1/2 size

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by SBassman, Jan 14, 2006.

  1. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    How does one go about choosing the correct size for a double bass?

    I'm short - 5'6" - and I have always had an affinity for short scale electrics. Someday I want to start working on an upright, and if the tone isn't massively compromised, I'd be thinking about a 1/2 size.

    Any advice on choosing the correct size when starting out?

    Thank you.
  2. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    You may wish to look at a 5/8 instead.
    I have small hands, and that was the scale I was most comfortable with.
    The scale was 100 cm (39 1/2 inches).
    An half scale could be too much a compromise as for the tone and volume.
    My EUB's scale is 3/4 but I was happier with the 5/8 of the last AUB I owned.
  3. glivanos

    glivanos Supporting Member

    Jun 24, 2005
    Philadelphia Area
    There are two on sale on eBay right now. One new and one old beat up one.
  4. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    I have to consult the rules here - I'm not sure if we can cite eBay listings, but if are you referring to model or seller you would recommend, could you post the link or message it to me? Thank you.
  5. I have been able to find charts and recommendations for viola, cello, violin, but not bass on how to choose the correct size for children. I have talked to both of my daughter's teachers and also several places like Lemur ( got to talk to the owner even) but there seems to be no consistently applicable rule. She is 4'8" (11 years old) with fairly small hands, and will most likely reach around 5'4" in the next three-four years. Exactly when she will have her growth spurts is just a guess. How do I determine a safe size for her to play now without injuring herself? One teacher feels she could play a 3/4 size now if it has narrow upper bouts. Her other teacher says that is unwise and that she needs another 5 inches to be able to play a 3/4.

  6. Dan in NJ

    Dan in NJ

    Sep 3, 2004
    Jersey Shore
    Can't speak to Michelle's question but to Frank I would agree with Francois (sorry bro--can't do a cedille or accents)--

    the half-size may be too small--try a 5/8ths, I have one and I love it--

  7. philly


    Nov 20, 2004
    Just my two cents-

    I'm a reformed guitar player. I thought , like you that a smaller bass would be the way to go. The fact, however, is that with a 3/4 you have SO MANY more choices, and when you want to sell the 1/2 size it to move up to the 3/4 you should have gotten to begin with, there just isn't much market for them. Generally speaking the smaller basses are made for kids, with every intention that they'll move on as soon as they can handle a bigger bass.
    There are of course exceptions, and there are guys who love their smaller basses. I'm a smaller guy(about your size) and the 3/4 size bass that I finally bought is not a problem to get around at once you get a teacher and learn a little technique.
    So I guess my advice is : don't let size of the bass be what guides you in your purchase, find something playable (well set up) and that sounds good and you'll figure out how to play it.
    You'll find that you'll be able to play many more 3/4 basses than 1/2 -5/8 size to base your decision on.
  8. It is.
    Yes. Don't buy a 1/2.
    Lyn Christie plays a nice 5/8, looks like a Juzek. But I had a wonderful Kay S-1, 3/4, string length 40.5". I believe you can find a 3/4 that will work for you.
  9. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Can you or others say more why? Thanks.
  10. philly


    Nov 20, 2004
    Because 1/2 size instuments are always gonna have serious deficiencies in tone and volume. Besides, if your going to bother to make this leap, and believe me on this one, it is a leap, 1/2 size or not, why not go all the way. I totally understand the impulse to get a smaller bass, I did, and one month later went for the real thing. With the amount of practice neccesary to get good at this thing, the size (within reason, of course)is the least of your worries (except of course when lugging around the NYC subway system). As don higdon says (and he knows alot more about this than either of us) with a little time and effort , you'll find a 3/4 that works for you.
  11. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Thanks. Helpful comments.

    I'm 5'6". How am I going to hold and play something towering over me?

    :crying: :)
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Dimentions vary greatly within each estimated size as well. Bass size is not an exact formula like shoes or car tires. There is String length, Shoulder width and slope, Body length, Bout width, Rib Depth, Top table arch, D-neck or Eb-neck or inbetween or neither..etc..

    I will now Post some Pic Links of my Basses for the sole reason of size variations. Each Bass posted IS a 3/4 size. I also have several 7/8 with similar variations but we will stick to 3/4 for now. Look at the 'measurement charts' of each Bass and compare the different areas. Also, look at the shoulders which cannot really be measured coupled with the Back-bend to the Neck and upper bout length from the corner to the Neck Block. Also, each Bass has a different neck stand and Pitch angle to the Top not to mention String lengths from 40.5" to almost 43" all within the 3/4 sized Bass... Ok, here goes;


    And last, with no measurements is a Pic of me playing my 1997 Shen 3/4 Gamba. This is the modern 3/4 with sloped shoulders and a 41" string lenght; http://www.kensmithbasses.com/ft/assemblysection/stress.html

    All 3/4 Basses with not 2 being the same..

    Now, to address the sound differences between these various 3/4 Bass I will tell you about a test that was recently done the the Martini vs the Loveri. Two Italian Basses that are both great and completly different with the Loveri being a cut-down bass from a larger 3/4 or even a small 7/8 depending on who is measuring.

