Concerts, Masterclass, Competition, Exhibition – the new “Grand Manège” in Namur (Belgium) will be venue of an International Double Bass Festival this summer.
The program offers master classes led by renowned teachers, an international Competition organized for several age groups (from 8 years old on), concerts, and a double-bass and bow making competition and exhibition. Date: August 17 to 20, 2023
While the number of double bass pickups has been growing continuously since the 1980s, the number of double bass amplifiers has remained very small for a long time. Polytone, Gallien-Krueger, or a handmade Walter Woods – but that was almost it with the choice of double bass suitable amps. This changed at the end of the 1990s, when the American engineer Rick Jones came onto the market with a radical new idea: a combo amp designed specifically for double bass, with the speaker pointing downwards rather than forwards.
The first experience reports from the USA were promising, and so I quite soon ordered one of these amps from Rick Jones, who converted it to the European 220 V for me as a one-off. And so I soon had the first Acoustic Image Contra in Europe. On stage, the actually inconspicuous black ton quickly attracted the eyes and ears: a round amp? And the speaker points downwards? The concept was well received worldwide, the bassy-soft sound did well after years of being used to mid-range amplifier sounds. But I also had to get used to the omni-directional sound radiation. In some rooms it worked fantastically – in others not so well. And at an open-air gig, the amp bravely blew the sound into the lawn, but couldn’t compete with the sound-absorbing properties of the vegetation …
Over the past 20 years, Rick Jones has continued to develop his amps. And the success of the AI amps encouraged other manufacturers to take the needs of double bass players more into account in their designs. From the beginning, AI amps had a piezo-friendly high input impedance – this unobtrusive feature was actually the amp’s most important feature. Early on, a model with a second (microphone) channel with phantom power was added. However, the downward speaker orientation, originally the “trademark” of AI amps, was abandoned by Rick Jones a few years ago. The Doubleshot has two speakers mounted “back to back”, the current Upshot finally has one speaker facing upwards – an idea Ampeg tried with the “Fountain of sound” back in the 1950s.
A few weeks ago, Rick Jones fell in the shower and suffered a bleed in his brain. After treatment and surgery, his family initially thought he was doing better, but in mid-April he woke up in the middle of the night, went to the emergency room and collapsed, hitting his head again. Despite the efforts of the ER team, he could not be revived and died.
Wow. I am so honored and grateful for Gary Karr’s sympathetic review in the current issue of the ISB Magazine:
“With regard to my enthusiasm for this comprehensive historic reference book about the double bass, covering 400 years of its development from its classical roots to jazz and amplification, I am very much in agreement with Rufus Reid, who wrote in the forward: ‘Mr. Lohse’s The Double Bass Book is a fantastic and most impressive labor of love with articulate precision. It will be a beautiful addition to any library.‘ The book is sweeping in scope and includes brilliant photos and illustrations as well as stories about great bassists and luthiers. Jonas Lohse did a masterful job in writing about instrument makers, design, the latest technology and important innovations. The book has helpful information regarded setup and sound optimization, information and history about strings and rosin, and even recommendations to contemplate when purchasing an instrument. This reference book is an absolute must for the serious or casual bassist. Originally published in German in 2018, the book was translated in English by bass virtuoso and teacher, Martin Wind.“ Gary Karr
When a few years ago two double bass colleagues had their valuable and beloved instruments stolen within a short distance of each other, and they sent fruitless search calls to the double bass community, I took this as an opportunity to think about and implement a digital theft protection via GPS tracker (more after the click).
Since then, a lot has happened in the tracker market. Apple has also recently entered the market and offers its AirTags. AirTags offer some outstanding advantages: they are small and light, the batteries last forever, and since for tracking the already existing iPhones are used – so not only the own iPhone, but simply all of them – one has no costs for SIM cards or mobile phone contracts. Conventional GPS trackers have to communicate with each other, and for that they need a SIM card and a contract. So at first glance, AirTags look like a perfect solution for instrument theft protection*.
But as smart as AirTags are, they are not suitable for theft protection, because Apple does not want them to be used to spy on people unnoticed – even if they are thieves. If you get an AirTag unnoticed, Apple will alert you after a while with an acoustic signal and a notice on a nearby iPhone (more about this after the click). This makes sense for finding lost objects. An anti-theft tracker, on the other hand, should remain unnoticed by the thief – otherwise he can remove the tracker or take other measures to prevent it from being tracked.
