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Very happy with this 'new' bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by bassbaterie, Aug 15, 2004.


  1. bassbaterie

    bassbaterie

    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Just wanted to share how happy I am with this bass I scored a couple months ago. It was being sold as "german" and has a tiny label inside about 1/2" across that says (in English)Made In Germany, but the label looks much newer than the bass, and looks like it was made for a smaller product. I've been told that that bass is likely 19th century Czech. So far the only luthier I've been able to get it to specializes in violins and doesn't know much about basses. Hopefully you guys will have some input.

    The front and back of the bass are really thin! Maybe about 4mm. The purfling is just scored on - not inlaid. It's a flatback and has VERY large reinforcing pieces inside. The fingerboard is not ebony and needs replacing but other than that, the bass is really resonant and responsive and seems to have no major issues. With the lack of purfling and the cheap fingerboard, it may have been made as a student bass? You guys would know. It can use some tweaking but even purchased sight unseen, out of the box, with Spirocores (not my first choice), it's playing great!

    Remarkably it's a 5/8 size (38 1/4" string length, 24" lower bout). What's the deal with these? I never heard of one until a year ago and now I hear more and more people talking about them. This is the second one I've owned - the first was decidedly a student model and I just bought it because it was cheap. I was surprised to find an 'antique' one. The second I saw it I knew it was MINE and I had to have it. It sounds pretty much as big as a 3/4 size.

    I put a K&K Bass Max on it for jazz and it shreds at 50 Hz through a GK amp. No adjustments required - couldn't ask for more - just turn it up and play - MY BABY.

    The real bonus - I grabbed it for $1275. God bless ebay. I couldn't believe I won it as there were a lot of bids and I thought it was going to go well up over $2000. (then of course I found out it had recently changed hands three times and was previously auctioned for less). I had been shopping for a bass for months and was having a tough time finding something respectable for less than $10K which I really did not have to spend. Then just sat down in front of the computer and this bass practically fell into my lap. Not that it is a $10K bass but it will keep me in Froot Loops for a couple of years.

    I was really stuck on a performance plateau until I got a hold of this bass. It has helped so much that I have made more progress in 2 months than in the previous 2 years. I've been in search of a shorter scale bass for a long time so my wee stubby hands don't have to work so hard. Or so my intonation doesn't suck so terribly. The trade off was to sacrifice a lot of tone in getting a smaller bass. But hurray!

    The photo is all pixillated. I will have to try a different format.
     
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    We will need MUCH better photos to make any kind of guess and several angles including scroll, top, back, ribs. All sides of each.

    Look inside the F hole upwards towards the neck and see if there is a Block which the neck is glued to or does it look like an upside down neck heel (aka blockless).

    These thing help us in estimating the origin and period.
     
  3. Flame

    I'm glad you like the instrument. However those dimensions seem like 1/2 size to me. I think true 5/8's is more like 40". string length. Opinions do very on this subject though. Here what I understand approximate sizing to be for string lenghth only (body dimensions will imact sizing as well:

    4/4 - 44" mensure and over.
    7/8 - 42.75"
    3/4 - 41.5"
    5/8 - 40.5"
    1/2 - 39"
    1/4 - 34.75" (like Kay M-3)
    1/8 - 31"
    1/16 - 27.5" (same as cello)

    Jon
     
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Please tell me/us your refrence for these sizes. I thought the sizes were "Sizes" and not String lengths. Basses of 75 years or more have a greater variation within the body size than those post wwII.

    Many German 3/4 Basses have 43" string lengths with an Eb neck. Later models from the same school are D necks with 41-42 in string length. That's 41-43" for all 3/4 Basses. Then there are the larger Shouldered German, English and Italian Basses from 41-42+ that are sometimes referred to as 'full' 3/4 sized Basses and 42-43 with big bodies are 7/8 size. My old Italian Bass was 44" with an Eb neck and a 42+" with a D neck. It was called 3/4 or 7/8 depending on who you asked.
    My New-old Mystery Bass is 44" with a D neck and still considered a 7/8 Bass.

    Many 40" Basses are also called 3/4 but I agree that they are closer to 5/8.

    So lets find a common refrence for size, table length and string length for sizes, Shall we?
     
  5. Hey Ken

    I had a feeling after I posted that I shouldn't have since this is a touchy subject. The numbers I listed are what I consider to be the top end of the range for each size for the most part and assume a D-neck and dimensions similar to other violin family instruments. Any gross deviation, for example a bass with a 40 inch string length but a 44 inch body and 28" lower bout would have to be considered on an individual basis. For example a full size bass body might be 46-48" long, 3/4 size might be 43-45 inches. German basses with long Eb necks would have a 7/8 neck and a 3/4 size body I guess. I suppose average 3/4 mensure would be 105 cm or 41.5 inches going up to 42 on the high side and less than 41 on the low side. My numbers are actually what I have deduced based on a lot of reading, looking at dealers bass specs and common since. I came up with this scale after agonizing over the logic of bass sizes for a long time. I know that some people may disagree with my logic but here goes: Each having of size (4/4 to 1/2, 1/2, 1/4 etc consitutes a reduction by roughly 8/9ths of the previous size. I use 1/1.122 which is roughly a musical whole step. Inbetween sizes like 3/4 are one half step i(f you will( away from the surrounding sizes. If your mystery bass has a body length of a 3/4 bass, and a string lenght of a full-size, it might be considered a 7/8ths. Its a judgement call.

