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The $68,000 Question?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Bruce Lindfield, Mar 1, 2001.


  1. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    OK so I have decided that my next purchase will be some sort of Double Bass and have been "warned off" electric uprights by every Jazz bass player I know for what seem very logical reason.

    So here I an contemplating buying a real acoustic Double Bass and have got loads of tips from this part of the board, but am stuck on the one really crucial question, which is how much should I pay for this?

    I know this is going to take a long time, but I have started with research on websites and phone calls to shops in the UK. I just spoke to a shop in Bristol and also Peter Georgiadis from GalleryStrings in Hastings - the nearest place to me that sells basses.

    The shop in Bristol has a Romanian bass that they say was used by a Jazz pro and is going for £1,600. Peter tells me that his cheapest bass is a German one made in the 60s, going for £5,500 - but he can buy me a "student" bass and set it up himself, to a very high standard ,so that it would make a good instrument. A lot of the places I'm looking at have instruments advertised at £40,000 or £50,000, which is probably more than my flat is worth!! So there is a staggering range of prices and I don't know what I should be paying as someone looking at semi-pro Jazz for fun?

    The good thing about electric uprights was that the options were so limited there was only one choice! ;)
     
  2. It's quite possible that the L1600 Romanian bass will be just fine for starting out. As long as the instrument is set up really well, you should be able to get off to a really good start.

    I'm assuming that if you were to use the bass on a gig you'd probably amplifiy it (based on the types of gigs I know you play) so, luckily cheaper basses usually amplify just fine with a pickup. Lots of really expensive basses don't wind up sounding any better with a pickup as some plywood basses (although acoustically there can be huge differences).

    As far as new basses are concerned, the current Czech plywood basses, although very shiny looking, actually work pretty well for the money. I don't know if they are necessarily available at any U.K. shops, but I don't see why not. They sell for about $1800 Canadian here which is probably only about L800 (although it sounds like you guys never get prices that are equivalent to the straight currency conversion, so they probably would cost more than that in the U.K.).

    Anyway, the bottom line is that even a plywood bass in good shape with a really good setup should be sufficient to get you off to a good start. If you really take to it you can always get a nicer bass later. You're lucky in England - there are lots of double bass and violin shops since you guys have so many pro and amateur string players and orchestras. Just keep looking around and I'm sure you'll find a few good less expensive basses. You might consider asking a few local professional classical players if they or anyone they know has a bass for sale.
     
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Bruce - I went through this several months ago and in one way, I don't envy you. The experience can be very bewildering, since if you don't already play you don't really know what to look for. For starters, I would suggest two possibilities:

    a) can you rent/borrow one for a few months while you start your lessons on same? This would give you an idea of what you are getting into both physically and in terms of tone production.

    b) if not, find a teacher and discuss the possibilities with them. The bottom line is, you don't need a great bass to get started...just as long as the physical "playability" is relatively good, you'll be able to make a lot of progress no matter what. If you get some help and choose your first bass well, you'll be able to sell it and get out of it at least what you put in. I'd stick to the lower end if I were you.


    When I bought my bass, I had to make a 2 hour drive about 6 times to go to the nearest place that sold basses and spend the day playing bass after bass. My goal was, listen to what my heart/intuition was saying about each one, and rank them accordingly (I didn't look at any of the prices before playing them). After all of that, I found two that worked for me soundwise. One was $12000, the other was $3200. When I discovered the price of the cheaper one, I came back to this very board and pestered the hell out of reedo, Don, and Ed with a buncha doubts and questions (which, to their credit, they were very patient and helpful with, even though I must have been about as pesky as a gnat about the whole issue...). After that, I bought the bass, and ended up spending about $500 on top of that getting the setup exactly the way I wanted it (including new endpin, etc....). If you want a good laugh, go back and review the threads, "Is my bass dead" in SETUP, and "Advice needed on new German Bass" in BASSES. I was a mess, but in the end it was worth it, 'cause I followed my intuition with a little help from my friends.

    Good luck!
    Chris
     
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I've taken on board all the comments and advice - thanks to everyone! I'm still a bit bewildered, but I get the feeling from Ed's post that $5,000 to $6,000 should get you a pretty nice bass for Jazz? Now this would probably be about 2/3 of that in English pounds (£) - i.e. £3,300 - £4,000.

    I reckon that the £1600 one is about the cheapest decent bass I'm likely to get, but it involves a 4 hour (at least) round trip to Bristol, but this could be worth it. Scandinavia might be just too far and I don't fancy driving all that way - although Peter Georgiadis told me he has a potential buyer in Brisbane Australia for the £5,500 German bass!! :eek:

    If I am going to pay £4,000 for a bass, then I might need to start saving up a bit, as all the shops I have contacted want cash! Unlike Bass Guitar shops, who are quite happy for you to walk off with a £2,000 bass under your arm for a small deposit and 2 years interest-free credit! This may take even longer than I thought. I am due a £2,000 bonus in May, but it looks like this isn't going to be enough!

    But I have lots more shops to try yet and I will try Paul Byant - the Strunal was I think what Peter Georgiadis was offering to buy for me and "tart up" a bit - I couldn't hear exactly what he said on the phone - this is another option if I don't find a mid range solution and get desparate to get started.

    Thanks again.
     
  5. Bruce, given the exchange rate between the dollar and the pound you might do well to investigate the possiblility of importing something from the U.S., depending on tariffs, etc.

    Check out http://www.kolstein.com/instruments/divacenza/index.html

    You can't go wrong in dealing with Barrie Kolstein. If you don't believe me, ask reedo about when his bass cracked, or view the "Kolstein What a Guy" thread. I've never heard a negative thing about the cat, and in all of my experience with him he's been A-1 classy.

    There are a couple of other basses that might be in your price range at http://www.kolstein.com/instruments/bass/index.html

    Another guy I've dealt with is Mike Shank at http://www.shankstrings.com/products.htm I can recommend him as well.
     
  6. Hey, Bruce, were you asleep or something? Ed Fuqua obviously chickened out of buying the Panormo I told him about 10 days ago. Don't sweat the $110,000 price tag. The guy will take less. I'm here to help you, buddy. You wire the money, I'll pick it up and hold it for you. It's only a 40 minute drive.

    Seriously, just so you know, in the NYC area, when a luthier sells a bass for someone else, he gets 20% of the price as a commission. A direct deal will cost less.
     
  7. I'll second That wholeheartedly,Krackhouskey! Barrie is definitely the Man! Unfortunately, they still have that VAT tax thing in the UK, so I don't know much about what the shipping would be if you were interested in one of his Basses (sorry, the La Faro Prescott is still not for sale!;)), but at least check out some of those links the guys put up so you get an idea of what is out there and the market price. As far as Dealers in England go, I don't know how far you want to travel, but S.&E.M Turner in Nottingham Have a Nice Shop,Tel. 0115 9430333,or in Sutton, There's Malcolm Healey, 0181 644 3419 or in London, check out The Contrabass Shop www.contrabass.co.uk or Gallery strings in East Sussex www.gallerystrings.com. That's about all I can think of off the top of my head, I'm sure there are a lot more.As Sherlock said, the game is afoot! Happy Hunting!
     
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Happy hunting indeed!

    David - I read the last four or five posts (including yours) after getting in from a gig. After checking out the "Guarneri Master Copy" from the link you posted from the Kolstein page at very great length, I discovered that I had drooled all over my favorite dress shirt. I'll be sending you a dry cleaning bill very soon....