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Old 07-10-2017, 01:57 PM
Skip Ellis Skip Ellis is offline
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Default Acoustic Bass

What's the word on acoustic bass guitars? I'm thinking of picking one up to try to teach my wife how to play bass on some old-time country and Doc Watson/Merle Travis type tunes. Not sure this is a good idea but I'll do some more thinking on it. Budget is fairly low. There seem to be quite a few out there and the YT vids all seem to show guys shredding. I like the U-Bass but really don't want to put out that much money on something that may end up being a novelty. I might be better off just getting a used short scale electric bass and a small amp and going with that. Any experience with the acoustics?
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Old 07-10-2017, 02:40 PM
Fran Guidry Fran Guidry is offline
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Acoustic bass guitars, as opposed to standup basses, are either too big or too quiet or both. They generally need to be amplified to be heard along side a firmly picked acoustic guitar with vocal.

The U-bass can be amazing, I heard one played by a great musician recently and he killed, but it does require some technique and it's a bit trickier to tune and keep in tune and play in tune compared to a conventional electric bass.

Fran
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Old 07-10-2017, 03:59 PM
Earl49 Earl49 is offline
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As Fran said, most ABG's are too quiet to be useful without amplification, except maybe practicing in the living room. Been there, done that. There is just not enough body volume / sound board area in a guitar shape to generate any meaningful acoustic volume at lower frequencies.

I dabbled with an upright doghouse bass after taking a couple of workshops and getting quite enthused. Very neat, and a good bass player is welcome nearly anywhere in folk music. But even imported plywood uprights are over $1500, and are so bulky as to be hard to transport in many vehicles. Then I came across the Kala U-bass. Within 90 minutes of buying mine, I was on stage with it backing a bluegrass styled trio, price tag still dangling from the head stock. Afterward someone came up to the stage and said, "I heard the bass, but never saw it." I just handed him my little U-bass and watched his jaw drop. Amplified and with a little judicious EQ they sound pretty doggone convincing. An amp / U-bass combo is both cheaper and much more easily portable than an upright. Gold Tone also makes a similar but slightly larger bass ukulele with rubber strings (actually polyurethane), both fretted and fretless.

The trick to tuning them is: get close to pitch, then press the string down between the nut and peg head to take up any lingering friction in the nut. Then re-tune up to pitch, and it usually stays good then. Those big rubber strings don't slide very easily through the nut slots, which affects tuning accuracy.

I don't play bass a whole lot, but my two nice electric basses have not been out of their cases since buying the Kala. And all delusions of getting an upright bass are gone too.

PS: I've played them a couple of times and they are not for me, but the new Taylor Mini bass (based on the GS Mini body) are pretty OK too. Proprietary strings, but they sound good. Still need to be amplified too. But it might be the "right" answer for you guys.
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Old 07-10-2017, 07:47 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skip Ellis View Post
What's the word on acoustic bass guitars? I'm thinking of picking one up to try to teach my wife how to play bass on some old-time country and Doc Watson/Merle Travis type tunes...I might be better off just getting a used short-scale electric bass and a small amp and going with that. Any experience with the acoustics?
I've owned two good ABG's - both Guilds (B-50SB acoustic - which I sold - and B4E-AMB all-hog acoustic-electric) - been a bass player for 40+ years, and when it comes to tone and ease of handling I'll take the electric/amp option every time. As a matter of simple physics, you need a large sounding board/tone chamber to reproduce low frequencies (down to 40 Hz on the low-E string), and unless you're playing a guitarron-sized instrument you're not going to be heard in an unplugged setting; truth be told, even the B-50 - at 18"x22"x7" definitely in guitarron territory - was useful only with a couple of fingerpicked/lightly-strummed guitars, and the only reason I still keep the 16"x20"x3" B4E around (interestingly enough, it puts out as much volume - and almost as much low end - as the B-50) is for those occasional gigs where the acoustic "look" is more important than tone (caught crap from a group of hidebound folkies about my Pedulla being "too loud" - no issues with the Guild at the exact same volume )...

If you're looking at ABG's I assume you're after something that resembles upright-bass tone to a greater or lesser degree, and while I'm also quite impressed with the new generation of "bass ukuleles" (which actually have their roots in the solid-body Ashbory mini-bass of the 1980's) the non-metallic "rubber" strings can be a turnoff to some players; that said, a used Hofner Ignition Beatle/Club Bass or Epiphone Viola/Allen Woody, new Rogue (GC/MF house brand) VB-100, or new Epiphone EB-0, can be had in the $150-200 range if you shop around or hit a "Coupon Sale" day. With a set of flatwound or tapewound strings - you don't want that piercing, metallic roundwound high end for the type of music she'll be playing - you can get a near-upright tone without the bulk of a larger instrument; my own wife sometimes doubles on bass, and although her Hofner 5000/1 Deluxe is well out of your price range I'd recommend a similarly compact/lightweight/easy-fingering package - especially if she's a beginner...

You'll have to shop around for an appropriate bass amp though; while you can find used bargains in the $100 price bracket I'd recommend something in the 40-50 watt range to start (it's about clean power and headroom rather than sheer volume) and a 12" speaker minimum if you expect to reproduce those bottom notes satisfactorily. I've seen used '70s/80s Peavey, Kustom, Randall, and Univox combos - some of which have 15" speakers and 100+ watts power BTW (which will bring you even closer to upright tone) - as well as similar late-model Acoustic and Fender combos routinely going for $100-150, and if you're lucky you might find the occasional Ampeg BA-Series for comparable money...

