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double bass luthiery

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by olps, Apr 29, 2003.

  1. olps


    Nov 12, 2001
    HI, I'm very interested in double bass luthiery (sp?); can anyone recommend any good, informative sitesor better yet, books that have formation on building, and repairing double basses, or even stringed instruments in general? Thanks alot.
  2. There have been several discussion about bass repair books and bass building books. Here's a link to one on repair books.

    But...If you really want to learn about luthiery, you need to find a luthier that will take you under his (or her) wings and give you some hands on experience with tutoring, or enroll in one of the violin making schools. If you don't have a bass luthier available in your area, find a good violin maker and learn all you can about the smaller members of the orchestral string family. It is possible to learn it on your own, but it's a lot like trying to learn to play the double bass without a teacher. You can only go so far on your own and bad habits are hard to break.
  3. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    If you have a background in woodworking, you start off with a major advantage. My suggestion is to start off with a woodworking course at a local college or high school evening adult learning center. If nothing is available, try looking up local woodworking clubs.
  4. Dondi


    May 3, 2003
    I can't help but think that the best way to any craft would be to find a cooperative luthier that will let you observe him in some capacity. I think you have to have the smell of varnish and glue in your head to know if that might be the life for you.
  5. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I have a question for all you pro DB luthiers; do you have a background in violin/viola/cello building, or did you just jump into the DB thing? I know an old guy in Wisconsin who took it up as a hobby after retirement. His first was a DB. He followed up with a cello and some violins, and now he builds for a living, including archtop guitars and mandolins.

    It seems that there are quite a few violin making schools out there. How useful, in your opinion, would the knowledge gained from violin luthiery be in the world of bass building?
  6. I spent five years as an apprentise to a violin maker in Kansas City. The violin maker had made a couple of doublebasses in addition to many violins, violas, and cellos that had been entered in International competition. After my apprentise, I opened and operated a full service violin shop for about 10 years.

    As for violin schools, Where's Nick? I know several fine luthiers who graduated from violin schools in the USA, but I remember Nick having some less than favorable remarks bases on his experience.
  7. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Good evening, bassists and friends. It's such a lovely online moment to discuss the topic of instrument repair and construction education. But, first, let me just say


    (hello, D.A.W. ;))

    Excuse me, where was I? Yes, education. The best experience will probably be had in a private apprenticeship. This, of course, can be debated. Everything, except the laws of science, can be debated. My point is that I learned the most Practical and Professional bass luthiery from Makers and Repairers of basses. Chicago/Salt Lake/Boston have all successfully turned out trained violin family luthiers. Conversely, many shops have the same complaints about having to retrain and realign these graduates. Their quality of education has changed over the years, too.

    Some luthiers will charge money, some will not. I paid $400/month to study with Paul Hart, full time. (He's built over 420 instruments, by hand- violin, viola, cello, bass, gamba). That tuition was/is worth every penny, IMHO. If you like the work of someone, study with them. If they charge you, pay it.

    I've just received a message from my lawyer, so my time must be running out. Let me just finish, and I'll be off. Learning how to USE and sharpen hand tools is the secret to great instrument making. (cheap rent is good too) If you do find an apprenticeship possibility 1)take notes and 2)listen.
  8. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    I've heard that the violin-making schools treat the bass with disdain, or at least disinterest. I agree with Nick that the best way to learn is to first develop skills with handtools, then work with someone reputable, while also engaging in self-education. When you figure out something important on your own, it's much more powerful than being TOLD what you should do. The Weisshar book is a must. The Wake books are worth a look. Some of my most important learning has occurred through open discussions with other luthiers, especially Jeff Bollbach and Lou DiLeone. Unfortunately, we don't have the type of apprenticeship system they have in Europe, though I think that's not what it used to be. On a visit to Germany last year, Michael Krahmer (Pollmann basses) lamented to me how the graduates of a very prestigious violin-making school were unprepared for the rigors and difficulty of bass luthiery. He said they just didn't have the desire to work hard, so he was back to working alone. Then again, Mike starts work at 6 AM and goes all day like a diesel locomotive...
  9. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Hello, it's the lawyer. My sister and brother-in-law are SLC grads, and they run a violin shop in Los Angeles. Scope them at www.VitaDolceViolins.com My sister apprenticed to several violin and gamba makers and repairers over six or seven years before attending SLC. FWIW, here's what she said after reviewing this thread:

    "I disagree. School training teaches meticulous quality and good hand skills. You also see at least a few really fine instruments every year. Most importantly, you are trained to SEE. This eye training, which comes both in shop work and in the drawing/art classes, is absolutely crucial. It is somehow related to the attention to detail / obsessive (excessive) perfection, but not the same as it. Without this knowledge of the basics, you can't move on to learn what makes the old masters great. I know many (financially) successful luthiers skipped this step, but I firmly believe it is crucial.

