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newbie questions

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by charmicarmicat, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. so what's it gonna be? i need some advice here, folks. i'm a newbie to the upright bass and believe me, when i say newbie, i mean NEWBIE. anyways, i've done tons of reading in the newbie part of this forum and i still have questions.
    many of you advise to try as many basses as you can. i have to be honest and tell you that this doesn't help at all:) even though i played (and still do) electric bass (heavy metal a la sabbath but tuned down and played much slower) for twenty years, you would think that i could tell a good instrument from a not so good one. well, trying a good student upright (2k range) and a not so good one (the infamous ccb) doesn't seem to be that different to me as i have never played an upright in my life. so really, they all feel pretty much the same. on top of that i want the bow to be my main focus (not that i won't play pizz, but the bowed sound is what "moves" me) and since i have never bowed in my life... you get the idea: the sound i would get from a 200 year old euro carved bass would probably be the same as the sound i get from a fresh off the assembly line ccb.
    so all i really have to go by is this: a reputable local luthier/online store would not sell me junk as they want to uphold their reputation. i could buy w/ a teacher but what the teacher thinks is good may not be what i need or what i feel comfortable with. also i must be honest but going to buy a bass with a teacher is like going to buy something with a parent. i know i am going to get a lot of !$#@ for that last comment:) one thing i would like to mention before you even bother to read further is that playing music is a hobby for me. meaning that i do plan to take lessons but once i get the basics under my belt i will go and experiment on my own. if i feel that i am in a rut i can always take another lesson or check out the posts on this here awesome site for some inspiration. okay, that said, let me continue with this long post:)
    i may be relocating from sunny los angeles in the near future to a place were the winters are harsh so i'm not sure i would want a carved instrument (even if i would want one my budget isn't geared to that anyways) since cold temperature seem to play some serious tricks on that kind of instruments.
    my budget: 2.5 K BIG maximum and that has to include shipping to los angeles ($150.00 is what i gathered) as well as a bow (looks like the bows and rosin that bob gollihur sells get great reviews $160.00), a pick up (revolution solo seems to be a good choice $100.00) and a bag ($150.00). so that's give or take $600.00 right out of the bag. i've investigated quite thoroughly and the two online retailers that have caught my eye are:
    upton- hawkes or medio fino (which one would you recommend for my purposes?) $1600.00. strings (spirocore or obligatos) and the store's set up are included. so with shipping, bag, pickup, bow and rosin around 2.2k.
    nick lloyd- (his site btw, is really well put together)
    samuel shen model sb 80 $1380. comes with gig bag, french bow, strings (many choices) and nick's set up. so with shipping and pickup around 1.7k.
    sb 100 $1750.00. comes w/ gig bag, strings (many choices) and nick's set up. add bow, rosin, pickup and shipping, so about 2.3k
    i've been to a local luthier, stein on vine, and gary was super nice and helpful. he let me play a bass for 15-20 minutes and explained/showed me a few things. from him you get a bass (not sure of the brand) with a gig bag and a bow for 2K. include local tax and a pick up on top and that's a somewhere around 2.3K. i talked with a woman named lisa at la bassworks and she could get me a carved top laminated back bass (hybrid?) for 2k. i plan to go by her shop and talk to her some more about this. of course there is the rent to own option but for some reason i find it not that appealing.
    one thing that already influences me as far as from whom i would buy (if i can't get anything local) is that i would much rather get an instrument from a place that sets up their basses before shipping. i think it shows pride and commitment in their work and product (hint to nick lloyd and the folks at upton).
    okay, i'm done, although i'm sure that once some advice starts coming in i will be even more puzzled:) so i would love to hear from all of you who have bothered to read through this quite lengthy post. one thing i do know: i am getting an upright!
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Though I agree that setting up the bass before it leaves the shop is a good thing, I don't necessarily think it's the only thing that shows a commitment to quality. Other companies may be great at selling and customer service and just don't know how to do setups so they let you handle it. Some companies used to do setups but suffered some sort of injury where they can't do them anymore.

    I was right where you were 6 months ago. Years on electric, always had a jones for upright, so I got one. Sounds to me you're a lot like me...wanted a bass to be able to better myself as a person and play some gigs that didn't break the bank. Sounds like you'd probably be better off with a good plywood or hybrid bass. If you don't plan on being in a symphony or a really serious jazz guy on the level of NHOP or Christian McBride, then fully carved would probably be overkill. If your whole budget for everything is $2500, then you should get the best plywood bass you can find. Hybrid basses of quality start around $2500, and they do usually sound better than plywoods, especially for arco, but that's your whole budget.

