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Re: bass info needed

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Posted by Rich Laird on September 14, 2001 at 14:02:26:

In Reply to: bass info needed posted by Scienceteacher on September 12, 2001 at 14:29:41:

: I am thinking about buying my daughter a 3/4 upright bass, but I don't have a clue as to what I need to look for. I see a lot of basses advertised on the internet- what makes a good bass? What features should I look for? I would appreciate any suggestions anyone can give me. She's 14 and is playing in her strings program at school. We are currently renting her a 1/2 bass but the teacher has suggested that she get a full size for better tone, plus that's what she plays at school. HELP!

My first suggestion would be to give some serious consideration to whether your daughter is serious enough about playing the bass to justify the outlay. It may not be ideal, but I don't think using a 1/2-size instrument at home and a 3/4 at school is a major issue. But if she is pursuing it seriously, a good, well set-up bass is a must.

It's difficult, because basses can cost (literally) from $100 to $100,000, and the "features", as such, are about the same! If you do take the plunge, treat it as an investment...get something good...and you'll be able to get your money back out of it sometime in the future.

The better instruments are hand-carved, the lesser ones are made of laminated wood. While laminated basses generally don't sound as good, they do have the advantage of being more durable and might be a better choice for someone who is still learning how to carry a bass around without banging it into doorways and, generally, how to take care of it. Other than that, an important thing to look for is what the fingerboard (and other fittings) is made of. Ebony is best, Rosewood is OK, other stuff is not very desirable.

What's really important about a double bass, especially for a student, is how well it's "set-up". This means that it needs to have a bridge, nut, and fingerboard that are fitted precisely to the instrument, it needs to have a good endpin that adjusts to the right height for the player, it needs a good set of strings that are well-matched to the individual bass, etc. Additionally, you need a decent bow.

Potentially, you can spend $10,000 and still have significant set-up expenses to look forward to. An expensive bass is not necesarily well set-up.

Here's an interesting web page to look at:

This is from a luthier/dealer, called Hammond Ashley. No recommendations here (though it is a very reputable shop)...but what I think is interesting is how much they charge for the bass and how much they charge for the work they do on it themselves. Remember that this is a brand new instrument, straight from the factory.

This leads me to the suggestion that you contact a well-reputed luthier in your area (not a dealer of school band instruments!) and see what they have to offer. There is worthwhile information on the Internet but this is a purchase that you would be well-advised to make locally. Establishing a relationship with a good luthier should be your first step. If they don't have anything for sale, then look on the internet - maybe buy something and take to your expert for restoration or adjustment, as nec. But you need the added-value the luthier offers - now and in the future.

Check for good people in your area

Don't try to go it alone.

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