Surprisingly, there are now even more reports where AirTags are not used for theft protection, but on the contrary for preparing a theft.
Since I first installed a tracker in a double bass, they have become even more powerful and also less expensive. What has increased, however, are the running costs of many products: In the early years, people used conventional SIM cards (mostly cheap prepaid SIM). Phone providers didn’t like this so much; in many cases they changed the terms of their contracts to prevent their use in trackers – and at the same time launched their own, more expensive solutions on the market. Many of today’s trackers are not offered as stand-alone devices, but only in conjunction with a contract. A common area of use for such trackers is now e-bikes: here the trackers are permanently installed in the bike by the manufacturer, and the tracking service is sold as an optional accessory.
For use in the double bass, there are now trackers which, due to their size, can be housed in the body and, depending on the model, can also be charged there and thus remain there permanently – an important requirement for effective theft protection. The battery life is up to one week. I would love to show photos at this point – but for obvious reasons I refrain from doing so (the enemy reads along 😉 )
However, if you are interested in equipping your double bass with a tracker, please feel free to contact me. The procedure is reversible – no modification is made that could not be completely undone.
*Note: I use the term “theft protection”, although an instrument can of course be stolen even with an existing tracker. A tracker can’t prevent a theft any more than a theft insurance can – but in the best case you can get your beloved instrument back with the help of the tracker.
Traditional gut strings and strings made of synthetic materials: Italian string maker Mimmo Peruffo is an equal specialist in both fields. Under his Aquila brand, he offers gut and nylon strings for a wide range of instruments. What is special about Aquila is that it uses a special machine to produce the monofilaments itself, so that Peruffo does not have to resort to ready-made nylon strings, but can control the composition of the synthetics individually and adjust and optimize them at any time.
Among Peruffo’s most recent developments are double bass strings, which he modeled on old gut strings. He used post-war gut strings of the Kaplan Red-o-ray and Golden Spiral brands, which have disappeared from the market in the meantime, as a model. These are the brands whose sound we know from recordings with Scott La Faro, Charlie Haden and many other legendary jazz bassists. Peruffo obtained strings still in existence, measured and analyzed them, and rebuilt them. Like the historical models, the Aquila replicas that Peruffo offers under the names “Golden Springs” or “Red Springs” consist of a gut core with nylon wrapping. But Peruffo did not leave it at this reverse engineering, but went one step further. He developed a second version in which he replaced the gut core with a plastic core. Sonically, this new development (“Golden Springs Synthetic”) comes very close to the replica, but has the great advantage of being more tuning stable.
In addition, he was able to eliminate a disadvantage of the original D-string. Compared to the G-string, the D-strings sound a bit duller. By adding metal powder to the synthetic mixture, the tension of the “Red Spiral Synthetic” was increased, making its sound more defined.
The new Aquila strings are aimed at jazz bassists who mainly play pizzicato. For bassists looking for a gut string replacement for slapping, Peruffo recommends his “Sugar Slaps” – monofilament (plain) strings made of bioplastic to which he added sugar (!) during manufacture to achieve the desired sound.
Mimmo Peruffo about his double bass strings at Youtube
“[Peter] Elias sees a bright future for modern instruments, although he still encounters musicians who don’t agree. “A player will come to me and have the audacity to say: ‘This sounds OK for a new instrument. but I prefer old ones.‘ I have got to the point where I’ve told them: ‘Listen. I prefer dead musicians too. I’d much rather have Paganini here than you today!’ As a musician you’re allowed to live in your time. Why shouldn’t an instrument maker? Is he only there to patch up your old instruments? Or is he allowed to create something in his time – is he allowed to have ideas in the same way that Stradivari did – to try things, different projects?“
(found at The Strand, Nov. 2000)
After having published my German language Kontrabass-Buch in 2018 (first edition) and 2020 (second edition), I’m happy to announce the release of the English language version:
The Double Bass Book
400 years of low notes – The double bass: It’s history, important makers, and bassists in classical music and jazz. Translation by Martin Wind.
This is the prototype of my new double bass wall mount. It is made of solid maple wood and varnished with traditional violin varnish. It not only holds the bass securely, but also serves as a bow holder and storage for rosin, metronome, pencil and eraser, or whatever else you need to practice. The bass is fixed by means of elastic band. The endpin can remain extended in the playing position. Available at www.kontrabass-atelier.de