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The Baroque Bass.

Discussion in 'classical' started by George J, Mar 7, 2019.

  1. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    A nice little clip about the Double Bass before Mozart.

    I have had a five stringer made [1994/6] as a copy of a 1666 Maggini Violone.

    I strung this bass with four gut strings as seen on this four stringer, and the fifth was a Pirastro Steel string, as a gut fifth string would have cost over £500 even twenty years ago!

    With best wishes from George
    Stunsworth and GML like this.
  2. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    To open this up a bit, I played this bass in Baroque set up for six years years in amateur and professional concerts among orchestras others set up with steel strung strings and modern bridge height. Never failed to balance. The best compliment I had was playing West Side Story where the ballet scenes were re-scored for Rock Band [so I layed off at rehearsal, but was asked to play on by the conductor] ...

    The electric bassist had a four driver ten inch cabinet and a big amplifier so I could not see the point of doubling it. The first night [after we finished], a member of audience came up and said he looked at my downcast face! I thought I was wasting my time. My Baroque setup bass was clear and articulate even in spite of the murmurings and ill-tuned efforts from the electric bassist!

    Gut strings on a good bass project like no steels strings ever can, but ARE NEVER ACTUALLY REALLY LOUD!
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2019
  3. awkwardbydesign

    awkwardbydesign Officially Awesome

    Thanks for the video link. I'll watch the rest later, when I have time.
    I often buy albums by bass players (jazz mainly) but once went to a concert by 10 double basses at the RNCM.
  4. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    The other films in the series are all just as fascinating. The Bass one interested me especially as I had built a true Baroque type instrument as late as 1996. It was thicknesses [in the front and back] to carry gut strings rather than being more heavily made to carry steel.

    This apparent oddness was the result of owning an "old English Bass" of the type normal from GF Handel's time onward in England. Three strings tuned off the bottom, A, D, G. This is one of tuning schemes discussed in the film. Mine was London Circa 1780, and was a top class instrument of the modern large size which by then was normal, and an even longer string length than is "standard" now: 44 inches rather than 42. It was carefully converted to carry four gut strings with the modern tuning of E, A, D, G, but I often used to use the bottom string tuned to D for Baroque music. This is the tuning the lady has on her instrument [about a hundred years older than mine] and yes, that bottom string had a huge sound! Brilliant in the music of Haydn for example, though not needed for JS Bach, and it was easy enough to play quieter than its potential allowed.

    Sadly that instrument was worth so much that I could not afford to insure it, and perhaps Lady Fate proves yet again what a horror she can be, the instrument was damaged to the extent of a £3000 repair while left unattended at a concert hall. So I had it repaired and sold it, but very much below its real worth. I though it was worth about £14,00 back in the early 1990s. In fact it was worth six figures, which I did not know. A big mistake selling it for four figures! But I commissioned the new bass, and it was a wonderful instrument ...

    With best wishes from George
    ff1d1l likes this.
  5. cnocmoy10

    cnocmoy10 pfm Member

    Really interesting, thanks for this.
  6. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    My London bass from circa 1780.


    Notice the plain gut strings on the A,D and G, with a silver wound gut string on the E. As may be seen this was a really beautiful instrument, varnished as typical for English instruments of the time in a very nice red coloured varnish with a brown nut tint. If you look carefully the front is carved just as much care as violin of the first quality would have been.

    And my next bass made in 1995/6, which was purposely made to carry five gut strings.


    The strings here are what I settled on after experiments. Plain gut on D and G, Silver wire wound on gut for the E and A strings, while I used a very old Pirastro steel string on the bottom string as getting a true fifth string in gut was [in those days] impossible. The string set at the time cost about £700, so it puts into perspective the cost of hifi optimisation!

    I was trying very hard not to be in this photo! I hoped to photoshop myself out it one day, but the scene in Witley Parish Church, Worcestershire, was beyond me to fix!

    Best wishes from George
    Jono_13, westsea and BrianPK like this.

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