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Alternate Extension Solution

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by bejoyous, Apr 26, 2006.

  1. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I used to have a bass with a great English extension. It's great for playing the low notes. After not playing for a while, I got a newer bass without an extension. I really missed being able to play the full range that is required for professional work.

    Since I was playing lots of Baroque stuff with my church string ensemble there were many low D's required (violones being used back in "the good ole days" and all). So, I started using a low D tuning.

    After about a year of changing from E to D where needed, I just decided to stay with the low D tuning. It took me about this long to be really comfortable and confident playing on the lower D string.

    The Pro's are: 1) the sound of the bass improved as there was less pressure on the top and there was a nice D-A-D harmonic series which the bass seems to like; 2) I've found that most lower-than-E notes are either Eb or D anyway so they are readily available without the noise of a machine; 3) I already know where the notes are because there already is a D-string; 4) you don't have to buy another string; 5) you don't have people asking, "Why is there a piccolo attached to your scroll?"

    The Con's are: 1) I find I had to refinger my basic "money-notes" range so now I play in 2nd and 3rd position most often now rather than 1/2 and 1st position; 2) going from Bb to Ab is quite a leap; 3) since the string is tuned down a tone, the tension is a bit floppy and is different from the other strings (I'm using Obligatos, which is an excellent string BTW, perhaps someone could suggest a little stiffer E-string)(note Oct. 2 - I'm using Dominants now which are stiffer ); 4) I have to think more when I'm playng, I've slammed down on a low F instead of a low G a few times because I was sightreading and was a bit tired; 5) I've had to relearn all those orchestral excepts I've played for eons. (Note Oct 2nd - Con 4 and 5 are no longer a problem.)

    (note Oct 2nd - I'm now totally used to this tuning so I don't have to think of playing as relearning the fingering. As mentioned above Eb/D# or D seem to be the most common lower-than-E notes followed by low-C and C#/Db the least used. The Bb to Ab is still a reach but that is taken care of with pivot shifting.)

    Over the Christmas break I had the luthier who build the bass put on a half extension to reach the low C. It is a finger-style extension. The rosewood fingerboard goes all the way up to the scroll for support but the string extends only about 2.5 inches above the nut. There there is a small ebony nut and a hole drilled through the fingerboard to go to the old A tuner (the A-string now tunes from the old E tuner).

    There is no little wheel needed as the string (which is still a regular E-string) doesn't even bend 90 degrees. There is a small rosewood capo to close the string at the nut which is the low D. So, the only note I have to finger is a low C#.

    I've found I can really whip around the lower-than-E notes with this arrangement and it didn't cost mega $ either. It is also silent to operate. If I had thought of it then I would have had the string go down to a low B and had a capo for the low C for that rare opportunity to play one. Or a low-B extension from KC strings with the string tuned down for a low-A!!

    Attached Files:

  2. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    that system could be fun even as a mere low "D" or "Db" extension with no re-tuning at all!
  3. I really like that idea.

    I have my bass tuned to low D quite often (its funny because i couldn't stand that approach on my bass guitar).

    I would love to get a c extension, but have resisted as i want to wait till i replace my fingerboard and have a shim added to increase effective neck angle. However this could be problematic as i've been told the current board has been white glued in place.

    Having a d extension added as a temporary step could be the solution.

    I used to use an obligato E but have gone back to my spirocore medium as i feel it offers a bit more tension at lower tunings and since it is 9 months old now it produces an acceptable arco sound.

    However i am keen to try a dominant E and test that for low D tuning.

    How do you find the sound of the low c?
  4. Thats a neat idea. In his 2nd book, Elgar describes a similar whole tone extension which similarly does not require cutting into the bass. One thing I do from time to time is tune GDGD so I can toggle easily between drop D and Drop C tuning in fifths. The only problamatic passages I found were those that required C# and E (or similar) m3 in a fast passage. I can use the tuning that makes the most since for piece I'm playing.
  5. an idea for the looseness of your bottom string might be using a set of strings that come in several tension (such as corellis or spirocores). use the medium tension on your G-D-A strings and a stark on the bottom.
  6. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Is that extension glued in place at the scroll or is it string pressure holding it there? Can you post a closeup pic from the capo side?
  7. Have you been giving this idea more thought too Matthew?

    I'm taking my bass to my luthier today to address a nasty buzz. I'm sure I'll spend more time talking about getting a D extension fitted.
  8. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    I just spent an afternoon playing with a salsa combo. Halfway through we were jammin' away having fun and I tuned down to throw in a low D. KB player gave me the eyebrow, he liked it, so did the others, so did I. But I don't think I want to learn to play a detuned bass just yet.

    So yeah, I'm giving a bit of thought ... why not?
  9. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    The extension is just held on by string pressure. The hole that leads down to the tuner is at a slight angle so it doesn't brush inner cheek of the scroll. The scroll is left untouched. The only alteration is cutting the nut to accomicate the extension board with is right against the fingerboard.

    The capo is homemade and is made of the same rosewood. It's not perfect. I'd recommend getting the capos form Merchant Bass.

    To find out where the low-C would be you need to add 1/17th of the sting length for each semitone.

