Yes - good question. In November 2004 The Contrabass
Shoppe purchased a large quantity of English sycamore for the
construction of double basses and cellos from Ronald Prentice
- a retired English bass maker. Along with the wood and other various
items purchased were two partially completed double basses. In
2008 - Tony Houska - the Director of The Contrabass Shoppe commissioned
the young Hungarian maker Akos Balazs to finish the two instruments
This particular instrument consisted of an entire rib assembly
complete with corner blocks, a two piece back and a pre-routed
No. Unfortunately he had already sold off his remaining stock
of spruce sometime earlier.
In the same month that the sycamore was purchased from Ron we
were able to purchase several superb matching pairs of even-grained
spruce from some Hungarian wood traders. We were informed by the
merchants that the wood emanated from Bosnian and Herzegovina (former
Yugoslavia) and that it had already been naturally seasoned for
Well simply because we think that he is a good maker and that
his work represents excellent value for money. If you take a look
through our web site - you will see several of his instruments
that are either for sale or which have already been sold.
Yes - try these:
Ron Prentice was born in 1932 in London. After an early playing career on bass guitar and double bass Ron opened a shop in Enfield, Middlesex where he made, restored instruments and sold accessories. Ron`s first instruments were mainly viols - but when his work found particular favour with players in the London orchestras he began to make more modern instruments. Orders for new instruments - particularly cellos and double basses - began to flood in - so in order to enable him to concentrate on his making without disturbance Ron moved to Ash Priors, Nr Taunton, Somerset where he worked for most of his career.
Ron travelled over to Germany for approximately four years to study privately with the maker Karl Roy.
In 1960 Karl Roy (b-1933, d-2013) became a tutor at the Mittenwald School of Violin Making. In 1972 he became the director of the school. From 1973 to 2008 Roy also taught in the USA, served as a judge at various violin making competitions, was an active member of the International Society of Violin & Bow Makers and wrote several publications including "Jakob Stainer; Leben und Werk des Tiroler Meisters 1617-1683" published by Verlag E Bochinsky, Frankfurt/M in 1986 (ISBN 3-923639-69-4), which he co-authored with Walter Senn.
During the 1970s-80s Ron became recognised as a specialist bass maker and regularly had a two-year waiting list on orders. Ron is credited with a total output of 50 double basses that were constructed from excellent Sitka spruce and maple that he sourced in Germany and beautifully flamed English sycamore. All the instruments were made using an inside mould and finished with a variety of varnishes which were made to recipes used at Mittenwald by Carl Roy.
Yes - if you are buying wood to make instruments it is one of
those questions that you do tend to ask.
"With regard the wood I bought a very large log from John
Boddy in Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire around 1975. When felled
and trimmed the log measured 5.5m long and 1.22m in diameter. This
was cut up for me at their saw mill and delivered to me in Somerset
by their transport".
Ron continued; "Yes - the following year somebody told me
of a dealer who had some good logs in Scotland so I drove all the
way up to somewhere near Inverness to see them. They were all felled
and lying in a field. I checked them all by taking off bark samples,
selected the best five and bought them. If I remember the logs
were around 80cm in diameter. They were then sent to a sawmill
in Norwich by train where they were cut up to my specifications.
I then hired a lorry in Taunton and drove up to collect all the
"I kept all the finest wood for basses and cellos. The smaller
pieces I used to make gambas, violins and violas. I sold off what
I didn't want and burnt all the offcuts in the wood burning stove
in the house. I made 50 double basses. Not all were swell back
- because there were pieces for flat backs as well".
Yes - in the annals of more recent English bass making history
Ron is a well recognised and respected maker.
Yes - Ron was featured in a well produced and
highly informative book about professional violin makers in Britain.
It was entitled "The
Violin Makers - Portrait of a Living Craft" and was written
by Mary Anne Alburger and first published in 1978 by Victor Gollancz
Ltd, London (ISBN 0 575 02442 9). The book is particularly engrossing
to read because the writing takes the form of actual interviews
with the various makers, restorers and dealers.
Yes - the paragraphs on Ron's bass playing
days, his association with Karl Roy and his methods of varnishing
are all really absorbing. However - if I had to pick out one
thing - it would have to be his sentence regarding the pricing
of his own instruments. This pricing would have been valid for
the year 1977 or 78 when compilation of the book would have taken
place prior to publishing in 1978. On page 111 Ron comments; "I charge about £920 plus
VAT for a violin, £1000 for a viola, £1600 for a cello,
and £2500 for an Italian-style double bass".
Yes - Contrabass Director Tony Houska has the catalogue
of a Phillips (now Bonhams) Musical Instrument sale that he attended
on the 21st April 1977. There were four double basses in the auction.
Buyers premium was not applicable at this sale so the prices shown
are the hammer price.
Lot 212 An Italian Bass by Pierguiseppe Esposti,
Cremona dated 1974 - fetched £550.
Lot 213 A Modern Chamber Bass - fetched £120.
Lot 214 A German Four-String Bass circa 1870 - fetched £200.
Lot 215 A Good Four-String Double Bass by Paul Claudot circa
1860 - fetched £620.
Yes - on the classified page at the back of
the January 1976 "The
Strad" magazine there are four double basses listed for sale
1) Riviere & Hawkes Double-Bass Concert 1889. £375
2) Double Bass, threequarter size. Lott or Fendt. Excellent condition. £1000
3) Hawkes Concert D / Bass. Good sound. £550.
4) Pollmann, threequarter size, four string D/Bass 1972 model, £800.
The instrument has turned out very, very well indeed.
There are many aspects that you will like and appreciate as follows:
i) The English model: The small violin outline model
with nicely raked upper shoulders and carved back is well conceived
ii) The proportions: Excellent proportions make this instrument
a delight to play.
iii) The wood: Beautiful English sycamore. Really nicely flamed
and well matched.
iv) The varnish: The transparent antique effect medium brown varnish
over a yellow ground is absolutely gorgeous.
v) The fittings: All the fittings are top quality. There is an
A1 fingerboard from Germany that has been specially shaped to enable
a top F to be played on the G-string. There is a set of well engineered
cogs and an endpin unit - also from Germany plus there is a top
quality Chevalets Despiau bridge from France fitted with smooth
running aluminium adjusters.
Rich tonal qualities with just the right amount of projection.
If you are currently studding the solo-rep hard, practicing your
orchestral excerpts diligently and looking forwards to getting
your first job - then the good looks and sound of this instrument
will certainly benefit your cause.
To come across an instrument that has been started by one person
and then finished by someone else who lives in a totally different
country and who is of a totally different generation and background
is definitely unusual. In this instrument we are pleased to say
that the Anglo-Hungarian collaboration has worked out well above
This is an instrument that looks good, feels good and plays good.
As such - this is an instrument that will appeal to a great many
This is an instrument that is destined to endure the test of time
and ultimately become an antique of the future.
LOB (length of back) - 113.4cm (44.60in)
Width across upper bouts - 49.9cm (19.65in)
Width across middle bouts - 37.7cm (14.85in)
Width across lower bouts - 64.0cm (25.20in)
Depth of lower ribs inc both plates - 21.3cm (8.35in)
Body Stop - 60.0cm (23.65in)
String length - 104.5cm (41.15in)