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Gollihur Music
August 2011 Newsletter


Welcome to another in a series of our irregular and infrequent e-Newsletters!
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In This Issue:
Our Estle Louis Basses are quality, affordable instruments that arrive FULLY SET UP!
  1. Bob's Blog - Make Friends With Your Amp (Part 1)
  2. Big News - Estle Louis Fully Carved Upright Bass
  3. Reminder - Gollihur Music Has a New Phone Number and Address
  4. New Product Spotlight - Lots of New Stuff at Gollihur Music!
  5. Mark's Cool New Stuff - Ordering Strings Just Got Easier
  6. Special Sale - Thomastik Spirocore and Belcanto ON SALE
  7. Acoustic Image Clearance - Now Includes the Contra Combo (Coda R and Corus Still Available)
  8. Christopher's Corner - Intonation Exercise
  9. Thanks, Unsubscribe Info, Contact Us

Bob's Blog

It's Bob!

Make Friends With Your Amp (Part 1)

We spend hours learning and practicing bass, not to mention fussing for hours over strings and accessories, and agonizing over pickup and/or mic choices. However, the amplifier is often overlooked; we plug it in, twiddle the knobs a little bit, and that's often the end of it. It's important to understand every component of the sound you project. I've heard a lot of amplified basses; and sounding "bassy" = sounding "muddy." Mumble, rumble, blobby-blobby, thud, thud is not a good bass sound.

The whole point of the following exercise is: when you are playing and something just doesn't sound quite right, you will instinctively know which knob to adjust. This is a valuable talent well worth learning. I could use more technical jargon and scientific precision in this article, but we're going for general knowledge and results in these exercises.

Familiarize Yourself with what tone controls actually do
Most amps feature "tone" controls labeled Bass, Middle, and Treble; each control a band of frequencies. "EQ" (equalization) is a common way to refer to these tone controls. You are probably quite aware of the effect twisting those knobs has when you've adjusted a radio or stereo unit. Turning the bass knob all the way up and the treble all the way down has the effect of listening to a song that's playing in the next room with the door closed!

Tone controls split the spectrum of sound into chunks, sort of like the piano keyboard approximations in the image to the right (not precise, the drawing is only to illustrate the concept). Those controls let you boost or cut those frequency bands. The other drawing is the frequencies of some notes on the upright bass fingerboard. Speaking generally, the lowest (bass) control usually affects the frequencies around the fundamental of the notes we play on our basses. But, for example, when you play the open A string on your bass, you hear a lot more than just that original note (the fundamental). There are overtones (also known as harmonics) above that note that give it character and clarity. Severely cutting down the middle and high frequencies down (by turning down the midrange, treble or whatever your amp has) reduces your amp's delivery of those harmonics and can hurt clarity. Note: If you have a graphic equalizer with more than just "low-mid-high," those sliders are just further splitting the frequencies into finer slices - low lows, middle lows, high lows, low mids, middle mids, etc., so you have even more precise control over the total sound.

Turn Theory Into Practice and analytically listen to the effect of each knob
If the acoustic sound of the bass is louder than the amp, you won't be able to evaluate the amplified sound, so let's get the amp up in the air so the speaker is close to ear level. Put it on a couple milk crates on top of a table, a wooden file cabinet -- anything that is a solid base for the speaker, but won't make distracting sounds when it vibrates. Turn the amp up to "Goldilocks Volume" – not too loud, not too soft... just right. Too loud, and you'll overwhelm your senses and screw up your perception.

My recommendation for learning your amp is to play the same series of notes up and down the fingerboard, repeating as you make adjustments to the amp's controls, studying the differences. Before you start, set the amp to "flat" – turning all the tone knobs to the middle, and locating any graphic equalizer sliders in the middle, too, so there are no boosts or cuts to any frequencies.

You can start with the highest frequency control (Treble, Highs, the right-most Graphic EQ slider), turning it all the way down, then perhaps to 9 o'clock, straight up, 3 o'clock, then all the way up. Listen carefully to the resulting changes in your sound (good and bad), and take your time! Let me repeat: the whole point of this exercise is, when you are playing and something just doesn't sound quite right, you will instinctively know which knob(s) to adjust.

Throughout this exercise, pay particular attention to midrange, low midrange, and upper bass controls. That's where acoustic bass lives, and the midrange frequencies can provide desirable texture and character. It's those controls that help to define the notes and tone of your particular bass. Don't try to do this all at once. You need to take breaks from this activity for the best results, as we all can suffer ear fatigue. However, once you spend significant time with your amp, you'll have a better feel for its capabilities, and the experience may also give you some new perspective on "your sound."

