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The Gollihur Music Blog

Changing of the Guard

We've been in selling upright gear on the web for 22 years now, and we've always been happy to be a small band of bass-playing friends, rather than aspiring to be "The Wal-Mart of Bass." I joined my Dad pretty early on, and we grew the business together for several years. When Bob decided it was time to retire, we went outside the family and brought Christopher on board, to replace me, so that I could focus my attention on learning the ropes and eventually replace him. I ultimately "bought Dad out" a little over five years ago, and we were back to two employees again, which seems to be our ideal balance.

In that way, I guess our situation is kind of like the Sith "rule of two" from Star Wars; we always eventually fall back to the master and the apprentice (though that is purely a business distinction, Christopher could definitely teach me more than a thing or two on actually playing the upright!)

So, I'm telling you all of this because Christopher has decided that the time has come for him to move on to pursue his music full-time; so Gollihur Music has brought on a new "apprentice." Luckily, no-one has to lose any limbs in a lightsaber duel; although I'm bummed to see him go, we'll let Chris walk out the door with our best wishes.

So, I wanted our longtime customers to be aware that you might hear a new voice on the end of your phone line, or read a unexpected name after the "Thanks!" note on your invoice or email signature. It's all good - Christopher is leaving on excellent terms, and leaves behind very big shoes to fill.

Bringing Back Some Favorites

Over the years, we've made it our business (literally) to bring you bass products you may not have even known existed. Some of the cool things that we've introduced over the years are cool gadgets and accessories, like the H-Clamp microphone boom, or the nifty plastic travel case that we found at a sporting goods supplier that works so well for the NS Design basses. Then, there are specialty pickups and mics, like the amazing Ehrlund Acoustic Pickup (EAP) and the outstanding Xlson Audio Chuck Israels Signature Microphone (scroll down to read more about this sweet mic!)

However - one of the issues that often arises with having a lot of unique products? Sometimes, the supply chain for those items dries up, at least temporarily. So, over the years, we've had to discontinue some neat products. As an example, the metal Kay tailpiece emblems are, it appears, no longer being made (I still have a few of the "Engelhardt" emblems left).

Occasionally, though, those "lost" products come back. A great example is our popular leather side bumper set, which we offered for several years. Unfortunately, the original leatherworker decided that he just didn't want to make them anymore. So for the last 16 months, I've been scrambling; making phone calls, and sending emails all over the world, all to find an new maker of this handy product. And it finally paid off; I've got a new guy right here in the USA who is now making them, just for us. They're a slightly different design than before, but we really like them - the top is a warm brown, while the sides are dyed black. So they have a classy two-tone look. And they are IN STOCK!

At the same time, it inspired me to find an second bumper option as well - so now we also have neoprene rubber bumpers as well. Nicely made of solid black neoprene rubber, with just the right amount of give and support, they're available on the same page as the leather ones. And they are a bit cheaper, too.

We're also (finally) getting a shipment of our popular "Performer" Padded Gig Bags in, as well as a new model of double bow cases (our regular ones have been unavailable from the manufacturer for 16 months!) which should be arriving in the next week or two. We'll have updated details as soon as they arrive.

So it always seems that staying on top of all the unique offerings we have involves quite a bit of legwork. There's no standing still here at Gollihur Music - we always strive to stay ahead of the curve, and bring you new stuff that you didn't even know you needed! :-)

The String is the Thing

A large part of our daily business - and a large percentage of calls we take seeking guidance - concerns strings. It makes sense; strings are one of the few "wear items" on a bass; unlike pickups, amps, and the basses themselves, they eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Perhaps more importantly, they are also an item that is easiest to change, when you're looking to improve or alter the way your bass sounds, responds, and/or "feels." So we get a lot of questions about the characteristics of strings, and whether or not changing from one to another might positively affect the tone or playability of a particular customer's bass. Or, whether getting the same strings that Ray Brown played will make you sound like Ray Brown.

So I thought it would be useful to mention a few things about strings. When and how to change them, different characteristics of various types of strings, problems you might come across, and so on. Just things that are good to know. Strings for double bass are a lot more costly than strings for guitar are - so trying new strings willy-nilly, without a bit of consideration, is a really expensive hobby. This is why, when a bassist calls me up and says, "what's the best string you sell?" (yes, people really do call and ask that) I have to stop them right there and back up a few steps. "What style of music do you play? Do you bow? Do you slap? Are you amplified?" Perhaps the most important question I can ask, though, is: "What are the strings you have now, and why do you not like them?"

