The Old Bass

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Well tomorrow I leave for Denver to pick up my new upright bass! I’m scared, nervous, apprehensive, ecstatic, happy and sad all rolled into one. It’s certainly not the end of my relationship with my current bass but it is truly a milestone in my life. I’ve played the exact same bass since the 8th grade – that’s about 30 years BTW. I’ve had a few concerts and tours where I’ve used other instruments to be sure, but 98% of my music making has been on this instrument. All the studio recordings, all the tours with Motion Poets, all the local gigs, all the teaching and workshops, the list goes on. Thousands of hours of practice and performance. I wish I could calculate the number of miles my hands have travelled over the fingerboard – it has to be in the many thousands.

My bass is an anomoly, a mutant, a frankenstein of construction pieced together from a 100 year old instrument of unknown origin. Over the years many luthiers have looked at it and wondered aloud ‘what the heck is this?!’. It’s most likely cut down from a larger instrument which explains many of the asymmetrical lines in it’s construction. It also explains why it sounds so damn good. The neck is easily 2-1/2″ too long for the body size so it is very top heavy and it took me several years to really feel comfortable holding it. The corners don’t line up. The back is bigger than the front. It is a freaky beast and I’ve grown to love it deeply.

All along the way I’ve thought about other instruments that were easier to play physically, had a louder, darker sound, and were lighter in weight. What would happen to my playing if I were invested in another instrument that plays more evenly and speaks more easily across the whole spectrum? Well I’m about to find out. I’ll keep you posted on the new instrument but here’s a photo gallery of me and my bass for posterity. I have plans for my old bass – a reconstruction is long overdue. The risk here is it may never sound the way it does now. We shall see……

 

The earliest known picture of me and my bass. 10th grade. Playing the Scarlatti Sonata.
The earliest known picture of me and my bass. 10th grade. Playing the Scarlatti Sonata.

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photo by Randy Kramer
photo by Randy Kramer
Photo © 2012 Randy Kramer
Photo © 2012 Randy Kramer

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