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New bass "opening up"

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Noam Elron, May 14, 2006.


  1. Noam Elron

    Noam Elron

    Apr 14, 2005
    Haifa, Israel
    Hello

    The comunity orchestra I play in just bought a new bass. It's actually a very nice bass (a fully carved Gewa - sort of a high-end factory bass) and its new right out of the box. It the first time I've actually seen a brand new string instrument - it has a lovely mirror perfect finish, I'm almost afraid to touch ;) .

    Anyway, the point is the sound isn't all I would have hoped for. Although it has a nice timbre, and a very sweet mid-range it almost sounds as if someone turned down the bass frequencies in the EQ. If you bow an open E there is a fair amount of resonance and sustain, but no UMPH (which is the entire point of the double bass, especially in an orchestra). I've heard talk of new instruments needing a period of "opening up". What exactly happens in this process, and how does it effect the sound?

    thanks
    Noam
     
  2. For what it's worth a few thoughts.

    Play the bass as much as you can with the bow, 3 or more hours a day would be good, lots of scales and long tones esp if it has a carved top the sound will open up over time but work the bow close to the bridge and work hard at getting a good big sound from the bass.

    The other issue to consider is set up and the quality of strings. With a lot of factory built instruments the string quality is not that good and you may want to invest in a decent set up from a lutherer.

    (This may need some sound post adjustment as shipping etc can dislodge the sound post)

    Good luck and if you can let us know how it goes

    May be some pics?
     
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    My experience has been that basses develop over time (and lots of playing) a richer, more complex version of the sound that they have when they come off the table.

    Having said that, if it's truly "right out of the box", there may be some set up issues, you may want to try some other string combinations to see if you can "darken" the sound.
     
  4. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    Usually, after about a week or so of playing, the instrument will open up a fair amount. Of course, the instrument will continue to develop its sound over time, but a week will often give you a decent idea of what it will sound like.
     
  5. Your sound problem is not unfamiliar. Having bought a new bass recently and being less than satisfied with the new sound I have continued to play it and sure enough it has improved a lot. Initially it was loud enough but had a hard edge to the sound. It has mellowed a great deal and is developing a really nice dark orchestral sound but has not lost the volume it can produce when you really lean on it. Using Pirastro Flexicore strings which I have found to be very good. Check the strings it came with. My experience with Helicores, (blue and yellow wrapped at the tailpiece end) has not been that good. Kind of scratchy especially on open G and D. I like the Flexicores (dull dark red at the tailpiece wrapping) much better. Keep playing it and in a couple weeks I think you will see a big difference.
     
  6. steveb98

    steveb98 [acct disabled - multiple aliases]

    Mar 15, 2006
    Venice, CA
    Instrument have to season for lack of a better term with musical vibration. So as others have said play it as much as possible. But a trick I learned a long time ago was to store my new acoustic instruments next to a stereo especially the sub-woofer. Since when not playing I'm usually listening the stereo provides more vibration to the instrument.
     
  7. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Ayup. The first six minutes brings dramatic change. The first six hours is substantial. The first six days is significant. The first six weeks is noticeable. The first six months is subtle.

    If you've been playing a bass for half a year you're hearing what it sounds like. Yeah, you still have to "wake it up" but it sounds pretty much like it will sound until the first six decades are done as far as I can tell. (I defer to Ken Smith and others here who have forgotten more about fine old basses than I'll ever know.)

    I once made the mistake of playing a new bass for 20 years hoping it would open up. To no-one's suprise but mine, the bass needed work and damn if it didn't open right up once it had the work.
     
  8. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    Hehe. I've been playing my bass for over a year and while it has opened up quite a lot, it still felt a little tight. It came with a carbon fiber tailpiece which I knew wasn't entirely optimal for my needs(arco player and the bass had a wolf). I recently put a new tailpiece on and by golly, it plays like butter now.
     
  9. What type of tailpiece did you put on?
     
  10. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    An ebony pecanic. It made a pretty dramatic difference actually, but I think that is becuase I went from a very light tailpiece to a fairly heavy one.
     
  11. pjwolf

    pjwolf

    Feb 20, 2006
    Ventura, Ca.
    Sam, what kind of work did it need?:confused:
     
  12. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    The bass bar was wider from the center than usual. The two choices were either a) open the bass, remove and replace the bass bar in the usual spot or b) make a pretty funny-looking "extra-wide not-too-tall" bridge.

    Needless to say I chose the latter. Placing the bridge-feet in the "right" spot in relation to the bass-bar made a tremendous difference. Probably replacing the bass-bar would have been an even better choice but it's always about the money at Chez Samuel.
     
  13. Noam Elron

    Noam Elron

    Apr 14, 2005
    Haifa, Israel
    It's actually not my bass, but the orchestra's, so I only get to see it once a week (the rest of the time they won't let it out to play - believe me, I asked). In a brief inspection the setup looked OK - bridge feet are snug with the top, sound post looks in place, and strings look like thomasticks of some sort.

    Since it is only used in the orchestra, I am not that concerened with nuances in the sound (where I sit, all I here is the trombone section anyway). I was just dissapointed with the lack of low end. I suppose what I'll do is just get there an hour early for the next few weeks and play long loud notes. If there's no progress I'll revive the thread in a month or two.

    Has anyone ever played one of these Gewa bases when seasoned?

    By the way, I liked steve's stereo idea. I'll keep that in mind.
     
  14. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Since there are no standard dimensions for basses, bass bars can be anywhere. Bridge blanks come in varying breadth of stance. Whoever had set up the bass should have known that.
     

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