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“New” Bass Design

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Rob Page, Oct 10, 2020.

  1. The reason I put “new” in quotes is I’m 100% sure this idea is only new to me and that somebody, somewhere—probably many somebodys, maybe some of you even—has already done this. But I don’t care, I don’t sell guitars, I just make them for myself and friends as a goof. So…

    I’m a guitar player first, bass player second. Sometimes I’ll put a capo on my 5-string bass and it becomes a guitar except an octave lower, missing the high E string. It sounds okay and is a blast for a guitar player pretending to be a bass player to play. The tight spacing of the frets, it’s like a little hot-rod. Very fun.

    So my “new” idea is to create a 34” scale 6-string bass but “chopped” off at the fifth fret making it an “octave-lower” guitar. Now I know what you’re about to say: What about the Fender Bass VI? (I think Ibanez has something like that too.). But I think maybe this idea is a little different? Bass VI is 30” scale and uses special strings. My idea would essentially be a 25.5” scale ax—like a Strat or Tele. (A 34” scale starting at the 5th fret is 25.5” to the bridge.)

    Thing is, even though I’ve effectively done this on my 5-string already, some part of my brain is thinking it won’t work or won’t sound good or some other problem I haven’t foreseen and I’m not even sure why I’m haunted by that. So that’s the background, here are some questions for you builders out there:

    1) Am I going to spend weeks on this and end up with an ax that sounds like crap?

    2) The design is headless so I can use any strings I want, so, a physics question: if I used long scale strings, when tuned to E B G D A E, would the strings be under the same tension as a 34” scale tuned to B G D A E B? Greater? Less (like a 30” scale)?

    3) Any general thoughts?

    Thanks in advance, appreciate your input.
  2. dwizum

    dwizum Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2018
    The 25.5" scale length with your "normal" bass strings on it, tuned to E-E, would feel exactly like the same strings of your 34" scale tuned B-B with a capo on the 5th fret.

    I love this idea and can't wait to see what you think about it.
    Rob Page likes this.
  3. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Sounds like fun. What kind of nut width and bridge string spacing are you thinking of doing?
    Killing Floor likes this.
  4. rudy4444


    Mar 13, 2012
    Central Illinois
  5. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Been done many times but go ahead and enjoy. Be sure to let us know how you make out (with pictures).
  6. Thanks for the encouragement! Will post up pics here when done.
    dwizum likes this.
  7. Not sure yet. I have to use monorail individual bridge pieces cause 6-string headless bass bridges are heinously expensive. They just arrived today so I can start designing. I want to get them as close together as possible but having never even played a 6 string bass I don't have a feel for how close is too close. Any thoughts on that?
    Beej likes this.
  8. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I used to play 3/4" or "fender" spacing when I played 4 strings, and mostly played finger style. When I first moved to 5s (1990) I started playing with a pick more, as I also play guitar, and like the control of the attack.

    My first 5 string was 19mm spacing, and I found it was too wide for a pick, and just overall was not comfortable. I had an 18mm and a 17mm spaced bass, but when I started playing 6s, I found I like them narrower still. So now, I like 16mm on a 6 string, and 17mm on a 5 string, but can get away with narrower, just not wider. :D

    My narrowest 5 string is 16mm, and my narrowest 6 string is 15mm, which is pretty tight. I pretty much only play pick with that one 6. :)

    For nut spacing, I'm similar, shockingly. :woot: I like a narrower nut overall, but I also prefer wider spacing on the wider strings, and narrower on the thin ones. On my very first 5 that had wide bridge spacing, also had wide nut spacing at nearly 12mm centre to centre. I prefer 10 between the B/E, 9 between E/A and A/D and 8.5 between D/G, so pretty narrow compared to some instruments.

    Personal preference is so huge, and everyone has their own preferences (or none!). If this instrument is meant to be played with a pick and is more "guitar oriented ", then I'd probably go a lillte narrower, but if you have "hot dog fingers" (like @two fingers ) then you may want the spacing a little wider. :smug:

    Hopefully some others will chime in. Sorry to dive down the rabbit hole right away in your build thread! :cigar:
  9. Too bad Ibanez Micro's are only 4-stringers, I want a micro 5-ver.
    Another option is an octaver pedal but happy modding.
    Rob Page likes this.
  10. My personal opinion. If you want a bass to play guitar like lines on check out this. It’s just an inexpensive $200 Ibanez micro strung up eadgc using guitar strings. They are an odd scale length. 28” I think.
    Gilmourisgod and Rob Page like this.
  11. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    It seems like You feel your self as a bass 6 string pilgrim, but i don't think Your idea will work fine. You can try it out for shure and maybe You are the one who can use it perfectly, i hope it will. Anyway, it is just my opinion and maybe i am wrong and You are right. Good luck !
    Rob Page likes this.
  12. I'm wondering if you have a link, thread or anything to some previous builds? I'd love to check them out or maybe even talk to the builders to maybe avoid any pitfalls.
  13. Super helpful Beej, thx!
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    The toughest practical thing I see in your idea (I've had similar thoughts) is the non-availability of uber short scale fat bass strings- specifically the B (now up tuned to E and E (now uptuned to A). Either you need some way to take up the extra string length (wrap it around like some of the traveler basses do), or tuners that can handle a .130 diameter string - normal bass tuners rely on the string narrowing down before it gets to the tuner.
    mikewalker likes this.
  15. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    By the way, the scale length for a bass guitar (as solidified by Leo Fender) is no accident - it's the same scale progression as a Fender guitar, just adding 5 frets to the end. Fender's short scale guitars and basses (and baritone guitars), if you look into it, are the same exact scale progression, just adding or subtracting frets at the end. My point is that your idea isn't all that odd - taking a bass and shortening things is just the opposite of what Leo did decades ago.
    mikewalker and Rob Page like this.
  16. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Use light gauge 5 string sets with .120 "B" string. That's what I've done. I think I've seen a set with a .118 "B" string too.
    TrustRod and Rob Page like this.
  17. I was planning a headless design and using regular long-scale roundwounds. Slide the string into the retainer at the head, tighten down the two set-screws and done. I've checked, the retainer hole is large enough for a low e-string, haven't checked on the B yet. My calipers read the hole to be .131. Seems like low B would fit, yeah?

    mikewalker, Beej and Matt Liebenau like this.
  18. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    I am sorry, but Leo is dead.
  19. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Yes, he is, and your point is....?
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
  20. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I have Hipshot Ultralights on most of my basses - they're about .115". I also have one bass with Gotoh Resolites - they're about .105" - neither of those will fit a decent B string's full diameter. Your results may vary.

    Whatever you do, don't put a string in there that you have to force in. If it breaks off in there, it could be really tough to get that bit out.
    thetragichero likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jan 19, 2021

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