The Eminence bass
The wrong foot
Does everyone who enters the world of double basses (especially from a bass guitar background, and usually on a budget) go through the same ritual?
"It sounds bad, must be the wrong pickup, wrong amp, wrong bridge...";
"it's hard to play, must be the wrong strings, wrong set-up, wrong fingerboard..."?
If ever there was a market for exploiting the novice, this is it. Hundreds of pickup/preamp/string combinations available, with no strip-down reviews to guide you. Mix in some hype about sensitivity, phase distortion, ambience, bass response, and, hey, what about the benefits of using valves, and oxygen-free copper?
So far I've worked out:
not to use an under-foot piezo pickup, because I break them.
a contact piezo pickup is great, when you glue it on, and use a very short lead into a very high gain pre-amp. So the phrase "only 50p on Ebay" is very misleading.
a magnetic pickup gives it a sound like a bass guitar.
I like hearing the bass sound from 1920s jazz recordings, and it is essentially the sound of the gut string pizzicato; warm, with a fast decay ("less sustain" in lingua guitarra). However, the only time I've tried gut strings on a bass I found them floppy, uncontrollable, and probably better off left in a sheep. I play in a loud band, so amplifying the bass is a major incentive for sticking with steel strings.
The Eminence is by far the best electric upright I've had to work with, after owning a Palatino which was just heavy and unwieldy (and why solid?), and a Stagg which was great for travelling, but with a "spinning" issue. (But if I ever start keeping sheep and embark on a survey of gut strings I'd happily use a Stagg as the test instrument.) The neck on my Eminence was broken at some point in its abused past, and whoever glued it back on might be glad to know it's lasting well, thank you!
The spinning issue is resolved elegantly with the 'T' foot on the Eminence. As a bonus, I think it also reduces mechanical feedback through the floor, as there are more material interfaces for the sound's energy to have to fight through.
The Eminence is supplied with no electrics "built-in". It is essentially an acoustic instrument first, though only a soloist or small outfit might find it useful as such. I like this idea though, as the pick-up supplied is easily replaced by a player's preferred choice of conventional double bass parts, though there are many.
In striving for a quality tone, or to get out of trouble, I have tried several options.
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The original bridge was suffering, from age, and from too many cutaways. There was less than 1/2" of wood between the D string, and the heart cut-out. I suspected that the action on the bridge had been shaved down over time, so now there was not even enough wood to support the outer strings, especially the heavy E string. I was just able to retrieve the right amount of maple from a Tourte 4/4 replacement bridge from Dictum. I borrowed a 1/4" UNC tap set to cut the thread upwards into the bridge. I was only a little concerned that the Tourte, at 16mm, was 2mm thinner than the original bridge. The wood felt good under the saw though, and now feels good on the bass. I re-used the original feet and screws, which are still sitting well.
From the first, I have been impressed with the boldness of the brass end-plate on the Eminence, for its sheer mass, for one thing, but also for the protection it affords to the instrument. Having to thread strings through the holes was getting annoying though.
With a view to improving the instrument's sound, I ended up with a question over the design of the "traditional" double-bass.
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