Create Your Own "Reference Sound" to make gig sound adjustments less of a headache
I suggest that you consider developing what I call a Reference Sound. My own definition of Reference Sound is where I set my preamp and amp controls when I first walk into a new situation. I know how it should sound from past experience, and it's a lot easier to start from a sound that you know "works" most of the time. Once onstage, you can then make minor tweaks, to adjust for unique room and stage acoustics. That's where learning your amp pays off – you will instinctively know which knob to twist to quickly and easily fine-tune your sound to the stage and room. The controls of my Euphonic Audio iAMP (mostly used for bass guitar in my case) are far more extensive, so I actually took a photo of my Reference Sound settings and taped it to the inside of my rack case. Most of my on-gig adjustments then only involve tiny adjustment to bass and/or boosting midrange for clarity.

Let me make one final suggestion. Recognize that, like your bass, the exact sound coming from the speaker down there on the floor is not going to reach your audience over one hundred feet away intact. Someone standing right in front of your acoustic instrument would hear much more "detail", such as string sound, which is combined with and complements the sound from the body. By the time that gets across and bounces around the room, the higher frequencies can get "lost in the sauce." So, when you develop your reference sound, please give consideration to keeping some of that midrange detail that helps define the character of your own bass.

Next time, we'll talk about learning advanced features that you'll find on many amplifiers and preamps and how they can further help your sound...

Note: Bob's Blog (and additional blog posts) can now also be found on our Wordpress Blog Page.

NEW! Estle Louis FULLY CARVED Basses from Gollihur Music!

Fully Carved Upright Bass from Gollihur Music Last Fall, we introduced the new Estle Louis bass line from Gollihur Music. We broke the ice with a high-quality laminated instrument, and it's been a great success. Now we are proud to debut the new FULLY CARVED Estle Louis Bass!

That's right, the bass is fully carved; no laminates on this bass, it's not a "hybrid." It features a choice spruce top with lightly flamed maple back and sides. It is also fully made by hand -- hand-graduated (carved) and hand-varnished. It comes complete with brand-name (not throw-away) strings and a quality maple adjustable bridge. Finally, to add to its already great value, the bass is properly set up and ready to play... no luthier trips or extra costs are needed!

Despite the price, this is no "beginner bass" -- I strongly feel that these basses are an excellent choice for both advancing students and discriminating players. It's the perfect bass for a bass major to take to college; excellent for both pizzicato and arco play, it's a serious instrument with a "not-nearly-so-serious" price tag.

What makes these basses an even better value:
  • Your bass arrives FULLY SET UP by a luthier - no additional costs are required to optimize the playability or tone. Your new bass can essentially be played right out of the box!
  • Your bass includes a quality maple adjustable bridge (an expensive upgrade at bass shops) already installed and properly fitted to the bass!
  • Your bass contains quality components (tuning machines, endpin, etc.) so there are no parts you'll need to upgrade.
  • Ebony fingerboard and tailpiece - not "ebonized" (painted or stained) hardwoods.

Additionally, for a limited time, we're including a $100 merchandise credit towards other purchases at Gollihur Music with the purchase of a Carved Estle Louis Bass.

We're very happy and excited to be able to provide our customers with such high quality instruments. Please check out the Estle Louis Carved bass page, with more information and many more photos of our new bass.

Reminder: WE MOVED!!

Gollihur Music Has a New Phone Number and Address - Please Update Your Address Book

New Telephone Number:

New Address:
Not a Showroom - Visits by Appointment Only
195 Center Street, Unit F
Sewell, New Jersey 08080

(Email and web addresses remain the same).


LOTS of New Bass Stuff!

Normally, we focus on just one new item in our newsletter (this month, it's the Estle Louis Carved Bass, above) - but since we've moved to larger quarters, we've been able to add a bunch of great new items to our product offerings; here's a quick overview of some of them (more being added every day!)

Pirastro Oliv Wound Gut Strings - We've been fielding requests to add Oliv strings for quite a while, and they're finally here! The Oliv is often considered the "tops" among the wrapped gut strings; natural gut wrapped in chrome steel provides a strong, dark tone with short sustain. The Olivs are certainly bowable, but require a bit more bow pressure than other strings. They produce a dark, warm sound under the bow. It's quite common to mix the Oliv G (and sometimes D) with other strings.