My thoughts: don't jump into this too quickly - save up a few more bucks and do it right the first time, especially if your better half is going to be playing out with you anytime soon; it'll be well worth the investment...
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Old 07-11-2017, 07:18 AM
MikeBmusic MikeBmusic is offline
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One issue I have seen with ABGs plugged into PA systems (rather than a dedicated bass amp) - feedback. Obviously amp placement is easy to work with - turn it away from the player, move it off to the side, but that's not something you can do with a PA.

I tried the new Taylor GSMini bass and was thoroughly unimpressed with it acoustically - and for the price, once can get a very decent used Fender P bass.
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Old 07-11-2017, 07:23 AM
Skip Ellis Skip Ellis is offline
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Thanks for the helpful replies as this is a little out of area of expertise. The Gold Tone looks and sounds like a possibility but I'm thinking that I should just go with a pawn shop/used electric bass (preferably a short scale) that plays good. I'll mostly be using it for recording direct, anyway, so an amp can wait a bit.
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Old 07-16-2017, 09:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skip Ellis View Post
Thanks for the helpful replies as this is a little out of area of expertise. The Gold Tone looks and sounds like a possibility but I'm thinking that I should just go with a pawn shop/used electric bass (preferably a short scale) that plays good. I'll mostly be using it for recording direct, anyway, so an amp can wait a bit.
I have a Breedlove ABG and I like it quite a lot. No, it is not loud enough for backing up other players, but it is certainly loud enough to record with, which is my only purpose for it. I also have an electric Fender Precision Bass and although it's got its place, I rarely use it. I just enjoy the ABG more. I have mine strung with tape would strings and really like the tone.
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Old 07-16-2017, 10:57 AM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is online now
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Late to the thread, but my 2 cents:

I own and play a Kala Ubass and an Ashbory. The Ashbory is harder to play in tune for me. They both can sound upright bass-like and are of course extremely portable, though they can't do the full gamut or what an upright can do. Sounds like they are out of your price range unless you make a lucky score on the used market.

I endorse the suggestion of a short scale electric bass and small amp. If you're playing with an acoustic guitar or combo, you can skimp on the power and size of the bass amp. Flatwound bass strings sound like a lot of vintage electric bass records and may be easier on fresh fingers.
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Old 07-16-2017, 11:08 AM
A-Mac A-Mac is offline
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I have never owned an acoustic bass guitar but have played a few, and I fail to see their utility. On a limited budget, I would definitely go with a bass guitar and amp. A friend has one of those new, inexpensive small Fender bass amps, and they are amazing.
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Old 07-16-2017, 02:56 PM
DavidE DavidE is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
Acoustic bass guitars, as opposed to standup basses, are either too big or too quiet or both. They generally need to be amplified to be heard along side a firmly picked acoustic guitar with vocal.

The U-bass can be amazing, I heard one played by a great musician recently and he killed, but it does require some technique and it's a bit trickier to tune and keep in tune and play in tune compared to a conventional electric bass.

Fran
You should hear my Guild.... not too big and not quiet. It's pretty surprising.
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Old 07-16-2017, 03:33 PM
Fran Guidry Fran Guidry is offline
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Originally Posted by DavidE View Post
You should hear my Guild.... not too big and not quiet. It's pretty surprising.
For many years I had an acoustic bass guitar built in Paracho, not a guitarron but a giant flat top guitar. I could get just enough out of it to hear it well, but I'm no bass player. The guy I sold it to _is_ a bass player and I was amazed when he picked it up and started filling the room with those low notes. I was really happy to find someone who could do the instrument justice.

Fran
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Old 07-16-2017, 09:16 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
For many years I had an acoustic bass guitar built in Paracho, not a guitarron but a giant flat top guitar. I could get just enough out of it to hear it well, but I'm no bass player. The guy I sold it to _is_ a bass player and I was amazed when he picked it up and started filling the room with those low notes. I was really happy to find someone who could do the instrument justice.

Fran
Check out the Soda Rock Ramblers, using guitarron.

https://youtu.be/ik4ucaksBaE
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Old 07-16-2017, 10:23 PM
jomaynor jomaynor is offline
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Originally Posted by Skip Ellis View Post
Thanks for the helpful replies as this is a little out of area of expertise. The Gold Tone looks and sounds like a possibility but I'm thinking that I should just go with a pawn shop/used electric bass (preferably a short scale) that plays good. I'll mostly be using it for recording direct, anyway, so an amp can wait a bit.
Good idea, although most pawn shops don't offer good deals anymore, and decent short scale basses like a Squier Mustang or the Epiphone Allen Woody may be difficult to find, so maybe also look at your local Craigslist, plus ebay and Reverb.

Also, she shouldn't find a Jazz Bass neck too difficult to manage, either, and Squier or Fender (Mexico) Jazz basses are everywhere.
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Old 07-17-2017, 07:53 AM
cattzap cattzap is offline
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I've wanted one but the few that GC had that I can put my hands on I was not impressed with them. I actually want one so when our outdoor Sunday service is very cold and we huddle round the woodstove we can go light and easy all acoustic. When looking at them the Dean seemed to be good but I never got to try one out. I don't like to buy if I can't try.
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Old 07-17-2017, 01:45 PM
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Try to find a used Martin B1 - all solid Mahogany and Spruce.

A friend has one of those and it's incredible. As Fran noted, some of it is technique (he's an excellent musician) but until I got my Charis dread - none of my other guitars could keep up with him in the volume department - always told him I was going to stuff a pillow in it when he wasn't looking.
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