Pizz bass, Arco Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by jermng, Jun 8, 2003.

  1. jermng


    May 6, 2002
    I noticed some people here and elsewhere have 2(or more) basses and most of the time one is for pizz/jazz and the other for orchestral or chamber playing.
    What would be the difference in the 2 basses? Does plywood necessarily make for a better pizz sound? Is it true that all(at least the decently built ones) carved basses have better arco tone?
    I currently have a plywood bass and the pizz sound is amazing but it sounds horrible when I bow. Was thinking of getting another bass purely for classical purposes but I'm not sure if the cheaper carved basses will also give a good arco sound. Or should I save the dough and do something to make my present bass acceptable for bowing? If that's the case, how should I do it? I don't have a luthier in my country that specializes in double bass. Most of the work will have to be done my me or sent to the violin man.
    Thanks for any help.
  2. In general, carved basses are better for arco playing, and it has been said by at least one notable luthier that plywood basses can be better for jazz/pizz playing because they have a more directional, forward "throw to the sound, whereas a carved bass's sound will spread more.

    That said, you might be able to make your plywood bass better for arco by simply changing the strings. If you're using something like Thomastik Spirocores, this might be causing a harsh, nasal arco sound.

    A good option for strings that sound decent for pizz and arco are Pirastro Obligatos, which have a synthetic gut core.

    Tons of good string info in the "Strings" forum if that's the direction you decide to head.
  3. Well done, Mike; I don't even have to post anymore.
  4. I would second the use of Obligato strings. I have them on my plywood Engelhardt and they have a warm sound and are easy to bow. Now if my technique would improve ..... :)
  5. While I hate to disagree with another luthier, in this case I must. While a given plywood bass CAN sound better than a given carved bass for jazz/pizz playing, one can not make a general rule that this is true for all instruments. The directionality theory doesn't hold up unless one is comparing a Flat Back carved bass to a round back plywood bass. Round back instruments (carved or plywood) tend to focus the sound in a rather narrow arc. Where as flat backs tend to focus over a much wider (nearly omnidirectional) arc. It is the design of the instrument that determines the directionality, not the material used in it's constuction.
  6. jermng


    May 6, 2002
    Hi thanks for your reply. Was just wondering, other than changing the strings, would the bridge and tailpiece have an effect on the sound as well? If so, what should I be looking for when I change these things? Would it be worth if I changed the fingerboard to an ebony one? Would there be a large noticeable diffence in sound?
    Sorry for asking so many questions at one go =)
  7. If you don't have an ebony tailpiece with an aircraft wire cable tailpiece gut, that change might give some benefit for arco playing. The bridge and fingerboard question should be referred to your local luthier. There are differences for Pizz and Arco bridges. Generally speaking, a pizz bridge will have the strings closer together and have a flatter arch than a bridge cut for arco playing. Even though you may not have a doublebass luthier available, many violin luthiers work on all the orchestral strings and can do a very satisfactory job. There are too many variables to be considered to make recommendations without actually seening the instrument. Your local luthier should be able to access the condition of your present bridge and fingerboard and recommend appropriate changes.
  8. jermng


    May 6, 2002
    If that's the case, would a cheap carved bass do a better job than changing all those stuff? I have seen some nice Chinese basses with Spruce tops, maple sides and ebony fingerboards and fittings for quite good prices.
    I just want to sound decently warm and not harsh like I'm sounding now. And of course I now it can't compare to an old European bass.
  9. Only you can decide that. Even if you get a new bass, the odds are that you are going to need to visit your luthier to get it set up to play the way you want it. A bridge and fingerboard for your present bass are going to be a lot cheaper than buying any new bass of decent quality.
  10. jermng


    May 6, 2002
    Yeah. That would be a much cheaper option. BTW, what is aircraft wire gut? Where can I find something like that?
    How does the bridge affect sound? By the wood or the thickness?
    Will the fingerboard give a significant noticeable difference in sound?
  11. You will find the answers to all of your questions by searching the posts in the Setup & Repair section of this forum. As I said previously, there are too many variables involved here to give definitive answers without actually seeing the instrument. Visit your local luthier.
  12. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    While there are lots of variables, I think the MAIN reason people have different basses for pizz and arco is the strings. Most strings that sound great for orchestra are thuddy for jazz pizz, and most jazz pizz strings are hard to play arco on.

    This was my problem, but Eudoxa gut does both well for me, so I see no need of a second bass, unless I get a beater for the occasional outdoor gig.

  13. If you have limited resources and limited access to luthiers, I recommend that you address one thing at a time. You may get substantial improvement with the simplest suggestion, changing strings. Then you can decide how much more you want to spend on the costly stuff. A very good arco/pizz string is the Obligato. It has more sustain than the gut strings (Eudoxa and Oliv) at far less cost. I used them on my symphony bass. I prefer more tension, but they were still good.