Care for Bertha: Gifts for the Upright Bassist

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Big Bertha AKA “the upright” is beautiful. And if you have an upright in your home (and/or on the road) make sure you treat her right.

Here is my list of favorite upright bass accessories (some of this is archived in the resources section as well)

General Storage Tips

Make her comfortable…

  • You can store uprights on their side or lean them in a corner. They should face the wall so as to not put undue stress on the neck. Don’t loosen the strings for storage. It could make the tuning post fall out inside the body. The tension of the strings also keeps the bridge in position. This is also why a strings change is done only one string at a time on the upright.
  • Should your pickup have a battery and you are storing the bass for a while, remove the battery.
  • Rosin! Keep rosin away from heat. It melts and the sticky mess of a forgotten and tilted over rosin container can be gnarly to clean up. You can refresh Pop’s rosin in the microwave. It will turn liquid and you can get it back in its paper cup if it went astray).
  • Put the endpin all the way in for long-term storage as well as for transport.
  • When you store the bow, release the tension a bit. Store the bow in its case to protect it from dust bunnies and your cats.

Keeping Bertha Happy

Bertha does not like changing temperatures. Keep her in a room that is consistently tempered and not too dry. Comfortable room temperature is best. 

Avoid direct sunlight. Drafts are not good, nor is leaning against walls that border the outside. Walls inside the house are fine.

Keep all instruments away from heaters (seen too many warped guitars and basses).

 

Uprights can crack if they get too dry. These little gadgets – we call them “bass worms” in German – are essentially a piece of cloth in a rubber hose with holes. You wet the cloth inside the rubber casing (just by holding the entire thing under a running faucet  for a second and then dry off the excess water) and hang the worm inside an F hole. It will act as a humidifier. Note that depending on where you live and whether you are using heaters a lot, you may need to replenish the worm very frequently with water.

If you want to monitor the humidity closely, you can get the fancy humiditrack for instruments by D’Addario, whereas this cheaper option does the trick just the same.

 

 

The Lady Likes Shoes…

Her end pin is usually pointed and slippery. You want to keep her in her place.

 

            endpin cane     

 

Anchors are straps you put under your stool on one end and place Bertha’s endpin in the loop on the other end. Personally, I don’t like those anchor straps that much, though, because:

  • Playing will feel differently depending on the floor you are on;
  • Your bass may actually damage the floor;
  • She may still slip sideways, even if the strap keeps her from sailing across the room away from you;
  • This system is meant for playing seated. It limits my movement; (Dancing may overcome me at times, and if I want to twirl Bertha around, I don’t want any tangles or lose her entirely!)

Endpin Rests these are a bit better, but you need a good aim, gotta watch it when twirling and they probably make the top ten list of things left behind after gigs.

Some people use walking cane tips, which may or may not work depending on the shape of your endpin. This is a professional version of a walking cane rubber end. They may or may not work for your endpin shape.

Endpin Ball – an attached and great alternative to endpin rests, no good aim required and since they are securely attached with screws, no loss. These wear out after two years or so but are well worth it.

Back in Austria we used to have a little adjustable “foot” with a joint in the middle. The rubber foot part sat flat on the floor and the endpin rotated freely in its socket. I cannot find them online and I lost my old one, so I can’t show you. They feel great in terms of sturdy, but let me tell you they squeak! WD40 might do the trick but I don’t know what that does to the rubber long term! I think the “pin ball” gets my highest grades.

Transport

That’s the thing with Bertha – when we talked about a walking bass we meant the bass line, not walking her across the parking lot or college campys and such! If your lady gets around, make sure to pick her up (more on pick ups later, ha!) in style.

wheel bertha       

The Wheel – an endpin wheel that can do wonders for saving your back! Watch for the right size. The wheel helps you get Bertha around by attaching it to the endpin, but I have seen bumps in the road push the wheel inward with such force that cracks ensued, so be careful on curbs.

The Ferrari of the Wheel – I personally would dismount this while playing, and mount it above the case in transit, but if the parking lot is far away, these things are a godsend!

Should you decide that Bertha is too finicky or valuable to be traveling, or if flying with Bertha stresses you out (I don’t blame you!), I recommend getting an Eminence Bass. Not cheap, but a great sounding instrument! Its custom carrying case is pretty great and its best feature is that you can disassemble it to fit into a golf club carrying case. No more weird stares at the airport. I did have to answer some cryptic questions about a nine-iron once, though.

 

upright bass standBertha stand

The Lady is Upright and Upstanding

 

Upright Bass Stand  I like this grey one because it is sturdy, has a small footprint and maneuvers Bertha easily in and out. Some other stands require finding an endpin rest, which can cause issues if you are using the endpin ball or another footer.

The Hercules is another stand that is awesome. Hercules are a great brand, and this one is great for the stage!  The only thing is, if you are very tall, you may have to push the endpin in a little bit o fit it on the stand.

