Long-time Musician, New to Upright Bass -- seeks advice

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Alec Motor, Jul 6, 2018.

  1. Alec Motor

    Alec Motor

    Jul 6, 2018
    Hey everyone!

    I've been reading this forum for a couple years but its my first post. You always seem to be a helpful bunch.

    I'm a long-time musician/composer -- electric guitar, piano, drums ... mostly doomy, chamber-music type things, ala Silver Mt. Zion or GY!BE type music.

    I've put in about a year total on upright bass, with a 6 month break in the middle of that when my rental cracked and i had to return it. I love playing it. I've got bad tinnitus from years of loud electric noise, so it's great to play something with such self-contained volume limitations. I bow and and I pizz as well. Learning to bow well is very important to me.

    Long story short, after not having a bass for 6 months, i stumbled across one in a guitar shop a couple months ago. I bought a Palatino VB-004 and a bow for $600 total. Used, but totally in tact.

    Well, after a couple months of playing a couple hours a day, I feel like I've hit a wall with the thing. The guys at the violin shop advised I could give it new strings, but basically told me its not worth redoing much on it. The action stinks, the sound ain't great... feels like it might be putting unnecessary strain on my body, especially with bowing. Theres a spot in my upper back that burns if I am too tense while playing arco. (I'm trying to keep my shoulders relaxed when I play more, stretch, etc.) But I can't help but feel the cheap bass aint helping things much. Feels like dancing with a stiff plastic lady.

    So, I'm in the market for a bass. I'll just list my requirements and maybe yall could recommend some good ways to buy? (Or does that burning in my back mean the bass aint for me?)

    I'm definitely willing to spend $3000 if that includes a Bow.

    I'm really only interested in playing small-group DIY chamber music. So I've even thought a half-size DB might be great for me. Not to mention I could see some light-touring in the future and mobility would be great...

    Because I like bowing, would a hybrid be worth it? Or does a decent laminate bass sound good enough arco? I think carved would surely be unnecessary.

    The guy at the shop recommended light-tension light-gauge strings. Any feedback on that?

    I'm sort of opposed to buying new instruments in general. I like things with a little wear on them, a little broken in.

    I'm really looking for playability. I've got nothing to prove as far as volume or playing jazz with a large band.

    Is a 1/2 size bass easier on the back/body? How much less loud is a 1/2 size than a 3/4? Perhaps a 5/8 would work well?

    I apologize for the scattered post, but I indeed seem to have a lot of questions. Any direction on any of my questions would be much appreciated!

  2. A 1/2 is big enough to be a pain but not big enough to put out much sound, most of the time.

    Three large including bow puts you in Chinese territory, maybe Romanian, unless you luck out.

  3. Alec Motor

    Alec Motor

    Jul 6, 2018
    I am in Olympia, WA --- soon to relocate to Tacoma, WA.
  4. Hammond Ashley or Bass Church.
  5. Alec Motor

    Alec Motor

    Jul 6, 2018
    Oh, poopie I didn’t know about Bass Church. Thanks for the tip!
  6. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Hi, Alec--welcome to TB! If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out the Buyer's Guide and other newbie links: New to the double bass or thinking of buying your first bass? READ THIS FIRST

    Based on your interests, I would think you would want at least a hybrid, if not fully carved. I would generally focus your attention toward 3/4 instruments, in large part because your pool of quality instruments is going to go way down if you are limiting yourself to a 5/8 or 1/2.

    As for your "hitting a wall" and back issues...if you don't have one yet, I would highly recommend finding a good teacher. I would think there would be plenty in your area.
  7. Alec Motor

    Alec Motor

    Jul 6, 2018
    Hey Lee Moses (I love Lee Moses!) Thanks for the tips. Yeah, 3/4 makes the most sense. It's also good to know I could borrow someone else's bass and still play it...

    I'll get a new credit card and shoot for the Hybrid.

  8. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Upton and Shen seem to be pretty popular brands for their hybrid models, just to give you a couple options and things to look for. New, these might be pushing your $3K budget though, especially if you want a decent bow as part of it all. Definitely check out used and i bet you can find something in your budget.
  9. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Um, thanks! I didn't even know we met.

    Honestly, Alec, you can probably find a used Shen SB200 (fully carved) for right around $3000. Here's one I just found in the TB classifieds for $3400, although it would be a pretty long trip for you to try out: For Sale - Samuel Shen fully-carved SB-200 3/4 Willow! (Lowered price)
    Seanto likes this.
  10. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    CaseyVancouver likes this.
  11. Alec Motor

    Alec Motor

    Jul 6, 2018
  12. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    There's also a very good Upton Brescian for sale in the Classifieds. It's a lamInate but sounds great.
  13. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    Queen City of the Plains
    Krivo Pickups
    I think for 3k a set up hybrid from a reputable bass shop along with a well designed carbon fiber bow would be a good bet. Used too, if you have the ability to assess the health and quality of carved basses and wood bows.

    For strings, I’d recommend spirocore weich as a starting point.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  14. Alec Motor

    Alec Motor

    Jul 6, 2018
    That's the plan! Going to make an appointment at Bass Church in Seattle asap. I'll share pics of what I buy!
  15. Bigbassguy


    Jun 5, 2017
    If you are using the bow fo for a hybrid. I have an Upton hybrid and am pleased with the sound quality. Take your time and see what is in the Seattle area. Good luck!
    Alec Motor likes this.