I'm looking for a huge sounding instrument,
an instrument that's dead easy to play, an instrument that responds
to everything that I ask it to do, be it in the orchestra or
in that jazz café.
Oh yes I am - but I really don't want to pay 15 or 20 grand to
get it. Oh dear. This seems to be a familiar story that we hear
all too often at The Contrabass Shoppe, but one which we are constantly
trying to rectify.
At the amazing price of UK£10,000 this
good-looking, completely handmade instrument is certain to fulfil
all those high expectations.
Yes - you are absolutely right we are proud
of all our instruments. Tell you what - rather than me spouting
on about things why don't you have a little listen to jazz supremo
Geoff Gascoyne playing "Sentimental" on
this very bass.
Well its partly Geoff's fine playing and partly what The Contrabass
Shoppe has done to the instrument. I can tell you that for both
player and instrument to reach such a high standard it does take
a lot of hard work and dedication.
We call this instrument a 'Workshop' bass because the roughed-out
body of an instrument - in this case - emanating from Hungary -
undergoes a substantial programme of improvements in the workshop
of one of our capable outworkers. In brief the structural alterations
and developments to this instrument include removal of the table
(front), regraduation of the table, removal and replacement of
the bass bar, replacement of the neck followed by varnish work
and a full set-up. The complete upgrade programme can take three
weeks to complete. Once done - the instrument is impossible to
fault visually, structurally and of course sound wise.
In our opinion this type of European instrument
- in its initial "roughed-out" form
- is not of merchantable quality.
Well it's all to do with economics. The
free trade that the EU afforded such countries as Hungary, Poland
and the Czech Republic since they joined it in 2004 and to Bulgaria
and Romania since they joined in 2007 - resulted in a steady
stream of Luthiers - many of whom had no formal training - offering
their work to UK instrument shops and outlets. Quickly the market
became saturated and along with reduced demand - prices began
to tumble with the result that instead of improvements in quality
- corners and short cuts were taken in an attempt to maintain
Yes - the instrument makers are finally beginning to respond to
a much reduced and selective market. The great tradition of high
quality making in Hungary is seemingly on the cusp of a renaissance.
The price advantage really is due to the very low
wages in these former Eastern-block countries and the fact that
much of the fine wood used has been sourced in relatively nearby
areas. With prices in the region of 25,000 EUR for an instrument
by a well recognised Western-European maker this instrument and
the others that we produce like it can only be described as a market-leading
With wages, materials, delivery costs and inflation all on the
increase in the countries mentioned previously - the price of the
Shoppe Workshop instruments is likely to rise in the short term.
Indeed the very first Workshop instrument we sold were in 2002
and were priced at UK5,600. What a good investment they turned
out to be!
The set of moderately figured maple for the back, ribs and scroll
is from Bosnian. The medium - wide grained spruce for the table
emanates from the Balkan Peninsular that was formerly called Yugoslavia.
If you could find a supplier who has it in stock
- it could easily set you back UK2,000 if not more - and that's
even before you start preparing the wood for making. Add to this
the cost of quality fittings such as a fingerboard, bridge, endpin
unit tuners and strings and once again it just makes you realise
how much value for money you are getting with this instrument.
Our supplier has assured us that the wood used to make this instrument
has been naturally seasoned for at least five years. Just to be
absolutely sure that there will be no further movement or shrinkage
of the wood - The Contrabass Shoppe likes to store them for two
or three years more - before commencing any work on them. This
one seems to have been in storage for more years than average!
It's usually a question of time and priorities that dictates when
an instrument can be made ready.
Well - we've managed to create an instrument with a string length
of only 105.0cm so that even for the smallest of hands this instrument
will be an absolute breeze to play.
You've heard Geoff play it. It's just such a positive, full-rounded
sound with lots and lots of colours on all strings and in all registers.
I'm reckoning that orchestral players, soloists and jazzers alike
will be completely taken by the quality looks and sound that this
instrument offers. With nicely sloped top shoulders and an advantageous
string length - the instrument certainly does feel very comfy in
the hand indeed.
Priced at only UK10,000 this really is exceptional
This is a real wow of an instrument. What else can I say except
that it did put a big smile on Geoff Gascoyne's face.
LOB (length of back) - 115.2cm (45.30in)
Width across upper bouts - 51.7cm (20.27in)
Width across middle bouts - 37.2cm (14.65in)
Width across lower bouts - 67.4cm (26.27in)
Depth of lower ribs inc both plates - 23.1cm (9.15in)
Body Stop - 59.4cm (23.35in)
String length - 105.0cm (41.32in)