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Vintage vs Modern?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by singlemalt, Jan 8, 2012.

  1. singlemalt

    singlemalt Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2007
    White Salmon, WA
  2. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    I think most young players believe the older your instrument is, the larger your bass peen is.
  3. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
  4. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    If it sounds good, it IS good. I have played old and new instruments that I thought have beautiful tone that projected well—for my skills. If only I could afford more than one DB right now!
  5. mannysilvers

    mannysilvers Commercial User

    Jun 20, 2009
    Engineer, Electro-Harmonix
    I sort of understand the logic of "older instruments are always better" with acoustic instruments (though that's still not always true).

    But with electric instruments it makes more sense to me that as electronic technology advances, electric instruments can get better. I'd bet in general the electronics of an '11 P-Bass are more reliable than of a '60 P-Bass.
    Preventer likes this.
  6. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    I see this all the time in the shop. A great many teachers promote this concept and won't allow their students to buy a new bass. Quite often the most ordinary or even sub-par older instrument will be chosen over a much better (and often significantly less expensive) new or recent doublebass.
  7. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    When I was shopping for my new bass, a couple of summers ago, I started with all sorts of preconceptions about what I wanted, including age, shape, country of origin, etc. That lasted about five minutes in the first shop that I visited.
  8. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    all i got out of that was that antonio Stradivari made a few that weren't amazing- and we know this already.

    really though, its true. the price tag can mess with your head. knowing its supposed to be great and knowing the mystique around the fiddle will change the perception.

    it does still take the absolute best luthiers to compete with the old masters though. considering that we have those old masters to learn from, as well as our technological advantage, this does not make me think any less of Stradivari.
  9. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    A good bass is a good bass, whether it's old or new. I've played a brand new bass that I really liked (and now own), and I've played a brand new bass that was a piece of junk, and was junk the day that it was made. I've played basses of various ages that could be considered "old", and some were GREAT (including one my friend now owns), some were okay, and some were junk, were junk the day they were made, and will continue to be junk for generations to come because they have a fancy label inside (one of which another friend of mine owns, bless his soul).

    on my personal list for a new bass:
    -thick top. might not sound as good right away, but will sound better over time (from my experience). thinner tops will sound much better NOW, but will have stress and warpage problems later, and all the low end now will turn into and undefined sound later (once again, my opinion)
    - ribs that don't give so much that you're frightened you might crack them if you look at them the wrong way ( i have two friends with basses like this).
    -rounded back that is neither so thick that it is unmovable, or so thin that the above rib problem is also evident
    - flat back that is braced in a way that it won't fall off (this can happen), and also doesn't weigh an tonne. (my bass weighs a tonne, but I've resigned myself to the back problems).
    - a string length that is manageable FOR YOU.

    Those are my thoughts, and I would never presume to say they echo anyone elses.

    however, if there isn't a section on this already, perhaps when this discussion has played out we can summarize it and add its information to the WIKI
  10. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Inactive

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    1. One thing old instruments have over new is the they have had time to settle. one of my teachers told me not to buy an upright that was less than 50 or 60 years old because the tops settle/collapse and it takes at least that long for them to take their final form.

    2. It takes a long time with an instrument to truly tap into its sound, not one night wearing welding goggles in a dark room. New or Old, these tests dont really do the instruments or the information justice.

    3. Some instruments sing better for different people. Its just how it is.

    Beyond the facts in point 1, it really is all subjective. Buy the bass you sound best playing, in your price range, or rob a bank and buy your soulmate bass.

    I am about to buy a bass for 8 grand. next to it is a bass that is 8 grand that is roughly 50 years older. Its not as loud, and the sound isnt as focused. Both are the same style bass, from the same region.

    Five people told me the newer (still vintage) bass was "my bass" and i sounded amazing playing it.

    Find what you like :p
  11. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    I was familiar with the comparison article from last week. What occurred to me while reading it is how Frankensteined Strads really end up. To hear a Stradivarius or other historical instrument in it's truest form, I'm thinking mending the super-angling of the neck, extra bracing inside, and metal strings would have to be removed, right? How about using some gut strings and a period bow?
  12. dtosky


    Jan 4, 2010
  13. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
  14. Matthijs


    Jul 3, 2006
    In a spin-off article in a Dutch newspaper I read the Concertgebouw orchestra always does a blind audition for new instruments. And they mix modern and antique instruments in their buying policy. Seems to me this study fits with the common knowledge in the field.
  15. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    If no no one buys and "plays in" new instruments, how are they going to become old instruments?
  16. GoesThump


    Jul 13, 2007
    I am 100% with Dr Jim on this one.

