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2 DB Questions So Far Left Unanswered

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by joon, Jun 15, 2002.

  1. joon


    Mar 16, 2002
    Manila, Philippines

    I've been a long time lurker in the DB forum, primarily because I have no DB yet (but will in 2 weeks, woohoo! :D) and because every information/lesson/whatever stuff I need has been discussed already... until now.

    Just 2 questions actually:

    1. What are the advantages / disadvantages of a 3/4 size DB vs. a 7/8 size? There's a thread about sizes already, though it hasn't been answered yet. For uniformity's sake, you can answer at this thread: Sizes of Double Basses (3/4, 7/8, 4/4)

    2. What are the advantages / disadvantages of a round back vs. flat back? The bass I'm eyeing right now has a round back, as well as rounded portions in front at about the area of the F-holes.

    And also, an extra question that doesn't really need immediate answer: The DB I mentioned has 4 strings, however, at the "headstock" (sorry I dunno the DB term for it :oops:) there's an extra slot for another, 5th tuner! The owner said it was once a 5-string DB. Of course the FB, bridge and tailpiece have all been converted for 4-string. My question is, are all 4-string DBs convertible to 5-string or should the DB be structurally designed to handle 5 strings?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. ToneDaBass


    Jun 5, 2002
    Irvine, CA
    I think the flat vs. round dilema has already been discussed some in the Flatback vs. Roundback thread. I hope you can find some answers there... :cool:
  3. joon


    Mar 16, 2002
    Manila, Philippines
    Oops, I certainly missed that one... Oh well, I got that part already answered then. Thanks ToneDaBass!
  4. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Why do you insist that the differences between 3/4 and 7/8 be expressed as advantages/disadvantages?
    As was pointed out in the other thread, there are no standard dimensions. Therefore, two 3/4 basses can be just as different as a 3/4 and a 7/8. Anyone who claims that all 7/8's are __ __ __, whatever, hasn't played enough basses.
    What matters most to most players is sound, which does not necessarily correlate to size. Just last week it was noted on another thread that Dave Holland is playing a 3/4 that is small enough that it approaches 5/8.
  5. joon


    Mar 16, 2002
    Manila, Philippines
    Sorry Don, but you misunderstand my question. Mostly my fault, so let me rephrase and be more specific:

    Regarding the sizes, you're right, I haven't played that much DB, and the only DB playing I ever did was when testing out ones that are for sale. I guess what I'm trying to ask is, what's the difference between a DB and another DB bigger (or smaller) than it?

    All DBs have different sound qualities regardless of dimension, I know, but besides tone and sound, what would 2 basses of different sizes have in contrast? A bigger one tends to be louder, yes. But what about playability? Do bigger ones have bigger scales on the FB? etc. etc.

    I dunno if there are too many new answers for this, but if there aren't, and I'm just being redundant, I apologize.
  6. joon


    Mar 16, 2002
    Manila, Philippines

    Point taken. But out of curiousity: all things being equal (wood, string used, construction, shape, luthier...) EXCEPT body size, which one would be louder?

    Does this mean that a bass being 3/4 or 1/2 or 4/4 etc. doesn't have anything to do with string length? I was under the impression that body size is proportional to string length. And how is string length determined anyway? By distance between tailpiece (or bridge) and nut, I assume? Let me read more on that...

    Thanks! And hope you have the patience to keep up with me. I'm a real newbie, see... [currently a slab player going to DB hopefully by next week] :oops:
  7. I would say that a 1/2 size bass would necessarily have a shorter string length.

    I have what is described as a 7/8 bass, but the string length on is the same as the company's 3/4 model. The lower bout is wider and the ribs are deeper, but I would say it's the same length from scroll to endpin as the 3/4 made by the same company.

    I bought it not because it was loud, but because it had a much warmer sound that the 3/4.
  8. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    Between bridge and nut, aka mensur. Not necessarily proportional to body size. Body shape and proportions can vary a lot within each size class.

    By the way... my hybrid bass (7/8 size, maybe large 3/4) has a 44" string length... do we have a winner? :D
  9. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Repeat after me:

    String length alone does not determine bass size.
    Size alone does not dictate tone or projection.
    All basses are different.

    Keep saying this until the urge to post goes away.

