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Dano Shorthorn

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by 60cyclehum, Oct 14, 2012.

  1. 60cyclehum

    60cyclehum

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    In my opinion, Danelectro has yet to reissue their most interesting bass, the short horn. Ok they have sold new basses with the shorthorn body, but none of them are like the old ones.

    Take a look at the picture of my old shorthorn (probably ~1965). This is a short scale instrument, but the neck is only 15 frets. The bridge is way down at the bottom of the body. The body is the same one use for almost all of the Danelectro guitars of the time. This is a seriously small instrument, fits into guitar cases. You might be mistaken for a guitar player with this thing on. Try that with the reissue short horn.

    Because the strings are shifted so far down the body, and the neck is so short, the pickup is located in a position that is physically impossible on 99.999% of electric basses (about where the 19th fret is located on a Longhorn). The result is big low end, and a very different harmonic spectrum. The sustain is characteristically short. The effect really sets this bass way apart from others. I'm not gonna say it sounds like a bass fiddle, or a Hofner - it does not. It has its own unmistakably electric sound. But it can have the same kind of richness of low end as an upright does. If recorded properly, it can sit apart from everything in the mix.

    Before I moved to Florida in 2006, I was part of the Americana music scene in Washington DC. When I was invited to recording sessions, I was expected to bring this bass.

    I have mine strung with LaBella short scale flats. But - intonation problems with those strings were severe and could not be corrected with the stock bridge saddle. Recording was impossible until I removed the stock bridge saddle, and cut a new one from some tropical type hardwood (I don't remember now what it was) with the necessary corrections. You can see this in the picture.

    You have to vary your playing too. Growl is not what you want here, and a very light touch works best. My favorite approach is to place the side of my right hand across the strings at the bridge saddle, and play with my thumb. By pivoting my thumb towards my palm I can bring in more of the thumbnail for definition. By sliding my hand slightly away from the bridge saddle, I can add muting. From this position, its a very minor adjustment to move into Joey Stampinato style Dano slapping. The pickup has a wide range, and there is a good bit of high frequencies in the sound. Playing with a pick works well, and if you use a felt pick, you will get a very pleasing retro sound.

    Another unique thing about this bass is the toggle switch. Pos 1: tone control defeat, 2: tone control engaged, 3: tone fully down (dark). People talk about Dano's having "cheap" tuners, and the new ones definitely do. But this instrument has nickel guitar tuners that are not cheap. They have lasted 45 years in constant use.

    This example also has a "Coral" headstock, which is rare for this model. Good chance this bass was repainted before I got it. The decal was my idea. Who knows how this one was branded when it was first sold - the logo is long gone. But it definitely came from the Neptune, New Jersey plant.

    Anyone else out there with an old shorthorn, please share!

    -Tony

    Attached Files:

  2. msb

    msb

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    I do love a good Dano .
  3. 1stnamebassist

    1stnamebassist

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    That is a beautiful bass! I wish Danelectro would produce that bass now. I would grab one in a flash! I like that really short scale. Too bad Jerry Jones didn't produce these when he was building. He would have sold a bunch of them! Hey i'm located in Florida, maybe we should get together and start building some! Never built a guitar though!
  4. mongo2

    mongo2

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    I've owned Shorthorns but I prefer the Silvertone Dano over the Shorthorn.
  5. mongo2

    mongo2

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    I've had several JJ Shorthorns. They're the same scale but their necks have more than 15 frets.
  6. moonshinegtrs

    moonshinegtrs Supporting Member

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    Disclosures:
    Owner: Moonshine Custom Guitars
    Very Cool & interesting bass...

    I've never played one of these, but I can imagine what it would sound like with that pickup placement.

    Hmmmm....

    Moonshine :bassist:
  7. 1stnamebassist

    1stnamebassist

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    I don't know, that scale looks a lot shorter than the typical 30" longhorn or new shorthorn! Is it hard to adjust to playing with such a short neck? Could be a fun bass to play around with! A step up from the Kala bass in size! I wish I had my to JJ longhorns now! Very expensive when you can find them! Right now i'm looking for a Dano longhorn for a reasonable price. Not interested in the newer chinese dead on 58 though!
  8. msb

    msb

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    The last batch of Longhorns are Korean .
  9. 1stnamebassist

    1stnamebassist

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    Yeah, but there are still a lot of the chinese ones for sale. The new Korean ones have a truss rod adjustment at the headstock too which is a big improvement.
  10. mp112849

    mp112849

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    Guys, I have a couple questions regarding the shorthorn. Just found and bought the 15 fret. It's a '64 and so far I love it. The sound is surprisingly rich and the sustain is pretty amazing. You're right about getting used to the short neck. Muscle memory puts my left hand off by a few frets, but I'll adjust to that quickly. So my questions:

    1) Is there some kind of truss rod, either fixed or adjustable. If it's adjustable, do you have to remove the neck to get at it?
    2) What gauge strings are intended to use on the bass? I realize that they're much lighter gauge, and that accounts for the looseness I'm seeing. And maybe if there's no truss rod, then there's a reason for the lighter gauge.
    3) Has anyone tried to use an aftermarket adjustable 4 saddle bridge on a shorthorn? If so, what were the results? Is it advisable? The intonation is reasonable with the stock bridge, but it would be good to be able to get it right on.
  11. msb

    msb

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    No adjustable truss rod . Nathan Daniels thought the adjustable truss rod was the weak link in guitar design and came up with a double truss rod instead that would keep the neck rigid .
  12. moonshinegtrs

    moonshinegtrs Supporting Member

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    Disclosures:
    Owner: Moonshine Custom Guitars
    I've been looking at these a lot, actually considering building a "Moonshine" version.

    In my opinion, these are the result of placing a Dano short scale (29 7/8") bass fret board on a 25" scale guitar neck.

    Sounds like something that Nate Daniels would come up with ("Boss, we got too many guitar necks and too many bass fret boards... Hmmm")

    This is just my opinion, but I will be finding out soon...

    Moonshine :bassist:
  13. msb

    msb

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    That sounds about right . Nate was practical they say ...
  14. spufman

    spufman Supporting Member

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    In the 80s I found a Shorthorn shell - neck, body, bridge and 3 tuners - in cool ohsc at a flea market for $5. After sitting around a few years, I rebuilt it using parts I had available. Among those parts was a regular Fender bridge. Worked out fine, though the best bet would be to use one with threaded or otherwise adjustable saddles to get it 'just right'. I was hacking mine up anyway, plus at the time it was just a cheap pos. Dunno if I'd do it to a nice one like yours.

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