thoughts on KC Strings extensions?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Baron von Basso, Jul 1, 2003.

  1. Baron von Basso

    Baron von Basso

    Nov 3, 2002
    I saw one of the KC Strings' brass extensions at the ISB convention and was wondering if anybody has had any expereince with them. Luthiers that I've talked to seem to think that they're ok, but I was hoping to find folks that are more familiar with them.
  2. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    But very nicely made by Russian ex-rocket scientists.
  3. [​IMG]

    I am also looking into one of these.
    I was told that it has made several basses open up and sound better...reason being the strong resonance of the brass and the firm contact with the scroll.

    Could this be a case of additional weight as a benefit?
  4. Baron von Basso

    Baron von Basso

    Nov 3, 2002
    I was also told of the improved sound, but I was told by the guy that sells them! I was wondering if you've heard about it from an outside source?
  5. We've been down this road before. The only way that adding weight to the scroll is going to benefit the sound is on the remote chance that additional weight happened to move the resonance frequency of the neck (B0) closer to the resonance frequency of the body of the instrument (A0). This was discussed extensively in an other post a few months back. I would think that an easy test would be to put a 2 lb "C" clamp on the scroll and see if that helps your sound. It's not a one way street however. The B0 can be adjusted to overcome any mismatch cased by additional weight. Of course, that isn't something a luthier does for free.
  6. Baron von Basso

    Baron von Basso

    Nov 3, 2002
    the main selling point that they are making in KC with these is that the extension merely rests against the scroll. There is no string hole drilled and the string so the extension doesn't clamp down on the scroll. The string goes through the extension and out the back and into the peg directly so it is held in place but there are only a couple of screws that go into the bottom inside of the peg box. That ought to help a little with the problem of dampening wouldn't it?
  7. No - the weight is still there either way.
  8. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    Dozens of professional bassists have chosen the KC C or Low B extension for their basses, and so far all of them have remarked on the improvement in sound to their basses. Among those are Dave Anderson, Principal of the New Orleans for his Prescott, Lawrence Wolf, Principal of the Boston Pops, and Jeff Bradetich of the University of North Texas.
    If bassist didn't like this extension we wouldn't be selling so many of them, and frankly we'd have scrapped it for something else. We wanted an extension that didn't damage the integrity of the maker by drilling and sawing away part of the scroll, that wouldn't buzz and rattle, that would be easy to use and easy to install. The first design was for the slide extension. Some bassists said they wanted an extension with capos going down to a low B, so we built that. Some would like a fingered extension(one that actually works and isn't backwards), and we're working on that. Pictures of the current extensions are at:
    Martin Sheridan
    Bass Maker/Bass Player
    KC Strings
  9. Impressive names. Now - please explain in acoustical/physics terms just how adding a couple of pounds of weight improves the sound.
  10. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    You're just across town. Come on over. We'll put an extension on your bass, and then perhaps you can go home and figure out why it works, and why your theory doesn't.
    Acoustical theory is interesting and something we should all know something about, but I know dozens of makers who have followed Hutchins and Sanders et al only to abandon them; there's no magic bullet in building good basses; my personal opinion is that there are just too many variables in musical instruments to define success as this or that mode, egimode or whatever. I can't tell you why this works, but I accept the judgement of the players because they say that it does. They didn't ask for an extension for that reason; they just needed an extension. Their comments were voluntary and unsolicited.
    Kindest regards,
    Martin Sheridan
    Liberal Midwestern Luthier
  11. I'll take that as a no. You need to do a little more reading Martin. The Catgut Acoustical Society was founded in 1963 by Hutchen and Sanders. Today over 700 CAS members share their ideas through correspondence, meetings, and conferences with the sole goal of improving the knowledge of just what makes good instruments. Results are published only after carefully controlled scientific tests are run that have shown to give consistant REPRODUCIBLE results. The basic plate tuning modes you mentioned were only the beginning of over 40 years of research that continues daily around the world. The people doing the research today are a bunch very intellegent makers, scientists, educators, and other people who are just looking for the answers to "why". No, they don't have all the answers, but they do have some of the answers. Since you tossed out a bunch of names of well know players, I suggest you go look at the names on the CAS membership list. You might be surprised at the names you see there. You probably know several of them.

    Now getting back to your offer. What you suggest is impossible for me since I already have very light weight extensions on both my basses which have been carefully A0-B0 matched. If you don't know what I'm talking about, ask Anton to show a copy the CAS/MVA article that I sent him after our previous "discussion" on this very same subject. If you are serious about wanting prove that it works or doesn't work, why not donate one of your extensions to the CAS or some other independent testing organizaion and let someone neutral run some real non-subjective tests. "Improvement in sound" can mean a lot of things. I could rightfully claim that any extension improves the sound if you define that to mean you've got several new low notes that didn't have before.

