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Trialing $16,000 basses

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Herbie 80's, Dec 2, 2010.

  1. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    Hey darkside of talkbass,

    I'm currently in the market for a $13,000-$16,000 bass. I have a bunch from my luthier that I'm trying out, but I'm wondering if you guys have any tips for trialing basses besides the usual answers.

    I'm taking one of the basses (a 19th century French bass with huge shoulders) on trial this weekend (six orchestra shows) to see if I like it's tone and feel from behind the bass. Next weekend I'm taking another bass probably.

    So, does anyone have any other trialing tips besides listening to it from the front, playing in a variety of setting, different bows, etc,?
  2. Let other people whose playing you know play the bass for you so you can hear what it sounds like away from the bass.
  3. Big B.

    Big B.

    Dec 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Beat me to it. The sound you hear from behind/beside the bass can be vastly different ten-twenty feet away.
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Take them into a pro studio and hear how they sound from that angle, in combination with other instruments if possible.
  5. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    Here's the one about trying out a specific bass:


    Here is the link to all of the articles:

    The one suggestion that works especially well for me when checking out basses is playing while facing into the corner of a room, to hear what the bass sounds like "from the front". Lots of experience and helpful perspective in these articles, IMHO.
  6. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    That's an interesting suggestion in terms of hearing tonal character but it's important to recognize that the corner will reinforce the lower frequencies and produce a sound quite unlike what will typically be heard by a listener in front of the bass. The ideal would be to play facing an unobstructed flat wall.
  7. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    In addition to having a peer play the basses for you, I would try to audition them in an environment that will be most like size of room or concert hall where the bass will get the most use.
  8. I remember a CBC podcast from a few years ago where they talked about a bunch of bass players going into an auditorium and everybody played everybody else's bass with the player on the stage and everybody else sitting in the audience.

    Everybody got to try all the basses and compare playability and they got to hear a bunch of guys play THEIR bass.

    You would probably learn a lot from an exercise like that.
  9. Reileybasses


    Dec 2, 2010
    Luthier Aaron Reiley affiliated with Guarneri House
    Try to get into a hall and get as close and far away as possible. Basses have totally different sound in different areas if you find one that sounds good everywhere in the hall buy it. :) Also try several from your luthier and many others it gives you an idea of what you like about each. Try not to rush when you play the perfect bass you will know it!
  10. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    Hey guys,

    right now I have a beautiful 19th century French bass with violin corners and hatpeg tuners in my possession. It's getting a huge trial this weekend - six orchestra shows total. I'm hoping that this really teaches me a lot about the bass and if it is 'the one'.

    Every time I play it, I remark on how big the tone is. Especially when I dig in. It's addictive to dig in with this bass, and hard not to do it at times! It's a fairly large 3/4 with mighty huge shoulders. The bass is almost big enough for me to play without the endpin out! However, I'm most comfortable with the endpin about 2 inches out.

    Thanks a lot for all the links and such. It's mostly stuff I already know to do, but it's a great reminder. I'm giving myself 1-2 months to try all of the basses that my store has, and then hopefully I'll have made a decision.

    I'm already in love with the bass I'm trialing now, I just want to make damn sure it's the right one. $16,000 (they're giving me a $4000 discount right now because they have a bunch of new basses coming in and want to clear out a bit of the room) is a lot of money to drop.
  11. Marton


    Sep 20, 2005
    Try to listen to it, and you old bass, and some of your bass players friends basses without watching the basses. We have done this test at school when buying a new bass, and it can be surprising sometime.

    The beautiful instruments, or the ones that SHOULD sounds good were not all that good, when listening to them without knowing which bass it was. We found that a $3000 Chinese bass was sounding better than a 100 years old french bass.
  12. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    Hey again guys,

    I did my first night of trial with it last night. It performed pretty good, but the bass is definitely going to take some time to get use to. The neck is a lot bigger than I'm use to, and the shoulders as well. The strings it has on at the moment (Orchestra dominants - purple wrappings?) are not the greatest either. The action is a bit high for me, but that is adjustable by my luthier, obviously.

    In the orchestra I played with, there was also an electric bassist. He came up to me after the show and complimented the bass quite a bit. He said that it has much more low end than my other bass, and that he could easily hear me over the grand piano and guitarist separating us. This was quite the compliment and show of character as I've always felt he was a bit of an ass from previous rehearsals. He also remarked on how I could have probably played that hall without PA support at all, and that I would never need an amp for jazz gigs with that bass.

    Overall, I liked the playability of the bass quite a bit. It was my first time bowing it (I didn't have the chance to when I tried it in the store), and it performed well. However, it's hard to be light while bowing it because it's so loud. I'm not sure how I feel about this just yet.