K&M Electric Upright Bass Folding Stand - This brand new (July 2011) lightweight stand from Konig and Meyer offers something many of us have been searching for - confident holding of various electric upright basses, including those without a body. It works great with the NS Design Basses - we shook the stand pretty vigorously and the bass didn't hit the floor. This will be a more portable and cost-effective alternative to the expensive "stand three-pack" for those people using the endpin with their NXT or WAV4 basses.

Jargar Upright Bass Strings - Jargar bass strings are handmade in Denmark; they are a steel string with a decidedly non-metallic tone - darker, almost gut-like, with an "easy-on-the-hands" feel. These strings have been reported as a favorite by everyone from orchestral bassists to rockabilly players; their soft feel and darker, gut-like vibe (but durable steel construction) can actually make them a good choice for slappers who aren't getting what they're looking for from gut or synthetic strings.

To Make a Double Bass - Book by H.S.Wake - First published in 1982 (and revised in 1995), this how-to book is a detailed guide on building your own instrument, complete with diagrams and fold out blueprints. Harry Wake, a longtime professional cellist and engineer, originally self-published this book in 1982 -- and then revised it in 1995. Whenever someone on the online forums pipes up "where can I get detailed plans to build my own upright bass," this book usually gets a shout-out. It's certainly a good reference with lots of detailed, fold-out drawings and (scaled) blueprints. It features complete plans and details for building a 43" scale flat-back bass.

Genuine Tourte Performance Mute for Upright Bass - The Tourte Mute is an affordable, easy-to-use alternative to a typical ebony performance mute. Made of durable rubber, and able to be left on the bass (so you won't lose it or leave it at rehearsal!) this mute is a convenient and durable alternative to typical ebony mutes, while still achieving the same desired sound.

DPA 4099B Upright Bass Microphone w/String-Mount Clip (4099-B) - The 4099B is a pro-level bass microphone from Danish company DPA; with super-lightweight construction, an integrated mounting clip system, and top-notch sound quality, could it be the perfect microphone for live upright bass? A pro-level, small-diaphragm condenser mic on a gooseneck, the DPA 4099B is a great choice for players looking for a high-quality sound: warm and realistic, the tiny size of the mic belies its big sound.

Jazz Bass on Top - Left-Hand Technique Book by Andy McKee - Drawing upon years of performance and teaching, master jazz bassist Andy McKee has developed a jazz-based left-hand fingering technique to strengthen your skills. In this book, technical proficiency is the goal; the system is designed to help you understand what fingers to use, when to shift and cross strings, how to move the left hand... developing a confidence in your technical approach that matches your theoretical knowledge and understanding of jazz music.

Ultra-Portable Folding Stand for Double Bass: K&M 141 (Black, New Model) - This newly improved 141 stand offers a sturdier base, low-profile black powdercoat finish, a newly improved triangular endpin "cup," and even an optional bow holder. It's simple to use. Once set up, you simply place the tip of your endpin into the triangular "cup" on the front foot, then lean the bass backwards into the cradling arms of the stand, which hold the bass by the C-Bouts. Simple and effective, it holds the bass with a minimum of contact, making it easy to grab it and play. And it folds up much smaller than most other stands!

Mark's Cool New Stuff

New Easier Way to Order Individual Strings at!

One of the things I've been unhappy with on our website has been the way we had to display our bass strings. Since our major web page redesign in 2008, we've had to put sets on one page -- with the individual strings on a separate, duplicate page. This was confusing; as a customer, you'd have to go to one page if you wanted a set of strings, and a different page altogether if you wanted to just buy a couple singles. There were several reasons for this minor annoyance - but the biggie was that it was impossible to clearly list so many possible items on one page (just imagine - combined, the Corelli 370 page alone would have had 11 sets and 19 single strings in a single dropdown menu!)

Our web developer and I have been working together over several months (make no mistake, he did all of the really difficult stuff!) to re-engineer the string pages, and we've finally done it! Now, sets and individual strings are all on the same page - in a clean, well-organized format.

How does it work? To add a string set to your cart, nothing has changed - go to the string product page for the set you want, click the drop-down menu, and click the set you want (various options might include different gauges, Solo or Fifths Tuning sets, or sets with five strings or long E strings for extensions). Click "Add to Cart" and you're done.

