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1/2 Scale DB?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by powerbass, Oct 2, 2008.

  1. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    I want to learn DB but I need a small portable instrument. I checked out a 1/2 size bass today and it sounded pretty good, not as deep, loud or rich sounding as a 4/4 but it was significantly smaller - the neck was smaller as well which felt good to my weakish hands. I know I can go small and portable w/an EUB but the 1/2 size was pretty cool. Does a 1/2 size get any respect or should I wait and get a 4/4? Anyone use a 1/2 size?
  2. For your info, the usual DB size is 3/4.

    My advice would be to go with what you feel comfortable with, also taking into account you're not in your twenties anymore, and you're probably making music just as a hobbie, but I'm sure others will say to get a 3/4.

    Best regards,
  3. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    My question had nothing to do w/age or what my motive is for playing the DB. I specified a need for a portable instrument and I was looking for experienced opinions. There is an extensive EUB forum so I am not alone w/the need for portability in a DB style instrument. EUB's are very portable, they are also very expensive and they don't always produce the desired acoustic instrument sound. A 1/2 size bass is also very portable and seems like a good compromise between a 3/4 size instrument and an EUB.
  4. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    have you checked the czech basses out?...
  5. dchan


    Nov 19, 2005
    Bethlehem, PA
    In response to your first two sentences: actually, you weren't too clear in your original post. You did say you wanted a portable instrument, but you also asked whether you should wait for a 4/4 instrument.

    But now that you did make it clear, you should realize that EUBs are actually not that expensive in the DB world. I haven't many above $5000, and most seem to be in the $2000 range (keep in mind I'm not a EUB player). But it all depends on what your view of expensive is: how much was that 1/2 size or that 4/4 (3/4?) bass that you tried out?

    Portability is a relative term. When I first started out, I had a ton of trouble maneuvering my 3/4 bass around, and it felt extremely heavy then. Of course, I was only 14 then. It's not that easy right now, but it's much easier now because I've gotten used to its dimensions.
  6. Bass Barrister

    Bass Barrister

    Nov 4, 2004
    The problem with bass sizes is that there is no real standard as to what constitutes a 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, 7/8 or any other size bass. There big 1/2s, small 1/2s, etc. etc. A 1/2 or 5/8 size bass will be somewhat smaller than a 3/4 bass, but not all that much. 7/8 size basses are normally only found in orchestras and almost no one plays a 4/4 sized bass on any regular basis.

    In general, the smaller the bass, the more difficult it is to obtain the sound that a DB is supposed to make. But then, what a bass is "supposed" to sound like varies greatly from individual to individual.

    The bottom line: if a 1/2 sized bass meets YOUR needs and sounds good to YOU, go for it. But do yourself a big favor and try a number of differently sized basses. You may find that there's a small 3/4 that works for you in terms of tone and portability. And, you'll have to haul the bass around, so only you really know what you can handle.

    Good luck.
  7. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    Get an EUB, then go be snotty over on that forum instead of this one.
  8. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    ...or get a "travel" bass as suggested earlier (Czech-Ease, Kolstein, etc.) and don't be snotty anywhere. :)

    Look, you say you want to learn DB, you have "weakish" hands, and you need a portable instrument. Folks here can offer a wealth of advice and insight. First, if you really want to learn to play the DB, get a teacher. Even if you only arrange for a few lessons, a teacher will, at the least, set you on the right path, help you to avoid bad habits, and help you to prevent injury.

    Next, please elaborate on the "weakish" hands. What exactly do you mean? Does this reflect a chronic medical issue or are you just offering that you think your hands are currently weaker than the norm. If the latter, then you should look toward strengthening them. You should also know that small necks (as in necks that are not deep) often feel comfortable at first touch but can actually lead to substantial left-hand fatigue. Check out the discussions here about thin or "skinny" necks.

    Finally, why do you "need" a portable instrument? Hey, I play what would be called a 3/4 DB. I think it's quite portable! Obviously, you desire an instrument that is easier to handle than the typical DB. Perhaps you can offer more information as to why.

    "1/2 size" basses are more difficult to find, more difficult to sell, and, of course, have shorter string lengths.

    You said:

    Yes, they are portable. By the usual standards over here, they are quite inexpensive. Finally, it's not that they don't always produce the desired acoustic sound but, again, by the typical standards over here, an EUB never produces anything close to the desired acoustic sound. It is, after all, an EUB!

    So, do you plan to play amplified all/most of the time? Serious consideration of an EUB is usually mutually exclusive with the goal of achieving a good acoustic sound. You gotta help us to help you a bit more.

