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J. I. Strings bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by YosemiteSam, Mar 4, 2016.


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  1. YosemiteSam

    YosemiteSam

    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    I'm currently renting a J. I. Strings 3/4 upright. I can find no information about these basses online, the only current references to the name are advertising bows. Does anyone here know anything about them? American? Chinese import, just using the name?

    That said, I cannot find any confirming identify information on this bass whatsoever. No label inside, nothing on the back of the headstock, nothing embossed into the tuner plates. The only indication I have that it's a "J.I. Strings" bass is what it says on my rental contract. For all I know they could have gotten this info off the bow (which I didn't check).

    Here's a pic:

    20150905_103724_zpsauegcr8s.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    A quick search brought me here, to the J. I. Strings site. You'll see that they offer basses. All this and the picture suggests that they are importers of rather low-level Chinese offerings. From where are you renting?

    Try Googling "J. I. Violins" and "Ji Brothers violins".
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2016
  3. YosemiteSam

    YosemiteSam

    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    I think I found that site myself, but it had so little info I blew right past it. It can be difficult tracking down information about older instruments because names change, are co-opted by (or sold to) an off shore interest, the product shares the same name as a shop that has nothing to do with them, etc. Especially when you're a newbie like me and don't know who's who among the makers.

    It looks like if it were a "J.I. Violins" or "J.I. Brothers Violins" product I would be a very lucky man.

    I suspect it is a Chinese bass, I was just wondering if anyone if anyone was familiar with the marque.

    Rented from Gracewinds Music, Corvallis, OR. They do a lot of rentals into the school programs and such.
     
  4. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    It basically is a J.I. Violins product, given that J.I. Strings is their new name. I didn't see anything all that impressive in all the violin hype. Even companies that do deal in nice overseas hand-made instruments often have various lines that span a wide range of quality. In the double bass world, J.I. Strings is not an importer of any special repute.

    Depending on how long you've been renting, if you know you want to stick with it, then you'd be well served by looking to purchase, at the least, an entry-level instrument from one of the makers often recommended here that are known to offer decent instruments at good prices.
     
  5. YosemiteSam

    YosemiteSam

    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    I inferred that JI (Brothers) Violins were old marques that made their own, and that J.I. Strings was an importer, a sort of evolution of the name, but I could be sadly mistaken.

    Yeah, that's exactly it. I'm trying to decide if I'm going to continue renting this one, or if I want to cut my losses, return it, and start saving up for a nicer one. Decisions, decisions.

    -- Sam
     
  6. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    If they made their own, it sure wasn't in the USA. :)
     
  7. mojoluthier

    mojoluthier

    Feb 17, 2007
    Petaluma, CA
    A while back the Family (mom/dad/son) visited my shop and I did acquire a few instruments from them. I had never heard of them, but was quite charmed. They seemed unpretentious, and the instruments looked mainstream enough to expect to be able to sell them. They were into trading and took away a genuine if mediocre early 1800's fiddle as an example of a finish to emulate. For that I got two basses (laminated, hybrid) and two violins ( both solid, a 1 and a 3 on a scale of 5). All of these instruments were better than I'd expect for their price range, and I sold all but the better violin in a couple of months. I still have the violin, and am unwilling to sell it too cheap as it is one of my favorites of the 30 I have.

    This company is far from slick, which hurts them in our world of Marketing and Sales, but have solid product and are the kind of genuine people I like to deal with. They make their own stuff, unlike so many others.
     
  8. YosemiteSam

    YosemiteSam

    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    I wrote the company (J.I. Strings) based on the "Contact Us" link on their page.

    I got a nice response indicating that my bass is indeed a Chinese product, one that they're quite proud of as a beginner's instrument. The maker is "J. Neumann", it's a Student Series, but he couldn't give me the model number just looking at the pic.

    After focusing on what I like about it my opinion of it is getting better. It has taught me to play the upright, for one thing. No, it isn't a top line model, but I'm a beginner. I find it relatively easy to play, and the sound is decent. I think I'll pay out the rental contract and keep this one a while.
     
