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"Hands down the best modern bass I have ever played.
It plays like a dream, sounds super-clean, has really quick
response, and just looks amazing."
Staff Sergeant Philip Helm
of the USMA West Point Band
bass, a modified Montagnana-style 7/8, won a Silver Medal
for Tone at the 2012 Violin Society of America maker's competition.
The Silver Medal is the highest award a maker can receive
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bass was made in 2003 for Louis Pappas, who plays for the
United States Army at West Point as well as several local
orchestas and combos.
back and ribs are made of highly figured quilted bigleaf maple,
which was salvaged from a cabinet shop in Washington State.
The seller informed me that the wood was at least 25 years
old at the time I purchased it (about 5 years ago). This wood
is extremely difficult to work with. When I showed the bass
to my colleague, Barrie Kolstein, at the recent ISB conference
in Richmond, he shook his head and told me, "You are
top is made of three pieces of Sitka spruce I acquired from
my friend and mentor, Lou Di Leone. The wood was cut in the
1930's for his father, Frank, who did not use it because one
of the two original planks was too thin. My solution was to
cut the thinner plank in half, and attach these pieces to
the outsides of the thicker plank. This allowed me to carve
a normal arch into the top.
neck is bigleaf maple of a less-figured variety than the back
and ribs. I felt that too much figure in the neck wood might
make the bass look like a person wearing a plaid shirt and
paisley tie (my favorite mode of dress!).
the old wood, this bass delivers thunderous bottom. The old
Sitka top gives it a dark but woody sound that does not thin
out in the upper register. But please don't ask; I have no
desire to work with this maple again in the foreseeable future!
I adhere fairly religiously to the Italian masters' building
techniques, there are a few unique touches in my basses: Graphite
reinforced neck, for enhanced stabilty; specially carved and
braced back, which increases volume and depth; scroll carved
from the get-go with a C-extension in mind. I build slowly,
which allows the properly-aged wood to stabilize, and prevents
tension from being built in to the instrument.
my basses are oil-varnished the old-fashioned way, with a
brush, adequate dry-time between coats, and a laborious rub-down
to a rich semi-gloss patina. I do not use spirit varnish,
shellac or lacquer on my carved instruments, as they can have
a negative impact on tone. There is no substitute for time
in the building and finishing process.
also build a slightly scaled-down version of the bass pictured
above. This instrument is 3/4 size with narrower shoulders
and a shorter lower bout. These changes were made to accommodate
a bassist more involved in solo playing, and who sought an
instrument with a more direct sound when played in orchestra
section. Both styles can be built with either flat or round
am very happy with my new bass made by Arnold Schnitzer. The
tone is beautiful, and it is clear, loud and even throughout
all registers. The craftsmanship is impeccable, and it is
very easy to play.
Associate Principal Bass
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
USA. 2011. 7/8 size "Milanese" model
in curly walnut and very old spruce.
Certificate of Merit for Tone at the 2011 ISB convention.
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#19 by Arnold E. Schnitzer, 2008. Back and ribs of Oregon Black
Walnut; Sitka spruce top; Sugar Maple neck; 5 string with low B;
41 3/4" string length (105.7 cm). I redesigned my "Modified
Testore" orchestral model, widening the upper block and shoulders
slightly, and making the corners protrude less. The top has a slightly
higher arch and the neck overstand is increased, allowing for comfortable
bowing on all five strings. This bass has been sold.
above is the Ergonomic Contrabass IV. This bass received
an Honorable Mention for convention favorite at the 2009 ISB convention.
Amongst the players who were complimentary toward it were Mark Dresser,
Jeff Bradetich, Linda McKnight, Mark Helias, Carlos Henriquez and
a musician, one of the most important things is to find an instrument
that plays and feels like its a part of them becomes
their voice. Arnold Schnitzers Ergonomic Bass #4 is what I
have been searching for throughout my musical career. Its
fantastic customizable tone combined with ease of playing and super
fast response all while being one of the most well built instruments
I have ever seen makes it ideal. His eye for detail and his strive
for absolute perfection is astounding to say the least. I have finally
found my voice, thank you Arnold!"
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Faculty, Julliard Pre-College
Bass Professor, SUNY at Stony Brook
Contrabass III is pictured directly below and is no longer
Contrabass II Won two awards at the International
Society of Bassists 2005 Makers' Competition:
Mention, Convention Favorite
as a combination orchestral/solo instrument, it is asymmetrical
as a matter of form following function. The upper bout is wide enough
to allow for a deep, puchy tone, yet the reduced treble side shoulder
provides outstanding access to the upper register. The lower bout
of the treble side was enlarged by the same amount as the reduction
in the upper bout in order to maintain tonal balance between the
treble and bass halves. The back slopes gently up to a thin neck
block, allowing the player to nestle closely to the bass, keeping
the bow arm in a naturally relaxed position. Along with ergonomic
developments, the bass features unique back bracing, top arching
and bass bar, all designed to reduce seasonal fluctuations and improve
f-holes are an aggregate of violin-family and plectrum guitar designs.
The shape of the body was conceived to be corner-less; the upper
corners are a concession to practicality. [The string length is
41" (104 cm) and the bass could be considered a long 3/4 size.]
Made of curly maple, with an Engelmann spruce top.
II is currently owned by Nathan
Vedal and is no longer available.
available for commission include Montagnana-style (7/8 and 3/4),
Testore copy (large 3/4) and the unique "Ergonomic Contrabass".
basses by Arnold E. Schnitzer are currently in use in the following
Music Society of Lincoln Center
Army, West Point
West Coast Symphony
addition, you can hear bass #1 on The Little Bill Show, a
cable TV cartoon show.
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