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Saving up for a new bass-- who makes it?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by calypsocoral302, May 20, 2011.

  1. Hello all,

    Just a little bit of background about myself, I've been playing the upright bass, on-and-off, since I was 9 years old (I recently turned 30). My weapon of choice for the past 16 years has been a pre-WWII plywood bass from some luthier in Canada (Mike Shank told me who it was, but I forget the name), that my parents bought for me when I was 14 years old, for $800. It's an old bass-- the section leader in the amateur symphony orchestra I play in (Hershey Symphony Orchestra) says he loves the sound.

    But, I've been practicing more lately (something I didn't have the discipline to do when I was younger), and it's pretty clear that my primary interest in the double bass is Orchestral (I play bass guitar in blues, rock, and metal), and I think it's time to start looking into investing in a new instrument.

    I realize there are some pretty big-sounding 3/4's out there, but I happen to be a big fellow (6'2", 300lbs), and can certainly handle a 7/8 or 4/4.

    Here is what I think my "ideal" bass would be like:

    1) All solid woods-- one of the two things I strongly-dislike about my current plywood bass is how it de-laminates over time.

    2) 7/8 size, although I'm also open to large-ish 3/4's, as well.

    3) Flat-back, Gamba shape. I prefer a flat back because I play sitting down, and use my left knee and thigh to support the weight of the instrument. I like the Gamba body shape because I like its elegant simplicity and lack of fragility in its appearance.

    4) A meaty, hand-filling neck and string length >42". The other major complaint I have about my current bass is that the neck is too slim and short (currently about 41.2" string length). I find it hard to practice for extended periods with my hands and forearms fatiguing quickly, thus "fudging" some of my fingerings. Practicing on school basses with thicker necks eliminated this problem.

    5) Full-depth (8" to 7.5") ribs.

    Additionally, I'm not sure what my preference is for regarding back and sides-- I've played Maple basses my whole life, so I'm not sure just how much of a difference something like Willow or Poplar would make. Does anyone else have some experience with this?

    So far, I have found that Samuel Shen makes a bass matching most of my criteria. Both Mike Shank (Welcome to ShankStrings.com) and Jeff Judd (J.R. Judd Violins) carry a Maple version. Shank's is a 1999, and I'm guessing Judd's is of similar vintage, seeing as how Shen's current 7/8 Gamba is made of Willow (according to both Upton and CSC).

    Apparently, there is also an Andreas Eastman, the 605, that can be made pretty close to my criteria, although It's not stated anywhere if that model has a round or flat back.

    Anyone with advice or useful input regarding basses out there matching my criteria would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Sounds like you are writing the description for the Shen Gemmunder 7/8 Willow Five String. That is exactly how I would describe it. I don't know if you want a five string, however. The reason I chose a fiver over keeping my Shen was due to the neck being too thin compared to my Kolstein -it caused bad cramps. The five string has a comfortable, thick, hand filling neck. It has 42" mensure. It is flatback. It is 7/8.
    And in my (limited) experience I find that maple is the brighter wood, with willow being slightly darker/mellower. My Kolstein has a willow back and sides, and a poplar neck. My Shen has willow back and sides and a maple neck. I would highly recommend the Gemmunder Five-r (I do not know how the neck compares to the 4 string Gemmunder, which I have never played). I would also recommend talking to Wayne Holmes at Holmes Bass Viols. I really cant stop recommending him; his setup work was impeccable across the bass, and his prices are amazing. Make sure you check all your options before springing. Just because it's close doesnt make it better. Look all over, high and low. You'll find something great if you put some effort into it :)
  3. Also worth mentioning: every Shen I have played (only four or five) has had an Eb neck.
  4. chris1125


    May 14, 2007
    Of the ones I've played, I would say about a third of them have had a eb neck but most of them have been in between or a d neck. My 4 string gemunder is a d neck monster, I would probobly consider it the best shen in the orchestra because it has a big sound and is the largest of the shens. I have also played some of the older maples with a maple back and sides that have a simialer body shape. My 2 basses that I couldn't decide between were a 90s maple shen and the gemunder and they sounded equal, I ended up going with the willow because it sounded just as good, had yet to open up and was a bit cheaper. There are a couple willows that I have played that I have not been happy with though, so it's best to try them out ahead of time.
  5. MK1


    Nov 23, 2009
    Grand Rapids, MI
    An Upton sounds like a good choice for you. Their 3/4 is very large. The standard string length is 41.5-42" (your choice). They make some very nice flat backs. The nice thing about Upton is that you get to choose pretty much whatever you want and the price is very reasonable.
  6. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    What a coincidence! That's the bass you have. :) Actually, I think the OP is describing a number of potential basses.

    Prune, am I missing something? You chose a 5er because you wanted a thicker neck profile? Of course, there are "4ers" with all sorts of neck profiles.

    Now, there's some good advice! :)
  7. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    Willow tends to promote a stronger fundamental sound. Poplar usually has a warmer, more midrangey sound. Willow flatback 7/8 size basses from various makers have found favor among many section players. I've seen them in price ranges from about $4,000 to over $20,000. Shank's is consistently a good source for basses of this kind of function. Let us know what you find!
  8. Bassman316


    May 27, 2008
    Longs, SC
    I'll second that. My Upton Standard lam is a pretty big bass for a 3/4.
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    That's strange. Every Shen I've ever played (hundreds) has a D neck. John Sprague, are you watching?
  10. brandonwong


    Dec 16, 2003
    I second that as well. Unless some players like to have theirs set up with a slightly shorter string length hence pulling it a bit closer to an Eb neck.

    I do pull down some of my Rogeris to 41" so I can reach octave G on 3rd finger with less difficulties and strain.

    Arnold, is that even practiced and allowed on any bass? :)
  11. That's very strange! I honestly have never played a Shen with a D neck -I may be the "odd one out."
  12. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    ...or you don't know how to assess accurately, in terms of hand position re the neck, what is a D and what is an Eb neck. Not meaning to be snarky at all. That would explain why the four or five you played were judged by you to have an Eb necks, while Arnold (and others) report a much larger sample to have D necks.
  13. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    In the interest of standardizing the issue:

    D Neck: Place thumb across from first finger. Slide down the neck until thumb encounters the heel. Play D note with the first finger.

    I've heard people say it's the note played with the second finger. Not. If you do the above exercise and the note laying under the first finger is an Eb, that is an Eb neck.

    That about wraps it up.
  14. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    Yup! Thanks. :)
  15. Actually I do. First finger determines the neck, not second. My two Shens are definitely Eb. My Kolstein is a perfect D neck. I know the difference.
  16. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    My bad then :(. I hear so many different ideas of what constitutes a D neck that I assumed you were confused.
  17. it's no problem -I know you had the best intentions and nothing mean was meant :) I know what you mean though... so many people call it the completely wrong name.
  18. Joshua

    Joshua WJWJr Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 23, 2000
    Heh. Despite reading this forum regularly for years, I had no idea how to tell the above. Count me as another Shen D Neck.

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