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My first vintage bass - 1970s Jolana Iris Bass


Iacopo San
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A couple of weeks ago I bought my first vintage bass, quite cheap off Facebook. It's a Jolana Iris bass made in Czechoslovakia sometimes in the 1970s I believe. I contacted Jolana to know a bit more about this bass and when it was made, as they still make guitars and basses, but I didn't get a reply so far. Since there isn't much info on this online, i thought I would share some photos and sound samples.

The bass is a short scale (30.5" I believe), very light. I suspect the body is made of some cheap composite wood. Bridge seems to work perfectly and it is very easy to adjust. Tuning pegs also work surprisingly well. Neck is not the straightest, but I am not surprised considering the age. However, there is no fret buzz along the neck, but it does buzz on the open G and A strings. It has a zero fret and the previous owner changed the nut at some point, so it looks like the nut is slightly too high and the strings don't rest fully on the zero fret. I hope I can rectify this easily by sanding a bit the nut.


A couple of cool features, as highlighted in this video I found you YouTube: 

The top part of the bridge is movable, simply kept in place but the pressure of strings. And the top strap lock  can be unscrewed to become a flat head screwdriver, which i thought was a very cool feature I have never seen anywhere else.

The pickups on mine are different from the blade style in the video above, so I suspect this may be a later version also made in the 1970s? if anyone has any more info about what sort of year this could have been made, it would be great. Also in the video he mentions that the pick up selectors has 8 different positions, but it's actually 4 that repeat twice. Also the tone knob does not seem to have any effect, so I may have to have a look inside to see if there are connection issues.

As I said, I recorded some samples of all the four pickup positions (two neck - two bridge), first fingers then with a pick. It's the roundwound strings the bass came with, I just got some Labella flatwound to see how he plays with those, I am hoping to get the full 70s deal with them. Looking forward to try them, I may post samples with them too.

Overall I am very happy with it. Not sure I can use the bridge pickup as I find it too thin and nasal, but I really love the neck pickup, sounds very 1970s for me. The person who sold it to me warned me that it could be quite noisy, but so far I find it very quiet. I haven't tried it with a distortion pedal yet.

  • c

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Edited by Iacopo San
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40 minutes ago, Jus Lukin said:

Wow, that's proper quirky-cool! I'd be thinking flatwounds for that at some point.

Indeed! Got some ready to put on when I get to fix the nut. I haven't touched flatwound strings for 15 years, it's going to be fun!

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  • 7 months later...

I have one of these with the bridge cover and original pick ups. You can get original pick ups on ebay if you want to restore yours to authentic. The nut was a dark brown wooden one with a slight curve on it, but these often wore and resulted in the E string not being held tightly so are often replaced. I had to do that with mine but kept the old wooden nut thinking I would make a copy sometime and reinstall it. Round wound strings are more authentic BTW. It sounds great through a good distortion pedal like a metal core or similar! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I took the strings off for the first time and found that a nail was threaded through the ball end.  I'm guessing that whoever did that was thinking it would somehow even out the tension?  Talking of which, I love that the bridge is only held on by the tension of the strings, as is the nut, and the bridge cover just slots in on two rough looking pins.   The whole thing has a retro soviet feel about it in the same way as Russian vintage synths do (yes, I know its not a Russian guitar, but you know what I'm getting at).

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Edited by Alan Rider
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On 12/02/2021 at 11:30, Rich said:

I'd not seen this before, but that is cooler than the other side of the pillow 😎 I bet it sounds the absolute pooches parts with flats on it. Can we have an update @Iacopo San?

It sounds the stinky poo with flats on, love it. Very vintage like.

 

Edited by Iacopo San
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  • 6 months later...
On 21/06/2020 at 13:08, Iacopo San said:

A couple of weeks ago I bought my first vintage bass, quite cheap off Facebook. It's a Jolana Iris bass made in Czechoslovakia sometimes in the 1970s I believe. I contacted Jolana to know a bit more about this bass and when it was made, as they still make guitars and basses, but I didn't get a reply so far. Since there isn't much info on this online, i thought I would share some photos and sound samples.

The bass is a short scale (30.5" I believe), very light. I suspect the body is made of some cheap composite wood. Bridge seems to work perfectly and it is very easy to adjust. Tuning pegs also work surprisingly well. Neck is not the straightest, but I am not surprised considering the age. However, there is no fret buzz along the neck, but it does buzz on the open G and A strings. It has a zero fret and the previous owner changed the nut at some point, so it looks like the nut is slightly too high and the strings don't rest fully on the zero fret. I hope I can rectify this easily by sanding a bit the nut.


A couple of cool features, as highlighted in this video I found you YouTube: 

The top part of the bridge is movable, simply kept in place but the pressure of strings. And the top strap lock  can be unscrewed to become a flat head screwdriver, which i thought was a very cool feature I have never seen anywhere else.

The pickups on mine are different from the blade style in the video above, so I suspect this may be a later version also made in the 1970s? if anyone has any more info about what sort of year this could have been made, it would be great. Also in the video he mentions that the pick up selectors has 8 different positions, but it's actually 4 that repeat twice. Also the tone knob does not seem to have any effect, so I may have to have a look inside to see if there are connection issues.

As I said, I recorded some samples of all the four pickup positions (two neck - two bridge), first fingers then with a pick. It's the roundwound strings the bass came with, I just got some Labella flatwound to see how he plays with those, I am hoping to get the full 70s deal with them. Looking forward to try them, I may post samples with them too.

Overall I am very happy with it. Not sure I can use the bridge pickup as I find it too thin and nasal, but I really love the neck pickup, sounds very 1970s for me. The person who sold it to me warned me that it could be quite noisy, but so far I find it very quiet. I haven't tried it with a distortion pedal yet.

  • c

Full.thumb.jpeg.2ce3898f2e3abb183b18ba6396aa22d2.jpegBody.thumb.jpeg.ea2b189dce6c1b4c4396def9e17264d3.jpeg204836158_Headstockfront.thumb.jpeg.17c5c5e6c7b149cb90f674cb814ccd82.jpegFretboard.thumb.jpeg.ebc74f6e7268ffef5e504b12c80eedc0.jpegStrap.thumb.jpeg.1d81ddbf3745609ddde16e10925c264c.jpeg

I like the double single coil P pickups in it, maybe a Duncan quarter pound single coil P pickup if they are standard size to fatten up the bridge pickup.

Regarding the nut I would put some electrical tape on the zero fret to protect it and then use some bass strings in a back and forth motion to bring the nut slots height down

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  • 4 weeks later...

There's this session guy in Poland, who made playing these "commie-basses" his thing of sorts. Despite being often seen on stage with a Fender Am Dlx Jazz or an old MM Sabre, Jolana Diamant is his main recording bass. This tune from his recent (really good!) album however has a solo played on one of those Iris basses, with original strings apparently:

 

 

 

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