Ken's Corner (Bass Forums Sponsored By KSB)

Go Back   Ken's Corner (Bass Forums Sponsored By KSB) > Double Basses > Double Bass Talk in General

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 05-01-2013, 01:05 AM
Ken Smith's Avatar
Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
 
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 4,936
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Cool Changing basses..'Finalized' (Not!)

Having more than one bass has been my dilemma in the last decade or so. As I sell some of them, I narrow down what's left that I like and play that one. Sometimes when I get a new(old) bass, I take it out to a rehearsal (or gig) and try it out. At that point, I decide what I want to do with it set-up wise and if it should get a C-extension for orchestra work.

In the last couple of years, my main favorite bass was an English bass by John Hart. This has about the best sound and playability combined of the basses I have had in recent years. One problem is that I have to protect it on most of my gigs because the other musicians walking around have not a clue that they can damage a bass by just bumping into it and even more clueless as to the value of some of these instruments.

To cut my risk down with the more expensive basses, I often take a less valuable bass out to rehearsals and only bring my main instrument to the concert or to the dress rehearsal as well.

While bringing these other basses out, I have found some to be quite good in comparison but at a fraction of the cost/value/risk of the Hart. One bass that's only 60 years old now is a modern looking Italian bass made by a master maker in Brno, Czech Republic, formerly Moravia. Brno is less than 100 miles straight north of Vienna. This maker also worked in his earlier years in Germany and Switzerland before returning back to Brno. I had an Extension put on after doing a few gigs with it and now I find it most useful. I also have a pick-up on now so I use it for all my Pops-type gigs and shows where an amp is needed. It also does Mozart just as well as modern pop music so it's quite the versatile instrument. It just doesn't have that 200 year old plush feel and sound but it's in near mint condition!

The other bass I have been 'romancing' is this old German school Lionhead bass. I used it on some gigs at first and then had a C-extension put on as well, carved around the Lion without any holes. Since then, I have found even more uses for it in Concert. This one IS and old bass and has that old plush sound but quite different than the type of sound the Hart has. The Hart has more spread on the bottom while the old Lion has more punch.

The Kreutzer is the smallest of the 3 in string length with the Hart and Lion about the same. The upper body of the Lion is slightly smaller but not by much. The main advantage of these other basses is 'risk' and enjoyment as well. I seem to worry less with these on stage than the Hart. Still, I protect them all equally.

Looking back at the last 16 concerts/gigs I did (mostly orchestra but 1 show and a jazz gig, not including rehearsals), I used 4 other basses 1 time each just to try them out on the gig. Of the other 12, 6 were with the Kreutzer, 4 with the old Lion and only 2 were with the Hart and that was before the other 2 had C-extensions. Had I put C-extensions on them before, the Hart might have stayed in the rack all season. In fact, on one of the concerts, I brought the Lion to the dress rehearsal but realized I really needed the Extension so the next night, I came with the Hart out of need, not necessarily by choice.

Doing the math regardless of the types of gigs I did, on the 12 concerts between the 3 basses, the Hart was used only 2 of the 12 mainly because of the Extension.

Now, I have had top pro Orchestra players here playing my basses and for them, the Kreutzer doesn't get a second look and the Lion to one guy said "use that on a jazz gig"! That player favored my Panormo school bass over the Hart despite its size difference. Another player a few weeks later barely gave the Lion a look but preferred the Hart to the Panormo.

Playing all the basses myself in the orchestras that I play in, the old Lion and Kreutzer do just fine. Last year I had an old Neuner Mittenwald bass and that also replaced the Hart on a few concerts for the above mentioned reasons. All the people here in the office says the Hart is the best sounding of all the basses but what do they know?..

So, it looks like I am scaling down my gigging bass but it is what it is. I have a new Viennese style bass now that is quite old and the string length is about the same as the Kreutzer. I will use it on my last concert of the season and if I like how she does, it too might get a C-extension. Next season if all these basses are still here, I will have just as much confusion on which bass to take. The Viennese style bass has a great sound and is quite plush. The sound however is different than the old Lion but compared to the Hart, equally different but in another direction of type of sound.

Selling basses and playing bass is not as easy as it one would think when choosing a bass to play. I often spend more time testing basses to take out and play than I do practicing the music I have to perform.

So, if still interested after reading all this, here are the links to the basses mentioned above. Hart, old Lion, Kreutzer, Panormo, Viennese.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 05-01-2013, 07:48 AM
Eric Swanson's Avatar
Eric Swanson Eric Swanson is offline
Posting Member
 
Join Date: 11-12-2007
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 196
Eric Swanson is on a distinguished road
Default

I just love looking at the instruments you have gathered and fostered.
Thank you for taking such good care of these lovely basses...

Interesting to hear you talk about the "plushiness" of older instruments. I visited my long-time teacher last week and got a chance to play one of his basses, what appears to be a German instrument (to my untrained eye; external linings, round back, violin corners, light gold/brown varnish), that clearly has some years behind it. He was playing a newer Hungarian instrument which he also owns. The German bass does have that combination of clarity and "plushiness," as you put it, that really is irresistible.

I am lucky to have a bass that is certainly better than I currently deserve, but I must say I can't get that "plushy" feel and sound out of my head...
__________________


Last edited by Eric Swanson; 05-01-2013 at 08:04 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-01-2013, 04:25 PM
Ken Smith's Avatar
Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
 
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 4,936
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Cool

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Swanson View Post
I just love looking at the instruments you have gathered and fostered.
Thank you for taking such good care of these lovely basses...

