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Some bass shopping wisdom please...

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Dave Irwin, Nov 4, 2002.

  1. I've been playing and buying basses for more than 10
    years and I still can't get a handle on the following
    questions: (I guess if they wouldn't be so important
    if basses were not so darn expensive...)

    1. How do you know when your better off investing in
    a new bass or a new bow?

    2. At what point do you get diminishing returns on a
    more expensive instrument? (ex. how much better is
    5,000 than 3,000, compared to 7,000 better than 5,000,
    10k than 7k etc...

    3. At what point does instrument age improve
    collector value more than the sound?

    4. Is it better to have the one best bass possible or
    2 lesser quality basses but each setup for bow and one
    for pizz? (or solo vs orchestra)

    5. Do most players dive into an expensive instrument
    at once or constantly trade up as they can afford.

    5. When can I finally get away from new red varnished
    instruments? ....ok that one's rhetorical...

  2. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    :eek: Whah!!?? My head is spinning!
  3. This is not a good sign as far as getting answers to those questions. Was it the wording?

  4. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    wording problem vs can't argue with love
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I was actually trying to answer a few of these, but folded.

    Buy for love or pragmatism. How about one of each?

    If you're buying for investment, buy low and sell high. But remember that by doing this you become part of the machine that is pricing players out of good basses.
  6. Thanks for the reply. I has a similar response from a symphony player on the 2xbass list. A couple interesting notes though...

    He indicated an "acceptable" bass would probably cost 7-10k and I should buy the best bass I could afford and buy a BETTER bow than I can afford.

    Maybe I should have asked if there are specific problems that indicate a bow quality problem rather than the bass. Like loosing the fundemental...?

    I'm still havent heard arguments for 2 lesser basses setup for arco and pizz respectively.

    Should a jazz setup (bridge adjusters, lower action) have a greater impact on arco tone than 2-3k worth of bass?

  7. jaybo

    jaybo Guest

    Sep 5, 2001
    Richmond, KY
    I hate it when players automatically make a correlation between price and quality like that guy you talked to. He doesn't know what type of sound you want or what kind of sound gives you chill bumps when you hear it. That sound may be readily available for 2k. I live in eastern Kentucky where bluegrass is big and people's wallets are usually small and I've seen several very nice Kay basses go for around 1k to 1.5k while guys on here have said basses like that sale for upwards of 5k in New York. Personally I've played a couple of basses that were very (in my opinion) acceptable for both jazz and orchestral playing. I think it depends on 1. how the bass is set up and 2. your expectations for a pizz and arco sound.
  8. In fairness to the symphony player that said acceptable instruments start at 7k, I have to wonder how many major symphony players win auditions on cheaper instruments.

    I'm guessing there's an expectation that a player have an expensive instrument even if it's really because everyone else in the section paid long bread for theirs.

    Anyway, I appreciate his honesty.

  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Proper sequence:

    1) Find bass you love.
    2) Find the money to buy it.
    3) Get it and enjoy; get gigs to pay off loan.
    4) Now find a bow that works with it.
    5) Forget about finding a set-up that works great both pizz and arco. Decide what's more important and go in that direction. Best of Luck!
  10. I guess that's a question I'd be interested in. What is the average bass uses in community and small city orchestras? I think this is what the guy was getting at (the other side of the coin).

    As for teachers yelling at Gage not to hook up their student with a new instrument, I can't really relate since a teacher may get my respect, but never the power to spend my money.

    All this is getting me a much clearer picture though. So far, I'm taking this away:

    1. Do some bow shopping/comparing on my own bass before thinking of a new bass.

    2. When it is time for a new bass, search for an unlabeled but quality instrument that is at least old enough to have opened up a bit.

    3. Still would liek to get away from red varnish. Okay, I'm shallow.....

    Where can I find Dinasaur?

  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    A comment on the pizz/arco setup thing. The more I work on The Stick, the more I becoming of the opinion that you really don't need different setups at all. The sound, as I've indicated my opinion in other discussions, is all in your ears and hands. Extremes might be discounted, like a fresh set of Spirocores, but aside from that I think that you can find a set of strings that will do both well, perhaps leaning toward one side of the other.

    In my case I'm currently running Ebola-gatos and find that they work great for either. As my ear and right hand come together on The Stick I can see where (and have been witness to) Spiros would work fine for either...

    If you're running better pizz strings, you'll have to work on darkening up your sound with The Stick, if your running better arco strings, then accept a slightly darker sound with your fingers. It would depend on where the money is coming from.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    ... a bit more.

    My father's always given me the advice that equipment is a matter of comfort and the rest is all on you. The older I get, the more I understand this wisdom.

    Ok. That all. :)
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Why start another thread to continue the other discussion?


    I think you didn't quite swallow all of the advice given to you in the other thread.
    I think Our Arnold summed this up nicely. To this I would only add to find an opinion or two to help guide you on the above list. A great player, and a great luthier would be the two opinions that I would seek.
  14. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny

    Donosaur will find you.

    But, seriously Dave- Donosaur is Don Higdon's TB nickname. E-mail him from one of his posts.

    ps-sorry for my non-answer in the other thread. I wanted to answer but I realized that any attempt by me would have gone on way longer then I could have handled then.
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The new thread was obviously a brain fart on Dave's part, so I merged it with this one.

    Ray - One thing I have noticed about the difference between "arco" and "pizz" setups is the arc of the bridge; "arco" bridges often display a much more severe angle between adjacent strings to facilitate bowing, whereas I've sen a fair number of "pizz" basses set up with a much flatter curve on the bridge top. I had this adjustment made to my bridge when I got the bass, and it made it much easier to play. My teacher can still bow on it, but he remarks that he has to be really careful to avoid inadvertant double stops. If I ever get heavily into the whole "Stick O' Pain" thing, I think I'll want a bass that is set up for it.

    Interestingly, my teacher - the assistant principal in the orchestra here - thinks my action is very high. I hate the pizz sound of my bass when the action is lowered, but when he lowered it to see what would happen, it sounded GREAT arco (a lot of that had to do with Sid's fingers, of course) even with Spirocores on it. Go figure.
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I don't think Spiros sound bad with the Stick patently, but they are certainly on the unforgiving side.

    As far as the curve of the bridge, I've always preferred the more rounded bridge than the flatter bridge, and don't really see an advantage to the flatter curve, unless it makes the transition from the Slab easier. The extra curve would make fast and repeated double and triple string crossing feel different with pizz, but nothing unovercome-able. And then -- how many of these do we really do anyhow?
  17. I am definitely swallowing all the advice on the thread.

    That part about figuring out how to afford the instrument I love gets a little tricky. Somthing about sending my kids to college and retirement nesteggs..

    Anyway, I appreciate all the replies. I know the questions are very subjective.

  18. jaybo

    jaybo Guest

    Sep 5, 2001
    Richmond, KY
    Regarding the flatter bridge...

    I've never played a bass set up that way as all of the basses at school are set up for predominately arco playing. Wouldn't the flattening make the action uneven from string to string because of the curvature of the fingerboard? Or is it not that extreme of a change?
  19. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    That's because it's a dumb idea. Who in his right mind is going to buy two inferior basses rather than one better one?

  20. It's not that radical at all. There really isn't a problem with uneven action.
    The only problem I'm experiencing is I'm having problems getting the g steing high enough that it doesn't buzz when going for a big arco sound.


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