    1/17 = 0.058823
    so if SL is the standard 41.5 inches (105.4 cm)
    41.5*1.058823 = 43.94" (111.6 cm)
    43.94*1.058823 = 46.5" (118.1 cm)

    Open D would be 41.5" (105.4 cm) from the bridge;
    low-Db would be 43.94" (111.6 cm) from the bridge.
    (or 2.44" (6.2 cm) from the end of the fingerboard)
    low-C would be 46.5" (118.1 cm) from the bridge.
    ( or 5" (12.7 cm) from the end of the fingerboard)
  10. Snakewood

    Snakewood Guest

    Dec 19, 2005
    very nicely done btw, it looks exellent.
  11. This extension is excellent!!
    I'm a HUGE low-D-fan for the above reason, but the E is just so in my hands..I keep on tuning up and down, a pain.
    and the C-extension is just..too much.
    your thing seems to be the answer!http://www.talkbass.com/forum/images/smilies/hyper.gif
    plus the benefit of a longer string for the D.

    Who makes it?
    Maybe drawings/info can be sent to my luthier in Sweden?
  12. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    Hi Henryson;

    I just roughed out a drawing of the extension and gave it to the luthier who made my bass. Since Peter Chandler had the plans he just traced the scroll plans on some scrap rosewood. I'm sure if you made a drawing of what you wanted and printed off my photos and info, your luthier could probably figure it out.

    Remember the hole from the nut to the peg needs to be a bit offset so the string doesn't rub the inside of the scroll. Also on mine, the string drags on the inside of the extension hole making it a bit hard to tune, so make the hole a bit bigger than the string so it goes straight from the little nut to the peg without touching the hole walls. Don't forget my copyright royalties (just kidding).

    One of the things I like about my extension is that it is not very visible. Some rock maple stained the same colour as the scroll would be almost invisible. With some cross-bracing, I imagine the upper part of the extension wouldn't be necessary either.

    Peter made the capo out of rosewood but it is kind of finniky (sp?) so I'd recommend some metal capos. I hear these ones are from Bill Merchant of excellent. They are about $80 USD.

    Merchant Vertical Bass Company
    209 West 29th Street Suite 213
    NYC, NY 12440

    Also, I keep my lowest string tuned to a low-C all the time now so that when the capo is closed the tuning is DADG. I found the bass didn't like the changing tensions and tuning up and down made the string unstable. But mostly so I don't have keep track of what tuning I'm in and worry about playing a note a whole tone out from the rest of the section when I'm sight-reading. A low-F and low-G sounds really bad together, especially at the opening of the Leanore #3 Overture!!

    Good luck and be sure to post some phots when you are done.

    PS. I was a student of Thorveld Fredin when he taught the National Youth Orchestra of Canada many years ago.
  13. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    Also, there are thin strips of leather between the extension and the scroll so it doesn't mar the scroll's finish.

    The extension is just held on by string pressure so it doesn't require any screws or other scroll damage.
  14. Thanks for all the advice!

    The invisibility is a major plus.
    I'm thinking carbon fibre! That way it could be even more invisible, the upper part being really thin, and the whole thing ultralight.

    Yours doesn't seem to have ebony board under the string, do you hear a difference if you finger the string up there? I'm thinking that could be the case with carbon fibre. Not that it's a huge problem..

    I assume you tune the IV with the old III tuner, right?

    I suddenly realized that the string tension won't go down when I open the capo..:crying: but the whole idea is great anyway!

    Thorvald; he's still around I think, but retired. The lion's share of Stockholm's orchestra players studied with him, but I'm not one of them.
  15. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Hey guys.

    There are some other options for D-extensions.....


    Attached Files:

  16. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    I can imagine poking my eye out with that capo ...
  17. the picture on the left in Brents post looks very interesting.
    Is the fingerboard scalloped, so you only have contact in the E flat region?

    These 2 examples are like the D extensions I've seen before (in the uk)

    This whole thread got me so interested that I'm having a D extension put on my bass at the moment.
    It will be in the vein of the two examples above.
  18. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Actually, the one on the left is pretty interesting, it's on a monster 5 string bass, making it an A extension...

    I don't know what you mean "scalloped", but there seems to be a raised spot to aid in playing the Bb accurately, but it's not raised so much that you can't play the A. There doesn't seem to be any capo for the B. My understanding is the player made it so that he could play low Bbs in Act II of the Ring Cycle without tuning down.

  19. Crikey an A extension!

    I wasn't sure if that was a five string but the three tuners in a row gave me a suspicion.

    Have you heard it in the flesh?

    sorry, the word scalloped is often applied to bass guitar fret boards that have the wood between the frets scooped out. I've never been sure as to why this is done since surely the frets provide enough reference for finger position....It would have an application on an unfretted instrument though, as is the case here.

    Thanks for the photos Brent
  20. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I recently took out a DVD from the local library of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra playing all the Brandenburg Concerti. The bass player plays a rather small bass. It looks quite old and has gut frets tied around the neck.

    At first, it didn't look like he have an extension and it doesn't have five strings but he was still hitting all the low-D's and low-C's.

    It turns out he has a similar extension set up as I do with a low-D tuning and a small extension for the low-C. The scroll of his bass is one of those huge Viennese types with a rounded butt-end and little "horns" sticking out of the front and back of the pegbox. It's hard to see, but it looks like there is a small platform extension built up from the bass side of the pegbox to the horn. There wasn't a latch for the lo-D though.

    And I thought I was on to something origional. No wonder the royalty cheques weren't coming in!

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