View Full Version : French? German?

Jeff Schwartz
02-21-2007, 06:45 PM
Here are some photos of my bass: http://www.flickr.com/photos/32223245@N00/

It was called French school when I bought it from World of Strings but later described as German when they appraised it. No label or other markings that we could see inside. They guess 100-150 years old. It has been refinished. Slightly smaller than average 3/4 (I don't have the measurements handy - will add 'em later). Eb neck. I'm very happy with the sound and feel.

Anyway, I thought I'd see what the collective here can add to my knowledge of this particular instrument...

Ken Smith
02-21-2007, 11:48 PM
Even though this is NOT a French Bass or French School, I think leaving it here in this Forum will help others to tell the differences I am about to list. You are welcome to post pics of this in the German School as well. Just start another Post there and we will try to ID the period and region that this was made in. It may even be Czech but it is Germanic either way.

German traits on this Bass that I have never seen on an actual French Bass are the German Hat peg gears and on plates as well, The outer Rib linings, the dovetail Neck joint barely visible and the Beechwood neck which is what it looks like just above the heel and Scroll.

The Purfling running around the Top and Back is often confused with French work but then again, those often look like large Cellos. On A French Bass, the Scrolls are curved less and the Neck is a mortise joint and made from maple.

Two years ago I saw a Bass on a dealers website labeled as some makers school in Germany about 100 years old or a little more. Then it was gone, sold I guess. Last year the Bass popped up again and this time all of a sudden it's a French Bass. This Bass has the Purfling running around the plates like a French Bass but has German outer Rib linings and German Gears. A dead giveaway.

About 4-5 years ago a player shows up at an Orchestra rehearsal with a Bass looking very French to me but with a beautiful Scroll and nice Brass Gears. I ask if it was French as was told no, It's German, 1903 by A.Ebner. This was a beautiful Bass to look at and sounded great. A true handmade Orchestral German Bass.

Last year a friend of mine came to sub in my Orchestra and tells me he has his newly acquired 19th century French Orchestral Bass. He opens the case and before the zipper is half way around I tell him it's a German Bass but a nice old Orchestral model slightly French looking but with outer linings again and not a true French shape or varnish. This came from a major NY shop and was sold to him as a French Bass.

A few months ago someone brings me a Bass to look at and tells me he was told it might be French. When he took it out of the case, it could not be farther from the estimate he got. It was a beautiful Southern German or Northern Tyrol Bass with some beautiful customized type features. It has a large Vieneese/Bohemian Scroll, 5-layer Purfling running around, hat pegs Gears but in reverse order like a French Bass and nice slanted Tyrolean style FFs. The Varnish a warm brown color and had wide outer linings on the lower bout ribs but only about 3/4 the way up to the C-bout.

So you see, many people mistake the nicer German Basses for French Basses and in almost every case, they sound better than the average French Bass as well. This mistake in identity happens a lot with Tyrolean blockless wonders where they think they have an Italian Bass. Many Jazz players have told me they have an Italian bass only to whip out a German/Tyrol Blockelsss wonder (with block installed or not). It's not easing breaking the news sometimes. Being the bearer of the truth in regards to origin is not alway fun.

Jeff Schwartz
02-23-2007, 05:34 PM
Thanks Ken! I've started a new thread at http://smithbassforums.com/showthread.php?p=992#post992