  9. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    To each his own and glad you're happy. Before finalizing the decision, it would be a good idea to play entry-level basses that are discussed here often.
     
  10. YosemiteSam

    YosemiteSam

    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    I'd love to. I'd also love to find a payment plan that would help me get into one as easily as the one I'm currently on. We'll see what happens.

    Turns out there's a Shen dealer (a luthier) in Eugene, and a couple in Portland. There's also a Eastman VB90 waiting to be set up in a local shop.

    -- Sam
     
  11. Quote: "Rented from Gracewinds Music, Corvallis, OR. They do a lot of rentals into the school programs and such."

    A little off topic, but I was in Gracewinds Music last weekend. It's a really nice independent music store with a great selection of almost everything. They even had a bass banjo!

    Upstairs, there was a no-name upright bass, with at least a carved top for $2000. It needed some set-up work, but it played pretty nice for the price. But someone had drilled (!) cheater marks into the side of the fingerboard. That alone is bad enough, but the marks were in the Wrong Locations! It made the bass almost impossible for me to play, except with my eyes closed. I'm not sure if that could be fixed, or if a totally new fingerboard would be needed.

    I also played an acoustic bass guitar at the store, and all the staff pretty much ignored me. Then I found the bass banjo and started playing "Muskrat Ramble" (it seemed appropriate for a bass banjo). Wow! what a kick that was! It was really loud, and had a pretty interesting sound. It called in two different salesmen within a couple of minutes, after they had been ignoring me for the past 45 minutes. But almost $1000 for a novelty instrument (albeit well-made) is a bit rich for me…

    Another aside, Corvallis is such a beautiful town. And there are 4 pretty good music stores within an 8-block area downtown. In three different stores, I found a total of 3 almost playable upright bases (plus a few more that really weren't so playable), which is infinitely (X3) more than I found in a tour of all the music stores in central San Francisco a few years ago.
     
  12. YosemiteSam

    YosemiteSam

    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    Thanks for the reply! Just out of curiosity, where did you see the 3rd bass? You likely saw the King in Fingerboard Extension, as well has that consigned $2K one with the position markers (I was wondering about the placement of those, too...). That one does play and sound pretty nice.

    And yes, your review of Gracewinds was pretty spot on. My office is just a few blocks away, and I go there often.
     
  13. Troubadour Music has 3 uprights. Of the 3, I found the Christopher to be somewhat playable. (They also had a really nice solid-top acoustic BG made in Bend.) Of the lot, if I needed to buy one of these basses, I'd get the King at Fingerboard Extension, but of course I didn't see your J.I. Strings bass. But if you're really in the market for a double bass, you should call Pete's shop in Portland and make an appointment before making a final decision. My experiences with Pete are all favorable, and I got a really nice (to me) fully carved Romanian flatback from him for $2000. He let me rent it 1st to make sure it was 'the one'. Plus he's worked on it a couple of times for me.
     
    YosemiteSam likes this.
  14. YosemiteSam

    YosemiteSam

    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    Thanks for the reply! Yeah, I've decided to look a bit before I pull the trigger, so to speak. I've been emailing with Doug Heydon down in Springfield, and may go down there this weekend to look at a few. It would help to at least talk with a luthier and play a few more before sinking a couple of thousand bucks into something.

    I wasn't impressed with that King, but that could have been the setup and/or strings. Initially I didn't think I wanted to keep my current one, but after playing a couple of others I liked even less, and realizing I already had $500 or so into this (rent to own program), I was thinking it made sense just to stick with it. I'll go to Doug's shop with an open mind and see what ideas I come away with.

    This is all complicated by the fact that I've currently got some nerve issues that affect my left arm. I'll be talking to a neurosurgeon next week, and I don't know what the future will bring w/r/t my playing. No sense dropping a bunch of money on a bass only to find out I can't play it for 3 months while I recover, or perhaps not at all if the surgery isn't successful.
     

  15. Be sure to take the J.I.S. with you if you're visiting a luthier. If nothing else, you can hear what it sounds like when he plays it, and you might get some insight into what you have.
     
