19/08/2010 - 00:00

Lucrative bass line

19/08/2010 - 00:00

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A Bayswater musician and artisan takes a low-key approach to his craft.

ANDREW Tait is more than just a talented musician.

Beyond his 21 years in the West Australian Symphony Orchestra as a key component of the orchestra’s seven-member double bass section, Mr Tait is also a highly regarded and sought after instrument maker.

Specifically, he says he is one of just three double bass manufacturers in Australia.

From his family home in Bayswater, more precisely from his tool-laden workshop in the backyard shed, Mr Tait says he intentionally makes only two of the wooden string instruments each year.

It may surprise the more commercially driven among us to learn that Mr Tait prefers to restrain the potentially lucrative income stream garnered from restoring and reproducing the instruments because his driving passion remains closely tied with performing music.

“I don’t really advertise the fact that I make the double basses because I would like to keep my playing career going for as long as possible,” Mr Tait told Business Class.

As such, word of mouth remains the sole conduit to attracting commissions for his highly technical craft.

He suggests standard double basses bought from an ordinary music shop would retail for between $4,000-$6,000, and they’re usually of poorer quality, being made in China, whereas his instruments sell for more than $30,000 each.

And he does all the work himself, because he says employing others would potentially diminish the product’s value.

Currently, four of the seven double bassists in WASO use his instruments.

And he has three separate commissions to design and build his instruments, two from the Sydney Conservatorium and one more for WASO, as discussions with outfits in Tasmania and New Zealand continue.

Apart from musical ensembles seeking his specialist craftwork, Mr Tait says art collectors are becoming increasingly interested in purchasing his wares among some of the older, more valuable double basses available on the global market.

He says that art lover and noted philanthropist Janet Holmes a Court (who is also chairman of John Holland Group and WASO) recently bought a 230-year-old double bass for a significant sum. It will be played by WASO’s principal double bassist, Andrew Rootes.

“Double basses are actually appreciating more than violins after being the poorer cousin for a while,” Mr Tait says.

“The one that Janet purchased had been used by principal players of the London Philharmonic Orchestra throughout the course of the 20th century.”

Mr Tait’s extensive experience in manufacturing the wooden instruments stems from both his love of playing music and his fond recollections of one of his first jobs, working in a Sydney music shop restoring battered and bruised instruments, which he enjoyed doing for a few years while finishing his degree.

“I’ve always restored musical instruments, for as long as I’ve been playing,” Mr Tait says.

A year ago Mr Tait was awarded a $25,000 arts development grant from the Department of Culture and the Arts to travel to London to develop a five-string double bass with renowned English double bass maker Roger Dawson.

 

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