So, after reading this post, if you're still a bit in the dark about where you want to go next, start with identifying the strings you have - and then ask yourself a few questions:

  1. How do they feel to play, and would I prefer they were stiffer/more flexible, lighter/heavier, thicker/thinner, etc.?
  2. How do they sound, and would I prefer they were darker/brighter, thumpier/clearer, more sustaining/quicker decaying, etc.?
  3. How is their balance on my bass? Do any frequencies dominate? Is my bass boomy? Nasal-sounding?
  4. Are there any other factors that might be important?
Armed with this information, Christopher and I can help narrow down the field to a couple of good, tested options. We've had the opportunity, over many years, to try pretty much every string we sell - some even on our own basses. So you don't have to "guess" - you can use us for our experience and save yourself from making expensive, unnecessary mistakes. That's what we do, and why our descriptions aren't just the "cut and paste" hyperbole copied from the manufacturer's description.

And hey - don't forget: ALL STRINGS SHIP FREE to ALL 50 US STATES - and that includes single strings!

Being a Resource, First.

Way back in the 1990s, Gollihur Music got its start because Bob (my Dad) was hosting a website.

It was a simple site, where he posted a bunch of links to upright bass-related things he'd found online, and he thought it might be nice to share those links with others who might benefit from them. Why? It was just something he did, simply because he had the wherewithal back in those early days of the Internet to figure out how to code and host a site. He wasn't looking to monetize the information - he was just providing the links he'd found, in the spirit of sharing them so that other bassists could benefit.

Somewhere along the line, around 1997, he decided that he needed some pickups for his upright. Not finding the K&K Sound pickups he was seeking at convenient retail channels, he petitioned K&K to let him offer their pickups on his site. This also, not insignificantly, gave him the ability to get them for himself. They took a chance on him, and Gollihur Music (then called "Wordsmith Associates Music," a branch-off of his freelance writing work) was born.

Yes - we're a music store. We do have to sell products to keep the lights on, and pay our mortgages, just like any other retailer. But Bob always did - and now that he's retired, I continue to - insist that we remain true to our legacy of being a FREE source of information and help to bassists, whether they are paying customers or not.

To that end, I'm trying to update some of our resources with more current information, and I welcome your help - particularly, we have a Directory of Luthiers (Bass Repairpersons), as well as a Teacher Directory, both of which could use some new blood. If you are so inclined, take a quick gander of those lists - and if you know, or you are, a luthier or teacher who should be included on those lists, please let me know! Be sure to include as much helpful information as you can - and know that there is no charge, and no obligation, for having a listing on our site. Also let me know if you find an outdated listing, for someone who is no longer teaching/working.

It's a big, happy circle; we appreciate your help in keeping our site up to date - and the teachers/luthiers who are listed will appreciate that we'll be referring business to them. And finally, people who need those services, but didn't know someone was in their region, will appreciate that we (as in "you and me") helped them to find a local teacher or luthier. Win/win/win.

And of course, we still host our other resources - we have FREE Classified Ads for your basses and bows for sale, the original Links Pages, Product Manuals and Manufacturer Warranties, and our Buyer's Guides.

I sincerely hope that our site, or a phone call or email to us through the years, has provided you with help, insight, or inspiration along the way. And I always welcome suggestions, corrections, differing points of view, and feedback for our FAQ Pages, Product Descriptions, and anything else that could use an update. We're here for you - and we're grateful that you've been there for us, for over 20 years now.

Planting the Seeds...

I hope you'll grant me a little leeway here; I'm a proud dad. A few weeks ago, my 6-year old daughter made her stage debut as "Nala" in a kids' version of "The Lion King;" it was the culmination of a three-week "theater camp" that she attended, and she had a wonderful time (and she killed it). She's already looking forward to next year, and so am I.

I was exceedingly fortunate to have musical parents. My mother was a school music teacher and a theater/choir director, and my dad -- as if you didn't know -- has been a performing musician since before I was born. There was always music in the house, and was always support for musical endeavors when I was growing up. With the declining status of music programs in many of our public schools nationwide (a misguided effort, and one that would require far more space than I have here to debate) it's even more important that we support our kids outside the school system with encouragement and opportunity.

Now, my kid will be fine, even though her elementary school scaled back her music teacher position to part-time this year. Between me, her mom (a Broadway stage alum) and Grandpa Bob -- never mind all the other family members and friends who surround her with the arts -- she'll have plenty of support and inspiration.

And I think that most other kids will be fine, too... the theater camp sold out early, and had three groups filled with talented, eager kids putting on impressive shows for pretty full houses. Hopefully there's this much homegrown support for performing arts where you live, too. And we'll keep working to re-establish to our local school boards and state legislators just how important they are to our childrens' development and abilities. A program from NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants - we're a longtime member) can help - click the icon to the left to see how you can become an advocate to help assure that music education is supported in communities everywhere, so that all children have the opportunity to learn and grow with music.

In the meantime, music will always find a way!

-- Mark

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