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Restoring a “Church Bass”

Restoring a “Church Bass”

by Frederick C. Lyman

Originally published in American Lutherie #98, 2009

“Restoration” is not really a good term for what is done by luthiers who work on old bass fiddles. They are trying to create an instrument that has not existed before, using pieces that give it historical continuity and prestige. Connection with the past, recent or distant, is important to musicians. Having an instrument that can be connected to a previous musical era seems to do a lot to build a player’s confidence and help him or her form a conception of music-to-be.

So given an old instrument that needs a lot of work to be playable, the repairman tries to keep in mind the continuing identity of that particular fiddle. It must seem that there is an unbroken link between what was in the mind of the original creator, and the present-day sound. If this is an illusion, that may be better yet, as we are already in a realm of rampant subjectivity.

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