Ten Thousand Pounds For A Double Bass???
Ten Grand??? I could buy a new car for ten grand!!!
Well, let's take a look at the maths shall we?. You'll spend £1000 on a decent ply bass. It'll serve you well. Anything less is likely to give you cheap strings, a soft fingerboard, stiff tuners and generally a very poor setup if not a self-destructive instrument that's as likely to put you off playing as it is to get you into it.
Now, back to your £1000 ply bass. Fair enough, but no matter what strings you try, (more on this another time), it will never have that character, depth or richness of sound many players want.You'll need a solid then.
You might go half way and get a hybrid or all the way to a solid. You'll double your £1000 outlay for a decent solid, say £2-2,500. For your 2.5 grand you'll get a nice carved front, made from 2-4 pieces of nice, straight grained wood cut to a set shape and thickness, possibly by a CNC machine. You might have some nicely figured maple for the ribs and back (more likely to be flat), although it's likely you'll have to spend a fair bit more (another grand?) for a really nice, strong, even figure in the wood. The figuring doesn't have any effect on the sound but if it makes a difference to how you feel about your bass then it's important. You'll get an good ebony fingerboard, a half decent endpin and bridge and passable tuners for your £2.5-3.5 Grand. You might even get a proper instrument varnish at the higher end rather than having your resonant woods strangled and damped by a thick sprayed on lacquer. So where to from here? You still won't have the strings or setup you want. You'll need to add say £200 for strings (twice that for guts), £250 to have it set up, £50 to fit the strings and reset the post. Then you'll go off and play for a bit before you realise it's too dark/bright and the action's not comfortable for the way you play this new bass. So it's another £100 to reset the post and raise/lower the action. If you started out with steels and decided you wanted guts you'll be spending perhaps another £200 on deepening the fingerboard profile, asides from the £3-500 you'll need for the strings themselves. Now all of a sudden your £2.5 Grand bass has cost you £3.5 Grand and your £3.5 Grand swell back could be touching 5!
A perfectly playable bass set up just how you like it but for a couple of thousand more you can get yourself a 'name' bass.Often a maker or a well-known company will buy in an imported white bass and get to work giving it a good quality fingerboard and hardware, fit a decent bridge and (importantly), will spend some time grading the top, fitting the bass bar and possibly asking you a few questions to get it set up how you like it. You may have to pay a little extra for the strings you like (those pricey guts again perhaps?), but for £6-7 Grand you're getting a very nicely made instrument that will be closer to its true potential. Nice spirit or oil based varnish too. But (there's always one of those...) it's an instrument made on the whole in kit form by some person in a faraway country to a price then shipped to a maker over here in the West to be assembled and finished.
Now you're only 2 or 3 thousand away from that 'ridiculous' figure of £10,000. So, what do you get from paying me that tidy sum to build you a bass? Well, for a start the clue is in the question. I "Build" "You" a bass. You have a musical instrument built especially for you, using woods chosen by you and me with a shape, neck, profile and varnish that you want. I'll carve the neck and scroll. I form the ribs by hand and I'll carve the front and back (if it's a swell back) and tune every part so they're all working in harmony, the bass reaching its optimum sound. You can have whatever strings you like and it will be set up accordingly and worked on until you're happy with it. All the hardware - endpin and tuners - is designed by me and made only for my basses so you won't find them on any other bass. If you want to fine tune your string spacing, tweak the soundpost or want to try a different endpin material you can bring it along whenever you like and get it done. It's all a part of owning an LHN Born double bass. It's entirely made by hand, in England by me for you.
In that light I'd hope you can see it's a world away from cheaper (and very often more expensive) alternatives.
Another perspective on paying allot of money for a double bass
Approaching this issue from the opposite angle, if you'd like an English double bass, even one without much history or a famous name, you could pay twice that and for a 'name' bass you could be getting closer to 'the price of a house' territory. Of course, most old basses retain their value, probably increasing over time. You're more likely to get a bass that's reached its potential (not guaranteed), but you will still have to spend time and money setting it up the way you want it and to get the most out of its own unique qualities. You'd also need to be a clairvoyant if you wanted to speak to the maker of a Panormo... This is all asides from having what's effectively a delicate antique to keep repaired and fettled. There's no denying that decades or centuries of playing will add to the sound, character and dare I say it, the aura of any decent musical instrument. I'm just striving to add some of that character to a bespoke bass from new, with all the benefits a musician reaps playing in and working with a new instrument from a maker they know and can work with. Yes you could buy a smallish, low specified hatchback for the price of one of my instruments, but an LHN Born double bass isn't the equivalent of a low spec hatchback. You simply can't buy a car at any price that comes with the same level of individuality, quality, character and level of service one of my basses will give you.
Thanks for reading, Lawrence