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New basses: Why no interesting models?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by toman, Dec 17, 2004.

  1. I'm curious; I think there are probably as many or more quality double basses being made now as have ever been. When I look at so many of the fine instruments that were made around the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries though, I see a far more diverse and interesting variety of shapes and sizes. I love all those funky looking old frankenstein basses, and I know a lot of other people do too. Why are modern makers not taking advantage of this and making copies of some of these basses, or coming up with variations of their own, instead of sticking just to the usual German, Italian and English forms? I realize those are all forms that have been proven and accepted, but there are plenty of oddball basses out there that are every bit as good. If I were in the market for a new, fine quality instrument I would definately look for something different, something interesting that stands out a bit. Any thoughts as to why these kinds of instruments don't seem to be getting made? Or are they and I'm just not seeing them? Maybe someone can point me in the right direction...
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    If you spent 3-6 months building a Bass wouldn't you want to have it work well and play good? True, there are a few innovative shapes that we have recently seen but as a Player, I want playability and sound first.

    I have owned several Basses in my life and my Current Martini has near perfect dimentions and a better sound than many of his peers Basses' of his era. Martini studied Bass from the age of 14 and Violin Making later. I have seen 3 of his basses and one thing is present on all of them, 'Playability'. He knew the proper dimentions needed to play the Bass from 'nut' to 'bridge' comfortably and Martini himself was not a tall man. He was rather short and stout in stature from a picture I saw of him in his later years.

    I would rather see the sum of all great Basses of the last 400 years become the standard for new makers than re-invent the wheel.. But,...that's just me.....
  3. Well, it isn't like I'm talking about inventing wild new shapes that deviate completely from the basic shape we recognise as a double bass; just variations that create a little diversity here and there. I think a really good example is the variety of basses displayed at www.worldofbasses.de.
  4. kip


    Sep 11, 2002
    Sausalito, Ca
    great site toman. Check the arch on the back of the Sgarbi bass. That's a bit different.
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    You cannot possibly be serious! Only in the double bass do makers have the freedom to modify and experiment with shape, dimensions, materials, etc. Violins and cellos vary by mere millimeters. If you attended a makers' competition you would see bass models with varying shoulders, corners, f-holes, edges, body lengths, widths, depths, colors, types of wood, etc., etc. As Ken said above, players want instruments that play and sound good. Makers have to sell their instruments, so they work really hard to meet those needs. This precludes making basses that look like, say, an eggplant. Several makers, including David Wiebe, Tom Kelischek (sp?) and myself have built basses with fewer corners, or none at all. Experimentation will always take place, but only if the maker feels he is improving on previous work.
  6. Sheesh. I feel like you guys think I'm bashing luthiers or something; I know there are plenty of great makers building excellent instruments. I realize there is much more room for variations in bass making than in other instrument, and I t hink that's one of the things that make basses so interesting. I'm just saying I don't see a lot of new instruments that stand out the way many of the funky old basses that we see do. So no offense intended to anyone... I just like to ogle unique looking basses! :hyper:
  7. Have you considered that this might be due to:

    (1) the market for double-basses is limited and somewhat specialised

    (2) good double-basses are expensive, and anyone seriously thinking of investing lots of $$ in an instrument, might just go for the sound rather than the look, and would tend to be immune to the glitzy "look at this cool chrome trim!" marketing hype which seems to pervade consumer markets - certainly on this side of the pond, and even more so at this time of the year…

    Consider - how many times have you been at a gig or a concert and thought how great this or that instrument looks, and yet you've totally ignored how it sounds? For myself, I can't think of one single instance - with me (and I'm sure many others) it's all about how it sounds!

    Just a thought…

    - Wil

    PS: Then of course, the "re-sellability" has to be considered…
  8. www.rossdoublebass.com Take a look at the bottom bass with integrated C extension and removable C bout door and removable neck!
  9. Interesting scroll - although the tuners don't do anything for me…

    …but the important thing is what does it sound like? Especially with those easy-access panels…

    - Wil
  10. toman said he was looking for something different. This bass was made for Colorado Springs bassist and TBDBer Mark Niehoff. It sounds great!
  11. Of course I agree that sound should be the number one objective, but there are so many old basses with unique shapes and attributes, and nearly all of them sound amazing. As for the market and resale values, I'd be interested to see if it really was a comparatively small number of bassists who would be interested in something a little different. Don't most players find those strange looking yet great sounding old instruments interesting and attractive? Maybe I'm the ony one, but I've seen unusual basses get more than their fair share of attention at various gigs. Oh, and I've seen those Ross basses before, and I must say they're pretty slick!
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Toman.. "Please" tell us all what oddball Basses you are referring to that ARE every Bit as Good....... We would all like to learn whenever possible......