    You may not have intended your reply to come off as abrasive as it did but it seemed neither appreciative nor gracious.
  9. Since, according to your profile, you seem to play BG, you're used to what we could call "short scale".
    I assumed that, being older, you would prefer something which is faster to get accustomed too, because it can take more time to learn on a bigger scale.
    The fact you're looking for a 1/2 size seemed to get in this direction too.
    Sorry you're taking it in a bad way.

    Being the moderator of the EUB forum, I'm quite aware of these instruments, and if you had looked at my profile, you'd have read I play an EUB and have experience at the DB too.

    So I think my comments qualify as "experienced opinions"...

  10. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Eve Hell from Eve Hell and the Razors uses a half size.


    Ha ha ha ha haaaa!!!
  11. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    I have a Palatino EUB and a 3/4 DB. I also owned the Czech-Ease in the past. And, last night, I carried an electric bass for some distance, but would have made more sense to put it on my handtruck.

    I really do not see any big difference between shlepping a Palatino, a Czech-Ease, or a 3/4 DB or even an electric. I am older, I am female. I probably do not have strong hands (but my fine DB teacher reminds me that strength is not the issue, it is technique), but I do work out anyway to strengthen my hands and my self.

    Transporting basses is all in HOW you transport them and the vehicle you put them in. I use a wheel on my bass for transporting and I use a quality portable foldable handtruck. Also, when I purchased my DB, I chose a carved one that seemed lighter than others and it is easy to get in and out of the car. I also use a lightweight bag, either a Mooradian or another cheaper, but but lightweight type of bag and the Mooradian and the no name one I have has the handles places in the right places to make is easy to pull the bass out of my vehicle and put it in. Mooradians are great for this. These was a recent thread about this topic.

    I also use amps, cabs, and speaker heads I can either carry or put on the portable hand truck. MY DBs fit just fine in my Toyota Matrix, and there have been many good posts about vehicles for transporting basses. Transporting just IS and it is really not a problem. Its just part of being a bassist, and I had to fine tune my equipment so it works for me through trial and error. Transporting the EB would have been no problem if I had used a lighter case anyway, so, my fault.

    I went through all this stuff about wanting something lighter, portable, thinner, smaller, etc., but the truth is that I figured out how to transport this stuff with no problem and I personally became stronger just by doing this. I went to a luthier and got the neck shaved just right for me and action set so it is not real high, had the Laborie surgery on my bass, because that is most comfortable for me as a classical and jazz player, and I chose accessories and set ups that work right for me. I do not hurt myself transporting and/or playing basses.

    So, unless you have a medical problem, you should be fine with a 3/4 bass.

    A 1/2 size bass is generally for children and, no, it will not sound as deep or full as a 3/4. I do not know of any adult classical or jazz DB player using one. You might look at 5/8 basses, but, again, they will not be as deep sounding.

    I have learned much by trial and error, traded in or sold several basses, amps, accessories, bags, equipments, even bows, and made trips to the luthier until I got it right for me but I think I finally have it right for me and I think this set up will work for me for many years.
  12. powerbass

    powerbass Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Did I get off to a bad start or what? I took offense to François' original post - my age is not an issue, I practice extensively at jazz bass and theory playing fretless BG, I have a great teacher who plays upright and would prefer to teach me on a DB. I have an opportunity to step up professionally to DB and start gigging and participating more extensively in the local jazz scene. To me $2000.00 or even $1000.00 is more than I can spend right now. The 1/2 size I played was $700.00 and I have seen them for less. I make my own BG's and I have made my own EUB so I know how those instruments work and sound - at least what I have made or tried in shops. I need portability because I mainly walk or ride a bike (the 1/2 size can fit into a bike trailer), gigging I can use a car. My house is very small and I mean small, a 3/4 size bass is like another person and there is not room for another person here. Weakish hands? The 1/2 size felt like a good "transition" from a BG to an DB, smaller neck etc. I am not trying to be snotty. Just tried to keep it simple and see if anyone other than kids used 1/2 size basses.
  13. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Well then, simply put, you don't have the opportunity to step up to the DB unless you find some amazing deal. If $1000 is more than you can spend, then either borrow or rent an instrument until you can save more or find that miracle deal. Going with a 1/2-size just doesn't seem a sensible alternative for reasons given by others. You're not the first person to be in this position. These threads are full of similar stories. The answer is always the same and for good reason. That is, if buying a new bass, then including a good setup (which is of paramount importance), you won't get away for less than about $1200.

    ...but there is room for a 1/2 size? :confused:

    Yes, those were your words.

    This has been covered. If you want to play the DB, then realize that it is a different instrument than the BG. You will not be served well by seeking a DB that feels as much as possible like a BG.

