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1/2 Size for an Adult?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Lombax, Feb 21, 2010.


  1. I've owned a 3/4 upright that ive been playing off and on for roughly 10 years. I found an engelhardt 1/2 size bass for sale and I am interested in buying it. I play a mix of folk and jazz in an acoustic trio. The 1/2 size seems more portable and I was wondering if it would be a big difference switching from a 3/4 to a 1/2. Any thoughts, suggestions, cautions? Please let me know what you think. I am 5'8". Thanks
     
  2. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I am not much taller than you, and get around a 3/4 just fine. I think it's more a matter of technique than the size of your body. Also, a KC Strings Bass Buggie will make your bass much more portable.

    My own thoughts are along these lines. I am not a full time pro, but just a day jobber and weekend warrior. I feel so lucky to play at all, that I want to treat every gig like it might be my last. So I will ask you from that perspective: If you've got a 3/4 bass in the house, are you really going to take out the 1/2 size?

    If at all possible, give these basses a long trial side by side.
     
  3. bmp
     
  4. I spent quite some time playing my daughter's 1/2 size bass (which was really a pretty good student instrument - easy to play and in good condition), before I bought my own 3/4.

    The string length was significantly shorter on the 1/2, and the volume was noticeably lower. Not to mention it was difficult to get into a normal playing position (though I expect with an extra long end pin that could be solved).

    Additionally most 1/2's are beginner instruments, unless your current 3/4 is not a very good instrument to begin with, I expect you'll be trading off some tonal quality as well.

    As for portability? I have never found a 3/4 to be too heavy or hard to get around, and I am a not very fit 5' 11".

    I would expect it's a poor trade off, unless your current instrument is poor and you happen to come across an unusually good 1/2.
     
  5. PauFerro

    PauFerro

    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I agree that with a shorter instrument, you need some kind of amplification in just about any situation where people aren't sitting a few feet from you, and the other instruments are not quiet. Otherwise, the shorter instrument comes out on top in terms of portability and ease in getting around on it. I have a sub I call for when I am not available for gigs I book. He told me he bought a 1/2 size after several years of 3/4 size work due to portability. It's amazing how practical some people get when they have to actually expend calories in hauling their gear.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017 at 2:46 PM
  6. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    To clarify, I don't think Englehardt makes a 1/2-scale bass. It's a 1/4, right?
     
  7. AFAIK, Englehardt does not make a 1/2 size DB. Kay certainly did, as did Framus. Some Asian factories do as well. Half-sizers are nice for street busking.
     
  8. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I'm sorry, no. An illustration of a 1/2-scale bass appears in one Kay catalog that we know of, but we have not seen a surviving example and there's no evidence that the tooling ever existed -- which is why Englehardt doesn't make them either.
     
  9. You would know better than I would. I have seen the M2 listed along with the M3 and M1 in a 1959 issue of The Instrumentalist magazine. Don't know if that's the catalog you mean. But the question is raised, what then are those basses on eBay advertised as half-size Kays?
     
  10. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    People often look at a 1/4 bass and imagine it's 1/2 because of the body size. But a true 1/2 isn't much smaller than a 3/4.
     
  11. If basses started surfacing with an M2 label, how would that affect the conventional wisdom? If any M2s were made at all, one would have to think that at least *some* would have survived.
     
  12. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    That's interesting! The M-2, a 3/4-scale bass, is an upgrade M-1 offered before the war (many for military use), and wasn't available that late. I estimate that Kay made about 350 M-2s '37-'39. The 1/4 H-10 started in 1947 and became the M-3 with new corporate management in '56.

    Apologies for hijacking the thread!
     
  13. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    1/2 size basses are no big deal for those who can already play. Starting on small basses is not recommended for a whole host of reasons.
     
  14. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    Do you feel that holds for, say, an 11-year-old?
     
    damonsmith likes this.
  15. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    No. It is great for kids to start on.
     
  16. Bisounourse

    Bisounourse

    Jun 21, 2012
    Gent, Belgium
    And I know that 13 year old me, who had to start on a 1/2 bass ,was really hoping to grow physically as fast as I could so I could play a real 3/4 DB like the other grown ups.
    It felt like a reward and aknowledgement when I finally was able to move to a 3/4 DB 2 years later.
     
    Roger Davis likes this.
  17. Neil Pye

    Neil Pye

    Apr 13, 2016
    Horsham, UK
    Much as I don't like 1/4 size basses, I have to admit to a pang of jealousy towards those of you who started young enough to need one! All those years of teenage music-making! I didn't start learning DB till I was 16....
     
  18. Just to throw a monkey wrench into the discussion, the 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 age demographic largely is a creation of 20th century public education orchestra programs and the Association of String Teachers. Yet DBs in multiple sizes have existed for long before PE and the AST. In their historical context, for what applications were these smaller basses intended?
     
  19. Bisounourse

    Bisounourse

    Jun 21, 2012
    Gent, Belgium
    Two years ago I played a duo with a 8 or 9 year old girl during a recital. She was 1m35 or someting like that (which would be 4ft5-ish) and played a 1/16 or 1/8 DB. I think she could fit twice in my DB with her bass, but she had so much joy playing her 'little' DB (although her bass was as big as she was). (And for me it was also great for practising playing in ppp).