    One thing I sometimes think about re: vintage basses is that there is a filtering process going on. I've had brand new instruments that I've liked as much as anything vintage I've handled. However, I've also had new ones that sucked. I assume the vagaries of production were always like this.

    So, with the old ones, the odds of a good one is somewhat better (although by no means guaranteed, of course) because the dogs with problems got filtered out over the decades.

    If it survived 50 odd years, it is usually (though not universally) because it played/sounded well & someone took care of it.

    Find a good one & play the heck out of it. Vintage or modern doesn't mean much to me otherwise.

  17. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I guess I'll disagree with this "fact". I believe a new, well designed and constructed bass can be healthy, with the right care, indefinitely. Tops that collapse were probably too thin to begin with, or mistreated in some way. My own 55 year old bass is an example, with only a little distortion at the f holes and no top cracks.
  18. I think there is something to be said of aesthetics and "mojo" inspiring a player to play better. If any of us were loaned a Prescott for a few days I guarantee we'd all be practicing a few extra hours even if the bass didn't necessarily sound better than our own.
  19. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Inactive Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 4, 2005
    Owner of MAS Soundworks
    I'm a bass geek. I've had the fortune to travel around the world---one of the first things I do is try to find a bass shop. I've hung out with Tom Martin and played a Gasparo (a real one),Maggini, Lott, Panormo---and played an Amati, Ceruti, Monterumici in Bologna, A Rossi (my fav) and many other top $ basses. I've owned a Brescian , Vuillame, Tarr ,carved back violin corner Claudot, X. Jacquet,Hawkes Panormo, Prescott, and others. I've also owned a new Peter Elias and am now playing a Golia. In the early 90's I sold my 2 good basses and bought a house in the burbs. I borrowed and bought a hybrid Roth from the 50's that had the top regraduated down to eggshell thickness. Played it for 15 years. Not loud, but amazing sound and tone. Amplified and recorded better than any of the great basses I owned. The new Golia is even better. Kindof like the Roth but louder.
    Now I'm a jazzer and have found out that a lot of the qualities that made a great quality legit bass made a crummy jazz bass.
    I think that as far as a great legit bass things are a bit more complicated than a fiddle. I think that great new basses can have even better response and have more even tone than many great older basses. New basses don't have to be "bright" or need years to break in. My Golia sounded dark and mature right out of the box. It has gotten better in 3 years, but didn't experience a major "opening up" My Elias bass (Peter was from Canada, now in Switzerland--very respected maker) sounded more bright and midrangey--and not as open as the Golia. I owned it for 5 years. It did open up a bit and mature, but never changed from its "new" bass sound in terms of dramatically opening up. In other words, I think that the "major" changes that people expect don't happen . A bass gets better and matures, but retains it's basic character.
    One thing that I have to be honest about. As far as arco playing, I've never heard a new bass that comes close to the depth and maturity of sound of the great old instruments I've played. I've never played a new bass with the low end thunder of my Prescott. Or the depth and maturity of the Rossi. Older basses can be uneven (the Prescott sure was) and quirky, but I think that there is a much bigger difference in great old basses and great new basses as compared to great old and great new violins.
    I think (and it's just my dumb perspective) that the low frequencies improve more on old basses--the wood needs to move tons more in terms of physical movement on a bass than a violin.
    I'm not saying that for a jazzer that you have to have a Juzek and call it a day. It's just that a lot of qualities that make a smokin' legit bass are actually a hinderance in a jazz bass. That being said, my favorite jazz basses are old instruments. But they may be very dark in sound, but have little "spread" and have very fast and easy response. Basses that I've played that come to mind are---Marc Johnson's Cammili, Charlie Haden's Vuilamme (mine looked very similar and was a better arco bass, but not as good of a jazz bass), Percy Heath's Rogieri (or whatever Italian bass it really was) among others.
    Even on electric bass, I was at a vintage shop in Hollywood. Played a '67 P-bass. Great. A '62. Even better. A '57---holy poopiee, best e-bass I've ever played!
  20. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    I just finished a round of bass shopping. My goal was to upgrade and downsize from a Shen Rogeri. Admittedly, I didn't travel the world; I went to the two shops with whom I have longterm relationships. A third shop I contacted would not even give me a list of basses in my price range. I tried eight basses at shop #1, two of which were new, by prizewinning makers, and to my ears, at least, not impressive; they were also $5K over my budget. I'm also old enough to not want to spend time breaking in a new bass. Shop #2 had four within my budget, one from 1820ish, one from 1980, and two modern instruments, one from the shop I was at. I ended up with the 1980 (a Pollmann), as it had the best projection and bottom end, as well as the exact shape in the upper bouts I was looking for.

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