Upright Basses

Quick guide to popular Upright Basses

The Upright Bass

The Double Bass, Contra-Bass, Upright Bass, Stand-up Bass, Doghouse Bass, Bass Fiddle, String Bass, Acoustic Bass, Orchestral Bass and Jazz Bass all pertain to the same instrument. The differences in name are mostly due to the differences in style of music.

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Orchestra Instruments

Explanation of the Upright Bass

The Upright Bass is a stringed musical instrument, an octave lower than the cello, that belongs to the viol family. It varies in size but usually are under 6 feet in length, about the height of an average person. With the body at 4.5 feet, and looks either like the viola de gamba, the violin or the guitar. It has four heavy strings keyed at E-A-D-G and occasionally a fifth string for jazz and for over the register high notes.

Unlike the violin or the Cello, however, the upright bass rarely plays solo and is rarely included in string quartets. But it does serve to upright the cello. The upright bass hasn’t fully evolved yet and till now, there is no standard number of strings, tuning, body shape and size – sometimes it has blunt shoulders, sometimes geometrical, and sometimes sloping. True upright bass viols, since the 17th century, had an arched back and outturned corners. The solid brass pegs on the Upright Bass are replaced the way it is done with guitars – using a worm and wheel adjuster.  The strings are thick copper or steel preferably a stranded cable wire.  Sometimes, an electric bass guitar replaces the upright bass in a symphony orchestra.


Setting up the Upright Bass

It is very important that a good setup is considered. This will require having a good luthier to maintain your setup. Choosing a brand is necessary only as far as the price is concerned. The upright bass is a costly instrument and you buy with a lot more diligence than when you buy a guitar. A lot of planning goes into the production of the upright bass – for instance, how the fingerboard was planed will produce pitch that may vary even the same brand and model. Also how manufacturing positioned the sound-post. Sometimes quality is compromised by poor quality control in production. Some models of the same brand may sound better. For instance, the model from 3 years ago may sound better than a brand new one because quality control back then was more stringent.


Purchasing an Upright Bass

The rule of thumb is if you’re a beginner, bring an expert or a professional with you when going out to buy an expensive instrument. A brand new bass can cost you $3,000. Thus you need patience when buying to help you consider more options before shelling out your cash. Here are some options:


1. Renting versus Purchasing the Upright Bass:

The Upright Bass is expensive and so before spending a couple thousand dollars, you may want to rent one out at perhaps $75 a month (more or less depending on condition, make or model, and upgrades). This helps you get started with playing a bass even without shelling out a lot of cash. It can also help you learn about the bass to help you make a good decision later when you intend to buy one.

Be careful with adding upgrades to your rental as the renting company may not allow you to remove them after you have installed them. Of course policies change from shop to shop.

Rentals will probably give you a basic bass unit…nothing fancy, just one that you could play perhaps made of plywood instead of carved. They may even be made of weak materials that crack when exposed to a little heat.


2. Used versus New Upright Bass

Used and vintage basses can be appreciated if you know inspect the unit carefully or have an expert or a luthier do it for you. You ought to be look for signs of repair, repaint, or replacement. Uneven surfaces can indicate that a crack has happened in the past. Some units sound better with age than some new models. Age seems to have made them settle in. If you find one slightly used, then you are lucky. The prices for used units are considerably less than brand new.


3. Purchasing a New Upright Bass

A new one will cost something like $2,000 to as high as $5,000 approximately. The thing to remember is that more expensive does not necessarily mean better as cheap does not necessarily mean poor performance.

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