    Sometimes the tone of our words here don't come off as intended. The bottom line is this. If you want to learn to play the DB, then learn to play the DB. Your best choice is a "3/4" instrument, you'll need to spend $1200-1500 (unless you find a great deal), and you will have to accommodate storing and transporting it.

    If you don't want to really play the DB, then fine. That's entirely your choice. The direction you're going though is one in which you'll kinda, sorta, be doing something like playing the DB. That's not going to cut it if you want to "start gigging and participating more extensively in the local jazz scene" as a double bass player. That's especially true if, as you indicated, you want to do so "professionally." This is not to categorically state that if you're playing a 1/2-size, then you just aren't playing the double bass. I'll go with jgbass here:

    If you want to reach your own stated goals, then you gotta step in with both feet.

    That's my $0.02-worth. :)
  14. Powerbass is a strange, or at least, confusing name for one who keeps professing to have "weakish" hands.
    Drub has been right on the $ when he refers to our instrument as the DOUBL BASS instead of the upright as you seem to prefer. Some of us can live with just BASS, but find standup, and upright rather abrasive.
    Drub and the other cats have given you more than than enough info in a respectable and patient way. I think at least a thank you is in order.
    By the way, you still haven't explained what the "weakish" hands issue is all about.
    As Francois mentioned about his credentials, check my profile to to see if I have " experienced opinions".
    Best of luck, you'll need it.
  15. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Thanks. Indeed, I find "upright" and "standup" aversive. Yup, double bass, string bass, or bass. I can live with those. :)
  16. dchan


    Nov 19, 2005
    Bethlehem, PA
    If this is all true, then why did you ask whether you should wait for a 4/4 bass or not? It's just confusing, is all.

    But buying a 1/2 size bass isn't as easy as you make it to be. Well, it could be, if you aren't too discriminating. But generally, you won't be able to find a decent 1/2 sized instrument at almost any price because the whole DB market is skewed towards roughly 3/4 sized basses. It's just the way things are, but like someone said above, it's not impossible to find a good 1/2 sized bass; it's just very difficult.

    Moving on. The most important thing is to be patient before you buy. Get your DB teacher to come along with you so he/she can try out the instrument and give a stamp of approval. Find a local DB luthier and have him/her evaluate whether the bass is solid enough as is or is a complete disaster that's not worth fixing. Read the newbie threads to get to know the terminology and the theory behind the DB because it will help you out in the long run.
  17. I've only heard one truly nice-sounding 1/2 size bass; an early 1970's Suzuki, probably made in Korea. Thing was a bit thin on the open E, but only a bit, and had great clarity through most of the fingerboard on all strings. With the setup tweaked a bit it was powerful enough to play unamplified in a smaller club, and of course with a pickup it'd do just fine anywhere. But all the other 1/2 size basses I've seen come through for setups and repairs have basically been a waste of good plywood, or worse, good spruce and maple. No real sound at all. Usually too heavily built for the smaller size, and so rather unresponsive, especially on the lower strings.

    I'd suggest that you consider a smaller 3/4, especially looking for something with about a 41" string length, and with a shallower than average rib - say... 8" deep at the bottom tapered to 6" or 6.5" up near the neck joint. If you can also find a narrower upper bout that would probably help in getting around the thing as well.

    But of course if the budget is severely constrained, just about any $700 bass in playable condition is going to be easy to say yes to. Get the post and bridge and fingerboard set up optimally for the sort of music you play and your own tastes in sound, and that shouldn't take the total cost over $1000 or so (or you could do the setup yourself, if you have some experience and do some online research into the parameters etc.)

    Thing is though, ultimately the doublebass is a huge set of compromises. The pitch range is such that really, everyone should be playing a 5/4 size bass! Even a monster 4/4 bass has to be very nicely made to properly support the low E, and if you're talking C or B extended low notes, fugetaboutit. But we humans tend to be generally sub-basketball-player sized, so a 3/4, or sometimes a 7/8 size bass is really about all that's manageable. So we live with that, try to find ways to optimally set them up for the best low-end response possible, and move on with just making music as best we can. Same sort of logic applies to your wanting a 1/2 size. If it's what you want/need, get it. I'm a bit puzzled as to all the asking. I mean, it sort of sounds like you're seeking reassurances around something you're already pretty much determined to do anyway, and it's not like considering donating a kidney. It's a bass fer cryin' out loud. Buy it, see if it suits you for a year or two, and if/when it doesn't, move up to something a little closer to a properly scaled doublebass.
  18. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Really, how come? Just curious, 'cause I don't and didn't realize others did.
  19. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Read all about it here. :)
  20. Thanks D...yer a prince.;)

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