1/4 bass tuned in Fifths - suitable strings?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Pentabass, Nov 25, 2013.


  1. Pentabass

    Pentabass

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2007
    Location:
    Winnipeg
    I would like to convert a lovely little 1/4 Wilfer ply with a speaking length of 35 inches, into fifths tuning. (CGDA)

    I would like to do 80% arco. The current set, (likely a set Thomastic superflexible orchestral tuning EADG) has a pleasing arco sound, but the lowest string becomes wooshy and nearly inaudible, when tuned down to a C.

    Which strings do you recommend?

    thanks in advance
    Stefan in Winnipeg
  2. eub_player

    eub_player

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    Location:
    Québec, Canada
    Disclosures:
    Formerly known as Francois Blais...
    The low C on such a small ply will probably sound that way with any string you may try.
    What about tuning one octave higher, as a cello?
  3. Nathan Levine

    Nathan Levine

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2008
    Location:
    Anchorage, AK
    I've got a1/2 Juzek tuned in 5ths with a low G and high E. It really sings. Gennsler strings.
  4. Pentabass

    Pentabass

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2007
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    Winnipeg
    @ eub_player: I am not adverse to trying that approach, even though then I might as well take a cello. Remember as well that a cello has about 27 inch speaking length, whereas the 1/4 bass has 35 inches.

    @ Nathan: In the same vein, I would try your suggestion, GDAE, but my question is: do those expensive Genssler strings come in a fractional length?

    I have seen a great example of fractional strings always sounding poorly on the small cellos of my children, until we found the Larsen fractional cello strings, that seemed to have solved that solution well: smaller scale strings that don't sound hollow or tinny. I just wonder if an equivalent for a small double bass can be found?

    Stefan
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  6. eub_player

    eub_player

    Joined:
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    Québec, Canada
    Disclosures:
    Formerly known as Francois Blais...
    I was not suggesting cello strings but cello tuning.

    That said, 1/4 size bass strings are not much widely available.
    Some brands:

    D'Addario Orchestrals.
    D'Addario Preludes.
    Pirastro Obligatos.
    Pirastro Flexocors.
    Super-Sensitive Red Labels.
    Thomastik Spirocores.
    Corellis in both tungsten and nickel series.

    However only in regular orchestra pitch.
  7. ChuckCorbisiero

    ChuckCorbisiero

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    Aug 8, 2009
    Location:
    Los Angeles, Ca.
    This makes sense on the 1/4 size.
  8. Nathan Levine

    Nathan Levine

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    Apr 25, 2008
    Location:
    Anchorage, AK

    Gerold makes them to order and I believe can do them in just about any size you desire. The Juzek I have strung up is 38". I was lucky to get a set from a teacher that fit the bass I had perfectly. They certainly have a zing to them in this tuning, but they bow like butter.

    I also discovered the Larsen strings for my daughters 1/8 cello. The Larsens make a fairly decent fractional instrument sound pretty darn good.
  9. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    I would agree that your chances of getting a low C to work on an instrument that size are pretty nonexistent. Nathan's suggestion of G,D,A,E should yield much better results. Genssler strings are known to be expensive, but are one of your few options, especially when trying to work with a different scale length and tuning. Pirastro makes an Obligato 5ths set with a high e, and the Passione string as a high e as well. Both of which you have to special order from them, and I have no idea if they do them in shorter scale lengths.

    Silvio Dalla Torre experimented with a shorter scale "Bassetto". He mentions Velvets (Gerold Genssler used to work for them) and Pirastro as well. There is a contact link on his website, it might be worth an email to see what he suggests. The New Violin Family/Violin Octet also has an instrument referred to as a "Bassetto" or "Small Bass" that can also be tuned in 5ths G,D,A,E. Robert Spear is a contributor here and makes those instruments as well, so I am sure he likely has a source for strings.

