Bill Merchant began his double bass studies in 1973 in Albany NY with Dave Cobb, (father of the Metropolitan Opera Orcherstra & Juilliard's Tim Cobb). High school music theory instruction got him advance placement in the music program at The College of Saint Rose. He played in orchestras at Union College, SUNY at Albany, St. Rose and spent the summer of 1976 in the Chatauqua Institution's college orchestra program, as well as playing in jazz ensembles at SUNYA & St. Rose.

He has been repairing double basses since 1977, when he moved to New York City to work and study with Charles Traeger. Serving such clients as Charles Mingus, Ron Carter, Percy Heath, Eddie Gomez, Richard Davis, Major Holley, Mike Richmond, Buster Williams, Milt Hinton, Gary Peacock, George Mraz, Reggie Workman, Lonnie Plaxico and many other fine bassists, Bill is as adept at satisfying classical players from orchestras around the world -  as well as doing historically correct restorations for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and early music experts.  Bill became Mr. Traeger's partner before Chuck retired in the late 1980s. 

Bill now oversees every aspect of client bass work himself. He divides his time between a small shop in Manhattan and a larger work space in upstate New York.  In this way he is able to maintain the high standard of his basses and repairs, while keeping fees affordable. He collects and uses antique word working tools and favors working methods that have been used in luthiery for 300 years.He uses power tools to save time when roughing out work but all finish details on all his work are by hand.

In the early 1980s he designed his own electric upright bass, to improve upon the various models available. The sheer size of an upright bass makes traveling a trying experience.  It is often expensive to ship a bass or to fly with it as baggage.  All too frequently the instrument is handled roughly, apparent from the large number of repairs Bill has done to instruments damaged in transit. The latest version of his electric upright folds to a small travel package. New for 2009 is the Merchant Traveler Bass, a real upright under 50 pounds for travel.

In 1987 he was awarded U. S. patent #4,635,523 for his spruce spring bars, a solution that enables him to make his bass sound and play like a double bass.

Bill has maintained an active playing career, playing with artists such as Suzanne Vega, John Hall, Robbie Dupree, Buddy Cage and many many others.

By appointment only


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Copyright 2009 William E. Merchant, all rights reserved