    All these guys you mentioned are regulars here and they're all good at what they do. They all sell quality basses at good prices. I had to buy sight unseen because the only store that sold them around here was Sam Ash and I thought their basses were weak. I went with Upton based on a couple glowing recommendations, plus there was nobody around here that I knew who does setups. Since then, I've played Engelhardt, Shen, Strunal, Thoma, Scherl and Rose, cheap basses for $350 on Ebay, even an ancient Kay, and the Uptons have sounded the best out of all of them, with the Shen coming in second (can't remember the model but it was an SB-80 or 100), then the Engelhardt.

    As for which one is better, I think the Hawkes sounds a tad deeper and louder, but even though the Media Fino has a smaller upper bout, it's still pretty loud. If you can handle the larger upper bout (I'm not a huge guy but I can handle it fine), get the Hawkes.

    Strings...who knows? I use plain guts because I do a lot of slapping and they're easier on the fingers, plus I love the gut pizz sound. I've tried both Spiros and Obligatos and I like them both. Talk with whoever you buy from and read around on here.

    Well, that's my opinion anyway.
  3. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I would think that if you can't get out and try the bass yourself, then you probably can't go wrong with purchasing from one of the luthiers on this forum. They will set it up for you and treat you right. I'm sure they'll ship it to you too.

    Look at the Shen's and Upton basses. Several of the luthiers sell Shen's.
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I used to think the same too, and I came from playing guitar, and not even EB.

    The first bass I ever tried was a CCB at a local music shop. It was loud, seemed to play ok, and to my naive eyes at the time, looked fine.

    A coupla weeks later, I tried a Christopher from a local luth. Played a little easier, sounded just a smidge better or the same, and looks fine quality wise. I had read all the stuff on the site about bass shopping and got recommendations for Chrissys. For some reason, I had a gut feeling about that Chrissy about how it felt to me and I walked home with it. Kinda on a whim. Mind you at this point, my recollections of the CCB weren't that drastically different. It was just another bass, and the Chrissy I just paid for was 3 times as much (if not more) and had the rep that peops on this site was giving it.

    In the ensuing months, the Chrissy got a new setup, strings, tailpiece. It voices and sings and really pronounces the notes. It's held together for me and never cracked or broke apart at the seams. Trouble free.

    These days, I still pass by that local music shop with the same CCB that I tried the first time. Now I realize what a piece of crap it is and how poor it sounds. Back then, my ears were new and couldn't tell that it had this boomy non-articulate sound about it. I didn't know what to look for in the construction until I got a chance to own one and look my over in great detail. I highly doubt if the CCB would sound as good as the Chrissy given all the upgrades.

    So my point is that I suggest you keep trying basses until you find something that IS different. Who cares if you're not shopping for one, go back to Lisa at LA Bassworks or go to World of Strings (Long Beach) and keep trying basses. Try a $15-20K bass to see what a good bass sounds like. Eventually, I think you'd at least be able to discriminate somewhat between basses enough to say that a CCB sounds crappy and a reputable bass sounds good.

    Also, renting is probably not a bad idea til you get an idea of how it sounds.
  5. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I payed $1200 for a new hybrid Strunal without shopping around and going through that sort of trouble. I bought a better endpin that I put in myself for another $100 or so, and a new bridge with adjusters for $60. I bought the cheapest gig bag I could get for it but don't remember how much it was.

    Out of the box, the strings were setup to stand about 1/8" off the nut...took a file to it and fixed that lunacy right quick LOL

    I later took it to a good luthier for more setup work that set me back another $200 (great investment btw made the bridge, fingerboard and nut look lots prettier...). If they put the endpin in themselves it would have cost more but don't know how much.

    Yes there are basses that I've goofed around on that are much more expensive and I have thought allowed me to do things better than with the bass I own, but mine does the job fine when I've done enough woodshedding to do the job well too.