Interesting to hear you talk about the "plushiness" of older instruments. I visited my long-time teacher last week and got a chance to play one of his basses, what appears to be a German instrument (to my untrained eye; external linings, round back, violin corners, light gold/brown varnish), that clearly has some years behind it. He was playing a newer Hungarian instrument which he also owns. The German bass does have that combination of clarity and "plushiness," as you put it, that really is irresistible.

I am lucky to have a bass that is certainly better than I currently deserve, but I must say I can't get that "plushy" feel and sound out of my head...
Eric, we deserve what we treat ourselves to and nothing less. About 40 years ago I bought my first old Italian bass. Played it for the next 15 years on all my jobs and then retired from playing. About 5 years later I put it up for sale to make someone else happy and use the money for a house for my new family with the 2nd child on the way. No regrets here on what I bought, sold and played on.

I still have more basses in restoration that I will play one or more times on a rehearsal or job and even more basses coming in that I have purchased that are not here yet. Once you turn it into a business while you are still playing, anything goes!

I must say that most of the pro orchestra players that have played my Hart, both male and female, get more sound out of that bass by far than what I hear when I play it. That being said, the best bass for YOU is what YOU can play best, and not what someone else sounds good on.

I was at a rehearsal with my Neuner shortly after getting it set-up and from the last stand in the back row the Principal looks at me and says "boy that thing is loud!" I replied, "this is not one of my loud basses!".. So I thought. Whenever I played that old German bass, I got compliments, and as many as when I played an old English or Italian bass in the same groups and sections. One Luthier friend of mine told me to keep that Neuner and when I sold it he said on the phone, "I told you never to sell that bass. Why did you sell it?"

Well, I feel the old Lion I have is as nice if not more and I love the old creature looking down at me as I play it. I have had many great basses come thru my hands but there was always something about it that didn't click 100% with me either in feel or in getting 'my' sound. Playing several styles of music in my path these days as well as in the past, a stone cold Orchestra bass might not fit the other types of gigs I do.

This is just the current chapter in the quest for the best. I have totally changed my set-up as well from my past NY days so I can't predict what I will need or like tomorrow. If and when something changes, I will be glad to share it.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 06-10-2013, 10:58 PM
Ken Smith's Avatar
Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
 
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 4,936
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Cool well..

I played last week at the ISB with a Bass Quartet within Chris Brown's recital including piano and a vocalist. As I was getting off stage from the sound check with my bass (the Hart), I noticed the Karr/Koussevutzky bass on the stage and then Stefano Sciascia walking up. He said that the Hart sounded beautiful and liked my Pizz technique as I was playing the continuo part straight thru including the last two notes solo. I saw him a few hours later after the recital, Stefano was coming on stage right behind us as well and complimented the sound again. Another Orchestra player I know at the concert came up to me later and said the Hart cut thru the other basses and sounded beautiful. The Hart was the smallest bass on stage of the 4 of them but had the best sound.

So, I think this is the bass I have to keep but have a back-up or two for those venues where the Hart might be at risk like outdoor venues, Pit jobs or clubs.

Now that I have played it in a good hall with other bigger basses, and all good ones, I have to re-think my keeper-bass based on how others hear me and not just what I think from being on the inside looking out.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 06-12-2013, 08:58 PM
Nick Skelton Nick Skelton is offline
Junior Posting Member
 
Join Date: 08-12-2008
Location: Houston / Jakarta
Posts: 8
Nick Skelton is on a distinguished road
Default Good idea

I was in the display room stood at the opposite end, and heard a young freelancer trying out the basses you had at ISB. This confirmed what I heard back at your place during my bass search a few years back. The Hart was definitely the standout in a collection of fine basses. Sorry i missed it on stage.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 09-21-2013, 10:07 PM
Ken Smith's Avatar
Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
Bassist, Luthier & Admin
 
Join Date: 01-18-2007
Location: Perkasie, PA
Posts: 4,936
Ken Smith is on a distinguished road
Thumbs up back and forth..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Skelton View Post
I was in the display room stood at the opposite end, and heard a young freelancer trying out the basses you had at ISB. This confirmed what I heard back at your place during my bass search a few years back. The Hart was definitely the standout in a collection of fine basses. Sorry i missed it on stage.
I have been back and forth between the Hart and the Old Lion in recent weeks. Last week, I brought the Hart to a rehearsal strung with G,D,A Original Flexocors, a string that I was never crazy about and it had my old favorite E/C, a Stark 92 Flex. I thought the bass suddenly had a new lease on life.

Last night I brought the Old Lion to the same rehearsal space (new music and conductor each week) and my buddy beside me said he can hear me but not feel me like he did with the Hart but also heard me even better with the Hart.

Last week we had a big orchestra, 3 basses and with lots of brass and the Hart cut thru everything. Last night we did some Haydn and Mozart, a smaller orchestra and just 2 basses. So if the Hart is louder with a bigger orchestra than the Old Lion is with a smaller orchestra, then the proof is in the pudding. The Old Lion is a good workhorse instrument but not to be confused with something on the level of the Hart.

One main reason I only used the Hart on only 2 out of 16 concerts last season besides variety was that I am always worried it will get bumped or damaged. If not for that underlying fear, I probably would have used it for everything, rehearsals included. I think I should go back to my old NYC ways and take only my best bass out regardless of the gig being major or minor. My old Italian bass was in my hands for 15 years of NYC area gigs and I only recall it being replaced once for a week while it was being repaired.

I once asked a bassist friend who has played with the Philly Orchestra what should I do to get my playing back like it was when I was younger and playing full time? He replied, "Play ONE bass". At that time, I was between the Gilkes, Martini and the Hart. With the first two now sold, I think I have my answer on a 'silver platter'.
Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 10:09 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright 2007 - Ken Smith Basses, LTD. (All Rights Reserved)