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3 string Bass "Betot"

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by arvidgunardi, Jan 28, 2002.

  1. Anybody knows or seen or played a 3 string upright?

    Here in Indonesia, we have a style of music call "keroncong", and they sometimes use a 3 string upright. And they call upright bass "bass betot"(ber-tot)...thought that was interesting.

    I was just curious if the 3 string bass be considered normal or not.

  2. Andrew_S.


    Jul 24, 2001
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Strangely enough, I was just in a record store yesterday and saw an album (I am struggling with the name here) cover that had a group of instruments layed out in a field and one of them happened to be a three sring bass. I stared at it for a little while thinking "I wonder if this is a three string bass or a four string that happens to be missing a string". I wonder how they are strung? I am curious about this as well...
  3. A few centuries ago or so, 3-string basses were the norm. I'm not sure how they were tuned.

    In fact, many of the fine old basses being played today with 4 strings started out as 3-stringers.

    I'm sure someone here (or even an internet search) can provide you with more than enough info on this.
    korndogg524 likes this.
  4. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    I just read a book about the evolution of the Double Bass this past week end. Here is what the book said.

    During the 17th and 18th centurys there the bass family diverged into two lines the four string and the 3 string with the 4 string version being used in Germany and the 3 string version being used in France, Italy, and England. It was thought that the 3 string version had better tone. Then around 1800 there was a migration away from the three string version and then an abandament a generation later when the old teachers died off. An example of this was in the Paris Conservatory whare all first year students were required to use the three string version then when the master died his replacement made it optional then he died and his replacement dropped the three string version all togather. There were several tunning scheams for the three string version while the 4 string version was the EADG we all know today. From 1800 to 1850 English Bass players were looked on with great favor, note that this was during the time Dragonette (sp?) was in England (1795-184?) and was most likely the reason.

  5. Fluke


    Jul 20, 2002
    I'm interested in Kroncong music,can you tell me what are some great artists there?

    Actually 3-string contras are still pretty common in folk ensembles all over europe, especially east europe where they are used together with modified violas for a kind of chordal arco comping style. I've even seen a few on very old pictures of american fiddle bands! There are also some strange little "folk basses" that look like cellos, but they're usually tuned A D G. And some of them use plain rope for strings!
  6. Joe,

    What is the name of the book and the author, if you would be so kind?
  7. Sprinkler

    Sprinkler [account disabled]

    Jul 31, 2002
    when i was on vacation in france,(avignon) i saw 3 bands that used 3string contrabasses...
  8. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    ...and when I was running around Rome in June of this year, I saw two different groups with three-string basses among their number. In both cases, the music was traditional/"gypsy" stuff, and the bassists were amazing players who could fill a public space (a piazza around a fountain, for example) with gorgeous, unamplified, gut-string sound. I didn't have the opportunity to see (hear) what kind of tuning they were using, but they both were playing some serious stuff. Put me in *my* place, that's for sure!
  9. Kevinlee


    May 15, 2001
    Phx, AZ..USA
    I happen to own a three string. It is approximatly 80 years old, Russian made, and badly in need of some repairs. I did play it pretty steadily for about a year though before some serious crack set in.

    I tuned it E A D...no G string.

    It took a little getting used to but I got pretty comfortable with it. You just leave out all the high register stuff.

  10. olps


    Nov 12, 2001
    Pictures, we need pictures! Seriously though, you are very fortunate. How did you come by owning this instrument?
  11. Kevinlee


    May 15, 2001
    Phx, AZ..USA
    An ex-girlfriend of mine bought it for me. $200.00
    She found it at this little vintage guitar shop. It was badly beat (and still is really) but me and a guitar player I was playing with at the time got her playable.

    Anyway I ran into a few of the previous owners who led me to beleave it was made in mexico.

    But it turns out It was Russian made, they use to import instruments through Mexico back in those days. So I am told anyway. A guy whom I bought my carved bass told me all this when he looked at it. He's sort of specializes in old string instruments.

    So he's the one who dated it and so forth. Who knows?

    It's definitly one of a kind though.

    Heres a pic

    (excuse the paint job, I was going through a phase)

  12. Kevinlee


    May 15, 2001
    Phx, AZ..USA
  13. coyoteboy

    coyoteboy easy there, Ned Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Sactomato, CA
    When I studied string bass in college (I really miss the big bass) my teacher had a 3 to 4 string converted bass that was amazing. Narrow string spacing, and a smaller than average radius made for very easy playing for arco and pizz. since then I wonder why modern basses have what I find an unnecesarily wide string spacing and the flatter raduis which requires more precise bow technique. I'm certainly not advocating sloppy arco technique, but I just found the setup of this bass much easier to play than the "standard" 4-string that I had available from the school.

    any one else have/favor a narrower spacing and/or smaller radius setup?
  14. When our local adult orchestra rehearses at the high school I use an old King bass that is there instead of lugging along the bass that I keep at home. The King has a narrower string spacing but I can't say that I prefer one or the other. I have pretty big hands but I don't have any trouble with the King. The next time we rehearse I will try to pay more attention to my left hand.
  15. coyoteboy

    coyoteboy easy there, Ned Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Sactomato, CA
    Actually, most of the difference I felt in the narrow spacing/small radius was in the right hand arco playing. I noticed less arm movement bowing string to string. I don't mean to make too much of this difference, just curious of those who might have the same thoughts about this kind of setup.
  16. Spotty


    Mar 8, 2013
    basically I think I have a 3 strings bass as well.
    I can tell from the headstock I was refurbishing.
    But it seems to have been switched over to 4 string, leaving a plugged up hole in the middle of the headstock where the middle string used to be before it was substituted with two middle strings.
    I might be able to post a pic of it as my id picture.
  17. tyb507

    tyb507 Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2004
    Burlington, Vermont
    I have an un-converted three string "blockless wonder" in pieces in my basement shop. It was given to me. It's funky, and in awful condition (aside from being in pieces). A previous owner extensively "repaired" it with gobs of Gorilla Glue. The luan cleats on the front are nowhere near making contact with the front due to the expansion of the glue! The scroll is enormous and club-like, but not altogether inelegant. Needs a neck block, countless cracks repaired in the top, new c-bout ribs, and refinishing. Surprisingly, the flat back is free of cracks. Might someday be strung up again....
  18. Jsn

    Jsn upright citizen

    Oct 15, 2006
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Wow, a thread resurrected after eleven and a half years! And there's not much about the topic that's changed in the interim.
  19. wdave


    Apr 7, 2008
    3 string bass in action!
  20. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    There's also this thread: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f1/advantages-three-string-bass-928760/

    Edicson Ruiz sometimes performs on a three string bass.

    I found a similar blockless 3-string wonder in the back of band store a few years ago. It's finally coming "online" (I got to play it last week before it the finishing process started). It has a handcarved poplar round back now and sounds amazing. Photo (unvarnished) below.


    Attached Files:

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