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Road Trip == First Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by mdurell, Mar 16, 2006.


  1. mdurell

    mdurell

    Mar 9, 2006
    Boulder, CO
    So I'm about to buy my very first bass. I have my first lesson scheduled for April Fool's Day and will be banging on the teacher's bass for that lesson so I can hopefully make a better informed decision.

    I'm looking for a good bass which will get me through school (I'm turning 34 in August and have decided to devote my time to learning upright bass and going to a good jazz school in a few years). I'm looking to spend as little as possible (duh) but I am willing spend more for the 'right' quality bass. I'd like to keep it under $2000.

    I live just north of Boulder, CO and there is a shop in Denver (Kolacny Music) that has a few basses in stock including a Christopher 302 for just shy if $2k. I plan on heading down there and trying out what they have and seeing if I 'connect' to any of the good ones they have in stock (they stock some Palatino's I intend on avoiding the like the plague).

    Here's where things get interesting and fun. I will be taking a road trip in few weeks out to upstate NY and plan on spending a few days in The City to check out some good jazz and maybe take a look at New School and Purchase SUNY. I figure while I'm there I should probably take advantage of the situation and check-out some of the shops NYC has to offer.

    To that end I have decided there's absolutly no reason not to swing by David Gage's shop to see what's in my price range. I think I'll also plan a trip up to Mystic, CT and check out Upton's offerings (the laminate Hawke model looks tempting as do some of the Shens) as well.

    The point of this thread is to get advice on where else I should go and what I should be checking out. Any advice on shops, specific brands to look out for (that might not be covered in the newbie links), and some places to see some awesome live jazz would be very welcome.

    My schdule is rather soft and I can spend as much time as I need but I'm spending a good deal of time away from home over the next month so I'll be VERY antsy to get back home by that point in the trip.

    Kolacny does get bonus points for being local though and all things being equal I'll buy from them but I have a feeling I'm going to have a LOT of options.

    I'll be driving a Subaru Forrester back home to Colorado so I should be able to comfortably fit a bass in the car with me.

    Thanks in advance for any advice!
     
  2. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    I made my bass-shopping road trips (one to Kansas City and another to Seattle) in 2000 (both from Denver). As it turns out, I bought my bass at Hammond-Ashley in Seattle (and I'm very happy with it).

    I was at Kolacny a couple of months ago, and was quite disappointed with their offerings. Most of the basses there were on consignment, and most of them were poorly set up. I would suggest that you resist purchasing from them without seeing what the east-coast shops (and/or Hammond-Ashley) have to offer.

    Only two of the couple dozen basses I played while shopping "spoke" to me. Be sure you play enough, and find one that speaks to you!

    BTW, your budget will make your mission quite challenging.

    Good luck!
     
  3. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    I think you're off to a good start! It would recommend adding a visit to Arnold's shop in Brewster, NY,, and Bob Ross in Denver.

    That $2000 budget is a tough one. Being in such a dry place and with your goals, a hybrid sounds like a good idea. You're just a little shy. If you can creep up a little then there will be lots of good hybrids in your range.
     
  4. mdurell

    mdurell

    Mar 9, 2006
    Boulder, CO
    I'll give Bob Ross' shop a call. I think I had read that Arnold is going to be out of town in exactly the same time frame I'll be able to visit. I'll have to verify. The train I'll be taking into The City has a stop in Brewster.

    Keep in mind that this is my first bass. I've played guitar for 19 years and have digested a LOT of theory but I'm a total noob when it comes to upright bass. I can hold my own on a BG (which I do not own and don't want to own until I'm a few years into this when I'll probably get a 6-string fretted for working on chord melodys). There's no guarantee I'll get 3 months into this venture and be turned-off of it all and go back to my previous frustrating existence as an IT geek.

    I will also be trying to concentrate on jazz as that's what I've studied over my entire musical life and think I'll be fine with a quality laminate. If the New Standard were within my budget I'd be all over one (perhaps it will be my second bass?).

    vanderbrook - Thanks for the advice about Kolacny. At this point I don't really know enough to tell a poorly setup bass from a master setup job. I'll keep your experience in mind as I look at what they have to offer.

    An interesting side note, a few months ago when I realized that URB might just be for me I had a dream that same night where I was carting a bass up some stairs into a hotel room. My wife was not with me. I recall being annoyed with the crappy bag and thinking "I really need to get a better bag with some sort of strap". When I got to the hotel room I unpacked it from it's bag and had to set the bridge into place and tune it up, the strings were installed but the bridge wasn't. It's interesting that this road trip will be solo and may very well result in my carting a bass up stairs to a hotel room in a crappy gimme bag.
     
  5. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    BTW... did you win the lottery or something? :D
     
  6. mdurell

    mdurell

    Mar 9, 2006
    Boulder, CO
    Absolutly... hence the $2k absolute top end budget (and that bass better be perfect and last me forever). Really I want to keep it around $1.2-1.5k.

    ;-)
     
  7. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    For that kind of money, you could do a lot worse than a top-end Englehardt with ebony fittings, properly set up by a reputable shop. They can be surprisingly resonant and very durable basses, and quite playable. Not suitable for the symphony, but quite useable in the jazz world. Many shops will sell you a nicely set up Englehardt for well under $2000, and IMHO they're not a bad deal.

    Then, once you've made your fortune playing jazz bass in Colorado, you can buy the carved bass of your dreams! :D
     
  8. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    For that small amount of $, you should spend your time looking at the ply Shens and Uptons. The Englehardt is going to have a very thin neck (almost like EB).
     