    While my latest instruments don't look much like Salt Lake Strads, I couldn't do what I want to without that training. I could not have moved beyond that artistically without first aquiring the skill set.

    As far as building basses opposed to violins, they are constructed differently in some manners, and a bit of additional knowledge would be necessary, but it still starts with hand skills, attention to detail, and the visual training.

    Violin making school, and aquiring the tools you need, are quite pricey. Most people can't support themselves through 4 years without help. . . .

    {Lawyer-excised comments regarding personalities in SLC} but SLC offers the best education available in the US. I don't know much about overseas. There are a lot of so-so new Cremonese makers, but maybe they just need to leave Cremona and grow up."
  10. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Just "a bit of additional knowledge is necessary?" Durn, I guess studying in a 20:1 student/teacher ratio really does pay off.

    This is Talkbass. It's great to get your sister's opinion! However, if someone is going to shell out Serious Money to learn bass luthiery, why not study with a bass luthier? Is that too far out? (The art classes were useful, but so is lots of free parking.)

  11. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    No doubt attending SLC could be a great learning experience for many. Apparently not for Nick-but he's probably like me[if forced to do it through an institution we might be more likely to end up on top of a clocktower with a high powered rifle than in an office with a lot of initials after our name]Kidding!

    I suppose that it is necessary for certain occupations to require a set level of organized education. Brain surgery and airline piloting come to mind. Rules of economy are not practical in those cases- Well, he crashed two planes already-mebbe we shouldn't hire him. But it works real nice in the luthiery world. You are either good or not[or able to convince the gullible that you are]. It's also true for musicians. Can any of you players imagine a world in which someone who can really play can't get a gig because they didn't graduate college?

    Sam is great and I appreciate his sister's input but I must respectfully [she is Sam's sis] question her wording re school and absolutes. One must go to a school [vs learn one on one] to SEE? To learn the basics? I worked alongside a Chinese guy for many years who taught me most of what is now my foundation. One of the best thing I remember was learning how to make chopsticks. Wax on, wax off.
    [yes, I repair basses with chopsticks]
    This guy taught me about attention to detail, commitment, "seeing", integrity, and a whole host of other cool #%$@ because he lived it and I wanted it. And most everyone I know out there who is first and foremost committed to doin' their dead level best got there because they hooked up with one or a few people who were already on that path.

    I am not against attending a school to learn the basics of violin making. I think it is a really good idea for many. But there are other ways to skin this cat and IMHO the assumption that one must attend a school to achieve a certain level of artistic mastery is a pedantic one.
  12. I guess I have to inject one comment about the SLC school. One of their graduates was my friend Anton Krutz. Anton is the master luthier and one of the owners of KC Strings and his shop has built a bunch of very nice double basses. Granted that he also worked at a couple of very good shops (like David Gage) before he set up shop here, but I sure as hell respect his knowledge of ALL string instruments not just basses.
  13. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    what years was he there and who was the regular, day to day teacher?
  14. Sorry, but I have no idea who that was. Perhaps Sheridan can ask his boss and let us know.
  15. Interesting that you should say that just now.

    It was only last week that I was talking about a local violin shop with someone locally, I was told that the shop repaired basses, but DID things to them (with Tite-Bond super-glue, & belt-sanders) that they'd never even CONSIDER doing to a violin, because they considered basses to be unworthy of the effort they invested in violin repairs, which they do very well.

    The guy commented that they pretty much considered basses to be in the same class as kitchen chairs, and did whatever would let them get back to working on REAL instruments the quickest.

    I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard, attributing it to a simple case of running into a Random Jerk.

    I guess now I see that it's a whole strain of luthier, and not just the one... he must be a product of one of those schools you mentioned.

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