    When you find a bass whose sound you like, see if it's playable. If not, move on. You'll be surprised at how much you can adapt when the sound is there.
  10. sound has to be your first consideration

    playability is second, and its a close second only if you're expecting to do some serious technical work, which as a new convert to DB seems unlikely

    looks - a distance third. [note that many, maybe most of the diehards here might drool over the look of certain basses, but, as you can clearly see from the posts above, looks are just for looking. If you're gonna own it and play it, looks, and shape and design, etc. come third]

    Also, a lot of the basic playability is detremined by the setup, i.e. stuff your luthier can fix to some extent by fidding with bridge, nut, strings and fingerboard dressing

    Beyond that, for the grosser playability considerations you should look first at your own physiognomy. If you have long arms and long fingers you pretty much can learn to play any bass to its potential. If your arms are on the short side of normal, as mine are, watch out for too-high shoulders and too much depth in upper ribs. These will tend to make accessibility to the upper reaches of fingerboard and to near-bridge bowing positions too much of a reach. To play such a bass in these positions you'll have to spread your shoulders and hunch your back too much, and your playing will suffer from the resultant tension. If your fingers are very long and/or hands are quite wide, then any mensure should be playable. If not, avoid basses that come in at maybe 42" or more. Personally, I only buy basses at 41" or less. (Erik II, how DO you play that bear?)

    As for sound, that's tougher. listen to recordings of bass sounds you like, take some notes, and try to form in your mind a clearer, more articulate description of what you want and don't want in your sound. Then, when you play trial basses, remember, its surprisingly difficult to hear exactly what a bass sounds like from playing position. The answer is to get someone else to play it while you listen from a distance of maybe 10-20ft off. In a pinch, playing to a wall, maybe 10-15ft off, and listening for the reflected sound can help you figure out what the bass is doing, soundwise.

    Play pizz and arco, all strings, across a range of open, low neck, mid neck and thumb posititions, and at two or three volumes. Take notes, or better, take some recordings with a decent walkman record and a decent mic. Go home, think about it, narrow down the candidate list, and try it again.

    Also, remember that strings can affect sound a fair amount. It takes a fair amount of experience with DBs to be able to anticipate how a given bass might sound with very different type of strings on. Also keep in mind that a good player can get a lot of different sounds out of any bass. A really great player with a distinctive, signature sound, (pizz or arco!) is going to sound like himself to a surprising extent no matter what bass he plays on.

    Another problem, despite your EB experience, if you're completely new to DB, you won't be able get a decent sound on any bass with a bow; worse, although it may surprise you to hear me say so, trust me, you can't really pizz a double bass either. If you're really serious about getting the sound you want, as good as possible within your budget and basic playability requirements, you need an experienced DBist to give you some help.

    Re-reading this, it sounds pretty daunting, though I didn't mean it to sound that way. Just Anyway, welcome to double basses, and good luck, Joon. Come back and let us know how you make out.
  11. joon


    Mar 16, 2002
    Manila, Philippines

    Alright, no need to push it, sir. I'm sure most of us here has been through this phase of being really sensitive to details (nitpicky, if you will) in buying something that's gonna be a long-time investment. I'm just exploring every angle, nook and cranny so that when I do get that bass I like, I'm gonna be confident that my decision is right and good. I've explored this forum vastly, getting as much information as I can, and I just asked those questions unclear to me. I hope that's not too much of a bug for really experienced people like you. With all due respect, sir.

    Probably one of the simplest and good advices I've heard, except that from where I am (the Philippines), a quality DB is so rare (we also get the China Cremonas, but it doesn't sound so good) that when I get the chance to check out a pre-owned DB, I better damn well make sure it's really not for me, otherwise, I'd have to wait another year for another seller to present.

  12. joon


    Mar 16, 2002
    Manila, Philippines
    This is THE universal law in choosing an instrument, and I am adhering to it first and foremost. :)

    My own rule here is that if I, having zero DB playing experience, can play some simple bass lines without too much effort, then I'd conclude it's playable. I'd just go to a luthier if I need some more adjustments done.

    True, and I don't care much for looks either. the reason I made this thread is just to know more about the CURRENT bass I'm looking at, being that it's quite different physically from the usual guitar store variety I'm used to seeing. I just want some sort of input about the things I observed when I tested the bass.

    My fingers are indeed pretty long, and that might help on basses with larger scales. Besides that, I'm your average-sized dude. I do plan to gain more weight, as bassist seem to look better like this :D

    I haven't measured string length when I tried it, but I'll go and check the next time.

    That's what I like about the DB: a great new thing to study and learn, despite the obvious challenges, at the same time getting that sound that I have evolved into liking. Can't wait!

    That's why I've been in this forum longer than the time I spend sleeping, heheh. And though you can count the number of jazz DBers here in my country, I've been able to know one and am constantly asking for his help.