    By who's judgement are they as good and as good as 'what' may I ask?

    I was just talking to Arnold today about this thread up at his place as he was showing me some of the Basses he has in the works including a New ERGO Model... He has a Testore Copy he is just completing that would please my Taste a bit more.. Others Swear by his ERGO Model...

    I told him that IF it was the best sounding Bass in the world, I would order one but it would have to be a nice Violin Shape like my Martini... So...... you see... everyone has his own ideas for looks too......As is stands, A few months ago I gave him "Carte Blanche" to restore, re-build and re-graduate my Morelli as well as ANYTHING else HE sees fit to do to improve and fix it.. So you see, even though I trust him 100% as one of the Best Bass Luthiers out there, I still have "MY" opinion of what "I" like in a Bass. That's what sells Basses...

    We all have our own Tastes, Ears, Opinions, etc.....

    If previous 'oddball" Bass designs as you call it, from the past were soooooo good.. then why aren't Builders Copying them??

    I'll let you answer that one by yourself......
  13. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Even though the f-holes look like spermatazoa, I think it's a very cool looking bass and possibly even beautiful. The woods are drop dead gorgeous. It sure as hell looks inviting to play, too.
  14. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    Ken, that Martini on your site sure is pretty:)
  15. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Toman, no offense taken. However, I've looked over Festl's site and I don't see anything particularly "funky" or unusual there. Keep in mind that when you look at very old basses, probably half or more have been modified from their original shape. Many of the rest have settled and twisted over centuries of being under tension. Personally, I think makers of recent basses (1880-present) are more attuned to what players needs are. Many of the "funky" old basses were experiments that were not successful; however, age has made them "valuable".
  16. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Yes, I agree with Arnold 100%. My Gilkes was cut down from a Cello Shape. Paul Biase has a Forster (attributed) Bass in stock now for sale.. A huge 7/8 Cello shaped.. Just like the one on WOB but slightly wider ribs and much nicer looking. That was the orginal shape of many English Basses b4 1800. They were made well but unplayable by todays standards and with fairly good materials as well, at least!..... Good making and good wood with playing and aging for 200 years makes a good sounding Bass these days...... But, not necessarly 'playable'.

    I wish my Martini was as old as the Gilkes or the Gilkes was shaped like the Martini. Time will tell how the Martini matures as it is only 85 years old now. The Gilkes is 193 from its completion date but closer to 200 from it's onset...

    Time will improve well made Basses with good wood. The same may kill poorly made Basses with crappy wood. Poorly made Basses with good wood can be re-made in a manner of speaking. As long at there is enough wood in the Bass or wood can be added in spots, you can re-build a marginal Bass into a great Bass if the wood is good and the 're-builder' is good as well... Right Arnie? (fingers crossed..lol).
  17. Toman

    You might want to check out some of the eastern european basses made by independent craftsmen (so called gypsy basses). Some of these are truly bizare in their conception. Many look like old basses, some look like master copies of instruments that may never have actually existed. All the ones I've played sound OK too. Theyr'e fairly reasonably priced. Many times they are sold as funky old italian or austrian basses. Remember that many of the (especially italian) old basses are weirdly proportioned because they have been drastically cut down to make them more playable. Also check out Horst Grunert's basses. Many of his models look a little different. Good luck.

  18. winston


    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    Can you please tell us a bit about what this (fewer/no corners) does for the sound and durability of an instrument? I remember an interview with Joel Quarrington in Bass Player a few years back where he said his cornerless bass (which looked kind of like a big upright guitar) was louder/more resonant.
  19. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think it was the summer issue with the Mayor of Bassville on the cover and the grad school insert. My collection is a bit jumbled at the moment or I'd dig it out.
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    That issue of DB featured several European bass makers, the most unusual of which was Patrick Charton, whos featured instrument certainly looked innovative. But the cornerless bass in that issue was the one played byStefano Sciascia, and is listed as an 18th century Italian bass "from the Brescian school in Italy". I have to say, it is probably one of the most interesting old bass shapes I've seen.

    That said, I have to admit that I personally find Arnold's Ergo bass more unusual and beautiful than anything I've ever seen coming out of the Guiseppe Linguini school.