Who actually has an "UNPLAYABLE" Bass?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by skychief, May 27, 2012.

  1. skychief


    Apr 27, 2011
    South Bay
    This might seem a bit naiive, but I can't fathom owning a bass that was "unplayable".. My 1st UB was purchased sans bridge & strings, so I guess that qualified it as "unplayable". But within a few days I slapped a bridge and some strings on it and was playing it.

    Admittedly, I had no clue how to set it up properly, so within a couple weeks it was at the luthier's shop for a proper set-up.

    Id like to hear some stories from you guys that own a bass that you feel is "unplayable", what makes it unplayable, and why it remains in that state.
  2. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    Do you want to hear from people who own only one bass and that bass is unplayable or from people who own multiple basses where only one is unplayable? If the former, I think it would be a pretty small population. After all, how many bass players would own only an unplayable bass?
  3. Actually, I think any bass qualifies as "playable" if you approach it as a strictly percussion instrument.
  4. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    One of my double basses (a 1965 Goetz plywood) was damaged during the Northridge earthquake. At the time, repair estimates were ~$4,000, and I was preoccupied spending tens of thousands to make my house habitable; I couldn't bring myself to throw it away, so it's been sitting in a back corner, waiting to be repaired or disposed of, since 1994. :crying:
  5. skychief


    Apr 27, 2011
    South Bay
    I concede theres maybe a handful of bassists on the planet that have only one bass - and its unplayable.

    So, lets forget that qualifier...

    And Jazzdogg's story just rips your heart out. I cant imagine what a bass would look like with $4000 worth of damage to it.
  6. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Many if not most of the school basses that come my way are unplayable by my standards; by that I mean, difficult to play to the extent that it is unpleasant and/or discouraging to use, and caused by ...

    crap/damaged strings
    fingerboard bumps and buzzes
    high string height at bridge
    high nut slots
    excessive/inadequate scoop
    endpin fail
    dirt and goo
    wrong geometry
    internal buzzes

    the list goes on ...

    They only remain in that state because the owners don't know the difference, and the poor students don't know the difference, and even if the school finds out there's a problem, who's going to pay for the fix? "hey we only just bought this bass -it's brand new it should be fine"
  7. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    That's a pity, Matt; when schools lack the wherewithal to assure the assets they purchase are functioning properly, and will be of value to the students they serve, it's symptomatic of a much larger problem.
  8. bassingeorge

    bassingeorge Supporting Member

    Jul 28, 2003
    San diego, CA
    I have a Michael Kelly Acoustic Bass Guitar I've NEVER been happy with! I've done LOTS of things to it...until I was stupid enough to defrett it, ruining it more and now it just sits there in it's stand looking beautiful and all, but I know it will never get played.
  9. skychief


    Apr 27, 2011
    South Bay
    These are certainly bad (and likely common) attributes for a student's instrument. The finer local luthiers sometimes "donate" their services to local schools for setting up the students' bass to make it playable. It makes good business sense if you think about it - when the student eventually gets their own instrument, they're most likely to do business with the guy who worked on the school's bass.
  10. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I own two basses right now, and they are so different from one another in terms of their geometry and setup that one of them is now effectively unplayable for me. I also don't need two basses, but there's a chance that one of my kids might take an interest. If that ever transpires, I'll get it set up so that a kid can learn on it.
  11. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Yes it is a pity. Anyone can buy the cheaper imported basses off shop catalogues at the RRP, but that price rarely includes "setup" - which when you add to the price of a cheap price, can almost double the cost of the bass.

    So no wonder they're reluctant to pay the extra.

    Must concede though that many of the public school music programs are run by teachers doing extra duty, or parent volunteers, and quite often their meagre budgets don't run to a great deal of double basses, which are probably their biggest single expense. They likely assume, reasonably, that the instruments they buy are ready to play. And unless they play the instrument themselves, they don't know what they don't know.

    Same goes for all instruments I think. I've seen primary school cellos with strings 5mm above the fingerboard at the NUT!

    So whenever I get an instrument in for repairs, I usually add the nut/bridge/spacing adjustments for free. And clean the bass, and whatever else i can do for them that doesn't take too much of my time ... every bass goes back playable and probably better than when first bought.
  12. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Good for you! Around here, we'd call you a real mensch! :)
  13. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    Really, I wasn't sure what you were asking originally. You never know around here! :) Anyway, thanks for the clarification and the edit to your post. Indeed, it hurts to even read stories like Jazzdog's.

    Around these parts as well! That'll sure earn you a spot in DB heaven, Matt. It's really unfortunate that beginners, who are the least able to overcome the shortcomings of a poorly set up/designed instrument are, most often, those into whose hands such instruments fall.
  14. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    "Playable" is in the eye of the beholder. There are likely TB members out there whose working axe I would label unplayable, and also some (with overlap) who would say the same of my instruments.
  15. I saw a bass recently (of the fiberglass variety) that the string height measured
    (G) 6mm at the end of the fingerboard and 14 mm at the block! The owner wanted to get the bridge lowered because the action made it "unplayable". Poor guy. :(
  16. skychief


    Apr 27, 2011
    South Bay
    Indeed. I realized the term unplayable is highly subjective. Im sure you would call my bass unplayable. Has way excessive scoop on it, but Im too chicken to plane the fingerboard. So, it gets played as is. Everyone who bellies up to the thing complains about the scoop.
  17. doing a set-up that is playable and not a discouraging trial for youngsters is paramount...your only as good as your last,violin,cello,or bass.
  18. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    One of the instruments at my high school somehow has a bridge that is too large- it can't be adjusted, and the action is something like 2.5" at the end of the fingerboard- you can easily fit your hand underneath the strings without touching either fingerboard or strings
  19. facepalmmaster


    Jan 4, 2012
    I only have one bass, and its unplayable.... or maybe im not good enough to make it sound good :p
  20. Voss451


    Mar 2, 2009
    I used to own an Ibanez Musician neck-thru bass that had a verrry crooked neck and had 3 techs try to fix it. They reckoned that the truss rod was broken and the only way to fix it would be to pry the fretboard off and replace the rod.

    I ended up selling it but if the neck would have been (cheaply) fixable, I'd probably still have it.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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