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Tyrolean Basses

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by E_bottom, Jan 30, 2004.


  1. E_bottom

    E_bottom Guest

    Mar 26, 2002
    Detroit
    What's the deal with Tyrolean Basses. I keep hearing and reading about them but don't know much about them. Do these basses resemble German, English, Italian, or French basses. Do they tend to be bigger, 7/8ths or are they more on the smaller end? Most importantly how do they sound and are they readilly available or are they hard to find and expensive. Also I know each bass is different but I've heard Tyrolean basses tend to have longer string lengths any truth to that. :confused:
     
  2. While I cannot give you an answer , i can sympathize. I feel your pain. The question as to what the f**k a tyrolean bass is is starting to mess with my head...
     
  3. You can find almost anything you want to know about the Tyrolean area of Europe....in the east Alps, chiefly in Austria but belonging to Italy, on line. As far as basses go, I've played many and have seen many more, but couldn't tell you of any real hallmarks. It seems that most of the ones I can remember looked more like German basses than Italian. Also were gamba patterned. Anyway...no big deal in terms of you guys missing anything important. You might try the search feature and see what comes up.
     
  4. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    To me the classic Tyrolean bass, when updated and well-maintained, is the poor-man's Italian bass. Most of these were built without a neck block, like a classical guitar. The installation of a neck block allows a neck set-up to modern playing parameters, namely overstand and angle. The original neck can still be found on many Tyroleans, but you can do little to correct playability issues without this major modification. Nearly all Tyroleans are flat-backed, and as the back tends to be thin, this is another area of weakness. They were built in 3/4 and full size (most would now call this a 7/8), and also in a large 1/2 size. Many of the tops were machine-carved with integral bass bars. Cleaning up the graduations around the bass bar and installing a good new bass bar does a lot to improve the sound. I've heard several updated Tyroleans which sound as good as most Italian basses: full, deep and focused. BTW, the giveaway as to whether a bass is "Tyrolean" is to look at the shape of the ribs where they meet the neck. There's a hump there where the ribs bend inward to fit into a groove in the original neck. Take a look at Ben Allison's bass in the forum feature. These "classic" Tyrolean basses were built from approximately 1850 to about 1920 or so. If you get a chance to look at a turn-of-the-20th-century Sears catalog, you'll see them for sale from $25 to $100! As Paul mentioned earlier, the Tyrol is in the Eastern Alps of Austria, Southeast of Bavaria.
     
  5. Ya learn something everyday on TB! I wasn't aware that the most common hallmarks of Tyroleans were two of the strangest things that have bothered me over the years when getting involved with certain instruments. The neck blocks missing in these basses or what we use to call "Blockless Wonders", as Arnold notes, can make that area where the neck meets the body so weak that a solid bump can separate the neck from the shoulders. I also noticed that Ben Allison's bass looked suspicious to me the first time I saw it. Arnold, since this bass is a Prescott, is it true that most Prescotts were blockless?
    When Arnold says that the bass bars are "integral", he's saying that the bar is actually carved out of the top. Right Arnold? I ran into this many years ago in a bass that I had by Joseph Klotz, one of the sons of the well known Mathias Klotz. We planed out the bar, installed a new one, regraduated the top and the bass sounded great.
    The ISB did a good article on blockless wonders many years ago.
     
  6. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Paul, are you sure that's a Prescott in the picture? It looks like a Tyrolean to me, even the tuners. Though I must say I've worked on some Yankee basses that resembled Tyroleans and were built the same way. I restored a J. Woodbury bass (Brattleboro, VT, c. 1860) that had no block and was really humped in the shoulders. (Jeff B., control yourself.) Never seen a Prescott built like that, though...
     
  7. I'm just basing that statement on articles i've read and pictures of his bass i've seen in several other publications...looks like the same bass to me. This of course, could be another of his basses....
     
  8. Arnold, I just did some research and that in fact, is a gamba shaped Prescott.
    Several pictures on Bens site and an article on Ben in the Summer, 1999 issue of Double Bassist mag. The pic on the Fuqua interview doesn't show very well the fact that those machines are actually full-plate machines. In the picture, it looks as if they are single French style tuners...Nope!
     
  9. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    Is there a way to identify a "blockless wonder ?"
     
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Yes Don, Just look inside the ff holes with a flashlight upwards towards the neck. You will see the neck's underside Heel just like it is on the top of the heel. It's a bit like a tug boat, as tall as it is, is as deep as it is underneath. The ribs go into the heel of the neck but the neck extends downward inside the touching the back and top as well.

    I have only seen one like this as all other Basses with this raised neck block style had a real neckblock. I am not sure how many of them or if any at all were modified from the 'blockless' state.

    I have owned at least 3 Basses in the past with this raised neck block. All had a full block. One is my Batchelder.

    If you look up at the neckblock area from inside the ff holes, you will be able to tell the difference once you have seen your first one.
     
  11. flatback

    flatback

    May 6, 2004
    Bolinas Ca
    Just wanted to say that I own a "blockless Wonder" which I bought from Larry Grenadier a few years ago. This is a tyrol bass without the modern improvements and yet I adore the sound of this bass just the way it is. The sound is even all the way up and down, it sings up high and it is deep and rich and focused down low. It is a very open sounding bass but very dark. I would love to rebuild the bass someday and have the neck work done and a new board and the top fixed up but I remember talking about the bass bar issue with Larry and wondering if the bass bar were changed out if that would change the sound unpleasantly? That is, the color and timbre of this instrument for jazz is close to perfection for me,(except for some fingerboard issues) and I wouldn't want it brighter for example even though that might be a traditionally more accurate and modern sound. I would really love to have the neck brought out tho, because it is difficult to work in the thumb area with out slamming your wrist into the sholder of the bass. I bought a Camelopard endpin for it a few years back and that opened the instrument up considerably and then I bought a new tailpiece and wire from Mike Pecanic and that made a huge change. The sound is still the same timbe but the instrument feels as though it vibrates fully on every note now. It seems to form the note right at the attack, which for pizz. is perfect.
    They seem to me to be the perfect jazz bass.
    Thanks for the thread, it is always great to learn new information here, I really appreciate all the luthiers whose thoughts and insights (at $65 per hour) I usually get only in small doses.
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    It has been said that 'an instrument will sound best in the condition it's been in for the longest time'.

    If you bring out the neck with a higher bridge you may have more tension on the top than before. In this case, you will probably need a new Bass bar and alot of top repairs, hence a complete restoration.

    It's a 'can of worms'. Open it if you dare !.........
     
  13. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I'm trying to visualize this; looking thru the ff holes at the neck it will look like the ribs go into the neck ?
     
  14. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    You will just see the neck extending into the body a bit. There won't be a block which the neck is set into. I had a Hungarian bass that had not been converted. It was a nice bass albeit somewhat quiet. To get more volume it is likely I would have had to have a neck block installed so that I could change the angle of the neck, and put a higher bridge on the bass(more pressure on the sound table). The sound was good, but not worth putting more money into. I opted to sell the bass instead.