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5 string with high C thread

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Apr 22, 2009.

  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I have a wonderful student who is really into Garcia Fons. He (the student) used to be a fine cellist and has tremendous bow technique. He's playing a cheap bass now, but is really interested in eventually getting a 5 string with a high C. I've played one once, and while I wasn't too thrilled with the bass, I loved the whole high C aspect, and may think about this for the future as well.

    I know these are relatively rare, but was wondering about a few issues.

    - Are basses built for either a high C or a low B, or are they only converted when the owner desires?

    - Would many/most luthiers generally be amenable to building and/or converting one of their basses to this configuration?

    - Could something like a LaScala (not mine, but maybe a new one) be converted to an effective 5 string, or would it need to be designed as such to really be optimal?

    - How many high C strings are even available on the market to choose from?

    Any other questions/related issues welcome.
  2. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    This guy in Montreal (http://www.lamario.ca/extension.php?lang=english) makes high-C, 5 string basses with an integrated low-B extension and a little extension on the D-string to get an open C for Bach suites (good for that long C on Mahler No. 1 as well!)
  3. Like you, probably, I'll wait for Arnold since he just did a fiver.
    My Bohmann is beefed up a bit on the inside of the top to stand the extra pressure.
    As I understand the possible conversion issues, it's about bass bar placement , as well as sound-post ones. A full size bridge, I think, is necessary and the extra spread of the bridge feet raises some issues with both of the above.
    Of course, you'll be dealing with the opposite issues of a fiver with the low B.
    That big Tyrol of Red's that Paul Toennigus converted to a fiver back in the 60's was a killer. John Heard bought it from Red and just took off the B......it STILL killed, so there is hope.
    I'm not sure what Arnold did with his fiver but my man Bob Ross did a couple fivers. The FB needs to be wide (full size). Like Bohmann, he laid the extra width over the bass edge of the neck to avoid a huge neck. You can see this in the pics of my bass on the Talkbasses. This will allow you to retain your original neck.
  4. JtheJazzMan


    Apr 10, 2006
    I was going to convert my 4 string gliga to a 5 string. I decided against it as its not an easy job. Even the minimum work includes new fingerboard, set up with a curve suitable for bowing, plug the pegbox holes and redrill, new bridge and tailpiece.

    To add to the list (if you can get them in america) gliga does a 5 string version of their student flatbacks, but also a fully carved swell back, flamed maple yada yada version for 9k aus, so maybe $6k US?

    Im checking one out tomorrow morning actually.

    In terms of strings the ones that i know are Obligatos, Spirocore meds, and Pirastro flat chromsteel.

    Ive been using a spiro medium high C on my NS upright for a while and its very easy to bow, like WAY easy than any other spiro. afaik Renaud garcia uses a flat chromsteel for a high C and spiros for the other strings.

    I can see plenty of advantages to the high C. Even in normal walking lines, as you dont have to shift as much, when you can just shift across. You can play highly arpeggiated clasical etudes far more easily, and if you regularly play above the octave it helps too. IMO the high C has a much sweeter sound especially if youre bowing. Definitely sweeter than trying to bow a newish spiro G above the octave, thats for sure.
  5. EggyToast


    Jan 21, 2006
    Jim Cox in Baltimore makes a custom 5 string that's pretty interesting. He's adjusted the shape slightly and the C-bouts are pinched in a little more, so that he could get 5 strings on the fingerboard without changing the curvature, so you can play it the same as you would a 4 string. I tried it out, and it sounded fantastic. The shape modifications were to give all of the strings a balanced sound, so the high C sounded sweet while the low E was just as big as ever.

    A lot of the use seems to depend on the technique, though, I'd imagine. If you're doing something a little more Rabbath-esque, where you're not just shifting on the G but doing a mix of pivots and horizontal movement to play notes closer to the bridge, you may not see much use out of an additional string. For something more Simandl-esque, though, you'd have an extra 4th before you'd have to start hopping up the G.

    Of course, there's plenty of old South jazz/blues guys who played on homemade basses with only 1-3 strings, so it depends on what your goals are ;D
  6. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    My old teacher, Santi DeBriano, had his bass converted to a 5 string (I believe it was low B though). If I remember correctly, he had a new neck put on to do the conversion. I believe he had the work done at Gage's shop in NYC.
  7. lfh


    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Alternatively, the overhang can be split equally on both sides as on my 1949 Bjärton. (BTW, the slight V-shape of the neck shown might be worth considering -- I think it enhances the comfort, and the Bjärton really plays like butter.)

    While being at it: I highly recommend to anyone to try the high C configuration! (In fact I'm surprised that people still play four stringers :) )
  8. Right.
    They used to do this on the old Chubby Jackson fivers by Kay.
  9. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Watching Arnold's fiver being built, I saw countless design details just for the 5th string.
  10. JtheJazzMan


    Apr 10, 2006

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