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My little cool double bass story...

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Tbeers, May 5, 2005.

  1. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Recently I traveled to Austria with a small string orchestra from my school district. Due to several concerns (including the cost of renting a flight case) I did not bring my own bass. The conductor of the group found some way for me to rent a bass in Austria for almost no money. When I got there, I was surprised to see a very old, fine instrument waiting for me. It was poorly set up, with outrageously high action, crappy strings, and a slightly warping bridge, but somehow it still made a very beautiful sound. I could not find any label inside, but then again I did not have a mirror or a proper light so I could not look everywhere.

    I found out the next day that the bass came from the monastery in the small town of Kremsmunster. I was told the instrument is well over 200 years old, and that the monks were reluctant to let anyone use it, but the owner of the hotel where we stayed had a few connections, and somehow convinced them.

    The bass really was lovely, although it was very small (I think it must have been a 1/2 size). Realizing that I would depart from Austria and never see the instrument again, I made sure to take a few pictures. I will provide links to them at the end of this post. (I wanted to keep them large, so I am hosting them myself)

    I did have one question after looking at the inside of the bass. It had a flat back, and the back was of course heavily braced. In fact, there was one brace right in the middle where the soundpost met the back, so the post was resting not on the back of the bass but on a brace. In one of the pictures, you can actually see this. I started wondering, wouldn't this type of disruption have a negative effect on the tone of the instrument? And yet this bass played very nicely, with a dark, old sound. Maybe one of the luthiers here at TB can answer that for me. But that's not the main point of the post. I'm just telling my cool little story.

    Check out the pictures...

  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    That is an Austro/Hungry or Bohemian Bass. Age about 150 years, +/- 25yrs is my estimate. The Flush Rib/Top/Back tells me this..

    All FlatBacks that I have seen have the Sound Post on the center Brace (Cross Bar) and not on the Back itself. Even on X-braced Basses, the Post rests on the Brace, aka CrossBar.

    Nice looking Bass. Looking at the Back Button of the Scroll, http://tsbeers.home.comcast.net/Austria_039.jpg , I am thinking Hungary.

    Just a guess on the Origin and Age but I think I am close if not right on. The Sound Post thing is NOT a Guess.. It is as I describe.
  3. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Ah... I guess the monks exaggerated! Thanks for your insightful comments. I look at the thing and say, "Gee, that's pretty" whereas so many of the people here can tell something meaningful from a glance lol.
  4. Nice looking old bass.

    As for the flat back and brace and sound. Since the top is the main tone producer, the back only has a secondary effect. All things add up though to produce its sound but there are nice basses with all types of backs and bracing. If for example, that bass was damaged and a new back was needed, and the reparer replaced it with a carved back, the acoustics of the instrument would change as measured by scientific means. But there might not be that much of a difference to pass a psychoacustic A-B test, despite the hard measurements.

    Some makers tune the back braces in a specific way, others take a more structural approach. Its hard to say what's better, if there is a better approach. Lots of things factor in including longevity of the structure as well as sound issues like brightness, volume, evenness of notes, etc...
  5. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    damn KenM, you were either up late or up early ...depending...
  6. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Wow, nice pics! interesting bass

    LOL, and I though my string height was high!!! (those look like steel strings)
  7. I was moonlighting. :eyebrow:

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