Need Individual Strings? Check out the new graphic button (example shown to the right.) To buy a single string -- or several single strings:
  1. Click the graphic. A new floating window will pop out, with a list of all the available single strings.
  2. Put a check in the box next to the string(s) you want.
  3. Click "add to cart" at the bottom of the window. All of the strings you've checked are now in your cart.
You can even add several single strings to your cart at the same time, saving multiple clicks of the "back" button to add each string separately (another issue I had with the old system.) All of our string pages now use this new system, making ordering single strings (and custom combinations) much easier than ever!


(Special Pricing Expires Oct 31, 2011)

Acoustic Image CLEARANCE Continues
Contra, Coda R and Corus combos heavily discounted - save $250-390 on that great Acoustic Image sound!

While supplies last! Don't wait too long - these great amps are going fast...
We've always been big fans of these great amps, and have been steering buyers to the discounted Coda R as a bargain version of the Coda+ (which sells for $1369); not everybody really needs the removable head feature and 800 instead of 400 watts... Acoustic Image is rolling out new updated models of their combos, and has determined they have the parts to make a limited number of their popular Series III amps -- and are liquidating them at great prices!!

The Acoustic Image Contra features a full-featured one-channel preamp, 400w of power, and that great Acoustic Image sound in a highly portable format. Now reduced to $899!

The Acoustic Image Coda R SE (two channel version of the popular Contra, with built-in effects) combo is now $999, as is the Corus SE (the version of the combo that is tailored for guitar and other non-bass instruments).

If you always wanted an Acoustic Image amp, now is the time to jump on one before they are gone (and they will be, soon!) Click below for detailed information, and for 24/7 ordering on our site. We gig these amps, so feel free to give us a call for assistance in choosing the best model for your situation, and FYI, our 14-day trial period -- and Acoustic Image's amazing 5-year+ Warranty -- applies to these special amps, too.

Christopher's Corner

Intonation Exercise: Try Not to Vomit

Intonation is the ever-present demon that every bass player fights, no matter what their skill level, and I can say that it is the number one thing that I work on every day. That being said, I assure you that my intonation is not close to what I wish that it was, and probably never will be! There are a few warm-up exercises that I do each time I pick up my bass, and I'd like to share my absolute favorite with you. (I showed this one to Mark the other day -- I'm sure his wife and baby love hearing it! )

I'm not sure where I first learned this exercise; I believe it may have been at some master class in college. I'm sure some of you are familiar with it: the infamous -- and disgustingly named -- "Vomit Exercise." To do it right, a few things: this needs to be played Arco (using a bow) and you'll also need a metronome and a tone generator (many metronomes have this built in). This exercise focuses on accurate position shifts, and, if done correctly, may sound rather unpleasantly like a cat barfing up a hairball.

Set the metronome (your best friend) on a slow tempo -- 60bpm or less -- and get that tone generator blasting an A. Now that the room should be so loud that you can't think, it's time to give this a try. Starting with your first finger on the A on your G string, begin bowing half notes. I like to sit on this for a minute or so the first time through, so that my right arm can get into the groove of the tempo. Once you feel comfortable, we're going to play an A major scale up the G string, always alternating back to the A between each note of the scale. In time with the metronome, play the exercise using quarter notes (Click the diagram at the right for notation). Hold on! Here's the catch: the entire exercise will be played with your first finger ONLY. The first few shifts will be something like this: A-B-A-C#-A-D-A and so on. Once you reach the octave, it's time to do the same in reverse.

Take the exercise slowly, listening to (and tuning) the intervals against the droning A... this exercise is all about intonation and position shifts. Remember to keep your bow "in the string" and in constant motion with half notes; try to make the shifts as cleanly and quickly as possible, allowing no space in-between notes. For your first time, I would suggest playing the exercise only up to the D or E and continuing on after you have become comfortable with those first few intervals. Once you've "mastered" this (I'm at about 3 years and counting, so good luck with that!) try it on every string, and even with each finger.

Now what are you waiting for? Go practice!


Thanks for reading!

Our plan is to put out occasional newsletters that highlight our latest informational Bass FAQs, as well as let you know of sales and cool new stuff. If you haven't already visited, check out the Upright Bass FAQ section (accessible from the menu bar under RESOURCES) and take a look at some of the other articles we've written. There are a number of topics like Impedance and Ohms (input AND output perspectives!), Rosin, changing strings, bridges, Mystery Basses, and more. More articles are in the works, and we welcome your suggestions for additional FAQs.

Gollihur Music is not just an Upright Bass store, it's your URB information destination.

"Life is too short for bad tone."
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