    Don Z. (DZ) and myself played both Basses solo in a medium sized office and we each played one while the other played the other. It felt like the Martini drowned out the Loveri but you could hear the Loveri cutting thru on the top. Then we took them out in the hallway of my building in a 50'x35' area and played them. This time one person was at the front door and the other in the middle of the building playing each Bass back and forth. We also switched a couple of times so both of us could hear them A/B'd at least 2x. Up close the Basses were equal volume with the Martini covering more and thicker sound than the Loveri but the Loveri cut like a knife. Down the hall, the Martini was 4x (400%) thicker and fuller toned than the Loveri which had about the same volume and carrying power.

    The Loveri a Flat Backed Bass with cut-down sloped Shoulders and a flattish arched Top with a 41.5 inch String length shortened recently by moving the Bridge up to the top of the notch of the Fs instead of centered and a False Nut (not yet pictured) to correct the Heel note to a D-Neck stop which was inbetween D and Eb before. The Loveri was made in 1877 with full upper shoulders but altered to its present size by Scalzilli in 1937 with new Ribs as well. The Martini is a Round Back with highly arched Top and Back, the sound post being MUCH longer that the shallower breasted Loveri and having a 41.5" String length as well but being 100% original from 1919.

    The Loveri was made with Wood (Top and Back only) local to the Naples area in southern Italy and the Martini made with local Wood from the Mantua region of Northern Italy.

    So.. What's in a Size you ask? There is way more to it than that. Each Bass is completly different in this world so one has to find the Bass that does it for him. Playing the Double Bass in an upright position allows you to stretch your fingers easier and wider than playing horizontal on an Electric Bass. Switching Back and forth between a 34" scale Slab and a 41" DB feels natural to me. Don't cheat yourself on the music or the sound over a false perception about Bass size. The 3/4 is the standard size outside of the professional Orchestra for a reason.
  13. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    I'm 5'6" and play an Engelhardt ES-1 (3/4). If you adjust the endpin so that the nut is even with your eyebrows (forehead, hairline, etc.) the instrument will be taller than you - even if you're SIX foot six. The thinner neck of the Engelhard works best for my stubby fingers.

    I'd suggest you get over the idea that you're too short to play a "regular sized" bass and focus your search on the sound that's in your head.
  14. I gave you some wiggle room by suggesting a 5/8 if a 3/4 is absolutely too big. Just stay away from the 1/2. You'll be stuck with a bass no one else wants after you'ved moved up in size, which you will.
    You might have to spend some extra time looking. Basses don't come from cookie cutters. Shoulder slope, bout width and rib depth all bear on how the bass feels to play. And by the way, there are plenty of players putting up with less than ideal shapes because of the sound they can get. Go slow.
  15. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Excellent posts, everyone. Thank you very much.
  16. bassbaterie


    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    I have a nice 5/8 for sale, a old Tyrolean. It is loud, fairly bright and cuts through. String length 38 1/4", and the body depth is around 9" which gives it some more internal volume. I have been playing 5/8 for about 3 years but my teacher recommends I get on a bigger bass, which I did buy, a 3/4 with a very standard body size. Luckily the string length is just 40", and I don't think I would buy one any bigger than that. I love playing on the smaller bass and have more agility on it, but the bigger one has more low end, which is a satisfying thing for orchestra playing. Honestly, amplified, I think the small one sounds better. I am 5'8" and I do believe the smaller bass has been a big help.

    Actually jumped on TB today to do a search for 'bassetto'! Speaking of small basses. Wish there were more and better ways to get the scale shorter on a 3/4 bass. Maybe someday there will be a way.
  17. Super T,

    At age 11, my daughter (then 5' 4") was playing a 1/2 size bass, and had been for a couple of years. The important point is that she was comfortable and in command of the instrument, not struggling. Therefore she practiced longer and more consistently and had fun doing it. Needless to say she got really good as well. (She just made principle bass in her third all-county orchestra - she was third chair previously.)

    Her teacher felt that if she tried to make the switch to a 3/4 too soon she might have trouble developing correct technique both in the left hand and with the bow.

    When you consider how poorly set up many of the school and rental basses are, why place even greater stress on your daughter by letting her play a 3/4 at her age and size.

    I would be concerned that at best, she would become frustrated and loose interest, at worst that she might be on the road to physical injury.
  18. Thanks Hector for the feedback. My gal is so short and her hands are small. I didn't even realize that the small Kay she has been playing on was apparently a 1/4 which she suddenly lost access to unexpectedly. I will get on the search Monday. If I don't come up with an instrument soon she will lose her place in the sixth grade orchestra.

    Maybe I should just get a 1/4 Englehart so I don't break the bank and she can continue playing on something as close as possible to what she has been learning on. Then step up when she is a bit taller.I don't know if she will ever attain to a similar position to your daughter- but it's a no brainer that she can't if she injures herself now. Thanks, now I know what I need to do so I can get on it.

  19. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I noticed that Bob Gollihur has these 1/4 Englehardt basses listed on his site. Not sure how much it would cost to have it set up properly though.
  20. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    The principle bassist for the CSO here in Denver is Susan Cahill, a woman of rather small stature, and she is incredible with a standard 3/4. 5'6" really is not too bad- it would definately be worth trying some standard size basses- use a stool (sitting of course) if you think that could help. Try a rental bass and get a teacher and if you can't manage, give a 5/8 a shot. As said, a 1/2 is very dissapointing sonically.