    YosemiteSam likes this.
  16. YosemiteSam

    YosemiteSam

    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    Welp... All I've got to say is, "You guys were right."

    I went to Doug Heydon's shop today, spent almost 3 hours looking at and playing things, talking to him in depth, and walked away with a used Shen SB190 Hybrid! The difference between a quality bass set up by a luthier who knows what he's doing, and a "general music store" rental instrument is night and day. I couldn't be happier!

    I got a K&K pickup installed, and Doug did a little carving on the bridge while he had it apart. He also put on a new set of Spirocores.

    I was tempted by a new blonde SB-80, which was a little less money, but hearing them side by side I knew I wanted the 190.

    The man is extremely knowledgeable and talented, both as a luthier and musician. He plays with a local pickup orchestra, has all sorts of stringed instruments in his shop, and was doing finish work on a French hurdy-gurdy when I arrived (which he plays in addition to just about everything else with strings on it). He works closely with Sam Shen, and is going over there later this month to show them his technique for a certain aspect of construction.

    Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to pay for it. :)

    20160312_174536_zpswfy01toh.

    Here are a couple of shots from inside Doug's shop:

    AdobePhotoshopExpress_04bcc5674090438d9ffdf881cfd9073b_zpslukokvo6. InstagramCapture_1300e0f7-a31e-4d1c-bb6f-7002fa162b51%201_zps3xnn6gov.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2016
  17. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    I never had any doubt!:laugh: There's a reason that folks here offer the advice that they do. It usually does work out for the best when people, such as yourself, are open-minded enough to consider it. That's especially true for the often-repeated, "Buy a DB from a real bass shop and not from a musical mass merchant or guitar store." Congrats on your new bass! Enjoy!
     
  18. Enjoy!
     
  19. YosemiteSam

    YosemiteSam

    Jun 8, 2005
    Chatham, MA
    It's funny: I worked in a music store in the mid 70s. I do know a thing or two about instruments and false economy. With guitars, for instance, I know to steer people away from the $100 "thing" they sell at K-Mart or Costco. You need to explain to the beginner, or their parent, that that "thing" is going to be hard to play, sound like crap, and therefore give little positive feedback to the student. They need to spend at least (back then) $250 or so to get something playable, and I'm sure these days it's even higher. They don't need the $1K Taylor to start on (but it will provide better feedback if they can afford it), but you can't buy the cheapest thing out there and expect good results. Well, the same is true for the double bass, but the prices are at least an order of magnitude higher.

    I went to Troubadour and looked at what they had (they had a total of 5 uprights, if you include the two 1/2 size models), and found even their $950 bass (the Christopher, just marked down from $1150) was playable; Heck, even the $750 Palatino was "playable", but the Christopher was definitely worth $200 more. But even when I first picked up the Shen, even before I struck a note, I knew it was different. Lighter in weight, much lighter action, set up well. The grain of the solid top is really nice, even, not highly figured, but at least there's grain. The finish is really nice, too.

    I had been thinking that I could "get away with" a $1K-$2 bass and be happy with it, and I probably could have. But for once I decided to get exactly what I wanted, not something that "would do". And the biggest lesson I learned here is just how important setup is; I'm extremely grateful that I found such a quality luthier just an hour away from home. I could sit with Doug for days listening to his stories and watching him work.

    Now the problem is, this is so nice (not to mention expensive) I'm wondering if I can bring myself to take it out of the house. "Hey, I'd love to come over and jam! What's the relative humidity of your practice space? No woodstove, right?" :)

    -- Sam
     
  20. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    This is just the point I was going to raise. Had you stuck with what you had, you would have been happy. The problem is that you would have never known what you were missing had you not tried other basses. Now, you really do have your head on straight and you seem to be a reasonable, thoughtful person. Sometimes it's difficult, though, to get that concept across to DB newbies. With little or no point of reference, they often go out and buy this or that (sometimes a CCB :eek:) and they report how great it plays and how happy they are. At that point, there's often little to say and it can be cruel to burst their bubbles. Maybe you'll join in here as an ambassador and tell your story the next time something like that comes up. It won't be long... :)

    Congrats again.
     

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