  9. mdurell

    mdurell

    Mar 9, 2006
    Boulder, CO
    I know this is a stupid way to shop but, frankly, I don't like the Englehardts... Perhaps one of the ES series but the EM series... I just don't care for the look of a rosewood fingerboard. I played one at a local shop that had a neck snapped in two and reglued back on. They were asking $1200 for this EM-1. No thanks. I can get that same bass new from urbbob and others shipped to me for about the same cash.

    What about the basses at www.bassesonline.com? They are in NYC. At first I thought it was a scam but in researching here it seems everyone that has purchased from him has been quite happy though I understand I will have to invest a few hundred into a good setup job. Any thoughts?
     
  10. mdurell

    mdurell

    Mar 9, 2006
    Boulder, CO
    I'm sure I can compete with the likes of Ken Walker, Mark Diamond and Mark Simon... Just give me 6 months. ;-) Something tells me I'm not gonna get rich, financially, with this new career path. Emotionally rich perhaps... I really want to teach but I want to do before I teach if you get my drift.
     
  11. jfv

    jfv

    May 5, 2003
    Portland, OR
    Hmm, if you forego the road trip could you up your
    budget a ways? sounds to me like this trip will be
    fairly expensive, CO to NY and back.

    Of course I'm sure it will be loads of fun, but maybe
    its not the best use of the money??

    Just a thought,
     
  12. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    My first UB was an Englehardt and I didn't like it either. I still have it here but I don't play it any more.
     
  13. mdurell

    mdurell

    Mar 9, 2006
    Boulder, CO
    The road trip was already planned. I'm renting a van to deliver a dining-room table to the in-laws in upstate NY and am driving a car we are getting for free back home. Additionally I'm attending my cousin's wedding on the way out. I figure this is a wonderful opportunity to pick up a wonderful bass as I'll have plenty of time and room. I will be pressured to come back home as my wife and I leave for our honeymoon this weekend. I'll be back home for only a few days before driving out.

    I agree, this would be a total waste of money if it were just to go bass shopping. However, this trip will result in me getting rid of nearly 10k in debt with my existing car. Just in time to go seriously in debt with school loans. ;-)
     
  14. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    The last Engelhardt I examined (here in Denver at Wedgle's Music & Loan a few months ago) had a quite thick neck... felt like almost two inches, if I recall correctly. Nothing like a slab.

    Yes, look at Shens and Uptons -- look at every bass you can -- but don't discount an Engelhardt that's received a new nut, ebony fingerboard, bridge, endpin, tailpiece and tailpiece wire. They can be an excellent value.

    I'll be interested to hear about all the basses you've played (and hopefully, the one you bought) when you get back!
     
  15. 5stringDNA

    5stringDNA

    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    Bob R mostly deals with higher end instruments adn the like, but he might know of something around town someone is trying to unload. I played on of his customs last year and it was not only gorgeous but a deliciously smooth tone- very pricey however. Give Von's Violin shop a call, as they tend to get some basses through regularly. I played most of what Kolacny's has in stock right now, and I think you can do better for the price with one of the upton basses. The Christopher 302 had a poor setup when i tried it- it buzzed a lot, but it did have a very sweet tone to it. The schroeder didn't have a very vibrant tone, but the price was reasonable. The Palatino that was there.. well, it was a palatino. Very dull and didn't really sing. Odds are, you will find some great options around new york though. The guys at Kolacny's are a pleasure to deal with though- very stand-up folks that stand behind their instruments.
     
  16. mdurell

    mdurell

    Mar 9, 2006
    Boulder, CO
    Something tells me I'm going to need to find a good luthier in the area. Right now I'm leaning toward the plywood Wilfner from Ideal Music (bassesonline.com), another of his offerings if that one doesn't speak to me, the Christopher 302 at Kolacny, either of which will require a thorough setup, or an Upton laminate.

    I feel like the best value might be with one of Ideal's basses with a good setup from someone in proximity to my home. In searching the forums it seems that everyone that has purchased one has had nothing but good things to say about them. I just need to find someone who grabbed a one of the cheap Wilfners who posted on here.

    I must say the search tool has been getting a workout the past few days.
     
  17. mdurell

    mdurell

    Mar 9, 2006
    Boulder, CO
    It's funny how much better the search works when I look for "wilfer" instead of 'wilfner'. I swear I saw that 'n' 100 times. My eyes and brain aren't what they used to be.

    So here's the list so far to look at basses:

    Kolacny here in Colorado
    Upton in Mystic, CT
    David Gage's shop in NYC
    Ideal Music in NYC

    I believe Schnitzer is out of town the week I'll be around but if I can verify otherwise I may see what he has to offer as well.

    What about places for some good live jazz... something off the beaten path a bit?

    This is the guitarist in me coming out but I will probably shell out some cash to see Les Paul if I'm there Monday night and he's working at the Iridium still.
     
  18. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Arturo's on Monday, Tuesnday, Thursnday, Frinday and Saturnday -- Monday and Tuesnday being the best. Get there after ten or so.
     
  19. appler

    appler Guest

    I went to Gage's shop with that budget and came home with a Strunal plywood. It's a solid instrument. Most people around here are indifferent to them but I've had the bass for a year or two and I like the sound I get from it. I decided to get the bass from David Gage instead of another dealer because, according to the salesman, they picked the bass specifically from the factory, installed a new endpin setup and adjustable bridge, planed and dressed the fingerboard, and put some nice D'Addario Orchestral strings on it (with a Spirocore E). It's probably better than your average Strunal and it's a great first instrument. Have a nice trip and good luck!
     
  20. 5stringDNA

    5stringDNA

    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    Take your bass to Bob Ross for any luthier work you may need once you finally make a decision. He's done some really top notch work for me at a reasonable price, and he's a pretty friendly guy. He lives in the lakewood/wheatridge area.