So here it is! Bass Number 101. And are my fingers tired!
This bass is an EUB (Electric Upright Bass) and is an NS Design NXT 4-string.
NS, of course, stands for Ned Steinberger. Ned is legendary in his contributions to the musical instrument industry.
Ned’s first bass designs where for Stuart Spector where he designed the Spector NS. Later he pioneered the headless bass through his company Steinberger Sound Corp which was popularized during the 1980 by bassist such as Mike Rutherford and Geddy Lee. SSC was sold to Gibson in 1986.
NS Designs primarily builds electric versions of orchestral string instruments such as violins, cellos and, of course, EUB’s.
The NXT series is less expensive model, but is still classed by NS as a professional grade instrument.
With the previous NS bass, I only had a short, music store review. With this bass I was able to have a long term test drive and have been playing this one for about three weeks now.
Starting off, playing this with only experience in playing a bass guitar makes for quite a leap in playing technique. Firstly, the scale length is 42 inches on this bass in comparison to a 34 inch scale in a standard long scale bass. What this means for the player is that the spacing between notes is considerably greater than on a bass guitar. I found that applying some wrist movements I learned for Stick helped this a lot. Secondly your right hand technique needs to change. If you are going to pluck the strings, you end up playing mostly with the side of the your index finger. No point in trying to use a pick here. I found that playing 5ths was easiest strumming with your thumb.
As far as playing fretless goes, intonation is not as hard as for traditional double basses. This is because the NXT uses side dot markers in the same was as many fretless bass guitars do. My guitar player expressed some concern for this, but after I rehearsed with my band he mentioned that he was not aware of any off notes.
The NXT bass version comes with passive electronics and a simple volume and tone control.
There is also a switch that is used to select the style you are playing. According to the NS website, “…Pizzicato and arco techniques have almost unlimited expressive potential, thanks to the Polar™ Pickup System. A convenient switch allows selection of the traditional arco mode for percussive attack and dynamic bowed response, or pizzicato mode for a smooth, sustained tone…” I found that this switch made a huge difference in the sound. You absolutely have to have it in the right position for acro or pizzicato style playing. For plucking style, I always had the switch in the up position and the tone rolled all the way down. For me this was the most pleasing tone.
I did play it with a bow and despite my inexperience with a bow, was able to get some great sounds. I don’t think it would take a lot of practice to get reasonable good and bowing it.
The sound of this bass was awesome and I had the opportunity to play at it a gig at a private yacht club. Not only was the sound impressive and came through well in the mix, but visually the bass drew a lot of attention and comments afterwards.
One of things I really like about this bass is the included tripod. The tripod attaches to the back of the basses body with one large thumb screw. No tools required. With the tripod you can adjust the bass in three directions assuring the most comfortable position. While fooling around we discovered you could position the bass like a bass guitar or even like a lap steel. I loved the way that the instrument can be setup on the tripod and forgotten. No need to lean it against the wall when not playing it.
One thing that was extremely disappointing was the included gig bag. I hope there is a hard case option, because if you are to going to do much transporting this instrument with the gig bag, it’s going to be damaged pretty quickly. The case is extremely thin. Even to the point of accidentally plucking a string right through the bag. Having compartments for a bow and the tripod are great, but the weight of the tripod makes the case feel even more flimsy. Each time I took the instrument out of the case at least one string was out of tune. A far cry from the flight case I have for my Jazz Deluxe V.
Overall, I like this bass a lot. I has an amazing sound. Not quite like a double bass but pretty close. And it does have the great buzzy woody sound that you expect from a double bass.
I would love to keep this bass in my collection, but I’m not sure that I’m really able to keep it. Thanks to Long & McQuade’s 30 day return policy I may still return it before the month’s end. But the bass is quite reasonably priced compared to the CR models, which are in the $3000.00 range. The bass goes for about $1300.00 CDN
Two great big thumbs up!
P.S. Bass Number 101 completes my two year 101 Basses challenge. The future of this blog has not really been decided. But I’d love to hear from anyone that has comments. Has this blog been useful or interesting? Please let know.