focus attention in an attempt to understand how the bass funcitons. :meh:
  9. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    Thanks for the reply Ken, these are my thoughts exactly. There may be more mods required, such as a wider stance on the bridge feet to match the braces. With my limited knowledge of luthiery, I don't know, but am curious about a reason why it would or would not work from someone who deals with this type of thing on a daily basis. :confused:
  10. If the soundpost is eliminated the way the top vibrates could change in very consequential ways. How were the archtop Gibsons braced? Originally Orville Gibson was a violin maker. He applied the arched top, f-hole and tailpiece design to guitars and mandolins. I'm not sure how the bracing worked but I know the early ones had carved tops. Now the arched tops are laminated.
  11. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    Hi Silver,

    There are basically two types of bracing used on arched top guitars, parallel and x-bracing. Parallel bracing is similar to that on a DB except that there is one on each side (bass & treble). X-bracing consists of 2 bars extending from one side of the lower bout to the opposite side of the upper bout, crossing each other at the center of the table. This causes the vibrations of the table to occur side to side as opposed to fore and aft in flat top guitar. They are still making fully carved arch tops. I have a Heritage Sweet 16 that was made in 1997, with a carved, x-braced spruce top and carved maple back and ribs. The carved models are fairly expensive.
  12. I did a bit of research into gamba construction and it appears that at first there were horizontal braces (arched) and no sound post. The early tops were also staved. I was not able to find a definitive point on when sound posts became standard equipment on violones or bass viola da gambas, but clearly they were present by the late 16th cent. There are a few companies producing them commercially now beleive it or not. One company has festoon shaped ones with removable sound posts!

    Which bracing did Gibson use first, the parallel or the X bracing? Nice to know you can still get a carved archtop. I'm sure it was pricey. No doubt worth it too, but hey this is a DB forum.... ;)
  13. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    Every Gibson that I have ever seen had x-bracing on it. They may have made some with parallel bracing, but I have never seen one. I have seen parallel bracing on some other makes. Some of the custom luthiers such as Benedetto, or Anderson will make either type to your specs.

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