    The KC Strings extensions are very inovative, well thought out, and are down right beautiful. If your guys could figure out how to knock off a pound or so, I would probably start installing them myself instead of hand crafting each one as I do now. Till then..., say hi to Anton.
  12. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I think ANY C-extension can potentially improve the low end response of a bass. Think about it--you're increasing the mensur of the E string to about 52"! What bass wouldn't sound great with a 52" string length? I agree with Bob that the KC extension is elegant and very well-crafted, but too heavy. And I have no doubt people hear a positive change in their basses after installing it. So, perhaps it could be re-engineered using composites or titanium...
  13. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    Actually, Bob, I'm not a member of the flat earth society, at least not yet.
    I think that the research done in acoustics by the Catgut Acoustical Society and others has been very valuable. The same can be said for varnish and ground research. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent reading and studying it myself. All makers should study it and use it or not as they see fit.
    I think the problem that arises with musical instruments is subjectivity. When a scientist is testing a new drug, he or she can do double blind studies and they can really measure the results of the drug they're testing; helped most, killed a few, no effect on some etc.
    If I recall correctly,one of Carleen Hutchins experiments had to do with testing violin tap tones. She made some tops tuned to an E and some to an Eb. The backs in this test were tuned to an F. She then had professional players play on them and found that orchestra players tended to prefer one and chamber players the other. She didn't just make the violins and hook them up to some equipment. I don't recall if any of the players were asked if they'd own one, or if they were as good as their own violin.
    Over the years, I've talked with players who have played on instruments made using these theories, and their comments to me have been all over the spectrum from "best viola I ever played" to a ho-hum "nothing special".
    I've often seen a professional player play on two violins only to pronounce that violin A is even in all registers, wonderful etc while violin B is a failure. Two hours later another professional player of the same caliber comes into the shop plays both violins and says almost the same thing except the opinion of which is best is reversed! That's subjectivity and I don't know how we can ever get around that. We might put the instruments to numerous tests, I just don't know what it would prove. One guy is going to like it and one guy isn't,or a whole bunch of players are going to think it's great or they're not.
    So it seems to me, that if you want to be scientific about this C extension business, you shouldn't be condeming something you haven't tried because it doesn't fit into a preconceived theory. The bassists are telling us that their basses are better after we put on our C extension. In some cases, like that of Dave Anderson, we took off a wood extension and put on ours and he said the bass, a Prescott, was better.
    I can think of a lot of reasons why this might be so, but I don't know how I would measure it objectively. If you do, you're welcome to try, but in the end it's the player who's going to decide if it's successful or not regardless of what we might read on an occilliscope.
    Perhaps science will someday tell us how to make the perfect bass everytime. As for me, personal opinion, I don't think they're even close.
    If I look at the list you mentioned, I will probably see names on there of people I know, and I'll bet a few of them are makers who have told me they were sold on it at one point, made instruments using those theories and have stopped because they didn't live up to the promise of the magic bullet.
  14. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I had the priviledge of seeing Jeff Bradetich work his magic on stage last November, peforming a duet with my teacher and then sitting in with the chamber orchestra. He not only sounded fantastic but did his part to make the orchestra sound fantastic too.

    I overheard him discussing this very C-extension with pride to some folks before a solo master class he taught earlier that day...sliding the clamping chingaso up and down into different positions. It looked real cool from my vantage point.
  15. Martin, I think you may indeed be a member of the flat earth society. We are not talking about the very, very early plate modes experiment from 30 or 40 years ago, we are talking about A0-B0 matching. This was first published in the early 1990's, and Carleen Hutchins had little if anything to do with it. Charles Traeger wrote about the what he called "impedance matching" back in the 1970s. He recognized that having the body, and neck vibrating as a unit produced better sound than when they did not vibrate together, but did not have the technology available then to document it. Many makers, including myself, have done extensive real world experiments and published the results in violin maker's association journals. I invite you or anyone to read my April 1996 MVA A0-B0 article or any other person's CAS, MVA, SCVMA,or VSA type journals about A0-B0 matching and show me were the fallacy lies. Better yet, show me anything in print that validates your theory of weight makes great. I've seen and written about how as little an ounce or two of weight on the neck, fingerboard or scroll can negatively change the feel and response of an instrument. Now you are telling us that you have this magic bullet that defies all common sense logic about weight and vibration. It seems to me that if adding a couple of pounds of metal with a little ebony thrown in improves the sound, then all instruments should replace all fingerboards with the heaviest, thickest ones you can fine to get that weight up there so it will vibrate better. Or - is it only brass that vibrates better? If that's the case, then a brass neck or fingerboard should work just dandy. Forget your extension. Just give me an example (any example) where adding substantial weight helps the sound of any string instrument. BTW - did you happen to notice that I'm not the only luthier around here who thinks your extension is too heavy?
  16. "I invite you or anyone to read my April 1996 MVA A0-B0 article..."- I would like to learn more about AO-BO tuning. Where would I find/ buy this article, or the others mentioned?
  17. Send me your email address by PM and I'll try to send it to you as an attachment. It's about 2.5mb, so it will tie up your connection a while if you don't have broadband.
  18. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I am revisiting the extensions issue and looked at these again. I'm wondering firstly if anyone here did get one of these extensions?

    I rang and spoke to someone (sounded like Anton). I didn't realise they also have a gated C extension. They have the C with the sliding gate for $450, the gated C for $475 and the gated B for $500.

    Without getting into the whole argument again about the effect of the weight, I am interested to know how much they weigh. I asked and the guy I spoke to didn't know off-hand but said he could weigh it for me. Question: How much does a typical ebony and/or ebony and maple extension weigh?

    They quote up to $1300 for the extension including installation. $800 or so sounds like a lot of money installation and certainly that's getting up towards the prices of a wooden extension (at least here in Canada anyway).

    The good thing certainly does seem to be that you don't have to drill through the scroll. I'll have to speak to some local luthiers (who also make their own extensions) and see what they say since I would likely get one of them to install it anyway.

  19. I can only speak for the ones made of maple with an ebony fingerboard. The last one I did came in a little under 12 ounces. A good part of that was the brass bar and screw that holds the locking trigger.