1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Toby Chennell Arco Bass Guitar

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Marcus Johnson, May 9, 2004.

  1. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Not sure where to put this thread; Toby Chennell builds DBs that look very nice, but the instrument that intrigues me is his arco bass guitar. It's fully acoustic, can be played in your lap like a guitar, or upright on an endpin, and it can be bowed. It has a longish bass guitar scale, if I remember correctly.

    I'm kind of attracted to the idea. It's prettier to look at, IMHO, than any of the EUBs I've seen, and has a definite "what the f***!?" appeal. Anybody out there have some playing time on this bass? I might consider replacing my EUB (which isn't all that portable by the time I get it into the flight case) with one of these.
  2. Marcus, you have any links, pics, specs?

    A Japanese maker of quality acoustic quitars called "Takamine" has been making an acoustic BG which might resemble this.
    I played one once, it was a big solid archtop with ff-holes, the ebony fingerboard and the top of the bridge had about the same curvature as DB fingerboard, only the string spacing was a bit narrow. The scale was about 38'' or something like that, I don´t remember exactly.
    The thing was beautifully made, played nice and the long endpin made it possible to play it upright or even bowed ( I didn´t have the bow with me, so I didn´t try..).
    It had a piezo pickup for each string in the bridge, and sounded actually quite nice amplified. The acoustic sound was of course weak.
    It sold about $2,5 K, so I only gave it a try and forgot all about it after that.
    I just wonder if it´s still in production.

  3. The "bass guitar" looks to be more of a modern version of the old Italian cornerless (guitar shape) doublebass in a 1/2 size version. The outline shape is the only thing I see that has any resemblance to a bass guitar.
  4. josh_m


    May 5, 2004
    Davie, Fl
    It would be closer to 1/4 wouldnt it?

    Anyway, the bridge looks like it would be really uncomfortable to play as a BG.
  5. You're right. A 34" string length would make it more like a conventional 1/4 size doublebass. I had that 38" scale that arto alho mentioned earlier on my mind when I said 1/2 size.
  6. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    That's what I thought when I first saw it; it reminded me a bit of the bass that Masa Inokuchi built for Joel Quarrington. Toby's website shows it being played both ways; on his lap and in an upright position.
  7. Well, that´s an interesting bass. Looks like it would be uncomfortable to play horizontally in the lap.
    The Takamine bass is actually a lot more like a BG, the picture is here:


    I remembered the scale wrong, though, but it was many years ago I saw that thing.

  8. tusitala


    Nov 15, 2004
    hi...i just wanted to know if someone of you actually had the chance to play the Arco Bass, and if so, what do you think about it...i'm really attracted by the concept of that instrument and wanted to know what is your opinion...

  9. alan@wgm.demon.


    Nov 11, 2007
    Hi - heres the copy of an email i sent to Toby Chennell (the maker)about my arco bass:

    Sorry I haven't got back to you sooner. The early problems I had with the bass at the start were all eventually fixed with the replacement and adjustment of the new bridge and after that the bass settled down nicely. It plays well and stays in tune, altogether a lovely instrument which I am enjoying learning to play, so thank you very much.

    The thing that bugged me until recently was that with the K&K piezo pickup the instrument would always feed back at stage performance volume levels and I could not use it effectively for gigs.

    Just recently I added a jazz bass pickup - stuck to a plate made of thin ply and balsa and velcro'd to the underside of the fingerboard. The jazz bass pickup plugs in to the normal amp input and the Piezo plugs in to the effects return (no eq etc.)
    The result is excellent and I get plenty of volume, more than enough to play lightly and still come out clear without feedback. The piezo adds enough sound to keep the instument sounding natural.

    I've encosed a picture and an mp3 of our jazz trio 'Thenwhat?' with Carol Denya singing. The Recording was made for reference during a rehearsal using two Octavamod MK-012's.

    Let me know if you want to hear more MP3's or any more info on the pickup system.

    Thank you again
    Alan Harfield
    Unity Recording Studio

    email me if you want mp3/pics
  10. T-34


    Aug 11, 2005
    France, Paris region
  11. They do look very nice. I was looking at these while back. I realised it is essentially a 1/4 size upright give or take an inch here and there.

    Thought it may be cheaper just to get a fractional size bass.
  12. T-34


    Aug 11, 2005
    France, Paris region
    Well, it is flatter and apparently playable on a lap, unlike "true" uprights. Would you want to play it horizontally over vertically is a different question.
  13. aesopslyre


    Oct 27, 2007
    I happen to own this instrument. The actual body dimensions are closer to a 1/8 size bass. It is far lighter and less bulky than a 1/4 size DB. It is not extremely comfortable to play on the lap, and I 'm 6'1". The sound on Bart Soeters' youtube vid is the best amplified, recorded sound I've heard of this instrument.
    I have 1/4 size spirocore orchestral strings on mine, imparting it a true DB timbre when amplified. It will hold its own against an acoustic guitar, unamped. I'm pleased with the instrument, although I had some problems with it , as it was a prototype Toby Chennell sold on Ebay. However, Toby addressed every problem, and paid for needed repairs, and supplied me with a new bridge, as the one it shipped with was unsuitable for DB strings. Mine has two bass bars, and no soundpost. I think I would prefer a soundpost in the instrument, if only for structural reasons, as the DB string tension and increased bridge height have lowered the soundboard considerably.
  14. aesopslyre


    Oct 27, 2007
    As a matter of fact, I also own a takamine tb10. The Chennell is far superior acoustically, and sounds more like a DB. I would say that the chennell , in the right hands, will deliver an amplified sound indistinguishable from a DB played pizz
  15. T-34


    Aug 11, 2005
    France, Paris region
    Yes, I owned a B-10 too (old one from the mid 90-ties), strung with double bass strings by the way :)

    I am not surprised the Chennell is louder, the body is so much bigger!
  16. aesopslyre


    Oct 27, 2007
    Actually, I have a B10, with a cool tube Pre..also strung with spirocore 1/4. It is very quiet acoustically. I think there is a lack of vibration in the top, which is very thick, likely to prevent feedback. My intention was to substitute it for a DB, but if I had the Chennell first, I don't think I would have purchased it. The chennell far surpasses it for my purpose, which is to have DB timbre without the size of a DB.
  17. aesopslyre


    Oct 27, 2007
    I also used to play a 1/4 size bass lap style :) I've got long arms! Wasn't too comfortable, though.
  18. Hello, zombie thread.

    I also own one of Toby Chennell's instruments, and I love it. In fact, I stumbled upon this thread because I'm (desperately) searching for a flight case for it. Toby will make one, but I'd hoped for a magic, perfect, super, NOW solution. Oh well.

    I'd say it's actually more like a gamba than a double bass. Mine also has two bass bars and no sound post. The sound is... different. Something between a gamba, a contrabass, and a fretless electric. It came with flat wound electric strings on it, and that's all I've ever used, though I'd like to try 1/4 strings on it as well. The electric strings tend to roll under the bow, but you get the hang of it after awhile.

    The mensure on mine, as I've got it set up, comes to just under 34 inches, and It basically has and E neck. I thought this would be off putting, but it's not. Left hand technique came easily. What I still haven't figured out is how in the dickens to change my right hand technique - the bridge is just too close for how I learned to bow!

    In any case, I haven't played it a lot (because I travel a lot and don't have a flight case for it - d'oh!), but have played it on a few concerts and recordings, always with positive comments about the sound from the other musicians. Toby also seems to be a great guy. While working on my bass, he was very communicative, often sending me updates, photos, etc. and always willing to address questions and concerns of mine.
    Neon Scribe likes this.