5/4 Bass...seriously

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by EFischer1, May 13, 2005.

1. EFischer1Guest

Mar 17, 2002
New York, New York
2. Mudfuzz

Apr 3, 2004
OlyWA...
Looks playable to me

3. pklimaCommercial User

May 2, 2003
Kraków, Polska
Karoryfer Samples
It looks playable to me though upper register access probably ain't easy. I'd love to find out in person just how playable it is.

4. M_A_T_T

Mar 4, 2004
That's hardly bigger than my bass:

Width at the upper bout 21.25in (54cm)
Width at the centre bout 15.125in (38.5cm)
Width at the lower bout 27in (68.6cm)
LOB 46.375in (117.7cm)
St length 43in (109.3cm)

5. KSB - Ken SmithBannedCommercial User

Mar 1, 2002
Perkasie, PA USA
Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
6. EFischer1Guest

Mar 17, 2002
New York, New York

Thats interesting. So what exactly decides what "size" a bass really is. Is it a ratio of measurements that determines the size.

I suppose just seeing a bass called "5/4" makes me look at my 7/8 and say, "you have got to be kidding me"

pklima, you are definately right. I can imagine playing in the upper register requires some fairly serious acrobatics.

7. basswraith

Mar 10, 2003
Boston
I think "5/4" Is a typo
5/4 doesn't make mathematical sense.
How can you have 5 parts of some thing thats divisible by 4?
The "5" key next to the "4" key and the writer perhaps hit the "5" by accident. Must have ment 4/4 size bass..a full size.
Or things are just very different over there in the Contrabass UK.

8. Trevorus

Oct 18, 2002
Urbana, IL
You can have 5/4ths. It would be 1.25. But, ain this context it would basically mean a step larger than full size, or so I would gather.

9. Silversorcerer

Aug 11, 2004
Atlanta, GA USA
It's bigger than mine by an inch everywhere, except the string length. Mine is 43". I think it would be playable. It's interesting how obsessed we are with string length and playability. I don't think there is much difference between 41.5 and 43. You don't experience the whole difference at one time. Just the part for the particular whole step position you are in. It's a small fraction of an inch at the 1/2 position and negligible by the time you get to thumb position. I wonder when they do these new neck fittings if it isn't more of a pain not to have the D harmonic position preserved at the right spot than to have a shorter string. It's sort of like someone has made an arbitrary decision that 42.5 mensur is the limit when many basses were built for longer strings. For the low strings I think longer is better. The big difference is tension. The same string bears more tension if it is longer. This gives it punchier attack and more sustain.

The shoulders would be the most challenging part, but I'm guessing manageable since it has that bent back design. I'd really like to hear that one, although I'd like to have heard it with the original string length too. The 29.5" lower bout is close to the largest dimension I can remember for a lower bout. Mine is 27.5 and that doesn't really seem big. The back measurement confuses me. Does that include the button or start below it?

Another interesting notable: At one time a this Monk guy (a real carved bass maker I take it) put two bars in the Seitz. It had a cello bass bar and a double bass bar. It's like some little fad with these English luthiers of that period to mess with the bass bars! I bet that Medley fellow, the plywood bass maker in MO never saw these basses.

10. Paul Warburton

Aug 17, 2003
Denver, Co.
Didn't that guy Paul Desmond write something in 5/4?
Dono sent me some pictures of a beautiful Seitz that he had....It wasn't all that big I don't think.

11. EFischer1Guest

Mar 17, 2002
New York, New York
If anyone is going to be at this shop in the near future, you should definately check out this bass and report back. I would be VERY interested to hear.

12. Paul Warburton

Aug 17, 2003
Denver, Co.
Thank you!
I've got this fabulous Morelli for sale....the minute I answer an email stating the string length ( 43" and some change) people start freaking out. They won't even come and play it!
It's one of the best sounding basses i've ever played. I love long string length basses.

13. Silversorcerer

Aug 11, 2004
Atlanta, GA USA
If you look on the Emanuel Wilfer website (and can also wade through waist deep German) some models are offered in the 5/4 size as well. Hmmm. I don't think it's a typo. Either I've seen it before at Contrabasse Shoppe or I've looked at that same Seitz bass before. Large ones like that turn up there a few times a year.

I've seen the specs for "4/4" size basses from 2 Eastern European countries that indicate a string length of 109cm-110cm, a corpus length of 45", 21-22" upper, 27-28" lower bout and rib plus plates at about 9". I'm guessing that the bulk of European makers have adopted this standard. A 7/8 size Christopher would be almost this size except the string is 42.5 about.

Anyway, it seems that the easy way to distinguish the really big ones is to call them 5/4. Even though they rebuild them with 7/8 necks and string lengths.

Who was that that used to say, may your bass be big?

