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Guess who got lucky... or...

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Chris K, Jan 7, 2021.

  1. To buy my first DB, I ordered one online at Thomann’s, the Alfred Stingl by Höfner AS-180-B, ($ 3200), which seemed a decent instrument to start with. But then, on the Hungarian online marketplace, I saw an interesting offer. The owner was an old guy who obviously needed cash, he also had a cello to offer. He lived in Szeged, once the home of the only Hungarian factory for stringed instruments until it ceased to exist in 2003.

    The guy lived on the fifth floor of an old apartment building and he asked if he could bring the bass into the stairwell because his aged parents were taking a nap. So that is where I started to check out the bass, with zero experience. It was a 3/4, 40.55”, spruce wood top, maple plywood back and sides, traditional finish, normal wear, no visible damage or repairs. The guy bought it new, 35-40 years ago from the said factory, so towards the end of the communist era. He threw in a German bow, a box of rosin, and a cloth cover and I went for it.

    The guy told me he also used to play jazz, On the Sunny Side of the Street, got a bit sentimental, and since at that moment I was holding the bass, I started the OSSS bassline, which, from my fretless BG background, I was able to produce recognizably while he scatted the melody, an unexpected jam.

    After returning home, I checked the instrument for a label, but I only saw glue spots of where it had been. In the back, I now noticed a square spot where the bass was opened up. Action is rather high, the bridge not adjustable, strings very worn from bowing. I’ll take it to a luthier. For now, I believe I’m the cow that caught a hare since also here used hybrid basses are going for much more than what I paid – which was $ 1100.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 7, 2021
  2. Some more pics:
    Ric Vice likes this.
  3. 16fuss

    16fuss Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2005
    Congratulations! Have fun with it (After setup)!
    DrMole likes this.
  4. Congrats!
    Seems to currently sport Pirastro Flexocor strings. (orchestral type string)
  5. @Francois Blais Right on the dot! Tension is very high, maybe also due to wear... Do you think the Black tungstens you mentioned, or Spirocore Weichs will have lower tension?
  6. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    And you also get a great story about how you got the bass!
  7. The Flexocors are not really higher tension.
    The bass needs a good setup first. Pay attention to the grooves at the nut.
    You should not have space for more than 1 or 2 business cards maximum.
  8. Köszönöm szépen! Dank je wel! (I'm Dutch actually...)
  9. Good point, it is 3 - 4 cards wide, thanks again!
  10. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)

    When you get it set up, ask about the tailpiece. It seems unusually short.
    Fretless55 likes this.
  11. Really? I will. What might be the downside of a short tailpiece? Looked at some pictures... distance between tailgut and tailpiece is much shorter on many basses.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2021
  12. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings

    Aug 3, 2019
    Nice bass!
  13. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    It looks like you got a good deal on a nice bass. I agree that the tailpiece appears short, but that might have been on purpose. I don't recognize that tailpiece wire/gut, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

    A luthier exam and some setup will bring it along the rest of the way to where you want it to be, but I think you're starting with something good.
    16fuss likes this.
  14. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    The tailpiece looks fine-the wire is too long.
    Ric Vice and TroyK like this.
  15. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Simple setup change. For my $, have it shortened until the afterlengths are an 11th + some number of octave above the open string, e.g. - The afterlength on the E string is a very high A, etc.
    Ric Vice likes this.
  16. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Very nice looking instrument. My first bass was a Czech 3/4 instrument that I bought second hand from a retired French Horn player in my hometown.

    It was my first carved instrument after playing on a Gotz laminate bass , that was owned by my High School. I remember that instrument fondly. The sides of you bass

    look slightly narrower than most, but that could just be something about the angle the photos were taken from. It’s in beautiful condition.
  17. Francois Blais likes this.
  18. The story continues... took my bass to Géza Fábián in Budapest, not the only Hungarian luthier, but the only one who builds double basses, so he's the specialist over here. First I picked up my new bass teacher Ádám Bögöthy, then we went to Géza's workshop to check out the bass. Both Géza and Ádám played it and they were positively surprised by its great sound. Géza noticed something strange, started measuring the bass, which turned out to be shallower than normal, yet 3/4 scale, but 'only' 40,6" from nut to bridge. "Definitely not a factory instrument", he said, "all wood". I already notice the blackened beech fingerboard when I bought the bass, but I thought it was a hybrid. Not so.

    Géza acknowledged everything said above by the guys here on TB. Sort of a clumsy repair on the tailpiece, of which the lower end was sawn off, and new holes were drilled, the wood itself looked like ash. Géza offered to save both the fingerboard and the tailpiece - great guy BTW - but I decided on replacing both with ebony and on a steel tailpiece cable. Nut and bridge will be replaced also, string length will go up to normal 3/4 length.

    The events made me curious about the bass' history, so I called Béla, the guy who sold it to me. Only now I remembered what a shortish chap he was. He told me the bass was built especially for him by Miklós Sebők, one of the directors of the factory in Szeged, see above, who was a friend of the family. Sebők was a master violin builder and he also wrote a book: "The ABC of violin-making". But he only built one single double bass, for his friend Béla, scaled down a bit to comfort him. So my bass is unique in multiple respects.

    From a bit of further research on Miklós Sebők, I got to know that it was his father who founded the factory, and Miklós and his brother István took over the management when their father died. Under the communist regime, the factory was owned by the state. They built mainly students' instruments, many of which were exported to western Europe and the USA, but also specially ordered high-end instruments. Since in communist eastern Europe ebony was very hard to get because of valuta problems, they often used beech for fingerboards. The factory anniversary book tells that Miklós was a very ambitious man, who once burned half of his face in a chemical experiment to discover a blackening process for beechwood.
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  19. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    That sounds like mostly good news and it's nice to have a bass with some history.

    I am curious, though, how will the measure (vibrating strength) be increased?
  20. If it was me, I wouldn't touch the scale.
    Yours is about 103cm, which is short of about 2cm from "true" 3/4.
    Seems negligible to me.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jan 25, 2021

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