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Should I trade in my Kay?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by TedD, Dec 15, 2005.


  1. TedD

    TedD

    May 26, 2005
    Milwaukee, WI
    I have been reading a lot of these threads and looking at reviews for basses and I am wondering if I would be better off with a different bass. I have a 1959 Kay S-1 that I am thinking about trading up for a New Standard or Shen plywood. I think I could get about $2,500 for the Kay

    Should I consider this or am I just coveting a bass I don't have? I realize I should go play a bunch of basses and I intend to make a trip to Chicago to do this (any suggestions on shops would be helpfull), but I would like to hear some thoughts from some experiance players. Thanks!!
     
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The only reason to get rid of a bass is because you don't like the way it sounds or you heard something that you like better.

    The New Standards are pretty wonderful, but you're going to have to come up with another $1500. Have you thought about having some work done to your current bass? New ebony fingerboard, bridge and soundpost?
     
  3. TedD

    TedD

    May 26, 2005
    Milwaukee, WI
    I have had it set up (new strings, endpin and a check on everything else) this summer and there's not much else to do. This is my second bass and although it sounds a lot better than the first bass (a crappy German plywood), I just think I may be able to cash in on the collectable value of the Kay name to get something that sounds better. I could easily be wrong however.
     
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Just be careful of making sideways movement. My teacher has a Kay in his studio that has had a new (fat) ebony board put on, nice bridge w/adjusters and new soundpost (well, at the time. all this work was done a few years back). Nobody is gonna mistake it for his Italian bass but it's a good sounding, solid, healthy bass. If you trade a good sounding, healthy OLD plywood bass for a good sounding, healthy NEW plywood bass, then you get to spend 47 years breaking it in to the point your bass is now. If you are going to sell it to buy another bass, move into a higher category and start looking at hybrids or carved. But don't limit yourself to new basses (or old basses). Don't do ANYTHING until you find a bass that sounds like you want it to sound. THEN put together ways to get the money for it.
     
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    If it doesn't have an ebony board (and a nice thick one at that) put on by somebody like Jeff (who knows what he's doing) , that's something else to do.
     
  6. TedD

    TedD

    May 26, 2005
    Milwaukee, WI
    Thanks for the sound (no pun intended) advice!!! I'm a 'grass is always greener' kind of guy and that sometimes gets me into trouble. Henry Boehm in Madison WI set up the bass this summer, I think I will contact him about a new ebony finger board.
     
  7. DB66

    DB66

    Aug 24, 2005
    Washington, D.C.
    I'm in a similar situation, I have a '66 Kay M-1, been thinking about upgrading to something better for bowing, although 100% of my gigs are pizz, the bowing is for practice.

    What are the advantages of upgrading to an ebony board? How will that change the sound of a plywood bass?
     
  8. cabin dweller

    cabin dweller Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2004
    Ridgeland, WI
    I think it would be foolish to part' with a good olde work horse.
     
  9. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    The improvement in feel, playability, and tone should be quite significant. A student of mine had a thick new ebony board put on his Engelhardt and it's a completely different bass. Then, a new bridge, tailpiece+cable, a good set-up, and a switch from Spirocores to Garbos, and this bass is a dream to play. This kind of stuff makes all the difference.
     
  10. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004

    I agree with every bit of advice that has been offered here in response to you. If you are unsatisfied with the sound, I would cash in on the collectible value and look for a better bass. I practice what I preach. I did just that; I no longer have my 1966 Kay. Now, this is just my opinion. Years ago, I had the chance to compare my Kay directly to Upton's laminates (yes, there are other good laminates out there such as the New Standard). There was no comparison. The Uptons blew away my Kay and they didn't (don't) have the skinny Kay neck that I found to be a liability. The hybrids were just that much better.

    Again, this is just my opinion, but having played better laminates, if more refined sound is what you are after, then I'd lose the Kay in a heartbeat. Before some of you blast me, let me say that I do understand that some desire and prefer the "Kay sound," whatever that is. If that is what you prefer, then keep your bass. Again, in my opinion, there is a continuum of refinement of sound stretching from laminates through hybrids to fully-carved. To my ears and hands, if one imagines this scale from left to right, then a modern high-quality laminate (see the ones mentioned in these posts) is substantially to the right of a Kay.
     
  11. i agree with the trading up idea. personally, i've never been very fond of Kay's myself. i think they are overrated, and DEFINITELY overpriced. which works out to your advantage. i would unload the Kay, there are tons of rockabilly-punks that would kill for an old Kay. and i would just bite the bullet and invest in nice carved or at least a hybrid.
     
  12. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004

    Yep-- once you do, you'll never go back!
     
  13. FredH

    FredH Supporting Member

    If you got $2500 for your Kay you could get a hybrid Shen. I played one a while ago and I can see why everyones so high on them. After it opened up you'd have a good bass.
     
  14. TedD

    TedD

    May 26, 2005
    Milwaukee, WI
    Thanks everyone for the advise. Anyone know any luthiers or shops where I could play some shen's or new american standards in Chicago or there abouts? :help:
     
  15. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    You could swing by Sonksen's place in Chicago: http://www.sonksenstrings.com/current.html
    He has one of Arnold Schnitzer's "New Standard" Cleveland models in stock, but it's the fully carved version and you're not going to get near it in the price range we're talking about. Might give you a feel for the set-up and craftsmanship of AES, though.
     
  16. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    Not to derail this thread but i am diggin Nnick's bass on that page... Of course I love his latest bass with the reversed eff's...
     
  17. rprowse

    rprowse

    Dec 17, 2005
    Wellington NZ
    Hi, I'm Richard from Wellington New Zealand. We don't see Kay basses here, but I do own a German plywood that was built around 1950. It doesn't have much volume and is a bit weak in the bottom register. It does, however, sound good when strung with 'played in' (for bowing) Spirocores. I was interested in the strings that someone mentioned (was it Grobos?) I have never heard of them. Are they an arco/pizz string? I've just been out trying basses and feel that my plywood didn't stack up too badly. Maybe the people who suggest fixing up the Kay have a point... it all comes down to money in the end, I suppose. Still, I'd be pretty happy with my plywood if it had a bit more volume.
    I hope you all have a great Christmas... It'll be a hot one down here!
    Richard