 

 

Dressing Her up

Bags for Bertha are unfortunately a bit pricey if you want to get a good one. I have a totally awesome one that I cannot find online anymore. I do recommend investing a bit here because if you gig a lot or go to lessons regularly, the flimsy ones will let you down and you do not want to snap a neck because the gig bag popped a seam while you walk a stair case. You drop it – it’s potentially quite bad. This one has good reviews, but does not have straps to carry on your back. This one looks better because it has nice wide straps for carrying and I like the many handles it features.

Bertha bagThings to look for in a good bag:

  • Lots of handles – convenient for getting Bertha in and out of your car with ease.
  • Backpack straps – they should be wide and have a connecting strap in the front.
  • Check for sturdy seams and lots of handles.
  • A place to slide your bow into.
  • A case for knick-knacks (tuners, metronome etc) and another for your music.
  • Quality padding that won’t wear down quickly to protect your wooden friend.
  • Canvas-type material is much better than nylon (especially if you have cats with claws).
  • Keep in mind that your bass case will double as a pet bed, so make sure your four-legged creatures approve.

My ergonomics advisor tells me that is much healthier for you to carry Bertha on your back rather than over one shoulder or with your hand on one side with the handle (one hand gets tired switching sides is a bear!). If you have any kind of back issues, in particular, look for wide backpack-type straps, ideally with a connector in the front. Be careful though – you may need a spotter to get you through doors now – all of a sudden you are a giant!

Bow Accessories

bow holder berthaIf you bow, these bass bow quivers are great to hold your bow safely and close to where you need it, easy to grab for some bowed parts or just that long last bowed note on a Jazz gig or for the orchestral arco and pizz switches. You have to dismount it to fit the case with some cases, so don’t tie the knots too tight with the leather straps.

Pop’s Rosin  – There are of course several brands of great rosin. This one works well for me. Don’t forget, this stuff melts in the sun or on your heater. Icky gooey mess if you forget them there, tilted and open… I have a cardinal rule to always put them back into their case. (Don’t ask!)

If you Want to Pick up Bertha

        Bertha pick upsmicrophone pick up

Every lady likes to be picked up in style, so take note.

The Lifeline Realist pickup or the Realist Copperhead or Woodtone are great all-around pickups that won’t let you down, albeit they do tend to fail after quite a few years. I have always gotten many years use out of them. Which one sounds better on your bass depends on your bass model and style of playing. Here is an article from the developers that also talks about the history and the difference between the two.

Schertler pickups are high end, excellent pickups that Wolf has used for years.

If you prefer a microphone based pickup over piezos, this model looks promising. I have not used this but wanted to mention that such options also exist.

Have a Seat While the Lady Stands?

So you thought we call it stand up for a reason, but sitting down while playing is actually really nice at times.

Gollihur offers these three stools that are great – from simple to a bit more sturdy to gold star.

More Cool Gifts

By no means necessary but here are a few items that really spoil her…

A bass bib… if she is so fancy you are worried you might scratch her, this bib protects her. You can even put a pencil in it!

Keep her clean with this polish – I usually use just a regular microfiber cloth to dust her down, but a polish – applied once in a while – is good maintenance.

This rosin remover is great, if you bow a lot. That stuff goes everywhere and is sticky like wax! This works, but don’t sip it, it’s pretty strong stuff (so much so that it is only available in the US)

If you give this as a gift make sure to let them know you love their playing. That said, a mute can save relationships (with neighbors, spouses…). Okay, I am exaggerating, because the mute effect is not very dramatic. A rubber mute placed over the bridge does reduce the level somewhat, though, and it is a cheap and effective way to turn it down a little. You can also try these little guys (as a five pack or ten+ pack), but I have not personally tested them. If you have experience with them, please comment.

mute BerthaBertha

This makes for a really neat gift for the bass player in your life probably does not have – a string winder. This is the one Gollihur uses – can’t go wrong there.

Bass Wear – my friends at Lathon have the coolest shirts, caps and hoodies. Top quality! Guy and Girly. I love the bold colours.

A great beanie – so soft it is ridiculous! (It will also keep you out of treble)

         Bertha Hat        

Cufflinks as bass clefs!

Earrings as bass clefs!

Learn Gifts

A must-have for walking bass learning – Mike Richmond’s Book!

Instead of staring at a blank wall while sweating it up during your daily upright workout, you could teleport essential theory knowledge directly into your unconscious for readily available conscious retrieval by getting my fabulous bass wall chart. These free videos show you how to use it for a great theory work out! 

Music Theory for the Bass Player is of course yet another wonderful gift for the bassist in your life – while written for electric, the wealth of information of course holds. All you need to do is imagine a one-finger-per-fret scenario and adapt for upright fingering. I started playing upright after I had been playing electric for years and it was a breeze because I knew my way around the electric fretboard and understood how theory works on the bass neck. Many of our upright students also much enjoy The Course!

 

courseMusic Theory Wall Chart, Bass

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