Why do basses sound better the more you play them?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Wilbyman, Jun 5, 2004.

  1. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    I have a carved German bass from the 30's (marked CF Wunderlich, dunno if anyone has ever run across the label before...probably just a factory bass) that always sounds pretty good.

    However, I've been working it out alot recently and it sounds so much richer and louder right now. Of course, I think all the practicing is helping *me* out as well, which might explain the change...but I can't help but think that the bass is just "woken up" and responding faster. I've always heard about this phenomenon, but what explains it? I've never found it true with my slabs...

    At any rate, its one of the amazing things about the double bass. I have to say that when I'm really in shape for upright, I feel so much better and healthier as a person. Again, I never get that level of satisfaction when my slab chops are up.

  2. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Well, a lot of people have theorized about this phenomenon with acoustic instruments. A lot of people think that the woods in the bass settle, and molecules line up better, and the tension in the wood relaxes a bit. I have also heard of people synthetically age instruments with a vibratory device, such as a loud speaker. I have heard that there definitely is a difference!
  3. I hear it's something to to with the cell structure of the wood breaking up from the vibration. It then hardens again, and is most resonant in the range of frequencies it vibrated in most, so a bass played mostly in first position will be loudest there, but not so much up the neck. New instruments will improve the most, and form their resonant zone more than older ones in which the cell structure has firmed into place.

    Keep in mind, I'm reciting this from memory, and could be wrong. I don't even remember where I read it.
  4. T Sony

    T Sony

    Mar 5, 2004
    I think its a combination of having better technique and playing longer that contributes to the sound.

    Really the bass does mature more and open up, however I think its the technique that further more projects the sound better, making it louder, warmer etc as you play it more.
  5. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    NW Arkansas

    Just a warning to be careful about opening up the vibration subject. I basically was run off the board for agreeing it could help, then questioning a method of "vibrating" a bass.
    I'll just say that some believe it works and some don't. Anyone who has been around acoustic instruments for a long period of time has probably observed the "opening up" phenomenon. It really happens; the reason why is where the argument begins...
  6. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I had the good fortune of meeting the Victoria Bach Festival bassists, and one of them asked me about the new church they were performing in that evening...specifically, about the acoustics. I really had no idea about the quality of the acoustics and told him so, but I did informed him that they could have played in a very large trash can and made it sound glorious (I probably should have said "a very large tent in the park", but fatigue and alcohol tore apart my internal PC filter by then).

    My point in this ramble is that I agree 100% with what Arnold Schnitzer wrote in his response to the attached post, that it is really *you* who is waking up and responding faster. Keep up the good work!
  7. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Re-reading the past remarks about "playing in", it did occur to me that there are a few parallels in the non-bass, and non-musical instrumet world, and most have to do with parts settling in and finding what you might term low energy states where they're under the least stress. On a bass this might involve the cracking opf some glue joints (as has been suggested) or even micro-cracking in solid pieces.

    Just a thought. And as we used to say in the early days of the 'net, flames to /dev/null, please.