Lesson 1 Relaxation
Lesson 2 Practicing
Lesson 3 Playing fast
Lesson 4 Plucking
Lesson 5 Walking bass
Lesson 6 Ethics in jazz
Lesson 7 Bass solo
Lesson 8 Your story
Lesson 9 Listening
Lesson 10 Mistakes
Lesson 11 Questions
Lesson 12 Standards
Lesson 13 Rehearsing
Lesson 14 Tensions
Lesson 15 Timing
Lesson 16 Price/Quality
Lesson 17 Taking lessons
Lesson 18 AABA
Lesson 19 Your own style
Lesson 20 Basic theory
Lesson 21 Modulating
Lesson 22 Rapid changes
Lesson 23 The left hand

       Lesson 16 Price/Quality

The prices that are asked for bassguitars and acoustic basses are not understandable. I probably think this way because I’m mainly interested min two things: the way the bass sounds and how easy it is to play on the bass. Less important is the way it looks. Of course, its nice if my bass looks good, but I’m mainly interested in what I can do with it. This is really a musicians viewpoint and you would expect luthiers to have the same criteria. Acoustic bass luthiers don’t look at it this way. They’re more interested in the way the bass was built, the handicraft. When looking at old basses, they’re especially interested in the way repairs were carried out in the past and in it’s present condition. 1580 – 1630 the most beautiful basses were built in Italy. Gaspard Bertoloti, also Calles da Salo and his student Magginini are famous luthiers.

As I mentioned, beautiful basses were built in Italy, but the sound does not seem very important for the price that is asked for a bass, which I think is strange. A bass like that will cost $50.000, whether it sounds beautiful or not. I know a terrible story about a bassplayer who bought a bass from that period. He was not able to play on it yet, it needed extensive repairs. When he finally got to play on it, he discovered that the bass sounded terrible…

My acoustic bass has a nice sound, though it does not sound exactly the way I want. I’ll just have to keep looking. But I expect the beautiful bass that I’m hopefully going to find in the future to be a new bass. A beautiful new acoustic bass costs half of what a beautiful old bass costs. For a beautiful new bass a price between $20.000 and $25.000 is not unreasonable.

The higher the price for a bass, the less the improvement in sound. I do not mean to say that it’s impossible to buy a beautiful acoustic bass for $50.000, but that the difference between a bass of $2000 and a bass of $25.000 is much bigger than the difference between a bass of $25.000 and a bass of $50.000.

The differences between prices of bass guitars are even more incomprehensible. My bassguitar was made by Rikkers, a luthier here in Groningen, the Netherlands, where I live. It cost me about $1500,-. I compared it to guitars that sometimes cost three times more, but could not understand why these other guitars cost more; certainly not because they sounded better or were nicer to play on. They just were different, that’s all. You may now well conclude that I have no ears, am absolutely crazy, should stop writing these columns, etc., etc. But I can assure you that this really is the truth: guitars are priced by many manufacturers mainly by taking into consideration demand and time and effort spent on their product. For a great deal, it does not reflect the quality of the product. That’s sad, but it’s true.

If you want to buy an acoustic bass, a bass guitar or an amplifier, I would advise you to trust your ears only. You do not deserve a too expensive bass, you deserve a very, very good bass. Realize how you want your new bass to sound before you enter the music store and find an instrument that matches what you want to hear as closely as possible.

Another bit of advice: don’t buy your bass the first time. After having made a first selection, come back to try the basses you like best again.