the time the violin and other instruments of the violin tribe assumed their
present shape, in the workshops of Cremona, it has been an unwritten law
that no metal shall enter into the construction of the instruments.
Nothing but wood and glue to hold the parts together is used, except the
metal strings and tuners which are modern inventions. These are,
however, more in the nature of accessories, not parts of the body of the
When the violin left the master hand of Stradivarius, it consisted entirely of wood, glue and gut strings. The only bit of metal was the thread-like wire with which the G string was wrapped.
The world does not stand still, however, and it remained for the United States to give the musical world an all-metal double bass which seems destined to come into wide general use. The body of the instrument, made entirely of aluminum, gives excellent tonal results.
The use of aluminum for the manufacture of double basses was suggested by Joseph E. Maddy, nationally known Director of the National High School Orchestra, President and Musical Director of the National High School Camp Orchestra Association, and author of works on the formation and conduction of public school orchestras. In a letter of congratulation to the manufacturers who worked out his ideas for the construction of aluminum double basses, Mr. Maddy said, "I never dreamed, when I suggested an aluminum bass-violin to you, that so marvelous an instrument would ever be made. Schools have never had a bass-violin which they could trust. The best wooden basses cracked, and repairs are so costly that in many cases it has been cheaper to purchase a new instrument than to repair the old.
"The bass violin which you have made has a tonal quality and responsiveness that is as fine as the basses made by the old masters. I consider it an honor to be identified with so wonderful a product and heartily endorse its use to my fellow music supervisors."
The top, bottom, sides, neck, scroll--in fact, all parts except the finger-board, bridge, tail-piece and sound-post--are made of duraluminum, one of the hardest and toughest of metals, drawn and tempered to a degree that makes it practically dent-proof. The component parts are then welded into a single, inseparable unit. Not a screw or rivet is used in assembling the entire instrument. The finger-board is of ebony and attached to the aluminum neck by a patented process that precludes all possibility of its becoming loose or rattling. The bass bar is made of a special metal sprung and welded to the top at great tension. This not only preserves the permanent shape of the body but affords proper resistance for the pressure of the strings.
The aluminum bass has many advantages over the wood bass, in that it cannot crack, split or warp, and is made to last forever. It is as light in weight as a wooden bass, and has a tone that is deep, resonant and of cello-like purity. it is made in silver or gold aluminum finish, or natural wood finish, patterned after a fine old bass made by Stradivarius.
The principal bass player of the Chicago Civic Opera Company orchestra, after testing the aluminum basses, said, "Realizing the frailty of wood and the high cost of repairs, it it certainly a progressive step to create a string bass in metal, which for tonal quality surpasses the finest bass obtainable even at higher prices. Considering the fact that repairs on a wooden bass frequently amount to thirty dollars and more and that there are no repairs to contend with on the metal instrument, the aluminum bass is a safe investment. I shall use the bass in my teaching."
The fact that an all-metal double bass fills a real want in string instruments is proved by the fact that manufacturers in other countries, notably Germany, have begun to imitate these instruments. Their output, however, does not begin to compare with the American in durability and quality.
The advent of the aluminum bass marks the first time in the history of the world, as far as I know, when a really practical all-metal string instrument has been produced. This has been made possible by the invention of aluminum, light, strong and durable.