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Help me with choices in Upright purchase

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by MtnGoat, Aug 12, 2005.


  1. MtnGoat

    MtnGoat

    May 7, 2000
    MA/NH
    Hey everybody,
    I've been playing my Azola bugbass for a while now, and still consider myself more of an electric bassist, but I'm now interested in buying a real acoustic upright bass to get the great sound of the real deal. I've heard great reviews of the fully carved Bulgarian basses available through Gollihur music as well as basses such as the Cleveland. I'd like to keep the price in the $2000 ballpark, but since $2k is no small chunk of change, I want to choose carefully and would even consider waiting and dropping $4K for a good bass if the choice seems appropriate. I play a lot of jazz and also play country, pop and other styles live and in the studio. I play only pizz at this point, but want to learn arco. I have also been doing a few sessions here and there on upright and want something that can record well. For my session work now, I rent a carved bass for $100/day, but that cuts into my earnings so owning my own bass would help. I look at this purchase as a one-time long-term purchase and would expect selling to upgrade to be a difficult process and therefore want to get the right one from the get-go. I'm in Nashville and climate is humid, although drier than some areas.
    Thanks for any help you can offer.
     
  2. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
  3. appler

    appler Guest

    Another option within your price range is Strunal. I recently bought a plywood Strunal bass from David Gage and I'm very happy with it. The ones from David's shop come with his adjustable bridge, endpin, and full, high quality setup. Great customer service as well, although I went to his shop myself since I live right in Jersey. The bass itself feels strong and well-made, and lends itself nicely to pizz and arco. Good luck with your decision, man.
     
  4. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    The Cleveland laminate would be $4k.

    I believe someone mentioned in the past that Arnold is also a Shen dealer. Give him a call.

    If you're paying $100/day to rent that savings would add up pretty quickly.
     
  5. CamMcIntyre

    CamMcIntyre

    Jun 6, 2000
    USA
    I initially came from the BG side too, and i own a cleveland.

    It is worth every penny. Rather than buying a $2k laminate and upgrading later, thankfully, my dad let us skip that step so we went straight to getting a Cleveland.

    As i learn to play with better technique-the bass starts to speak with glimpses of what tones are available when i get better. The tones i can get out of it now as an upright hack-aren't too bad either.

    Bow wise-i'm using a cheapie for now [Brazilwood French from a.h. Bob G], and would like to eventually buy a better bow. Really depends on how much i end up using it while in school....i've just learned that my technique lesson on DB will be predominatly bow based so here's to getting my head handed to me.

    That's all
     
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    If you only have $2000 to spend and you want a bass you can record with easily that won't break the bank, then I think there's only one choice in that price range...an Upton Hawkes laminate. I'm by no means an expert as I just started playing seriously 5 months ago, but I was in the same boat as you...wanting a good recording bass that didn't break the bank, and $2000 was my budget, too.

    I've played a lot of basses since I got the Upton, from Kays to Engelhardts to Shens to cheap Chinese basses, and none of the basses in its price range sounds as good as mine, and it sounds better than even some of the low-end fully carved basses I've tried. It records extremely well, too. Definitely the choice to make if you don't want to spend $4000 on an entry level carved bass and still want great tone on sessions. $1650 with a full setup done your way and bridge adjusters installed. Get a Revolution Solo pickup while you're at it. You might not want to record with it but it's great for live work, and you just might want to record with it.

    I don't know if I'd want a $4000 carved bass, to be quite honest. I haven't been the least bit blown away by the carved basses in that price range that I've played, though I did kind of like the Upton Media Fino hybrid which is $2500. Forgive me for shilling so hard for Upton, but the more I play other basses, the more I like my Hawkes.
     
  7. Eric Rene Roy

    Eric Rene Roy Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    Mystic, CT
    Vice President: Upton Bass String Instrument Co.
    Jimmy, wuddua doin' up at 2am!!!
     
  8. MtnGoat

    MtnGoat

    May 7, 2000
    MA/NH
    Thanks everybody for the helpful information. I guess I need to get out there and try some basses and see what suits me. The last bass I rented was a Voit & Geiger bass with 42.5" scale--larger than I want to go, but it had a nice focused sound.
     
  9. Hey Goat,

    I see you are in Nashville. Have you been to Dustin Williams' shop? He carries Shen and Johannes Kohr--both very good and very affordable instruments. Plus, Dustin and Jeremy are excellent guys to work with.

    His shop on near Music Rowon 16th street.
     
  10. MtnGoat

    MtnGoat

    May 7, 2000
    MA/NH
    Hi Steve,
    I haven't been there yet but spoke with him on the phone a week or so ago. I'm going to pop in there tomorrow before some biz I have to take care of on 'the row.' I'll let you know what I find.
    RK
     
  11. MtnGoat

    MtnGoat

    May 7, 2000
    MA/NH
    by the way,
    has anybody out there had a chance to compare the fully carved bulgarian bass (available through Bob G) to some of the others mentioned in this thread--Shen, Upton, Cleveland? In general, how does an inexpensive fully carved bass match up to a great laminated bass?
     
  12. I've had my Bulgarian Bass (Gollihur Music) for about 3 months now. I love it. I'm looking forward to using it in a studio. Sorry, I can't compare it to the AES Cleveland or the Shens. I think it is better than the Chris hybrids structurally and at least equal in sound. I really can't imagine a plywood topped instrument having a sound anywhere close to one of these. Maybe it's my Missouri heritage, but you really would have to show me that. Locally, I know one jazz player with an older Hungarian carved bass that sounds better, but most of the jazz players are somewhat envious because they obviously spent a lot more and bought a lot less. :smug: I haven't been able to get it in front of a local Symphony player yet, but I'm working on it.

