12 Apr The travel double bass
This is my first blog post ever. And, being Spanish, I´ve decided to write it in english first and translate it to Spanish after. So I am very sorry if you find too my mistakes, I hope it will be comprehensible and even fun.
I´ve been a professional double bass player for about 17 years. In all this time I´ve travelled all around the world, mostly with flamenco related projects. The point is that I have quite an experience to share about what it means to travel with a double bass in all kind of vehicles.
My first flight case was a monster. It would´t fit in the elevator (I live in a 6th floor…) so I had to first carry the monster six floors down, and after the bass and bags in the elevator. 6 a.m. carrying that fucking thing six floors is not the best “good morning” ever. And worse, coming back from the trip… I don´t even want to remember.
I could not find a better photo, that is how much I want to forget it…
After some years I bought a lighter flight case which fitted in the elevator (best day of my life). It was made by a Finish woman named Elisa Lakanen (or something like that) and it´s been doing a great job all this years.
I have never had big problems in airports and planes. I´ve heard all kind of horror stories, I guess I´ve been pretty lucky. Things have happened of course, but just a few in so many travels.
There was a point where I wanted to travel more comfortably, and avoid some issues like the fact that every concert organizer seem to have an idea of the size of a double bass but the truth is they have noooooo idea. How many times have I arrived somewhere where they have arranged a couple of taxis for the whole band… after dozens of emails sent by the managers talking about the measures and weight of the double bass? “-Big transport is needed! – Of course, don´t worry!”…
For that and for general comfort I started looking for a travel bass. By the way, rented basses are out of my life. I could write, or even should, a blog about rented basses. Is there a more punished being on earth than a rent double bass? No. You could not believe what I´ve witnessed… Is it so fucking difficult to at least clean a little bit the 2 cm layer of rosin sticked to the poor bass? Come oooooooon. And that is only one of the possible dramas. Most of them are simply unplayable. And I leave it there, I want to keep my good mood.
Or no! What the hell! Let me tell you this story. Once I had a concert somewhere in Spain with whatever group. I arrived to the sound check with low expectations about the rented bass, and yeah, it was a poor, harmed shitty bass. If you spend 150€ in a luthier that could have been a comfortable playable bass, but maybe because of our religious past (inquisition, crusades… you know) that bass was a penance… I told the organizer, man, I just can´t play that, there is no physical way for me make music with that. He looked at me with that look of “you think that you are so good that you deserve more, you asshole…”, you can imagine. So I convinced him that even being the piece of shit bass player that I am there is no way I´m going to suffer a tendinitis because of that bass. So he drives 80 km to get me another rented bass. Anything would be better that that. Anything? Apparently not. That bass he brought was beyond the imagination. I was a bit cleaner, I give you that, but man… that wardrobe made bass number one suddenly playable. But still, I´m not a big fan of tendinitis so I tell the guy… and yeah, he got really pissed. But what can you do… how can you even explain… and that look of “who do you think you are…”. That was a sad situation. To cut short that called a bass player who happened to have his own free (he was not much in to practice) and I could play a decent concert.
I was feeling so lonely in that one. That was in Spain, but pretty much everywhere there is the same problem. While piano players have their great Steinways, we bass players get whatever piece of dirty wood with the shape of a bass and four strings.
Ok, I made my point.
The travel bass
So, as I was saying I started to look for a travel bass. In the past I´ve tried baby basses and other experiments… not for me. And I make my living mostly out of playing concerts, so I want a good bass, I want to enjoy. I thought about the conversion of my bass in to travel bass, but still to heavy. Anyway this conversion is very common this days and probably a very good solution.
I tried some travel basses of different kinds and I liked none of them (you know who you are…). Surfing in the net and asking everywhere I knew about the Fly Auray, made by great french luthier Jean Auray near Lion. So, I took a plane and I went visiting him. From the very first moment the Fly Auray gave me a great feeling (I have no sponsoring deals with him what so ever, this comes from my heart). The first impression was equilibrium. Although it has not a huge sound, the equilibrium of the bass is amazing, the sound beautiful, the feel of the bass amazing… that was my bass. It didn’t even take five minutes for me to place an order. The bass comes with a flight case, and everything weights 21 kg. Just amazing. The bass is a little bit smaller than a 3/4 bass, but string length is 104 cm, and what the hell, I fall in love with it. I felt really well.
I´ve been traveling with it ever since. I went from 40 kg. of the first flight case to 32 kg. of the second to 21 kg. of the Auray. I also bought the Morodian bag specially designed for the Fly Auray which is great for no plane concerts. This summer 2017 will be three years since I have it. I´ve played all kind of concerts with it, even Baroque. Most of the concerts with amplification, others like the Baroque ones in acoustic. I´ve recorded with it.
I have never had a less-than-very-good feeling with it. It´s easy to carry, no weight problems in planes, easy to mount, in a few minutes the bass is stable and ready for the concert (well depending on the type of strings)… I mean, a dream come true.
I´ve tried different strings in it, all works well. I usually go with Spirocore weich (low tension). Olive G string works great. Obligato is great but not so comfortable for mounting and dismounting that often because they stretch very much and move the bridge a lot while mounting.
Full circle Fishman pick up works great with it. I also use an Acoustic Image 2 channel head which always goes with me and a DPA–4099 mic. Wherever I go I know I´m going to be at least comfortable and enjoying the play…
Back to the rented basses. Please, if you rent one, whoever you are, a player or a rent house, please please, take care of the basses. Keep then clean and in good stand. Bring them to the luthier once a year. Be sure that is a comfortable instrument to play. Give the bass a bit of love. Many players and audiences will thank it. I assure you.
I hope that this post was helpful to somebody.