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Shen the best deal for someone new to double bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by hunta, Dec 2, 2004.

  1. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    Heya guys :)

    I've been an electric bass (guitar) player for about 11 years. I'm currently attending college as a music business major (aka limbo), because they don't allow auditions on electric. I've been studying double bass for a whopping 1 semester, and using one of the ultra crappy rental basses they offer at my college. My immediate goal is to get my double bass chops up to a level to audition, which I've been busting my butt this term to do, and beyond that I will be playing a lot of double bass throughout my college years.

    It's quite apparent that I need to buy a bass. I've tried to educate myself about what the options are, and from what I know so far it looks like a Shen is the best bang for the buck option out there. Primarily I will be playing classical, although I would like to be able to use whatever bass I get for jazz as well.

    I have a few issues I need to figure out:
    First of all is a Shen really the best choice for what I'm trying to do? I don't know a whole lot as far as "setup" goes, other than that there are different setups for classical and jazz. Is there some kind of acceptable setup for both?

    The bass prof here has me learning on french bow, so I guess that's what I'm going to get, but what kind is good (and won't cost more than the bass lol)? I didn't see a newbie link for bows, but I may be blind :)

    Where should I get the bass from? I would like to be able to play whatever I'm getting before I buy it, although I can't say I trust myself to really know the difference between a good bass and a crappy one, or to know what bass is best for me. I really don't have the experience, other than to know that anything would be better than what I'm using now. I'm guessing ebay is a bad choice, but are there any online dealers that people recommend and that sell Shen? Should I just find a shop? This is totally new to me, as I play a Carvin electric (direct order), and local shops rarely have any electrics I would even consider owning, and when they do they're way overpriced.

    Maybe this is a dumb question, but are there any online places that offer rent-to-own plans or will directly finance a bass purchase? I haven't really figured out where I'm going to come up with the money to buy this thing yet, but it's looking more and more like a rent-to-own kind of deal would be best for me.

    And finally, and probably least important immediately, what about pickups? I always hear fishman is good. My electric amp is really nice, an Eden traveler with a 4x10 cab, would this work well with double bass? Or am I better off getting a specific acoustic bass amp?

    Any help would be appreciated :) I'm in new territory here lol..
    Remyd likes this.
  2. jmpiwonka

    jmpiwonka Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2002
    i already know what many are gonna say so i'll say it.....
    fill out your profile. :D , particularly location.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Actually most of us would say "Check the NEWBIES sticky at the top of BASSES, a lot of questions have been discussed there."
  4. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
  5. bassgurl


    Dec 2, 2004
    FONT=Comic Sans MS]xxx[/FONT]

    hey, i am an electric bass player too and the stand up is also new to me

    i am a freshman in highschool but willing to buy one already

    the manager of my private jazz band (yes i am a bass player in my own jazz band) recomends the site "craigslist.com" the quality really depends on the price

    although you'll find a bass for $400, that is not a good thing

    a reasonable price for a double bass is about $1,000 and you might find a shen model :) but i am a newbie at this stand up bass business too so i am not sure what the best affordable model is.

    also, i think the bass has the same setup for whatever style of music you want to play. i don't have to change everything. and the height of your bass, well, first position has to be right above your head.

    and i like the fact that you continue to strive to play music through college. i plan to major in music and make it a career.

    that's the only advice i know for buying a bass and i hope you find the double bass of your dreams.
  6. Setup is not about endpin length. It refers to string height, soundpost position, bridge fit, fingerboard scoop, and numerous other adjustments made by someone who knows what they are doing. And as a general rule, different styles of music favor different setups.
  7. The links that others have responded with are definitely worth checking out.

    Still, I can offer a few opinions on certain things before you go searching through the archives.

    I've been playing upright for about 3 years, after decades of playing electric fretted basses. So I'm one of many "transitional" players, as opposed to having been raised on upright.

