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Looking for a bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by tout_sweet, Dec 10, 2003.

  1. I'm looking to rent a decent double bass in San Francisco, or within a few hundred miles. The catch is that I'm a shrimpy little woman and probably will need a 1/2 size bass. If anybody has leads or suggestions, please let me know. Being bassless is not a pleasant experience. Any help appreciated.


  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Perhaps you will be happier with a 1/2 size. But don't limit your search to 1/2 in the beginning.

    I have seen many, many petite women playing 3/4 basses. Some may have even been 4/4.

    I go to one particular acoustic walk-in session regularly and there is a daughter of a regular usually there. She's maybe 15-16, quite thin and couldn't be more than 5'2". She plays my bass just fine.
  3. Nuggulux


    Oct 24, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    Hi Barbara,

    While I would second the motion to not start limiting your search to a 1/2 size bass, I'd also like to add that you should go for the instrument that fits you and has the sound you want. If it hurts to play, well that's not exactly a motivation to play the instrument, is it?

    There are a couple of places in the Bay Area where you might want to try playing a few different instruments to get a sense of what suits your needs:

    1. The Acoustic Bass Shop in South San Francisco

    2. The Bass House in Oakland

    (and if they don't have a 1/2 size instrument, I bet they could keep there eyes peeled for one --- and let you know when one becomes available)

    Happy hunting,
  4. Thanks guys!

    I'm afraid I really do need a 1/2 size bass. I'm 4'10" tall. And, at age 55, I'm not likely to grow a whole lot.

    What do you think of this: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2578980225&category=16222&rd=1
    It's a 1/2 size. The pictures on eBay are dismal, but the seller sent me better ones, and it looks to be in restorable shape. For three hundred bucks could be interesting, you think?
  5. I see three problem with this bass.

    1. It is not a 1/2 size.

    2. Buying a bass on eBay is a big gamble at best even if the instrument were in playable condition. With something like this the gamble is more akin to slot machine odds. I've looked at all the photos too, and I can tell you it's not going to be a cheap restoration/fix up.

    3. It's already over $400 with 13 hours left in the auction.

    I would keep looking.
  6. Thanks, Bob. Actually, it really is a 1/2 size bass. At least according to the seller, it's 68" tall. Maybe this would have been a useful bit of data to include in the listing?

    I've had very positive experiences buying and selling insturments on eBay, but I'm a bass novice. Thanks for your comments.
  7. Also, how can you resist the fact that the instrument was built in Prague, Germany? ****, a whole city was moved! Get on board!
  8. Hi Barbara, wecome to TB! Gee it's nice to have a lady here with us...
    I'm wondering why our Branstetter is so sure it's not a 1/2 size? Bob?
    You could ask the owner to get a string length for you. I can't see if the nut is in place on the neck or not... in the pictures. The nut is the little thing at the top of the finger board with slots in it to cradle the strings as they head down toward the bridge. Have him measure from there to where the peak of the bridge would be. That's the bottom of the nut to where the top of the bridge would be. He can just kind of hold the neck on or in the neck block and measure to where the bridge would be by looking at the scars on the top where the bridge had sat.
    The label says John Juzek, who made alot of very good carved basses, but, they also made alot of not so good laminated basses. You need to determine if it's carved or not. If it's a laminate, you're wasting your time, because the repair bill will far out-do the worth of the bass. If it's carved, maybe. But, i agree with Bob, I would never buy a bass off EBay or rather, would not buy a bass without seeing it or playing it. Again, welcome and good luck!
  9. We all know that bass sizes are not standardized, so without actually seeing an instrument determining the size is a best guess. I asked the seller for some other dimentions and he sent me the body lenght, max. size of top at the upper an lower bouts and overall length. I have a 3/4 bass sitting in my music room that has dimentions almost exactly the same as I was sent by the seller. Could I be wrong on the size? sure.

    I just checked back on eBay and saw that this broken up bass went for $791.56. Anybody that would pay that kind of money for a laminated bass (with lots of delaminations and no back button) has got to have more money than good sense.
  10. I didn't know you were in touch with the owner, and that you knew it was a laminate Bob. Jeez, I hope it wasn't Barbara that bought it!
  11. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    Look for a 5/8 size bass. Many 5/8 size basses have as good of a sound as a 3/4. They usually will have a 39-40 inch string length, but I've seen some that are over 41. String length may be more of an issue with you than the actual bass size?
    Sometimes it's hard to find a 5/8 size bass. It seems like I don't see them for awhile, then a couple will appear. Most 1/2 size basses have about a 37" string length. I think 39 might be ideal for you.
    Another thought: you could have the luthier put on a double nut and move the bridge up a half inch. This would effectively shorten the string length by an inch.
    Finally, although I think it's a danger to go smaller than 5/8, I rebuilt a very old bass last year that was somewhere between a 1/2 and a 1/4, and the sound was amazing considering the size.
    The Romanians make a bass that they sell as a one half, but it's really closer to a 5/8. I'm thinking they can be bought for around 3,000+. They have a flat back and an awful lacquer, but it might do until the real thing comes along.
    Good luck on your hunt.
  12. Thanks, everybody. I really appreciate all of your comments and advice. This is a great forum. I'm so glad I found you!

    My former bass was 1/2 size, and it was an amazing instrument! It was a 50 year old fully carved German bass. The cosmetics were awful -- three huge repaired cracks, multiple dings and scratches, plus the varnish looked like someone had wiped it down with paint remover. But what sound! Everybody who heard it raved. So it's not impossible for a 1/2 size bass to sound good. Unfortunately I had to give it back to the guy from whom I was renting it when I moved to San Francisco.:bawl: The string length, I think, was 38", which was fine for me.

    Alex Friedman at The Acoustic Bass Shop in South San Francisco has two 5/8 size basses which he says are good instruments. I haven't yet gotten a chance to look at them. It would be great if it turns out they are not too big for me. I'm not sure whether Alex would be willing to rent one to me, though, and I can't afford to buy at this time.

    You guys were right about that dead bass on eBay. I asked the seller to tell me what the label said, and never heard back from her. Bad sign. But eBay *can* work for buying instruments at bargain prices. I've gotten great deals on some wonderful mandolins, and my bass teacher bought a fantastic fully carved bass for less than $1K (the idiotic seller had listed it in the guitar category, so potential bass buyers never saw it). But to succeed in buying instruments on eBay you have to know what you're looking for and know what questions to ask. For mandolins I do. For basses, I don't.

    Thanks again for all your help.

  13. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    Maybe he has a rent to own policy, or will finance the bass. We do both. If we finance it, we get half down and payments spread over a year.
    That might allow you to get the bass. Otherwise start saving that money.