When it comes to choosing which stringed instrument to learn, it often falls between the violin and the cello. The viola and bass, however, are just as valuable as the two most popular instruments in the viol family.
The bass lays the foundation for any and all music; chords are built from the bottom up, and that bottom pitch has to be perfectly in tune or the whole ensemble will sound out of tune. If anything, it takes more skill and dedication to be a good bassist. Bad bassits and violists are a dime a dozen, but good ones are worth their weight in gold.
Any good bassist will know that the key to success is not just practice, practice, practice, but also having an instrument that complements the musician. At Kamimoto’s we carry mainly student models in our AC series, ranging from our entry level outfit (bow, bass, and case) valued at $1850 to our advanced basses, which start at $4500. It can be a daunting task to pick a price range, let alone a bass within that range. That’s why we’re here to help with a few tips on choosing which bass is best for you.
First things first, what level of musician are you?
Beginner: Generally we’ll recommend a beginner start with our AC-90 model, which is a basic, well-behaved bass that will guide you through your first few years with ease. The AC-90 has a round, solid sound that is consistent in almost all environments, with comfortable action that allows the new bassist to develop calluses without too much discomfort. While the voices of these basses sound quiet and plain compared to more advanced models, they work well in beginner ensembles and as travel instruments. Our AC-90s are usually a rich, chocolatey brown and are made in the Gamba style.
Intermediate: For the more experienced bassist, we recommend one of our AC-900 series. These usually have a more “live” tone than the AC-90s, and generally look a bit more like an advanced outfit as well; there is a lot more variance in the color of the bass, as well as the style that they were made in. Our AC-900s come in both the Gamba style and the Violin style, allowing the bassist to choose which style he or she likes best.
Advanced or professional: At this point, we would recommend either one of our AC-1000 models, which are slightly better than our AC-900s, or one of the various European basses we have in stock. We usually have a small variety of German basses as well as a few from other makers. Our European instruments are usually what we like to refer to as “well-loved.” This means that they’re second-hand instruments that have seen a lot of use, but have been fixed up and made ready for their next bassist. These are also often consignments, and usually come with at least one bow and sometimes a case. For any advanced bassist looking for a good sound, we highly recommend one of the European basses due to the pronounced increase in sound quality and responsiveness over our beginner and intermediate AC models.
THE WOLF TERMINATOR
Developed by Hideo Kamimoto, the former owner of Kamimoto Strings, the Wolf Terminator is at last an effective solution to the intriguing and frustrating acoustical phenomenon known as the wolf tone.
The wolf tone is referred to by that name due to the arhythmic, throbbing, almost howl-like effect it has on the sound of the cello. The basics of what goes on is that the cellist is playing one pitch while the cello tries to force that pitch away from its resonant frequency, a slightly different pitch. The two pitches are close enough together that they “fight” with each other, thus creating the wolf tone.
Interested in taking a private lesson?
Kamimoto String Instruments is a hub for string instrument teachers from all over the San Francisco Bay Area. Many instructors rent teaching rooms and offer private lessons on site. We can connect you with these teachers or others. We have a large database of violin, viola, cello and bass teachers in Northern California. Some instructors specialize in teaching beginners while others focus on intermediate or semi-professional students. We would be happy to refer you to a teacher that matches your needs.
If you’re interested in taking private lessons and would like us to connect you to a teacher, please give us a call at 408.298.8168.
If you’re a teacher interested being added to our database, please contact us at 408.298.8168.
- The basic soundpost position should directly line up with the treble foot of the bridge, and should be behind the foot a distance of about one-half the thickness of the foot.
- A properly fitted soundpost should stay in place without problems, though hard bumps and weather changes can cause it to fall.
- Learn to use a soundpost setter. There are two types; the S type and the scissor type. The S type is the “professional” model used by violin shops. With practice, both can give good results. Loosen the strings before setting the post, but leave the bridge on so that you will have a reference point. For most instruments, insert the soundpost through the f-hole on the soundpost side. On small violins, 1/8 to 1/32, the post is easier to insert through the bass bar side. The post should stand vertically between the top and back. It should be snug so that the movement of the instrument will not cause the post to fall. You can take the strings, tailpiece and endpin off and sight through the endpin hole if you want to recheck the soundpost fit and position Nuts! The string should clear the fingerboard by one business card thickness. If too low, shim with paper. Lubricate the string notch by rubbing with a pencil so the string will slide smoothly.
- The back face of the bridge should stay perpendicular to the plane of the top. The front face will lean slightly at an angle.
- The bridge is placed between the two inside notches on the f-holes. Use both hands when adjusting the bridge, bracing them against the body of the instrument.
- Check for correct arching. Sight across the bridge and line up the E, A, and D strings. When E and D strings are lined up, the A string will rise above by a sixteenth of an inch (for violin). Adjustments can be made by using a small file. In the same way, check the G, D, and A strings. You can shim individual strings with paper, but be sure the shim doesn’t project past the front of the bridge.
- For slipping pegs, try winding the strings tight against the scroll such that the string is touching the sides of the pegbox (image below). This gives the pegs more grip. String Drops will also work. In emergencies, use chalk, or rosin.
- For sticking pegs, use peg compound. Hill pegdope works best. In emergencies use dry soap.
- If pegs don’t respond, check for uneven wear on the shaft of the peg. Check to be sure that the string hole in the peg is clear of the sides of the scroll.