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Double basses and extreme cold?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by thrash_jazz, Jan 20, 2003.

  1. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Hi everyone,

    It has gotten extremely cold here in the past couple of weeks - generally between -20 and -30 C(about -4 to -22 F). I have wanted to bring my DB out to play, but I am afraid that it may be damaged by the cold (not playing outside, but in transit). Am I worrying too much?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Of course there is always that danger of getting a crack or such when taking an instrument from one temperature extreme to the other, but most of us have had to do it at one time or another. If you have a good heavy padded case and prewarm the vehicle before you put the bass in, you probably won't have any problems. Naturally, the least amount of time the bass spends in the exteme cold, the better it will be.
  3. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    i take my upright out on gigs at least once a week.

    I make sure that it is in the case, in the house, for 30 min or so before i take it to the car, which is running.. when i get to the gig i unzip the bag about halfway and let it breathe for 15 -20 mins, then i take it out and tune it up.

    This may sound neurotic but it gives me some sense of comfort. That and the fact that i do not want another nasty crack on my 10k bass !
  4. Sometimes I need to bring my bass to work for me for an evening gig or practice. If it's cold, I generally pre-heat the car, and bring it inside with me while I work.
  5. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Thanks for the responses!

    Therein lies the problem - I don't have a car! :eek: I take the bus or walk to venues, so I'm usually out there for 10-20 minutes. My bass is a four-year-old plywood. Do you folks think this would be safe?

    Thanks again!
  6. Plywood basses seldom have serious damage caused by temperature changes. You are probably more likely to have damage from getting on and off the bus.

    However, to be safe, A good heavy padded case will act as an insulator and help the bass from being subjected to that sudden, drastic change in temp. It isn't the temperature itself that is the problem, it is the rapid change (in the humidity too) that causes problems. When you get to your desination, leave it in the case a while so it can gradually readjust to normal room temperature before taking it out to play.
  7. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Living here in Winnipeg, I can relate to this one.

    20 minutes waiting for the bus at -25C (with a windchill) is enough to get it good and bloody cold. I can imagine a gig on the other end in a hot and steamy little place, too.

    If you want to play, you need to get there. So, the temperature shock -- maybe humidity shock -- is part of the ball game. All I can say is try and get there early to let things warm up as slowly as you can before you start doing your thang.

    The plywood should be fine, but at these temps you might have finish problems (cracking, etc.)

    Those strings can get cold! I once played a January sleddog race (don't ask...) on EB. Wore light fleece gloves, didn't bother cutting off the finger tips. A bit muffled and fumbly, but I got through the gig.

    Stay warm, fellow northerner.
  8. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Adam M?

    I live in Ottawa too and in fact I also study with John Geggie...

    I take my carved bass to and from gigs, lessons, rehearsals, etc. Having a thick padded bag is a big help and make sure it is completely sealed up including around the endpin. As others have said, preheat your car - oh that's right you don't have a car...

    I don't think I would stand outside in the cold with a carved bass for ten to twenty minutes. Your plywood should probably be fine though. I hope you don't play on gut strings...

    Good luck.

  9. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    Indeed! I think we met once before actually, at John's studio. Are you playing with any groups right now? If so, I'll try to come and check them out!

    Thanks very much for your help guys. There's a jam night tomorrow, perhaps I will bring the DB out.

    Have a nice day :)
  10. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    just a side note here...
    for those of you who use dampits to deal with the dry, winter months- WRING! make sure the sponge is as dry as you can- wring it out. a moist dampit is Very Bad. little drips of water can cause all sorts of problems. and, you won't see them appear until it's too late. kinda like the Borg.
  11. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Revive zombie thread. How cold is too cold to have a carved bass out in the elements for 20-30 minutes? I am trying to figure out my threshold for using the bass trailer.

  12. Well, depends on temperature, bass (carved or laminate), thickness of upholstery, time and driving speed.

    I wouldn't care much if it is fully laminated.

    I wouldn't like to take my carved bass out below 4°C and not longer than 15 to 20 minutes at that temperature (rather thin upholstery, about 1.5 cm).
    Driving speed: medium. Might be able to go 2km away from home.

    I wouldn't care above 10°C if there is some time (half an hour to an hour) to warm up the bass before unpacking.

    But this is what I would do, not what I have done.
  13. Badener


    Sep 10, 2012
    "Those strings can get cold!" They also contract when they become colder and put more tension on the already by low temperature and low humidity stressed instrument. So always loosen the strings a little before the instrument is exposed to cold weather.
  14. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I really don't believe the cold temperature itself poses too much harm to your bass or anything on it. The wood's fine with cold. The finishes commonly used on basses are flexible and don't get brittle. The strings get cold but I don't believe the cold's a big factor with them. I have to say I don't know whether hide glue's characteristics change in very cold weather. I doubt it, but I don't know from experience or learning.

    Plastic is a poor performer in cold weather. It gets brittle and breaks. Anything plastic, especially a hard plastic, is not something to be relied on in cold weather. So, for example, the plastic on your mic stands and mic clips is exactly the stuff that gets brittle and breaks.

    As always, your enemy is humidity -- more specifically, rapid changes from one humidity regime to another. After reading my respons from 9 years ago, I still believe that you have to watch taking a very cold bass into a very warm, steamy little club. That could be challenging from a moisture and condensation perspective. In that situation I think it's good to find a way to mitigate the rapid change.

    BTW, living here in Winnipeg, I really don't view anything warmer than -20 degrees C as "cold". That's just chilly. Less than -20 is actually cold; you have to work at keeping warm when it's less than -20. Once you get less than -35 or so, a lot of materials start acting different. -40 (the point at which the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales are equivalent, BTW) is a real cutoff point for things like operating vehicles and machinery and the like -- things start to happen, stuff breaks, stuff stops working.

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