Aluminium Double Bass
A shining monster
It is being said of aluminium double basses that not only do they look great, they are also loud. Wooden double basses weight a lot. Cotrary to what you would expect, the aluminium double basses hardly weigh more. I haven’t been able to play on one yet, so it is not totally clear to me how they sound. I suspect the films below give a good impression of the sound of the aluminium double bass. These basses are mainly used by Rockabilly by slapping bass players.
Information about the aluminium bass by The Double Bass Guide.
History of the aluminium double bass
The bass on the picture is an Alcoa. Alcoa was the first aluminium factory in the USA. Alcoa made 500 of these basses between 1929 and 1934. In the same period a Pfretzschner also built aluminium double basses in Markneukirchen, Germany. The Pfretzschners were famous bow makers. I have not been able to find more information about the specific Pfretzschner who made the aluminium double bass. Pfretzschner used bolts an screws. In the first film someone plays on a Pfretzschner. Alcoa did not use bolts and screws. I rather like the way the Alcoa shines without them.
Pfretzschner also used wood in his double bass, which apparently makes it sound better than the Alcoa bass. At the same time, that makes the Pfretzschner basses more vulnerable. In adds it is always stressed that the Pfretzschners are very rare. That is why I find it strange that most of the time people play on a Pfretzschner in the aluminium bass films on youtube. I managed to find one film of an Alcoa being played though (see below). The Alcoa seems to sound more metal like, compared to the Pfretzschner, which is not surprising. The Pfretzschner clearly has a warmer tone, but you cannot beat the looks of an Alcoa!
Dave Gartland built a bass that looks great (see the picture on the right or below). Dave Gartland: ‘American made Aluminum instruments are unique in the fact that they were seamlessly welded whereas the Europeans used rivets & screws. This single tell-tale identifier can be used to spot one from across the room. The Europeans used spruce bass bars, blocks and sound post platforms as well as Maple necks whereas the American made instruments are entirely aluminum. It is our opinion that the European made basses, due to their construction, have a much better tone. The rivets allow luthiers the opportunity to disassemble the instruments for maintenance and repairs when needed. The American made ALCOA basses are far stronger though and can withstand the rigors of time (and abuse) much better.’
What do they go for?
They usually seem to cost around $9000,-, although I also saw one that was sold for $1500,-.
The beautiful story that Ford made aluminium double basses that were dropped in the war zone during world war two, is a myth. There are more of these stories going round. I also heard the story that during the Vietnam war Ampeg baby basses were used in the frontline. This is probably fake news to.
A special double bass
I added this double bass to my gallery of special basses, for this certainly is a very special instrument!
Facebook has a page for aluminum bass enthousiasts.
An aluminum double bass built by Dave Gartland.
The aluminium double bass of Peter Simons
A few years ago Peter Simons built a beautiful aluminium bass. He was so kind to share the photo’s of the process with me. Click or tap on a picture for the gallery effect and smooth scrawling.