The Best DB Body for Arco is....

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Bin Son of Bin, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. I was reading through the vast array of knowledge here at Talkbass and I noticed someone referring to the style of body your Double Bass has being important to some degree when it comes to playing Arco.

    So I'm going to ask opinions straight out. Is a Violin body better, worse than a Gamba body for playing Arco, or does it matter at all.

  2. Basscat125


    Aug 3, 2010
    Glasgow, Scotland.
    none yet
    From the few basses I've played IMHO I don't think that's a factor.. It's just whichever bass sounds better.
  3. That is an awesome first answer.

    Ps: Once I have the money I'm getting a Shen 150 and I'll be joining the Shen Owners club. :)
  4. periodical


    Apr 4, 2008
    Newton, MA
    If it has any affect on the sound, it is very far down the list of concerns, and is usually behind the aesthetic concern of which look you prefer.
  5. The violin corner hurts my right leg.
  6. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I think it is true that nice violin corners are more difficult/time consuming/requiring of more skill than gamba corners, and they certainly look nicer. What does that mean? I don't think anyone will claim that a violin cornered top by design sounds better than a gamba shape. An argument could be made that the maker who takes the time to carve violin corners is putting real love into the bass, and his instrument is more likely to be a winner. On the other side, you could say that this maker might be trying to sell his bass on looks, and wouldn't it be better to invest that energy on fine tuning the top and bassbar - focusing on sound, if sacrificing optics a bit? I think that there is and will always be a slight price premium on violin-cornered basses, and they statistically might be better built basses overall, but it would be silly to make the style of corner an issue when buying a bass!
  7. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    It's not a factor. At all.
  8. Co.


    Sep 10, 2006
    It may not be a factor for the sound of the instrument, but it is a factor for playability. Violin corners can really get in the way, especially if the bass has a very large body and small c-bouts. Especially if you want/have to play a lot of tasto or ponticello bowing.
  9. My luthier friend has said that the free-est movement of the front table follows an hour glass shape that passes through the F holes before going out towards the edges to the upper and lower bouts. This line bypasses the corner blocks and the neck block of both violin and gamba outlines. The guitar-shaped bass played by Alberto Bocini (on Youtube) is a good example of the underlying working outline.

    It is not so easy to see the hour glass (figure of eight?) shape in the gamba outline however the generally more dropped shoulders and narrower upper bouts make more sense of the history of the German (underhand) bow. The English makers' outlines were possibly influenced by the Italian basses brought back by Dragonetti and others, also by the Panormo family who came to live and work there. The French makers seemed to adopt something close to two broad outlines, either very steep Gothic shoulders or almost a cello shape.

    High or wide shoulders, wide middle bouts, low bridges and low overstands all tend to conspire against German bow and favour French bow more. Comfort of outline and style of bow aside we still have to question flat- versus swell-backs as well as violin vs gamba corners. Also whether the country of origin has an effect on the sound qualities in a way that makes arco easier or harder.

    Over a long time I have owned Italian, English, French, German and Australian basses of different outlines, shapes and sizes. Most worked moderately well with the bow and a few have been sensational. Among those few were both gamba and violin shapes but almost all were swell backed.

    What matters more in the end is that the bass works. Generally this is not a fluke but the product of an experienced and gifted luthier using very good materials.

  10. Accoustically, I think a good luthier can make any of the standard shapes work. However, a high-shouldered bass with violin corners will really get in the way, especially if you play German bow, like David says.

    It's not an accident that my own bass is a fairly small-shouldered Gamba shape... if that hadn't been the case, I would probably have stopped playing altogether when my right thumb joints started preventing me from playing French bow. As it was, German was clearly an option, and worked great for me. Every time I've tried a violin-cornered bass with German bow it has driven me nuts banging my wrist on the corner. Not to mention if you play sitting, the corners also dig in to your leg. You might guess, I don't much like violin corners... but then, a sufficiently fantastic bass would convince me to deal with the inconvenience.
  11. I started on a gamba shape bass and I switched to one with violin corners two years ago. The only thing I noticed is that the tip of my bow kept hitting one of the corners in certain situations... My violin corner bass (Hawks) sounds better than my old gamba (Juzek) but that has nothing to do with the corners.
  12. Whoa! That depends on personal preference! They might look nicer to you, but my aesthetic sense prefers the clean line of the gamba! I find them more beautiful than the ornate violin. It's in the eye of the beholder!