Basses have stood the test of time
February 8, 2018 By:MHS Piper
By Alura Williams
As the saying goes, like fine wine, many things improve with age.
This is why McNary High School is the proud owner of five basses, purchased new when the school was founded in 1965, that sound better than ever.
An orchestra consists of many instruments, and the students that stand behind them, work together to make the rich tone audiences find endearing. When playing in the orchestra, it is important that everyone works as a team to stay on beat, which is why one of the most important and most forgotten instruments is the bass.
The bass is the instrument that keeps the beat, and supports all other instruments when playing together as a group.
Orchestra Director at McNary High School, Mr. Sean Williams, knows of at least five basses the school has owned over the years he has worked here. Williams said that all of the old basses are still being played today by students at McNary, and are in good condition considering their age.
“Good quality string instruments can be played for hundreds of years, they don’t look great, but they sound pretty good,” Williams said.
Current bass player
McNary freshmen Gabriel Martinez is one of the proud players of one of the five old basses McNary owns.
“I enjoy playing the bass because I can play at the bottom end, and it is an instrument that is able to accompany other instruments and play the melody,” Martinez said.
Martinez says that the bass still plays quite well.
He has been playing the bass for roughly five years, since the fourth grade, and plays in the McNary orchestra as of this year. His instrument plays rather well, and he has only had to repair it once in the time he has been playing it.
“My favorite part is being able to support the other instruments,” Martinez said.
Mr. George Thomson, a teacher at McNary High School from 2010-2011, said that with proper care and stable climate environments, an instrument can be used for decades, before needing to be repaired.
“When I was there [2010-11], there were seven of these older basses made by the Gotz and Juzek workshops. They were all playable though I had one of them repaired. There are still instruments out there made in the late 1500s still in use—not too many, and those that are have usually been re-glued and patched countless times,” Thomson said.
“So I always tell students that one doesn’t ever really “own” an instrument; rather, they are its caretaker for this generation. If they are treated with the most basic care they ought to last for centuries. Sadly, in school they can get knocked around a lot, and are often not repaired often enough when little cracks etc. appear—these can then become big and not cost-effective to fix,” Thomson said.
Basses in particular get a lot of damage on the edges from being constantly set on their side, and they get cracks and scratches over the years,” Thomson said.
According to Paul Elliott, at the Uptown Music here in Keizer, each bass would cost $2000 to $3000 dollars to completely refinish, and it would be cheaper to buy a new one at the cost of roughly $5000.
“Small repairs could cost anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars, depending on the amount of damage to the instrument,” Elliot said.
The longer a bass is played, the more worn in it becomes, making it sound better. With proper care, a bass could last years, and need little to no repairs.