    I own a Shen, and am very pleased with it. It is a hybrid, with a carved spruce top, and laminated sides/back. Though I planned on playing mainly pizzicato jazz (which a fair number of players say a good quality, completely laminated bass works fine for), I had hopes to eventually get into bowing, which I have been doing now for some months. I like think the spruce top makes a difference in the bowed sound, though a carved bass would make far more of a difference. But we're talking lots more money.

    My Shen was purchased new, and professionally set up for both bowing and pizzicato, which is essential. It was worth travelling the extra miles to find a place that sold Shens and did the set up on site (I'm in New York state). They patiently discussed with me what styles of music I hoped to play, made lots of recommendations for set up, strings, etc. And they were able to answer my numerous questions, which one would hope for when spending over $1.5K.

    The quality of the Shen is such that a year after the set up (and a long dry winter) it doesn't yet need to be reworked or adjusted. The quality of Shens is something I can vouch for first-hand.

    Secondly, as for amplification (not even getting into pickups) I would recommended researching small (1-10" speaker, or 1-12" speaker) combo amps. Ampeg, Gallien Kruger, etc... make amps that are a breeze to haul around, and will do your bass great justice in a variety of settings.

    Unlike the old conventional wisdom of bigger speakers and more of them... upright basses seem to do very well without a huge cabinet.

    Hope this simplifies some things, for you. Good luck in your quest.

  8. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    I'm in school near Buffalo, NY, but I'm new here so I don't know music shops in the area that would sell basses. I have talked to my prof a little about it, he was the one who pointed me towards Shen originally.

    McThistle, where did you go in NY to get your Shen?

    I guess the big thing I'm worried about is if I go to a shop and play different basses whether I'm going to be able to tell a quality bass from a junk bass? I really have not played on anything other than the junky school rental bass, and I'm worried about plunking down a big chunk of cash (which is not exactly flowing like water for me) and later finding out I got screwed. Is there anything specific I should be looking for when I go?
  9. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    You will get the most service and bass for your $$$ if you purchase an instrument from someone that can service the instrument. Buy either from 1)a luthier or 2)a shop that employs an on-site luthier.
  10. If you don't find what you're looking for in Newbies, then get creative with SEARCH words and ARCHIVES.
    When you shop for a bass, you need an extra pair of EARS. Preferrably your teacher or another bassist friend.
    Check www.Gollihur.com and many other links on how to buy a bass.
  11. Hunta,

    Small world! The shop I bought my Shen from is in Penfield, New York (just slightly southeast of Rochester and about 2 hours east of you). It's called String Instrument Services, and the number is 585-377-4360. The owner is Paul Strelau (who is mentioned on the Shen website because he's worked with Samuel Shen and has a bass named after him... a 7/8 bass, I believe).

    I went to Paul because I was in a similar mindset... I didn't want to play crap, and though he primarily has Shens, he occasionally has other basses for comparison.

    When I first went there they had a cheapo ($700) Chinese bass that I tried in the shop, and when I compared it to the Shen, it was clear how well the Shen was made.

    A great thing about their policy is that they will rent the bass for a year (appx $35 a month). Then at the end of the year you can apply your year's rental towards any bass you buy... even on a different one than what you rented.

    Both Paul and Jesse (his assisant) are solid luthiers and are members of the Rochester Philharmonic.They tend to lean towards the bowing side of things, but are very sympathetic to the jazzer, and understand that set-up.

    They set up the bass while you wait, in most instances, and are willing to discuss things at length. I can only read forums for so long (as informative as they are), sometimes I gotta sit down with people face to face and pick their great brains.

    My entire experience with Paul and Jesse has been superb, even when I tried to make a bridge adjustment on my own, and totally screwed it up. They fixed it free of charge, and were polite enough not to laugh at me when I brought it in, tho I'm sure they had a chuckle later. Great guys.

    I have to drive almost two hours to get there, and I feel it is completely worth it. Remember, the Eastman School is pretty close as well (geographically speaking), so it would stand to reason that a shop like that would be nearby.