    Jon
     
  6. bassbaterie

    bassbaterie

    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
     
  7. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    My Mystery Bass here; http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/MysteryBass/name_that_bass.htm

    Is close to a full sized Bass but I have been told that Full size is even bigger. Everything on this Bass is huge, but still a 7/8 and a large variety at that.

    I will cut the shoulders and shorten the string length to 41.5 - 42". Not sure yet, but everything else will still be big. I will still consider it a 7/8 Bass.
     
  8. That is a big bass Ken. I bet it's English from the early 19th century like James Brown school or something. I also bet before it was cut it was at least a 48" body. I have always considered 44" string length to indicate a 4/4 but that maybe due to Raymond Elgar's books. I've never actually seen a bass with string length longer than 44" however except maybe some realy big Prescotts. I do know that there were supposed to be some super large bass violins in the 1600's with body lengths well over 50" but I'm sure most of these if in use and not in museums have been severely cut down. The body of the Mystery Bass as it is now, I would consider a large 7/8 or small full-size. If the lower bout were like 30" I would definitely call if full size. In any case, with a new string length of around 42", it would be considered 7/8 in anyones book. It is interesting to note that some, like Kolstein consider basses 7/8 size that I would swear are more like 3/4 size. I guess it all depends on perspective. Without a standard point of reference, sizes have no real meaning.

    Jon
     
  9.  
  10. Ken

    One other reference I forgot to mention before is the Thomastik string data. They consider 3/4 string length to be from 104 to 106 cm which roughly translates to 41" to 41.75", and 4/4 to be 110cm which is about 43.5". These numbers seem to agree with my methodology as do the MENC standards for school instruments and Kay bass sizes.

    Jon
     
  11. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Actually, the top length has NOT been cut yet. It has it's original purfling on the top. The bouts however are about 1" less overall in width as the ribs may have been shortened. I believe the lower bout WAS 29" and now 28" as trimmed.
    As far as School Kays and string sizes go, meausrements for strings can only be measured in length. They don't care what size the body is. The string HAS to fit the Bass.
    On older Basses, I believe that size is determined by averaging out size and string length for ID purposes only. Some 42" Basses are 3/4 and some are actually 7/8.
     
  12. That makes sense. I guess when judging size you have to look at the preponderaence of evidence. In terms of playability though, I think the string length (and the upper bout shape, but that's a whole other discussion) is most important. In terms of sound, the body dimensions. Perhaps the best metric is the length of the bass from the bottom of the body up to the top nut. That would encompass both aspects.
     
  13. bassbaterie

    bassbaterie

    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    It will take me a couple years to get ready for international solo competition!! Although it sounds like a fabulous, ambitious goal and something to look into. I'll be ready for a better-bigger bass by then. My teacher was able to play 4-finger patterns on it even in the 1st position area of the neck. I can't, but I can use 4-finger patterns by halfway up the neck which is just darned convenient.

    Some more photos of this hobbitbass here:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~idjit/id5/html

    I have seen these kinda high-shouldered flatbacks with the wood pegs around a lot...seems like a lot of people move from a 'student' bass to this type as they are fairly available and not too expensive. If you folks know any details by looking, I'd be grateful for the info.
     
  14. bassbaterie

    bassbaterie

    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
  15. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    That's your commerically made, turn of the Century German-czeck-tryolean Bass. The Ribs on that Bass do not look that old. The condition is too new for my eyes to be 1800s unless they are 4mm thick! Also, there is almost now wear or scratches on that Bass. Those Basses were even made as late as 1940-1950 as well.
     
  16. Probably not classic tyrolean since it has a regular top block and separate neck. I second the german-czech origins. I would guess 1900-1930. Later German bases had regular half-plate machines after that (someone correct me if I am mistaken).
     
  17. bassbaterie

    bassbaterie

    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Thanks Ken and jneuman! What is wrong with this world where your Fruit o' the Loom tighty whities have the individual inspector's tag in them, but a handmade instrument that will travel around the world for hundreds of years has no date or name.

    It would be cool if each instrument had a name and there was a registry so people could track its history. (There probably is such a thing).

    Hey anyone know how to clean these steel machines (even the handle parts are plain steel) so they don't just look like butt? Is it safe to remove and re-install them? The pegs are not ebony so I was thinking of refinishing them with black lacquer to just freshen them up.

    Later on I would like to get some of the brass ones with natural wood pegs...saw a photo of a Kmiotek Workshop bass with the pegs made of paduk...WOW
     
  18. Don't know if this is Kosher or not, but I have used fine steel wool on nickel plated machines just to get the dirt and oxidation off. They looked nick and shiny afterward. Those brass and ebony machines are nice and in the style of the bass, but are very expensive - not in keeping with the style of the bass. The old hat peg tuners were used on these because they were lighter and easier (read cheaper) to fabricate than the heavy brass tuners used by the French, etc. The new ones to me look like they are designed for barouque instruments or something. They do look sweet though.
     
  19. azflyman

    azflyman

    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    Its an old bass with old machines, they are supposed to look like butt. Some people (even here on this group) pay for what you are trying to remove. That Mojo is worth alot to some.

    az
     
  20. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I wouldn't touch them unless they are starting to rust really bad or something, and then I would replace them as they'd be dying.

    To me shiny tuners look dorky! On my bass, which is newer, I've been praying for the day that the laquer finally wears completely off my tuners so that the brass can oxidize properly. It's kinda like showing up to school with brand new sneakers. Well, back in my day, anyhow.