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Is it wrong to use a blonde bass in an orchestra?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by stephen3547, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. I was told it would stand out too much, but if it is a good bass I don't think that would be a big enough reason to be turned down
  2. Hapa


    Apr 21, 2011
    Tustin, CA
    Unless you are a soloist....bassist... in an Orchestra you are part of a larger part typically not centered on bass. Who told you that it would stand out to much? What chair are you? how long have you been a member of the orchestra? Is this a professional group or are you in School?

    I wouldn't. If it makes one more person more comfortable in the group to have a more professional appearance attitude then its just that easy. If it is ruffling the feathers of a second chair with confidence issues then ask other members of the orchestra...
  3. I am in school and hoping to join an orchestra in the next few months.

    I emailed bassviolinshop.com regarding a blonde bass and the person replying said that while they aren't a classical player and they aren't experienced with orchestras, they're assuming it wouldn't work well. So I don't really see why the finish would be a big concern or make anyone uncomfortable.

    Would getting a blonde bass hurt my chances of being accepted into an orchestra in the future? I really like the blonde ones but I don't want to end up having to drop the cash on a new bass just because of the color before it's really time to get a new one
  4. Hapa


    Apr 21, 2011
    Tustin, CA
    I am experienced with orchestras, and I would not recommend it. Auditions can be brutal and generally I wouldn't give the judge's any reason to take off points. If it sounds different but looks the same then it is more likely for them to interpret as your tone. If it is something that looks different and sounds different and you do not have a "normal" instrument then that may just be enough for them to move on to the next person. Having one as an alternate is a great idea and may even benefit you. But professionally speaking you need to look the part for the main gig. In your own head when you imagine an orchestra chamber... Do you see amber, black, brass, and nickel? Do you see a blonde bass... as classical? If you were hired to be in a quintet at a high end country club would you bring something that made you stand out? Is that the point?
    I think that once you are hired, then ask the director, then spend the money. I have known MD's to suspend players because of poor quality instruments.

  5. Thank you very much. Looks like my next bass will be a brown one! I'll own a blonde one day, haha
  6. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    If you are going to do it then go all out. Slap a pinup girl sticker on it and some dice hanging from the scroll! ;)

    But seriously, sounds like you might be best off going along to get along and buy a more traditional colored bass. I once brought a BC Rich Warlock to a country band audition for a joke. You should have seen the looks on those guys faces when I pulled it out. After an awkward silent moment I told them I was just kidding and went out to the car and got my Jazz bass.

  7. Are there stereotypes associated with blonde basses?
    I'm totally aware of stereotypes associated with certain electrics, just not uprights. That story is hilarious!
  8. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
  9. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    it wouldn't bother me if one section member had a blonde. i dont think generally it would matter, sound is priority. but if the musical director does insist on a uniform look, well, a blonde bass among a bunch of dark colored bass will look a bit funny i suppose.

    since it "could" be an issue to some, i'd avoid it, but at the end of the day its your bass and your choice.
  10. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    Sterotypes? Hmmmm......so a blonde bass and a brown bass walk into a bar..............

    I can't speak for anyone else but when I see a blond bass I think Rockabilly. Negative or not is in the eye of the beholder. Some of the blonde basses out there seem pretty bright. I can see where they might be visually undesirable against a backdrop of brown instruments and dark clothing. Also might not be easy to find a decent selection in a hybrid or carved, almost all of the blondes I see are ply.
  11. One of my clients, who is both a classical and a jazz player, owns the only doublebass ever made by Sylvio de Lellis, an Italian luthier working for the 1970's in Montreal and mostly making smaller instruments and doing repairs. A Toronto Symphony bassist commissioned Sylvio in the late 1970's to make him this doublebass. It's a 7/8ths instrument, really grand proportions and beautifully finished, with a big bottom sound. Unfortunately I seem to have forgotten to take a full picture of it, but here's the upper back/neck heel to give an idea of the workmanship and the colour. It's basically apple juice yellow (to put it politely), though it's lovely workmanship. The owner used it for two seasons in the TSO. Then he was approached by the director, who basically spelled it out; it's you or that yellow bass, but one or the other has got to go. This was in around 1980 or 81, and that's all I really know of the details. Current owner is the lucky recipient of this hostility towards this one particular yellow-blonde bass. Got it for a great price.

