Which bass? (carved vs plywood)

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by leonard, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. leonard


    Jul 31, 2001
    The head of my carved Musima from the 1960's got broken. Totally loose. No bangs no nothing. It just happened. Weird.

    So now I got two choices from my luthier:

    1. Get it fixed. It's expensive of course.
    - It sounds slightly better. Only slightly.
    - It's my dear old bass. I've had it for ten years or more.
    - It looks better. Brown shellac with some patina. It counts.

    2. Swap the bass for a similar plywood one. Same factory, same time period and a good setup. The difference in value would cover the cost of the repair of the carved bass.
    - It needs less maintenance. The winters here in Finland are very difficult to carved instruments. I'm really fed up with all the hassle with humidifiers. Like really.
    - It might be more rugged. You know what the dive bars and drunken weddings are like.
    - It might feed back a little less when amplified. Not sure about that really.
    - It sounds about the same when amplified. I play all my gigs with an amp.
    - It doesn't look bad either. A bit more orange maybe.

    All my gigs are function band kind of things. Sometimes with drums sometimes not. I play pizzicato most of the time. I might even slap a little on some songs. Spiro strings mostly.

    I practice with the bow a little at home when nobody's listening. With the bow there's a bit more difference between the sounds of the two basses.

    Any insights? I'm really stuck with this question and I need to make up my mind.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
  2. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Tough call. The best answer for me has been two basses, a ply and a carved. If I could only have one for mainly pizz work, I'd consider the ply more useful since it doesn't need to be babied, but the arco tone of the carved is very much a different thing. Can you get it fixed and save up for a beater ply?
    Dabndug and leonard like this.
  3. leonard


    Jul 31, 2001
    A great suggestion! Yes, I’ve thought of that too. The maintenance of the carved bass really is a chore around here because of all the humidity changes. Actually, I just sold my beautiful solid wood Martin guitar for the same reason. Regarding the arco tone I think I could bear with the inferior tone of the plywood because it’s only for practicing.

    At the time I’m thinking of keeping only one bass to have less maintenance issues.
  4. duckyincarnate


    Oct 18, 2005
    London, UK
    In your shoes, I would probably look for an excellent quality plywood bass. They are a little more difficult to find in Europe, but usually fairly well priced. I think €2000 should get you a good instrument that deals with the Finnish climate a little better.
    Dabndug and leonard like this.
  5. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    fix your bass. Theres something about YOUR bass that you'll end up missing.
  6. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    SOMEONE is going to fix the broken bass. It will be a) you, or b) the person who buys it from you at a bargain price; that is the first choice you should make. Once you have made that choice, the second choice should be easy.
    james condino, longfinger and leonard like this.
  7. Ply basses take more effort to play. It is hard to go backwards. You will regret it.
    leonard likes this.
  8. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    I hear ya, especially if you have space considerations. But in my experience the ply bass doesn't really need much in the way of maintenance. I live in an old log cabin that provides every bit as much climate control as a camping tent. :meh: And in humid NC, it's a constant game to keep the conditions right for instruments. My carved bass has cracks that were repaired before I got it, and I fully expect that it will develop more. Bit of a bummer but I just do the best I can and the risk is worth the sound to me, especially if I know I can play the ply if the carved needs to get laid up. Just food for thought.
    leonard likes this.
  9. leonard


    Jul 31, 2001
    Thanks everyone so far! Definitely some food for thought.

    The luthier that I originally bought the carved bass from offered me the swap for the ply bass. The ply bass he offers is a good one, not really an excellent one but far from the bad cheap chinese ones.
  10. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    If what we see is the worst of the break, that to me looks easily fixable -- almost like a failed glue joint. I see no jagged edges of splintered wood or other major red flags. I would think a well-executed reglue with perhaps a bit of concealed reinforcement would have that bass up and going again pretty quickly.
  11. leonard


    Jul 31, 2001
    Yes, I'm sure a pro will fix it as good as it was. Actually the same kind of fix has been done to both of these basses before.

    EDIT: Something weird happened with the photos so I deleted that message.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
    Sam Dingle likes this.
  12. jsf729


    Dec 12, 2014
    Central Maryland
    What kind of gigs are you doing? Fix that bass AND get a ply. Leave the carved at home under climate control, take the ply out for gigs. The landlord will understand....:rollno:
    unbrokenchain and leonard like this.
  13. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Maybe take it to a different luthier this time.. :cool:
    carl h., leonard and james condino like this.
  14. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I say fix it, IMO
    leonard likes this.
  15. Acoop

    Acoop Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2012
    Fix first. ... If the bass is drying out because of dry house heat, find a cooler place in the house to store your bass during winter. ... I'm now living in a condo in Toronto and my instruments, (carved upright, vintage Fenders) go through hell once the building turns on the heat come Oct. ... Luckily, we have a balcony that's been glassed in, (thermopane windows), and I can leave my basses out there with the door half open to allow heat to escape and warm that room. ... We go south in the winter and it's kind of scary wondering what I'll come home to but, knock on wood, so far, so good.
    wjl and leonard like this.
  16. wjl


    Jul 18, 2017
    near Frankfurt, Germany
    endorsing nothing except maybe free and open source stuff, like Linux
    @Acoop : I'm considering buying my first upright, and we have floor heating - which I think is poison for good carved instruments, and the local luthier here acknowledged that. So do I *have to* get a lesser one, or would it be ok as long as I store the thing in an unheated room? What would you think?

    Thanks all for the interesting discussion...
  17. leonard


    Jul 31, 2001
    I think you'll be ok with a room humidifier. A dampit or two with the bass in the bag at wintertime is ok too. Have fun with all that! ;-)

    Double Bass Humidifier | Upton Bass String Instrument Company
    Acoop likes this.
  18. I'd try some different stores and see if you can't find a better instrument. We had an orange bass that looked quite similar to the one in your picture at the store I worked for. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. (No, I don't remember who made it, it was just awful.)
    leonard likes this.
  19. leonard


    Jul 31, 2001
    My case is settled. I traded the broken carved bass in for a well maintained good sounding plywood bass. I got a little money too to compensate for the value difference. The carved bass I had was only of basic quality. The plywood bass that I got plays and sounds about as good if not better when amplified. So, I thought all the maintenance issues with this particular carved bass weren't really worth it. Now I have a bass that is well suited for my gigs. If I would ever go the carved bass route again I should do some searching and be ready to spend some serious money to find a bass that makes a real difference.

    Thanks everyone for the help! You really helped me to look at the issue from different angles!

    I think I'm gonna try 3/4 Weich Spiros on this one. And maybe a Zyex G. An adjustable bridge might be handy on this climate.
    Hoyt, unbrokenchain and AGCurry like this.
  20. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Adjustable bridge is great in any climate! Esp if you like to try different strings.
    leonard likes this.