Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ross Hill - Calgary luthier

I recently took in my 1951 Nicola Alagia bass for some work on the fingerboard. I bought this bass from PJ Tan in Edmonton, someone who I've written about before.

I took the bass to Aeolian Strings as I heard that Ross Hill was working there. Ross is a Calgary luthier who I had heard great things about from both jazz players and members of the CPO.

I have been looking for a luthier in Calgary for some time. There are very few places that will take a double bass. There's the principal of the CPO, Charles Garret, who does great work but only relatively minor repairs (e.g., bridges, seams). Then there's VA Hill Strings which was once the namesake of Ross Hill. (Due to a divorce, he's no longer involved with VA Hill Strings. 'Nuff said.) I took in an older bass once and a visiting luthier did a great job done. A second time (with my 1920's King laminate bass), I received a phone call to tell me that the bass wasn't worth the cost of repairs ($600). I had them do the work, the regular luthier did a lousy job, Vicky Hill and the luthier treated me like a chump (rolling their eyes at me as I spoke), and I sold the bass for $2,400. In short, I don't recommend VA Hill Strings for anything. I've had other experiences there while looking at bows and have heard stories that just made me laugh. My general impression is that they are not as informed/experienced as they present or believe themselves to be.

Moving on, I was excited about taking my bass to Ross Hill. From my perspective he's been a bit of a spectre: someone you hear about but never see.

After he looked at my bass, he recommended a new fingerboard. I admit, the fingerboard was getting thin, I just didn't think it needed the whole thing replaced. I opted to have the work done, plus fixing a seam, adjusting and installing some adjusters in the bridge. We talked over the phone about what I wanted, but never got together to talk about different possible shapes for the fingerboard.

I've had the bass back now for a couple of weeks. Simply but: the work is excellent! The bass is a joy to play; its fast; it feels so natural. I'm amazed at how great the bass plays. Its like a new instrument. He even managed to do some work to the soundpost and bridge to even out the tone across the strings. Its deep "Italian oily sound" is better than ever. Incredible!

My strongest recommendation of Ross Hill. He can be reached through Aeolian Strings (403.244.5593).


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wonderful comments Rob, I would just like to confirm that yes Ross Hill can be reached through "Aeolian Strings". As this is his new company. It is located at Suite 1, 503-17th Ave. S.W. Calgary, AB. T2S-0A9, Phone 403-244-5593. or by e-mail at We hope you continue to enjoy your bass.

Posted by Charlene

Kevin said...

I had a 1/2 size violin repaired by Ross, and also purchased a 3/4 size from him for my son. He was a pleasure to deal with.

Anonymous said...

he really is awesome, I took a guitar making class about a year ago with him in grade 9 ( im 15 ) i just googled him cuz im doing a project and i found this, picked him as my inspirational person!

Anonymous said...

Ross hired me to help him catch up on his 3 year back log of repair work as his hands were giving him grief and he had serious diabetes, said he would have me back but I have not heard from him for months. Anyone know what he is doing? A good wood worker when healthy. Too bad about the divorce thang. I heard that v a Hill is being investigated for bringing in foreigners to fill jobs that qualified canadians could fill. She must be quite a character.