    I have five more shows to go with it, and then I'm going to give my verdict on this bass. I have about 5-10 more basses to try still.
  13. geoffbassist

    geoffbassist UK Double Bassist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2006
    Founder - Discover Double Bass
    Hey herbie.
    It's great you can try so many. Enjoy the experience and let us know how u get on.
    Cheers Geoff
  14. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Either Thomastik Dominants or Pirastro Original Flexocore - the ball ends will tell you which - round for Thomastik or puck-shaped for Pirastro.

    Sounds like a promising bass! ;)
  15. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    I just finished my third show with it (2 in a day!). The bass is opening up REALLY well now. I'm beginning to learn how it will respond to certain things and how parts of my technique change to accommodate this bass.

    The players in my orchestra say that they can feel it resonating in their chest (when I'm perfectly in tune, that is!). The strings are Thomastik Dominants. I don't like these strings too much, so if I decide on this bass, I'm going to switch the strings around. I have a set of Evah P's I'd put it (swap strings from my other bass to this bass).

    I played it in the empty hall today, in the middle of the stage. I played it both with a bow and without, and I can hear the bass echo back to me. I love this, but I'm still unsure of how this bass sounds 20 feet away from me. I asked a fellow bass player to play it for me while I stand away, but by this time there were other people in the hall. He isn't use to higher action so I couldn't tell how the bass is 20 feet away because he was too quiet (pizzicato). However, he has remarked that he feels that the bass sounds deeper than Ron Carters and has a bit of a 'Ray Brown' sound to it (from a distance when I'm playing). I wouldn't know since I don't play jazz one bit (and have never heard it from the front), but these are great compliments.

    I'm hoping to take the bass out again next tuesday and bring it to my teacher (fellow TB member bejoyous referred me to him!) and have his verdict on it.

    EDIT: Does anyone know anything about a shop named Jean Baptiste G(or V?)uillaumes a Paris 3 Rue Demours - Ternes? I found this patch on the inside of the bass.

    I've found out that there was a luthier named Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume on 3rd Rue Demours - Ternes, but I think the V in Vuillaume was actually a G on the tag. This is a bit unsettling because it may be a false tag?

    Also, after a bit of research, I've found that Vuillaume (gosh, I HOPE I read that tag wrong!) made double basses as well. The pictures I have seen match the trial bass in every instance, except for the tuners. This basses tuners are hatpeg, and string emporium (http://www.stringemporium.com/french-upright-bass.htm) says that they should be steel or brass. The tuners on the trial bass have obviously been changed as well. :/
  16. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I think its time you posted some photos of this bass! Button, scroll, top would be a good start. ;)
  17. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
  18. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    JB Vuillaume was one of the very finest French master-luthiers in history. He was also famed as an incredibly quick and skilled copy-cat -- stories about having people leave their Italian masterworks at his shop for repair and coming back two weeks later to see two identical instruments, and be told to 'take their choice.'

    If you have some reason to think that the that the mark is authentic (i.e. that JB Vuillaume shop actually touched this bass) run (carefully) to a world-wide master-shop for a serious opinion.

    Meanwhile, I'd say to forget the label and evaluate the instrument without it.

    Good luck and have fun.
  19. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    Hey guys,

    Just finished the second show for today, and the fifth in the last 2 days. Totally dead tired.

    I looked at the patch again today and it was actually a V. So it does say Jean Baptiste Vuillaume. I bought a mirror today to see if his signature is on the top of the bass (I read that he signed all of the instruments out of his shop), but I haven't had a good enough flashlight to really check.

    I'm in Montreal right now, is there a more reputable luthier than mine around? I go to Jules Saint Michel, and I know Mario LaMarre is in town as well. Would he suffice in checking if it truly is a JB bass? If he can't, I don't think I can go to NYC anytime soon and bring the instrument with me.

    I'm going to borrow my room mates camera tomorrow (hope she'll allow me) and take some pictures of it. I'll post them at Ken Smith and here.
  20. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    Hey guys,

    just finished the last show for this production. Whew! Finally over. As promised, I took many pictures. It was hard to catch the correct lighting, but I tried my best. The bass is generally a bit darker than in the pictures.

    In one of the pictures, there is some weird black dust in the bottom of the bass. Any ideas of what that could be?

    Also, I looked inside with an alright flashlight and a small mirror. I didn't see any signatures, but it was hard to tell as I'm not a professional, the bass was dusty as all hell, and the mirror was the size of a quarter (think dentist mirror that he/ she puts in your mouth). I also couldn't see all of the top from the inside.

    I also noticed while looking inside that some of the cracks that have happened in the bass, have glue that dripped on the inside of the bass. This is a sign of mediocre craftmanship, yes? All of the cracks in the body are barely noticeable unless you look really close. My first time picking the bass up I only noticed one.

    Also, it seems that the button has been replaced before. Any ideas?

    PS: The hatpeg tuners aren't actually ebony. This was a bit saddening for me, but these tuners stay in tune forever.








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