14. Silversorcerer

Aug 11, 2004
Atlanta, GA USA
After I played a 5-string with a 42.5 inch string, I was hooked on the longer string idea. The 5-string bass I ended up buying special order has 43" strings and is like a large 7/8 or small 4/4. It doesn't feel much bigger than the 3/4 that I've played for 2 yrs, but it sure sounds bigger. The gamba shoulders are sloped very nicely and it is very comfortable in all the positions. It's nice not to have to work so hard to keep up with the guitars playing unamplified. I think the bigger basses are the ones that work best with piano trios and quartets also. In any case where I can get away with it, I go unamplified.

15. KSB - Ken SmithBannedCommercial User

Mar 1, 2002
Perkasie, PA USA
Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
The Only basses I have ever seen called 5/4 were either the New Wilfers, Pollmanns or dealers describing large German Basses.

Years and years and years ago (around 1976) I went with a friend to look at Basses in Philly. We drove from NY. In this guys Basement were dozens of old Basses. My friend ended up buying a nice 3/4-7/8? Italian Bass. There was this one Bass that was almost touching the Ceiling. It was close to 7ft tall and HUGE all over. He called it a Full sized Gagliano. It WAS Italian but who really knows if it was even from Naples (Gagliano's home)?

Maybe someone can Email teh Contrabass shoppe in the UK and ask them what measurement charts they use to determine the size. I thing there is alot of opinion here. Lets wait and see what turns up.

What someone calls a 7/8 another calls a 4/4 and 4/4s are called 5/4 by some as we have seen. There seems to be no relation between the String length and the Body length or Bout Width to determine the size. Many Basses have strange proportions.

Here are some Body-Bout-String lengeth measurements of 4 of my Basses.. No Names.. ok?

Body - Bout - S.L.
43" - 27" - 41.5"
44.25" - 26 7/8" - 43"(bridge up at 42 3/8".. was 44")
*45.25" -*29" - 41.25 (*Back is 1" longer and wider at the bottom than the Top)
46" -*28 1/8" - 43-44"? (*Bouts were trimmed about 1")

Tell me what size you would call them by these numbers.. OR.. do you need other measurements as well?

16. Silversorcerer

Aug 11, 2004
Atlanta, GA USA
If you have the measurements, why fuss with the "size" issue? I was only stating what I had encountered when looking at new instruments fractionally sized by several different European manufacturers, German, Czech, Romanian, and Bulgarian. You know I think this fractional size stuff is for the birds already, don't you Ken? I don't want to play any guessing games where there really is not a correct answer. I think your basses are exactly the dimensions you have reported. And that is what size they are!
I would have to agree with the 5/4 designation, although I may have seen one or two others called that at Contrabasse Shoppe in addition to the Seitz.

However, I have seen designations of 4/4 given to Czech, Romanian, and Bugarian Basses, as well as the Wilfers and Pollmanns, that other than a 43+" string, measured very close to other basses that are designated 7/8. In fact it seems the German manufacturers try to keep the 4/4 string to 42.5 or even 42. When I was asking George Hofer what size to make a 4/4, he told me not to go over 44" with the string length. He didn't explain why, except to say that it wouldn't sound good. George is old fashioned and I think 43-44" in his mind was a 4/4 length.

Two things are important about size. The dimensions of the corpus and the string length. Both have somewhat predictable effects on the instrument's sound. I still maintain, if you know the dimensions, the fractional size is unimportant. When you get around to getting a bag that fits it, it is the same thing. Ordering a fractional size could get you in trouble. You need to know the measurements.

17. ImAGoodDuck

Jul 30, 2004
I can second that! The Morelli, even though it had over 43" length, was one of the sweetest playing bass I have ever played. Sound was amazing too!

18. Silversorcerer

Aug 11, 2004
Atlanta, GA USA
There's a Klotz at Upton that is nearly identical to the dimensions of my bass. It has 110cm string (43+") vs. 109cm (43") on mine. I think if the set up is good 43 can play as easily as 41.5. It just seems the popular psychology is against it. A string one half step longer than 41.5 is nearly 44, so if you put your index finger on the nut, and imagine that to be 1/2 position, that is what a 44" string is like. 43 is even less difference than that.

What are the other dimensions of that Morelli, Paul?

19. EFischer1Guest

Mar 17, 2002
New York, New York
So, it seems that the general concensus here is that fractional size indications are rather subjective. This makes sense, given that it would be unreasonable to assume that 18th century luthiers in Germany, Italy, France, and England all got together and decided on a standard measurement.

I am also gathering that most of the 5/4 instruments are of German lineage. This is interesting because, while I have played some monster German basses (including the 5/4 pollman), I have also sat behind a few English beasts of equal if not greater size.

20. Paul Warburton

Aug 17, 2003
Denver, Co.
St.Length-43 1/4"
top and back length, button to bottom..46"
width of top and back @ upper bout-19 1/2"
" " " " " " C bout 14 1'4"
" " " " " " Bottom bout 24 1/2"
Ribs @ neck block 7 1/2"
Rest of ribs, a uniform 8 3/4"

Not trying to peddle it on the Forum, but Ken and I both submitted pictures of our Morelli's in an older thread under the Basses Forum Heading..if you're curious.