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David Gage Czech-Ease Acoustic Road Bass

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David Gage Czech-Ease Automatic Road Bass

“If you really want to cause some trouble,

if you really want to cause some pain,

then simply go down to your local airport, and try to put a bass board a plane.” Jay Leonhart “Bass Aboard a Plane”

Got a couple of hours? I’d gladly tell you my horror stories of being a traveling upright bassist. In the past 10 years I’ve missed flights, been rerouted, verbally humiliated by airline employees and missed gigs. And why? Because I play an instrument that travels in a case that would dwarf most NBA players.

The simplest solution to this problem would be to begin playing the bass guitar, but bass players are a stubborn bunch and we like the sound that comes out of this large stick with strings and a resonator box. A solution that many bass designers have come up with has been to eliminate the natural resonance of the body and create an upright bass that is compact and narrow. The result is the Electric Upright Bass (EUB), an instrument that takes up significantly less space and can travel more easily than a full-sized upright bass. There are a number of EUBs on the market and some are quite good.

The problem with the EUB for acoustic bass purists is that it is not acoustic: The design relies predominantly on the pick-up for sound and does away with the natural resonance of the body. A handful of bass makers have been experimenting with a smaller, narrower body that might still allow some resonance, such as the instrument made by Eminence. David Gage’s Czech-Ease Acoustic Road bass is the most recent instrument to try and resolve the problem of portability and resonance.

Gage first introduced the Czech-Ease bass in mid-2003 and he has continued to modify and refine the instrument. The radical innovation with this instrument is that, aside from a reduction in body size, it is, in every other respect, a traditional 3/4-sized acoustic bass. The ebony fingerboard is the proper length, the strings are full-length, the adjustable bridge is full-sized and there is a shortened ebony tailpiece that attaches to the deep body and allows for proper resonance. In keeping with its design as a travel instrument, the dark lacquer finish on its plywood body is far more durable than carved wood.

So what is radical and innovative about the Czech-Ease? Gage made the top scroll removable, reduced the size of the lower bout (the bottom part of the body) and added an extra long end-pin. All of these changes decrease the size of the instrument and make it easy to transport-the hardshell case is small enough to fit into the cargo hold of even the smallest commercial passenger plane (and I know this from personal experience!).

The reduced size makes the Czech-Ease look like an oversized cello, but all of the key structural elements of the body have been retained. The most important element, though, is how much it sounds and feels like a full-sized bass. In order to give the instrument its wide, full-bottomed sound, Gage made some adjustments to the bass bar and this makes a difference. The Czech Ease bass has a rich, dark, warm voice and really sings whether I am playing pizzicato or using my bow. Moreover, you don’t need an amp to play it. I have used it on several occasions in all acoustic settings and always with good results.

The instrument comes with a softshell Mooradian case that has a bow pocket that was far too small for my bow case. Moreover, the bass case has no pockets for rosin or any other typical bass accessories. The Czech-Ease bass can also come equipped with Gage’s Realist Pick-Up (which sounds pretty good but is still not my favorite acoustic bass pick-up). The hardshell case is durable and padded in all the right places, but the locks don’t always close easily and sometimes come loose in transit.

The entire package of the bass, softshell case, pick-up and hard-shell case is a bit pricey at $5,000. But if you do enough traveling you will discover that it pays for itself in a number of ways. The price for flying with this instrument tends to be less than half of what it costs for a full-sized bass and I have even flown several times without an additional charge (including one round-trip flight to Europe). Most importantly, I have never been denied or delayed at the gate by a clerk worried that my instrument won’t fit in the cargo hold-that alone makes this bass worth the investment.

Originally Published