I possessed some fine basses. There was a Gaspar de Lorenzini and another old Italian bass, both made in the mid Seventeen Hundreds, then a Betts, English early Eighteen hundreds, a Vuillaume School 5-stringer and a solo bass made for me by Ernest Lant, an English maker.
There came a time when I thought I had been there, done it, played all the solos and, tragically, my wife fell ill, so I decided to sell the lot, and I never had any qualms in doing so.
However, when I was living in my retirement dream home I had several offers of concerts etc. and my wife being recovered urged me to start playing again. I borrowed a bass for a while but I soon decided that I wanted a bass of my own and I started to look around. I soon realized that I had practically given them away compared to today’s prices and I searched high and low but no luck. It was my son who eventually gave me a lead to a string shop that sold basses and after looking at two dreadful highly priced basses the salesman eventually brought out a new bass saying “Probably this won’t be up to the standard you want”, but I played on it and both my son and I were surprised with the sound.
The fingerboard needed to be more rounded and also the strings put closer together. Setting up a bass properly is most essential as it can vastly improve your technique. For a good luthier to shoot the fingerboard and change the nut and the bridge may be expensive but in the long run it is well worth it.
Then there are strings. Those that come with the bass aren’t necessarily the best, and it can be expensive to experiment , but there again it is well worth it in the long run.
The beauty of owning a new bass is that they are not prone to cracking open in cold or dry weather- I found it to be a headache on tour with my old Italian basses particularly in the Northern parts of Canada.
A couple of years ago I visited Markneukirchen in Eastern Germany. Meinel had gone out of business but there was an excellent bass maker named Alfred Meyer (no relation) whose workshop I visited and I played on a selection of fine basses. In those days the Euro was not too high against the dollar and you could buy a fine instrument at a very reasonable price, but now with the high Euro they are no longer a bargain, and of course you have to pay the cost of shipping.
Bulgaria and Roumania turn out some good basses. The very cheap ones are awful, but if you give a bit extra you can buy a good instrument, I have tried some and was pleasantly surprised, but bear in mind, with basses as in anything else you get what you pay for.
With the rise of the Euro, America and Canada now look good areas to search for a bass, and unlike buying an instrument abroad you may be allowed to take it home for a day or two to try it out.