    Before I purchased one of these I had the good fortune to locate one of Bob's customers in Savannah, Ga. I have kept up with the fellow for about 3 years now. He really likes his Bulgarian Bass and uses it for everything from Symphony to Blue Grass. Even after seeing his on a few occaisions I was still pleasantly stunned when I opened my shipping crate. These basses are simply incredible for the price. Plain straight grain materials can sound and look simply wonderful. If you are pursuing arco, these have a rich arco tone that seems to immediately begin to improve and open. The sound possibilities far exceed what was possible on the plywood. While I think these basses are great loud basses for jazz (really good sustain and bloom), they are obviously built with orchestra sound in mind. It is under the bow that I really love this bass, but I've been developing a severe and unpredicted case of bow bias, ever since I started on DB.

    But, I digress, as usual. I bought this bass as a long term investment and I think it will be mine for a long, long time. The sound is sound and so is the construction. It meets and possibly exceeds my foreseeable DB needs and wants. Great bass, great price. Tough to go wrong here. :)
     
  13. PB+J

    PB+J

    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    What makes a good bass? I don't know. I'm auditioning basses right now. I have a plywood englehardt which was refinished. After four years of playing it, I've got it sounding good--the right strings for the bass and for my style. But I've also gotten more and more bugged by its limitations. It takes a lot of work to get a good tone. The neck's too thin. The endpin rattles. I'm looking for a new bass, but I'm never going to be a full time pro and how much dough can I realistically justify?

    I went to a local bass dealer who is also the principle bassist of the National Philharmonic orchestra. His main bass, the bass he loves like a child, is over two hundred years old, but it's also a mess--it was obviously made by an amatuer--the f holes aren't symetrical--and it had at some point been cut down from a much bigger cello shape to have sloping shoulders. It has a replacement neck. He got it from his teacher, who was principal bassist with the Pittsburgh symphony and who used it for years. He loves this bass and when he played it it sounded absolutely gorgeous.

    So the point is there's a high degree of randomness in this. IMHO, there's no reason why a ply bass can't sound great--the top is only a piece of vibrating material after all.

    That being said, the carved Eastman I'm auditioning at the moment, a 305, is way way easier to play than my engle--the neck is more comfotable, but it just sounds easier. It's less work to get a good tone. The same shop has a Shen willow back bass that sounded really remarkable, just beautiful, much better than the eastman. Why? I don't know. I suspect the more you pay, the more likely you are to get a great bass, because the maker has paid more attention, but you can also get a gem for cheap, and you can learn how to make a bass "speak." Chris Minh Doky, a player who IMHO gets a great tone, plays a more or less generic wilfer. Ron Carter plays a Juzek, etc.

    I'll bet those clevelands sound great--personally, I'm not willing to shell out that kind of dough without hearing the bass in person. But then I think it's also true that a well made bass, that produces an even, pleasant tone, can become a great bass if you learn to make it speak your way

    Just my opinion, from a once a week local gigger. There are way more experienced and better players here than me
     
  14. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    I played the Bulgarian bass last week, strung with Obligatos, and had a chance to compare it with my La Scala Hybrid, which is strung with Animas. It played very nicely, nice fingerboard, though it has an E string buzz that the owner needs to address. It feels heavy compared to my bass, which admittedly is a feather. The volume I was able to get out of the Kremona was about 2/3 (at best) of that available to me from the La Scala, and wasn't as rich and refined.

    This is a pretty nice bass for the bucks, I think. Maybe some soundpost work could get it to speak a little louder. Probably a varnish finish wouldn't hurt either; it sounds kinda shrink-wrapped in that shiny coat.
     
  15. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004

    Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto-- except that I started playing 35 years ago. Does that make me an expert? Well, maybe. Also, I have an Upton fully carved model and had an Upton hybrid before that.
     
  16. dfp

    dfp Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2004
    USA
    pointing this out for the benefit of whoever is shopping around and may not know much about strings and basses, comparing one bass strung with Obligatos and another bass strung with Animas is not a fair fight! Animas are loud, wonderful sounding strings. Obligatos are famous for being versatile and easy on the fingers, not loud.
     
  17. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    That is so true! :smug: I meant to point that out in my original post, but forgot. However, I did get a fair amount of volume out of my bass with Obligatos, which I used immediately before seeing the light and installing the Animas.
     
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    LOL...actually I was trying to stir up the courage to go to the airport and fly an earlybird to Philly for a gig at Hershey Park yesterday. I'm a white knuckle flyer and I only do it because driving from Florida to Hershey is worse and more scary.
     
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I have never played Bob's Bulgarian carved basses so I can't comment on their quality, but I've played Thoma and Scherl and Rose fully carved basses and was underwhelmed by their sound quality. I would take a hi-quality ply bass any day over them.
     
  20. jmpiwonka

    jmpiwonka

    Jun 11, 2002
    does anyone have any experience with gliga basses?
    i'm going to be in the market for a carved bass soon and i'm basically thinking a shen or looking for an old german or czech shop bass, perhaps a gliga if i can find something out, i think the shop that carries them around here have to order the gligas.

    so, any experience with gliga basses, thanks.