[Bass of the week] Trevor M Davis Archtop

The feature bass this week uses what the builder describes as “subtle arching”.

Builder Trevor M Davis writes:

I am a professional upright bass maker and restorer at Robertson & Sons Violins in Albuquerque, NM. I have been designing this bass for the past 5 years trying to incorporate the knowledge that repairing, restoring and observing the finest rare examples of classical Italian string instruments has afforded me. There is a fluidity to the logic of the centuries old tradition that only becomes evident through obsession and passionate practice at the bench. The body is designed around the placement of the bridge and incorporates a traditional bass bar and soundpost construction as well as implementing a flat back with cross brace to support it. This contributes to a twisting motion of the vibrations of the top, a tortion that replicates the way a string vibrates more accurately. Guitars are built as plectrum instruments and as such require less massive strings, and thus lighter tops; the little bass guitar top has the duty of reproducing a wavelength much larger than its dimension and thus incorporating the traditional violin family technology which is designed to reinforce a sustained vibration increases the quality of bass timbre much more effectively.

The construction features a very traditional subtle arching complimented by a beaded edge complete with overhang and purfling, using hide glue exclusively allowing the bass to be easily repaired and preventing potential humidity complications. Two passive Nordstrand Big Blades do an excellent job of reproducing this complex sound with incredible fidelity and punch running through two thumb wheels discreetly located at the bass side of the fingerboard, volume/volume. The headless design and asymmetric body makes this bass incredibly comfortable and well balanced, though I am offering it with a traditional headstock and tailpiece as well. The top is one of the finest pieces of Sitka spruce I have had the pleasure to use, with deep striking hazelficht and incredibly even grain, it was the rooftop cut from a double bass I made that received a tone award at the last Violin Society of America, aged 25 years in the desert. The back and sides are from a large log bolt that had been sitting for 30+ years. Due to its awkward and unwieldy dimensions it had been collecting dust, when I saw the quality and depth of the curly maple inside it was well worth the labor. I make all of my varnish by hand from cooked colophony and linseed oil in the time honored tradition of the masters, followed with a generous amount of antiquing, adding a rich patina to the overall effect.

It was a real pleasure to finally realize this instrument that had been living in my head for the past few years. When I started the build I could just sit back and watch my hands do the work, effortlessly perfecting every step, a true joy. I’m excited to have several commissions, these are a nice relaxing break from the intensity of fine bass restoration.

Well done!

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19 thoughts on “[Bass of the week] Trevor M Davis Archtop

  1. This is a beauty, Trevor! I would love to here some sounds–maybe posted on soundcloud? I swear every time I see pictures of this, I think of Steve Swallow!!
    Mark Sonksen

  2. Mark this is an absolutely gorgeous instrument. The next time I’m in ABQ I’ll come over to get a peek and maybe hear it???
    Hey, has David Parlato seen and/or played it? If so, what was his take on it?

    Beautiful work.

  3. I wish you lived/worked in NorCal I’d show you a couple of basses in MY HEAD Trevor, and maybe we could build them.
    This is a beautiful and unique example of parts of both ideas colliding with a great result.
    If you’d like to hear about them email me and I’m on Facebook. Tom

  4. Sorry but for someone that builds and repairs instruments for a living you would think that the bridge pickup and the bridge would actually line up.

    Ross Blackburn.

      • I don’t know Trevor. The last picture does seem to reveal that the bridge pickup is placed a bit too far to the left.

        Resorting to an ad hominem to respond to criticism based on the visual evidence of work that you provided doesn’t show very good form either. If one were to commission an instrument from you and it was delivered with flaws such as that, is that how you’d respond?

        It is a very pretty bass in any case and I too am keen to hear it. You should try to represent it better.

  5. I love the figure in the sides and back. it was worth the trouble to slice up that old log. with 30 years of age it must resonate like crazy. do you have any problem with feedback when running through an amp? I’ve had quite a few hollow bodied basses in my time and most of them had that problem. the grain on the top is superb. I would imagine that it is the closest thing to a contrabass possible. job well done.

  6. Hi Trevor, I love the fact that you used a bass bar and sound post, combining old artisan technique in a modern instrument. It is a beauty. I am a bit surprised that you did not incorporate some sort of Piezo transducer to allow for a more acoustic output.
    In any case, I’d find an excuse to visit ABQ if I knew you would have one in the shop to play.

  7. Hi Trevor,
    Seems that the pickups would add a lot of mass to the top. Maybe you mounted them connected to a block on the backplate? If not, have you tried the bass without pickups attached?

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