    Hope this helps you.

    salcott likes this.
  12. I own a Shen SB1800 (Hybrid), set up lovingly by Jeff Bollbach. I use it mostly for orchestral music. I was so pleased with it, and it's set up, that when it was time to get my daughter her own bass, I bought a Shen SB100 (laminated) and had Jeff do that set up also.

    Origninally, I took a road trip with my teacher and after comparing the two laminated basses I had narrowed the search to, we both agreed on the Shen SB100. Then my teacher found a Shen Hybrid SB1800 and after playing it convinced me to invest the extra money.

    There is no doubt in my mind that for bowed music, the hybrid is worth the price. It has a nice woody, warm tone and good projection or penetration. It is very easy to play the way it is set up.
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I am very happy with my Shen. Set up equally lovingly by Nnick Lloyd. I've played it out doing everything from bluegrass to Handel. It works just fine. Certainly not the refined sound of a well-aged carved bass, but for what it is, I am VERY happy with it.

    As far as setup, as long as you go with the best compromise for a hybrid string (Obligato is a popular choice, although they were nasal sounding on my bass) and a good set of wheels, you can do most anything you want. Crank 'em high for loud arco and unamplifed BG/folk. Or, drop right onto board if you for more delicate stuff. Just make sure you have a good luthier doing the basics: getting the fingerboard is right, the post, etc.

    As far as bows, I have a decent brazilwood bow selected by my teacher. It's labeled Tourte. Oct. stick. French ebony frog. It's a decent for for the <$300 I paid. Also, I've heard very good reviews of the Ary bows. Lemur offers them.

    Don't get too caught up in the Pernambucco v. Brazilwood thing. A good Brazilwood bow may be a better bow than a cheap pernambucco. You just have to play them.

    Mine bass is an SB180. Carved top. Ply ribs and back. Here's the baby pictures:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
  14. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    Wow, McThistle, that is just the info I was looking for. That sounds like a great deal, a rent-to-own option is exactly what I'm looking for. Very much appreciated :)
  15. Chas, your bass looks great!
  16. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    Many thanks Paul. Plays great as well. The sound is coming. If I can keep up the bowing, it'll get there. It's already opening up some.

    If I had the guts to play the strings higher, it'd be fairly loud. I just keep 'em down 'cause it's easier on the hands and I am not completely over my 15 year bout with slabness (slabicity? Plankitis?, acute oar disorder? BG heebee geebees?)
  17. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    + 1
  18. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I've got on of those coming in...Looks great ! Is that real purfling or is that Sear's purfling ?
  19. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    Silvertone Purfling<SMALL><SUP>TM</SUP></SMALL>

    You know it's real, Don. The only Shen that doesn't have the real stuff is the 80. Even the 100 laminate has hand-inlaid purfling!
  20. Bringing this thread back up because I recently accompanied a student of mine to pick up her new hybrid Shen 150.

    We visited Michelle Fiore at Classic Contrabass in Chicagoland (Wheeling, actually). I was as anxious to see and play the Shen as my student was. Neither of us were disappointed. The 150 sounded fantastic, and Michelle's setup (including new bridge, tailpiece cable, fingerboard/nut work etc) made it play like buttah. A far cry from the student's beat-up school Kay. She immediately started playing things easily that were a struggle up to that point.

    Ms. Fiore had about 8 basses in her shop, and I enjoyed playing all of them; Michelle really knows how to set up a bass. The hybrid Shen compared very well to a couple of fully carved basses she had. I'm taking my Christopher to her to tweak next month.

    I like my Chrissie (7/8 hybrid), but I have to say that in a side by side comparison, I like the "fit and finish" on the Shen better. It simply is prettier. Soundwise, they're comparable. I thought the Shen had a very refined sound for a hybrid, though not quite as warm as my Christopher. It would be a tough choice if I were shopping right now.