    Dang, there was this awesome looking bass with funky f-holes that Robertsons was selling several years ago that I would have bought just for that reason if I had infinite cash to toss in the fire. Never forgot that bass. It could have sounded like dog**** and I wouldn't have cared! I wonder whatever happened to it. Never caught the name of it as I was having too much fun playing on it oh well...
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    One hardly knows where to begin...

    try as many basses as you can. i have to be honest and tell you that this doesn't help at all Well, it should. Going in to WORLD OF MUSIC and trying a BSO and going into LA Bassworks (Lisa Glass?) and trying a good quality ply that has been set up should feel different to anybody. But over and above that, going to a reputable luthier instead of a store, the luthier will be able to give you some appreciation of what likely repairs or work will need to be done, what might be done to improve the sound of a given instrument or who out in their clien base might be selling a bass that would suit your needs and budget.

    i could buy w/ a teacher but what the teacher thinks is good may not be what i need or what i feel comfortable with. also i must be honest but going to buy a bass with a teacher is like going to buy something with a parent. Going with a teacher would alleviate the concerns you express. A teacher will be able to assess the qualities of each instrument in an informed and objective way. Since they don't have to overcome the hurdle of a bad physical approach, you can hear how each instrument really sounds when they play it. A good teacher is NOT a moron, they aren't going to let you buy a bass that will be hard to play because of string length or size, they aren't going to let you buy a bass that isn't in good repair (unless they feel that the price AND the cost of the repair will put the best bass in your hands). Imagine you don't know ANYTHING about cars and you're looking at a brand spanking new Yugo and used 1994 Corolla that needs a paint job and new brakes. You take a mechanic with you and you're going to get a car that you can drive for a long time.
    As far as "taking a parent", what are you, about 12? Your teacher is gonna end up being more like your therapist than your parents. All a therapist wants to do is help you become the person you want to be, whether or not that's the person your parents want you to be. You got a choice of doing one thing for a stupid reason or one thing for a not stupid reason; the choice is yours.

    meaning that i do plan to take lessons but once i get the basics under my belt i will go and experiment on my own. if i feel that i am in a rut i can always take another lesson or check out the posts on this here awesome site for some inspiration. Well, let's get back to the car analogy. You get a car and go in for your first driving lesson. The teacher shows you where the pedals are, how the turn signals work and gives you some basics of road safety. And that's the point where you want to say "Later!" and drive to Philly? When I switched from BG to upright, I didn't have a teacher. I just played a lot and brought over some half assed technique from electric bass. I went to school and was playing sometimes 8 to 10 hours a day, cutting all my classes to do sessions, and still didn't really have anyone working with me on physical approach. It wasn't until I had moved to NYC and hit a brick wall in my playing that I had no idea how to get past that I found a teacher and really started working on this stuff. And I had to spend a LOT of time going back and "fixing" things that I had come up doing, because I hadn't bothered to work on it when I started. You can do it later or you can do it sooner, but you got to do it. Believe me, from bitter personal experience, sooner is easier.

    The other part of the equation is repetetive stress injuries. It is FAR easier to hurt yourself playing this instrument than BG. You might want to check out the TENDONITIS FOR OLDER PLAYERS thread. Playing with a relaxed tension free approach is extremely hard to do without an objective and experienced eye and ear helping you out.

    Hobbyist, amateur, semi pro, pro; it doesn't really matter. You want the experience you have when you pick up the instrument to be a pleasant one, right? It's NOT going to be pleasant if you have to constantly fight to get a sound, if you have to constantly struggle with intonation, if you have to avoid sections of the fingerboard because you have trouble getting around them. The more impediments you have - technique, conception, execution - when you pick up the instrument, the less the likelihood that you will continue to pick it up.
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Can't help myself. Ed's post is beautiful. What else is there?
  8. whoa ed, easy man. your post is quite harsh and really didn't need to be but i do understand you.
    "meaning that i do plan to take lessons but once i get the basics under my belt i will go and experiment on my own. if i feel that i am in a rut i can always take another lesson or check out the posts on this here awesome site for some inspiration."
    to me the basics means until i am comfortable with the instrument and my teacher seems to be pleased with my progress. sort of like physical therapy. no need to come back every week, just once a month:) this could take six weeks or six months or six years. my bad, i should have made that clear.
    i would like to clarify one thing: the reason why i got into the upright sound. I've been listening to 20th century composers (ligeti, xenakis, penderecki etc.) for the last couple of years and what really amazed me is not the viruosity but their approach to tone/sound. beyond words. what they do with the low register of the bass is something that i find truly "heavy" and that's what i would like to venture into.
    thank you all for posting and keep it coming. every little bit helps even if it is a written spanking, ed:)
  9. You haven't read much Ed have you? This is the kinder, gentler Ed dispensing some excellent advice.
  10. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Yeah dude you got off EASY

    I think in this case his advice is good.
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Aw now T, you know I just want you to reach your fullest potential...
  12. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Well, I think Ed was right on target and not harsh. I'll try not to be harsh myself. You introduced yourself as a real NEWBIE. On this we can agree-- you are certainly that. What strikes me as somewhat odd is that you ask for advice and then pretty much state how you WILL approach matters and what are YOUR opinions.