    Daunting? Not at all! The more stuff and information I get, the better. And your single post has added more to my arsenal of DB-hunting howtos. And thanks for the welcome. I've always thought people in this forum are really helpful (and infested with great humor!) when I was just lurking, and now that I've posted, I've never been more right! :)

    And to everyone else, big thanks, I appreciate it.
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    Also with all due respect, if you'd filled out your profile, I bet the lack of availability of Double Basses in your neck of the woods would have been taken into consideration by some of the posters who might seem a bit - for lack of a better word - curmudgeonly. That said, you're doing fine. Don't let the whole issue of diving into the deep end of the pool become overwhelming. Worst case scenario is that you might have to travel a bit to get your first bass, but that wouldn't be the end of the world, would it? Keep asking questions, and you'll keep getting answers. Sometimes the most blunt answers end up being the ones that shed the most light in the long run. Keep on keeping on.
  14. Joon, don't know what your budget is, but if you're on Luzon you should go to Angeles City and see Jacques Gagnon. He and his guys make very fine basses for export. They don't turn out much quantity, but these are NOT in the same class as 95% of the cheap Chinese basses. (In fact, there are a few quite nice basses made in China, but precious few, and their reputation is sullied by all the Palatinos and that ilk.) There are plenty of good orchestras and players around the world playing Gagnon's basses. By buying there you might get one for substantially less than international price, saving them the shipping.

  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Hmmm....an interesting thread to read and shows up the difference in attitudes, which you notice when you look through this board for a while.

    I suppose when I first came here, it was to ask questions about gear I had bought or was intending to buy; but it is hugely noticable how much the BG side focuses on buying stuff and how little is about what you are actualy going to do with that "stuff"!!

    Although I mostly play BG, I often feel happier with the feel and "ambience" over here, as I just get irritated with the unhealthy obsession with acquisition, that seems to characterise the BG side.

    So for me, of course you try to get the best tools for the job; but then you ought to be decisive enough to say - "right that's as good as I'm going to get, now let's get on with making some music and learning about the possibilities."

    So - as somebody interested in music, I spend 90 - 95% of the time I have available thinking about music - that is ,what you're going to play and about 5% thinking about the gear - but I get the feeling that on the BG side it's the other way round!! ;)

    Oh well - that's my early morning rant out the way - back to work!! :D
  16. joon


    Mar 16, 2002
    Manila, Philippines
    Chris: Thanks for the boost. It's just that buying this DB is something of a dilemma. I do like how it sounds, way better than any of the Cremonas I've tried, but since I really haven't tried that many, I'm unsure if the sound I like right now would be the same one I'd want in a few years, when I'm more exposed to the instrument. And I'd hate to let go of this one, only to find out that the next ones I see (perhaps some months later) are inferior to this. Happens all the time to me... It's like waiting for a ride home, then a packed bus comes along, and you think you'd just take the next one, but the next one doesn't arrive after a few hours, plus it's much more packed than the previous one.

    Sorry, I'm starting to go into pour-thoughts-out mode. But it's all for good measure, just in case anyone here can relate to these current thoughts of mine.

    Also, I just updated my profile (complete with sig). I didn't realize people actually look at user profiles! Sorry about that...

    Oh yeah, that was one hard word you used, had to look it up:


    myrick: Wow, I didn't even know Mr. Gagnon has his own site! Yes, he's quite popular here esp. among the classical musicians. His shop is around 2 hours drive from here. I'm waiting for the price for his low-end basses (asked through e-mail), but I'm pretty sure it's way beyond my budget. As an example, I just saw a Gagnon 5-string at the Kolstein site, which costs $15000!

    Incidentally, the wood used in that bass (calantas, or Philippine mahogany) is the same wood used in my prospective bass. Quite a comforting fact, methinks :D

    I do plan to go there to get my accessories, eg. gig bag, endpin, as well as for some minor adjustments.

    Thanks again! You've been a big help!
  17. joon


    Mar 16, 2002
    Manila, Philippines
    I can second that idea, now that you've mentioned it. I've also lurked for a while in the BG section, as well as asked some questions about a BG being sold to me a while back (which I think I'll buy too, but maybe in the next year). Back then I was obsessed with getting a good amp, a good effects processor, a good DI, etc. Fortunately, I was able to subdue that urge, right when I decided I'd put 100% focus on playing jazz. Right now, it's simply the urge to buy a good quality instrument. The obsession with that doesn't really go away.

    Which is really the GREAT problem. You spend time looking at a good instrument for you, passing up on those you don't like, looking more, passing more up, etc. Until you've spent months or even years and still didn't find the right one. I was actually about to buy a really cheapo guitar shop DB (until this second-hand bass happened), because I want to get it with already, start with playing enough of searching.

    So the problem is, how do you balance between finding the perfect bass for yourself but also not spending too much time searching for it lest you get delayed in learning the craft longer and longer and longer...

    Such is life. :(
  18. Ed,

    Which issue of Double Bassist was that?
  19. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN
    Double Bassist - Autumn/Winter 1998 #7 pp 14-17.
  20. Thanks Tim. It looks like that issue is sold out.

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