AES Fine Instruments
3 Fallsview Lane
Brewster, NY 10509
845.276.5195
arnolds@aesbass.com

At AES Fine Instruments, bass players and their instruments are handled with respect, professionalism and a caring attitude. The double bass is not treated like the stepson of the stringed instrument family, but rather as the majestic and irreplaceable foundation of the orchestra or jazz band.

Our shop is a small, personalized service and sales business. We are not predominantly a retail outlet. Bassists seeking instruments and/or accessories at the lowest possible competitive price are respectfully advised to shop elsewhere.

Arnold E. Schnitzer is a member of the Guild of American Luthiers, The Violin Society of
America and the International Society of Bassists. Before becoming a a full-time luthier, he received a conservatory degree in music performance and composition, played in two symphonic orchestras for a number of years, studied jazz bass with Dave Holland and Michael Moore, toured, recorded, and played local jazz and pop gigs for about 20 years. He was mentored in guitar and bass guitar making by Carl Thompson, and later in bass restoration by Lou DiLeone of New Haven, Connecticut.


My good friend and mentor, Lou DiLeone

Arnold's father was a skilled cabinetmaker and carpenter, and he was exposed to woodworking from an early age. Building, restoring, and adjusting double basses is a natural outgrowth of his acumen and interest in both music and woodworking.


As of this writing I am both enthused and dismayed by the current state of double bass making. On the positive side, I believe there is a renaissance afoot resulting in some of the finest basses ever made. Meticulous and well-trained artisans all over the world are applying their skills to the best materials available, creating instruments which meet the highest standards of workmanship and tone. On the less-than-positive side I see a market flooded with less-than-mediocre instruments built in a hurry from beautiful woods which are essentially being wasted on instruments of this caliber. Many of these basses are being constructed from unseasoned lumber, using inappropriate adhesives; factors which will doom these instruments to short and trouble-prone lives. Somewhere in the middle are shops in Europe, Asia, and the Americas which are making decent basses with decent materials and workmanship, and selling them for a reasonable price. There will always be a need for mid-level basses in that category.

It has become an expectation that string instruments should last not for decades, but for centuries. Basses built with mediocre workmanship, materials or adhesives cannot meet that expectation, nor should they. Hand-made instruments should be constructed in a way that allows them to survive the unknown stresses of a long, useful lifespan. Of course there will be accidents, unexpected feats of nature, and basic wear-and-tear. But the enlightened instrument-maker takes these things into account when selecting and seasoning materials, carving and finishing his instruments, and fitting them up for their life of music-making.

Basses are very large in comparison to all the other members of the string instrument family. Because of their sheer mass, wood movement is a much more prevalent problem. All wood changes in dimension in relation to humidity and temperature; the change occurs mainly across its width. Wood that has been well aged and dried stands a much better chance of surviving in instrument form, because it is more stable. It is crucial that the instrument-maker take into account the climatic tendencies of the area in which the instrument is likely to spend its life. For example, a bass made of wood air-dried in the humid tropics, which is then played in the dry winter of Canada, will undoubtedly crack and shrink.

I am very careful in regard to the age and moisture content of the wood I use in my handmade basses. I also work to maintain a fairly constant humidity level in my workshop and studio, averaging between 38 and 45% year-round. The use of hide glue in all joints is a kind of safety valve; if two connected parts encounter intense stress from wood movement, the glue joint will usually give way before a crack forms. I believe in building basses with adequate overhangs (5mm or more). This provides some margin of error should seams open and need to be repositioned.

It takes me between 300 and 400 hours to complete a double bass. During that time I like to envision the player for whom I am building, as well as the beautiful music this instrument will make. This keeps me focused on the end-result, rather than getting caught up in the tedious process work involved. I like to work to the sounds of classical music or fine jazz. Like the expectant mother who exposes her child to great music while still in the womb, I’m hoping to give each of my “offspring” a head start.

CONSIGNMENT POLICY
Basses and bows are consigned at a commission rate of 15% of sale price. Instruments will only be accepted if they are reasonably healthy and playable.

BASSES BOUGHT
Instruments that are unplayable or need considerable repair are always sought out as restoration and resale candidates. Basses from all geographic areas, and of any age will be considered.

SERVICES PROVIDED INCLUDE:

  • Handmade Fine Basses
  • Complete Restorations
  • Repairs
  • Expert Set-ups
  • Custom-made C-Extensions
  • Sales and Consignments of Basses and Bows
  • Appraisals

TESTIMONIALS

"Arnold, when the table of my beloved Italian double bass was cracked in that tragic accident, I feared the worst. But after your amazing restoration work, I really believe the instrument sounds better than ever! You've taken the silver lining and upgraded it to golden. Thank you for turning a tragedy into a blessing!" Nicholas Walker, Associate Professor, Performance Studies, Ithaca College

"Thank You, Arnold for all your meticulous work, particularly as embodied in the new bass. The design and its rendering are both magnificent." Laurence Glazener, Principal Bass, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

"One of the great luthiers...thanks for all the wonderful work." Eddie Gomez, jazz great

"I enjoy Arnold's fine work every time I pick up my bass. It sounds as well as antique instruments twice and even three times it's price. It's easy to get around on and has a really lovely tone." Joel Reist, Principal Bass, Nashville Symphony

The Violin Society of America

I'd like to thank Les Manse for the pictures of "Monty" that inspired the design of this site.

Please send any comments or suggestions for this site to webmaster@aesbass.com.

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