    I suggest more receiving and less transmitting.

    Read Ed's post again, and again, and again.

    In my opinion, and it is just that, your approach to all of this is off the mark and unfruitful.

    Given your budget, here's a path to success. Call Upton, order a bass, get a GOOD TEACHER, stick with that teacher past the basics, enjoy the string bass for a lifetime. That's my two cents. You're free to accept all, part, or none.
  13. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Yeah you haven't endured anything yet...wait till you get ridiculed for not immediately hearing eagles soaring majestically over altered chord progressions on some endearing jazz tune.

    If you want to exercise your "**** you" attitude to the max, put a member on your ignore list and ridicule them mercilessly. If Talkbass doesn't immediately offer you a free lifetime sponsor membership, consider yourself snubbed...
  14. I recently shopped for basses in LA, replacing my Cremora with a unlabeled European bass. I spent about a month on the project, so here's my $.02:

    If you've talked to Gary at Stein's, Lisa at LA Bassworks, and John at World of Strings, you've met the folks who sell basses here. If you have the time, also go to Lemur and talk to the folks there too. I knew squat about basses when I started and, between spending an hour or two with each of these folks and their inventory and reading this board, then asking each of them about stuff I'd read here or that the others had said, I got to where I felt confident in my choice.

    Since there are four bass shops pretty close by, I didn't look into mail order. There are lots of Kays and Engelhardts around, and most of the shops had impressive new Chinese basses around $1500-$2000. None of these had Shen or Christopher labels, and I haven't played those makes, but these struck me as quality axes, especially for the money.

    Plus, as other folks have said, you'll almost certainly take a mail order bass to one of these shops right away for a setup, which is likely to wipe out whatever discount you got by mail. And, while all these folks are pros and can give you whatever setup you want, Stein's has more of a jazz default style.

    I took my teacher around with me, and it did make me feel like a kid, but I figure, if you could hang out in Guitar Center for an afternoon and talk gear with Stanley Clarke, Geezer Butler, Watt, or whoever your favorite BG player is, you'd jump at it. Brian Bromberg might not be available but, if you don't already have a teacher, it's worth trying to contact Darek Oles (via Cal Arts), Roberto Miranda (via UCLA), Art Davis, or the classical players at the various local colleges (or the LA Phil). Offer to pay their hourly lesson rate. No harm in asking...
  15. thanks, jeff. do you happen to know a way of contacting the folks you mentioned? and while i'm at it, does anyone know of a good teacher here in la? i live in the silverlake/los feliz/east hollywood neighborhood but i do have a car so the west side as well as the valley are within reach.

    again, thank you all for chiming in. it all helps.
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    If this is really the case - then you did indeed get off light!! ;)

    The people playing this will have spent decades studying at formal music schools and with teachers and then more years playing Beethoven, Mozart etc in orchestras, chamber groups etc. - before coming to this kind of stuff!!

    The orchestras playing pieces by Ligeti are at the pinnacle, these are the best players in the world, they have devoted their lives to their craft - they didn't get there by experimenting in their bedrooms for a few months!! ;)
  17. Tumbao


    Nov 10, 2001
    I already got a problem with the first two steps, I like the
    UB Medio Fino model, but Is the $olid carved German spruce top a very significant tonal difference for this bass? If so, I'd like to get the Hybrid model. Any review?
  18. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Yes, there is a significant tonal difference between the Upton hybrids and the Upton laminates. The difference is exactly what you might expect. The hybrids have a more refined and complex tone and move you that much closer to the sound of a fully carved. IMO, if it is within your budget to do so, it would be well worth it to go for the hybrid. I have found the Upton hybrids to be an exceptional value. Hey, I owned one and loved it!
  19. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    Not so. I spent over an hour talking to Gary Upton about the sound I would like the bass to produce and the setup. It arrived much better than I expected or could have dreamed. I moved from Arizona (dry as a popcorn fart) to coastal Oregon (water, water everywhere) and it still plays fantastic. The action raised ever so slightly but I was ready for that anyway. That was the beauty of buying from a luthier, primo setup included. And the kicker was I could send it back if not satisfied.

  20. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Ditto. Gary Upton's setups are absolutely pristine. He is somewhat fanatic about them. Then again-- I don't consider Upton Bass to be a mail-order shop.