    Those would be my starting points. Best of luck finding something. I would love to play such an instrument someday.
  10. Pentabass

    Pentabass

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    Dec 11, 2007
    Location:
    Winnipeg
    Thank you for the suggestion. I will follow up.
  11. Pentabass

    Pentabass

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2007
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    Thank you, Mike, for your thoughts.

    For a moment, I thought: maybe I could keep the existing low E, and go up from there in fifths, E B F# C# , however then I realized that I might be loosing some of the proposed benefits of fifth tuning anyways: None of my existing cello fingering knowledge would be helpful, and I am not sure that the 'resonance' with other string instruments would be the same at that tuning.

    Silvio Dalla Torre' Bassetto -- ah, I remember reading that. Thank you, I will follow that trail.

    Stefan in Winnipeg.
  12. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

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    I would think if you were to keep the low E and tune up from there E,B,F#,C# the instrument itself would still maintain the benefits of 5ths. The way the overtones line up and the physics would still be the same anyway. I don't understand how all of that works, but it does. From there though, you would have a really tough time trying to adapt any sort of repertoire, or finding string players that want to play in the keys that would naturally sit under your fingers.

    That tuning would be quite useful in a setting with a heavy emphasis on guitar based writing. Things like indie rock or singer-songwriter or whatever you call what Edgar Meyer does. It would give you a low E and B which are common keys, and the ability to cover both bass roles and melodic/counter melodic lines. If you are having a hard time finding strings now, you would have a horrible time trying to find them in that tuning for a 35" string length. On a short-normal 3/4 size instrument, you could get pretty close with a mix of orchestral and solo strings though.

    Sorry for going off into left field, it just seems like it would be a useful instrument in certain context.

    Back on track though, the Violin Octet makers and performers should be a good place for some information. Or get in touch with string companies directly. If you establish a relationship with them apparently Pirastro does accommodate special requests. Your idea might be a little outside the box, but you aren't trying to reinvent the wheel.
  13. Ludwig

    Ludwig

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    Aug 17, 2006
    Location:
    Germany
    I currently have the Preludes orchestral set on a 1/4 bass and tuned the E down to C, the A down to G and the g up to a. Works at least to some extend, since strings are pretty strong. There is no real 5th set for 1/4 bass and I never have seen a low C string for 1/4 bass. Probably best bet would be to have something custom made. I have seen strings for electric bass cello from D'Addario NS710, that would be close to the correct length and probably will order one string to try in near future, but unsure, if that kind of string is good for arco and pizz both.
  14. eub_player

    eub_player

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    Dec 15, 2011
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    Formerly known as Francois Blais...
    Their strings were used to be made by Super-Sensitive.
    Good luck with them though.
    I sent a few emails in the past and never got any answer...
  15. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

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  16. Pentabass

    Pentabass

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2007
    Location:
    Winnipeg
    Thanks to all for the suggestions. I have send messages... waiting for replies.

    In the meantime I keep the existing strings, swapping the A and raise the G string tunings (Raising the highest string to A and dropping the second lowest to G) and try to have some fun. The E does not sound good if I drop it.

    There is a certain excitement around the fifths tuning -- hard to describe.
  17. Nathan Levine

    Nathan Levine

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2008
    Location:
    Anchorage, AK
    My little Kala Ubass doesn't sound so good with a dropped C. A dropped D seems to work though for those weird rubbery strings. Tuning low to high ends up being D G D A. Works nicely for the group that I use it in.
  18. eerbrev

    eerbrev

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2009
    Location:
    Sudbury,ON, Canada/ Akron, OH
    ^^^^^^



    This is your best option. You'l be shocked how little you really use notes below low G, and it'll fit the size of your instrument best, as he makes them custom to your instrument.

    Gennsler strings are expensive, but fantastic. If you don't want to spend a huge amount of scratch, you could probably do DGDA, as Nathan described for his Uke-bass. If you have the two Ds together, it helps with the presence and resonance of the low D (It helps "trick" your ear into hearing the lower fundamental). Not perfect, but you've got a 1/4 size bass with only so much of a resonating cavity, so there's only so much you can do.

    Good luck!

    eerbrev

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