Gamba Model


Gamba ModelStrad ModelSpecial Features

When Gary Karr commissioned me to make a bass for him in 1994, he gave me complete freedom in my choice of model. The only specification that was asked for was to have the same string length as the famous Karr-Koussevitzky bass -106 centimeters (40 5/8 inches). I knew and loved “Koussy,” having worked on it extensively.  However, I had always been partial to the sound of another bass - the one Mr. Karr had purchased upon the retirement of his first teacher, Herman Reinshagen, - which is known as Athena because of the beautiful carved woman’s head in place of the usual scroll.

Athena had a string length of 101.4 cm. (40 in.) and had always been difficult to play due to bow clearance problems.  In addition, access to notes in the higher register was awkward despite the sloping shoulders. My gamba model bass was created with the goal of modifying the original shape of Athena to improve these ergonomic problems while retaining its beautiful form and acoustic qualities.
The outline of the back is the same as the outline of Athena except that I put a “bevel” or bend in the upper back. Interestingly, the back on Athena is not original and the ribs clearly show where they have been widened in the upper bout to accommodate the non-beveled replacement. The outline of the top was made longer and more sloping in the upper shoulder area to accommodate the longer string length. The bridge position was moved slightly towards the upper block and the neck projection was increased to eliminate bow clearance difficulties in the center bouts.

The result is a shape which gives the player unequalled ease of access to the upper register.  In fact,  the entire compass of the instrument is accessible within the swing of the player’s left arm without need to reposition the body to move from the lower to the upper register.

The lengthening of the top also provides exactly the amount of tilt of the upper block needed to provide the right-angle relationship between the strings and the neck-body interface which allows the adjustable neck to work without changing the pitch (see “Adjustable Neck” page for additional details).

This model was so successful that after more than a decade of playing on this ergonomically improved version of the Athena model, Gary Karr asked me to make a new adjustable neck for Athena to give the original the same playability and string length as my gamba model.  This was done in 2006.


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