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need some advice on picking an upright

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by fiddler61, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. fiddler61


    Dec 18, 2012
    folks first let me say thanks for letting me be a part of this site. My name is wendell and I am from SW Arkansas, I am wanting to learn to play an upright for a bluegrass gospel group I figured I'd give it a try since i play a regular bass and play the fiddle. Anyway my question is I am looking at a couple different ones that are used and I need some help from those of you who are more expierenced. The first bass is a Bellafina mdl 50 3/4 and the guy wants 400 for it he says it needs a set of strings and what he said the fingerboard was a little dry other than that no other issues, the second is a strunal 50/1 and it has no issues either and the guy wants 550 for it. My question is wich one would probably be better for playing bluegrass? Any help sure would be appreciated thanks again and Happy Holidays to all!
  2. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Honestly, neither. If your really after the bluegrass sound then buy what all your heroes play, because that's the sound you know and love. A nice older Kay, King or American Standard will do the trick.
  3. Bass Doc

    Bass Doc

    Dec 1, 2010
    Charleston SC
    I'd pick the one with the adjustable bridge. New player will likely need his bass set up,.
  4. Kays are the best for bluegrass and folk I think I have a 1942 Kay. but another bass that is good is Englehardt they are not as pricey as the vintage Kays and sound good. And play easy.
  5. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I have a Strunal 50/4 Blonde and like it fine (more than I do Kay and Engelhart). Solid Czech build. It's all ply, like the 50/1. I have it strung with Innovation Super Silvers and get a nice thumpy fundamental, perfect for bluegrass, and good for everything except arco (bowing).
  6. No reason either could not be a decent bluegrass bass.

    Just evaluate and pick your poison.
    1. Sound? Play em both, which one sounds best?
    2. Strings/Set up? Any good, are you gonna have to change it? Whats that gonna cost?
    3. Repairs? Loose stuff, rattles. Fingerboard need planing?
    4. Durability? Any potentially serious structural issues?
  7. I agree with Whit.
    ANY double bass (cheap Chinese basses would be the exception) will sound good for bluegrass....as long as you use strings that allow the bass to respond well and the bass is set up properly. Ply basses have been the standard for bluegrass but that does not mean better sounding instruments should be avoided.
    There are a lot of bad-sounding Kays out there and you also may want a normal sized neck. Kays have thinner than normal necks. Good for some people but not for others.
    You will also need to develop a firm touch and a good sense of time to complete the exercise. :bassist:
  8. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    Plywood basses may have been the standard for bluegrass, that's true. But not because of how they sound or don't sound. Many of us who play a lot of bluegrass end up playing outside, in the heat of the day and the damp of the night. After 30 years of playing both ply and full carved instruments, I prefer plywood. My current bass, a '51 Kay, stands up to high heat and humidity in July in Ohio and dry cold weather in Michigan in the Fall. I now live in Florida and it does well here.

    That said, I have mine set up with Spirocore mediums, a very low action and an adjustable bridge. I want the most punch and clarity I can get. What I don't want is the muddy thump too often associated with bluegrass bass. Spend some time listening to the more contemporary bands and I think you'll find that the definition of "bluegrass bass sound" has changed dramatically, and for the better in my opinion.

    So IMHO, it's not what is a good bluegrass bass; the question is what is the best bass for you. Martinc said it right: there are good and bad sounding basses regardless of construction. Set up and style make a huge difference.
    Seth Miller likes this.
  9. In my experience even the cheap Chinese ones can be set up to sound good. My problem with them is their tendacy to self destruct fairly quickly.
    Old Kays are GREAT. But they have gotten pricey and can be maintainace nightmares, or may have serious structural issues. the oldest Englehearts can be the same.
    Newer Englehearts are a good choice. In my experience they are durable. Some Ive played sounded good, others not so good, prob more to do with set up than anything. I like the skinny neck myself as I learned on an old 51 C1 Kay, which I had to retire when its delamination problems became too severe to cost effectively fix. I replaced it with an Eastern European ply bass with the more traditional thicker neck and I got used to it pretty quickly. Set up and strings are critical, and each bass (and player) is an individual. The old Kay C1 ran cheap Super Nil nylons and sounded fantastic. Those strings on my new bass sounded like rubber bands. This bass needs higher tension. But I like a softer feel. I think it would sound best with steel Spirocore strings. But right now its strung with steel Solo Superflexables tuned down, a compromise for me. Loud enough but still feels fairly soft and slappable.

    So in short whichever bass you select, you may be happy with the set up or you may want to change it, either for better sound or for the feel you prefer, or some combination of the 2.
  10. rusag2


    Oct 22, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Look for a Kay, AMerican Standard, Epiphone, Englehart or Upton that is between $1K and $2K. Any of these is likely to be the best bet and best resale if you choose to move up. Ply is your friend. If you only have $800, get a decent accoustic electric guitar and cheap used amp. and then save money until you have enough for a good used bass. IMHO
  11. Normally, we play the upright with our fingers, not a pick.
  12. DILYSI Dave

    DILYSI Dave

    Jan 26, 2013
    1. Looks like next time I go shopping, I need to do so in SW Arkansas. Those prices are way less than Atlanta.
    2. I somewhat disagree with the suggestion to wait until you can afford better. Yeah, better is better, but I'm playing a $500 Palatino china bass with a buzzy fingerboard, and I'm having a blast with it. I look forward to upgrading at some point, but if I had been twiddling my thumbs for the last 6 months instead of playing, then I'd have missed out on 6 months of playing...
  13. Every bass player will figure what they like. I my self just went from a 94 englehart steel strings to a 74 englehart with innovation ultra black strings. Its got that more of a modern sound but with that old school tone. Most upright players now days have went to using pickups anyway. That with a good amp will help u find ur sound with almost any bass.
  14. jeepnstein


    Dec 6, 2013
    Some times you just have to play what you can find. I'd have a hard time turning down either of those basses at the prices you quote. Go for an adjustable bridge. Strings will also have a huge influence because you do not want your notes to ring out forever. I'm using a set of steel strings right now that give me TONS of sustain and I've had to adjust my playing style to mute them quite a bit. Nobody really complains about my instrument because they understand the financial and logistical issues a bass player faces. Just get yourself an upright and get in the game. You can and will start hearing about all sorts of other instruments that are "available". Go ahead and add a pickup to whatever you get. Even a simple pickup and a workable pre-amp will make a huge difference in your sound.
  15. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Get in the game, then upgrade. It's useful to have to search for a sound... You learn more that way.
  16. Root Five

    Root Five

    Sep 10, 2014
    Fries, VA
    If you are just learning and not sure that you are going to stick with it then think about resale value - Kay's will hold or increase in value.