Newbie Upright Question

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by mchildree, Mar 11, 2001.

  1. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    A newbie question: I'm looking for an entry level upright to get into bluegrass and some 19th century period music (a trio that does Civil War Naval sea ditty-type things at re-enactments and museums). I'm thinking that I won't need a really nice upright for this and that one of the entry-level plywood basses would work fine. The low prices on some of the Cremonas, Palatinos, etc. kind of scare me.... Are these to be avoided at all costs, or are they decent for starters or the type of stuff I'm looking to do (after a good setup)?
  2. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN
    You know, this question comes up alot. I think that I would be more concerned with where I purchase the instrument, than whose label might be stamped on it. I am of course referring to the entry level (plywood) basses.

    I know that where I buy my basses, the guy is reputable, he's a luthier, he's an accomplished player, and he is going to have plywoods (very few mind you) that meet his expectations. He only deals in basses, so his business is derived in large part from customers who come back to him seeking upgrades. Additionally, he can set-up the bass exactly to your standards, and help you in selecting the appropriate strings.

    Anyway, I hope that I made my point. In order to get a good entry level bass, don't go by name, go by the recommendations of a reputable seller.
  3. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Understood, Tim. Thanks! I guess I could've gotten off my lazy duff and checked the past threads and gotten my question answered many times over. No need for any more of you guys to waste your time replying to this one...
  4. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    I haven't shopped for a while but can't ya still get an old Kay or euro plywood bass used fer a around (or a little more than) what you'd pay for a playable new bass? An observation I've made is that many less expensive older instruments are still around because they proved to someone they were good enough to take care of a and repair.
    If you get a nicer bass than you think you need you may find that you have a bass you really wanna play.
    Boy it sure is easy to spend other folks money! :)
  5. My luthier said that of all the current entry level basses, the one with better workmanship is made by Shen. I have no personal experience with this, and I'm just putting it out for anyone else's opinion.

    I find beginners frequently ask about these basses and I regret not being able to help. Thinking out loud, could we conduct our own survey, ask around, and generate some worthwhile guidance on this subject? Just asking, I don't want to be in charge.
  6. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.

    I'm not sure what would be desirable in a bass used for 19th century music but I do know that Kay seems to be the standard among the better bluegrass bassists. They are getting expensive (relatively) in price though and harder and harder to find.

    Second choice would have to be Englehardt since it's almost a clone of the Kay. Especially the older Englehardts with a serial number below around 4000. When Englehardt aquired Kay they also got Kays stock of premade parts. There appears to have been enough Kay stock for Englehardt to build several thousand basses using all, or almost all Kay parts.

    Definitely go with a plywood bass. The sound that they produce is impossible to get with a carved bass. Another plus for the plywood bass is that they will stand up under the stress of playing bluegrass better than a carved bass. A heavy dew when you're playing outdoors or playing in the sun on a hot day puts stress on a bass that you wouldn't believe.Also the fact that you really play bluegrass with a heavy hand dictates a strong instrument.

    Good luck with your journey on the bass. You are in for a lot of pleasure.

    By the way, guys, I didn't mean for my post to sound like I think a kay is a better bass than a fine carved bass. It's just that bluegrass requires a different sound.
  7. another newbie question: can somebody give me a quick rundown on what a good "set up" includes, i.e. which jobs should be done and according to which specifications?

    much appreciated!
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Reedo has a thread called "How to buy a DB" or something like that down in Misc, and there are a bunch of setup threads in the archives of the setup forum. Have you checked these? There's a lot of useful info in both.
  9. I missed the outdoor part. Plywood is a must.
  10. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    I've been looking around since I started this thread, and since I don't have any upright dealers nearby, I was considering the Strunals from I know at least one poster has advocated else have any thoughts about getting an upright online from them? the Strunals? I emailed them for info, but haven't heard back since it's the weekend. If they live up to their service claims, I'm thinking it'd be fine. The thought of getting an upright shipped cross-country gives me the willies, though.
  11. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    The Strunals are above-average laminated basses. Make sure they have been set-up well before you buy; even if you have to drive 500 miles, it is still cheaper than paying for lots of little things.
  12. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN

    One other thing. Try to buy a bass with an ebony fingerboard.

    Somewhere down the road, if you need some work on your fingerboard, it will pay off.
  13. How do I tell it's ebony? And along the same line; is there an on- or off-line resource that gives explanations/descriptions of different woods so that I can try & find out what wood my bass is made from without having to trasnport it to a luthier? Many thanks.
  14. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    BassMaze, take a look at and Bob Gollihur's pages at Based on recent references by others here, I checked out and several others and ended up buying a Strunal 50/4 (laminated with Ebony fittings) last night. I talked directly to their customer care guy and he couldn't have been more helpful. I had a hundred questions and he answered them all patiently. Also, Bob Gollihur's page has an extensive links page that should hook you up with most any info you'd need.

    I should be receiving my Strunal early next week...I'll post my "outta the box" impressions", then "after setup" and maybe someone else can benefit from it.

    Thanks to everybody who helped here!

  15. jugband


    Jan 16, 2001
    Well, actually sometimes a Kay, Englehardt, or even a Chinese bass IS better than a fine carved bass, the same way a Chevy is better for day-to-day driving than a Ferarri is.

    Use the right tool for the job... and sometimes the job requires a $500 Chinese bass instead of an Englehardt, or a fully-carved Whatever.

    When initial price is more important than resale value, a Chinese bass isn't necessarily the wrong tool for the job. They can sound pretty good, for what they are, with good set-up.
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Edgar Meyer would sound better on a ply for his hillbilly stuff?