    Funny thing though. One of the longest standing bassists currently in the Vancouver Symphony has a very fine French bass from the mid to late 19th century, which is quite blonde indeed. Sounds amazing. And he's always used this bass, since Julliard. Go figure. From what I understand the TSO bassist was a fellow of fantastic reputation, as is the VSO player I reference. So logic doesn't seem to play a role, nor is it a consistent sort of thing. But to play it safe, if that's you're aim, I'd recommend a mid to dark red-brown.

    Attached Files:

  12. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Somebody let me know when Edgar Meyer's bass comes on the market.


    Attached Files:

  13. eh_train

    eh_train Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Terrible shame, another blonde bass:

    Mr. Posta's 'Singing Grancino', built around 1600.

    It looks a little dark in this jpg. I have the 12" lp, and it's pretty blonde...

    Paul (Eh_train)

    Attached Files:

  14. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    It used to be that lighter coloured instruments were a symbol of quality, as luthiers would use darker finishes to cover up wood that wasn't "perfect" or had some sort of minor blemish.

    The bass Ali Yazdanfar brought to Orford was pretty blond, and it's his orchestral bass. then again, there's "blonde", then there's a Kay "blonde" swingmaster that's almost white.
  15. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Maybe "amber" is a more apt word to describe the color of the basses posted in this here thread.
  16. pgolliher


    Apr 27, 2010
    Santa Cruz, CA
    I had a Kay blond back in the day and I caught grief for playing jazz with it from some people. Peoria can be funny that way. I would assume using one in an orchestra would be like being the only guy rocking a white tuxedo...
  17. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    The "Andreas Morelli" basses built by Karl Hermann's shop often came with antiqued amber-blonde finishes to show of the beautifully flame figured maple that he used. I don't think that I have ever heard of a player being thrown out of an orchestra for using one. There is always a first time, I guess...
  18. I really wish you had left off the "Bass" in your title. We would all have understood and got a laugh in the bargain.
  19. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I have heard on a couple of occasions from people that some varnishes tend to darken with rosin, time, sunlight, and other factors. I seem to remember some going as far as to say that most of the old instruments with really dark varnishes didn't start out that way, time has just taken it's toll. Is this an old wives tale or am I "right"?

    Some basses (and bows) are intentionally darker coloured, and were intended to be that way. The English bow makers used to use iron filings in Nitric acid to darken the wood, which is why a lot of old Hill bows are almost black. The darker=older=better paradigm is often applied to bows as well as instruments. There are exceptions, and as previously mentioned, sometimes darker varnish was used to mask wood quality, irregular grain etc.

    As for whether or not it should matter in an orchestra, it really shouldn't. As long as your sound is good enough for that orchestra, what instrument you play shouldn't really matter. Legend has it the late Tom Monohan won an audition on a plywood bass that he had covered in black shoe polish to trick the panel into thinking it was a good instrument. On the flip side, some orchestras actually provide basses.

    Don't give an orchestra a reason not to hire you.

    Many modern instruments are lighter coloured because modern makers have access to some really amazing wood and it would be a shame to cover it with dark varnish. Some orchestras are considerably more conservative when it comes to the look they are trying to present to their audience, and only want "dark old instruments". If possible go to a concert or at the very least dig through some of their promotional material. Have a look at the bass section, the rest of the string section and the brass section as well. Some orchestras require their entire brass section to use gold or silver instruments, some have a mix. If they have very uniform coloured instruments, this might be important to that orchestra. If not, they don't loose too much sleep over it.

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