Are my hands too small for DB?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by CJY, May 27, 2001.

  1. CJY


    Apr 30, 2001
    Hello,I'm an Asian bassist who is thinking about picking up double bass.The problem is,I noticed that my hands are not very big,compared to other people.I am 1.7 m tall with a small build.The measurement of my hand(from middle finger tip to wrist) is about 18 cm(7 inches).The length of my middle finger is about 8.5cm.Are my hands too small to handle a DB,even a 1/2 or 3/4 size?Any advice for 'small' guys like me?
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I wouldn't worry about it. If my metric conversions are accurate, you stand about 5'6", and I've seen plenty of bassists shorter than that who do just fine on a 3/4. The important thing is (Ed, be prepared to roll your eyes and laugh) to get a teacher who can help you with your technique. I'm on the tall side (1.89m) and medium build (190 lbs. - don't ask me for kilos), and before I started I wondered if I should be stockier to play the DB, since a lot of guys I saw looked more like football players than basketball players. (I hadn't seen any female bassists yet at that point). I abused the hell out of my left hand and injured myself often while I was self taught. After I started taking lessons, the only injuries I still get are blisters on my R.H., and only then if I play 5 hours or more in a day.

    One of the things I worked on a lot with my teacher was the Rabbath concept of pivoting, which made my hand seem about twice as big. With the right teacher, you'll be fine....go for it!
  3. Hi--
    I'm with Chris (and many others on TB) when they recommend getting a teacher. I'm 5' 8" tall and weigh about 130 lbs. While I was "self-teaching" on DB I was prepared to blame my small hands for intonation problems. After getting a teacher, I realized that hand size is not nearly as important as correct form. One warning: DB is very habit-forming. I've played my bass guitar maybe three times since I got the DB a year and a half ago!
    Have fun!
  4. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    i'm only 14 years old, about 1.7 meters tall with medium hands, and i'm fine. I started in november and i've been practacing 1-3 hours a day, so i progressing quickly. I'm actually playing in my schools' chamber orchestra, and there are a lot of talented musicians at my school. I'm pretty sure 4/4 sizes are extremely rare, all of the proffesional double bassist i know use a 3/4 size, and they are even 2 meters+. There are always a variety of neck sizes though, you may want to look into neck sizes more.
  5. BassBaron


    Jul 20, 2001
    San Jose, CA
    Check out Micky Rae of The Cadillac Angels. She slaps better than anyone I've seen and is probably 5'5" with girl-sized hands to match. She plays a 3/4 and seems to have no problem. I asked her about strings and she uses sythetic core, she even let me try her bass between sets. It slapped better than any bass I've tried! Point is, proper setup and strings also help.
  6. Dvorak

    Dvorak Guest

    Dec 17, 2001
    Ontario, Canada
    You should be fine. I'm a 5'3" girl, and my hands aren't very big, but they work fine on my 3/4 bass. I haven't been playing for that long, so maybe it could be harder once you get better, but you shouldn't have a problem, especially with a 3/4 bass.
    Good luck!
  7. CJY


    Apr 30, 2001
    Thanks,Dvorak.I'll definitely give it a try.
  8. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    There's a guy here in Maui who is about five feet tall, good bass player. He plays a half size bass, but he's sat in on my 3/4 bass a couple of times, and seemed fine with it.
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Given that you're on the smaller side, as I'm on the tall edge of, I'll pass along these thoughts:
    • With your height, body size and shape can be an issue. A real tall bass with wide shoulders could be really uncomfortable, if not impossible, to play.
    • As far as the size of your hands, this is most critical at the bottom of the bass (where the notes are low), so go all the way to the bottom and see if you can reach low F to low G comfortably.
    From your hand measurements you gave, your hands are about the same size as mine. I feel perfectly comfortable on a 39 1/2" - 41" string length, and can play up to about 42" without much problem, although as the length approaches 42" I have to be really aware of hand/arm/body position to make it do-able. Longer than 42" and playing in tune comfortably starts to become a real contest -- wherein in I can no longer leave my hand 'in position' and play in tune at the bottom; I have to roll around on my thumb a lot to reach notes.

    Now, to echo the echo, which I will now attempt a new TB term coin-age, Seek Yoda. Take your teacher to look at basses with you.
  10. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I wouldn't worry about it at all.

    I am 5' 6", 120 lbs (also of Asian descent although I am Australian and now living in Canada <G>), and my middle finger tip to wrist measures 19.5 cm and my middle finger is about 9 cm. I can only just stretch one octave on the piano. I have been playing piano for about twenty years and now I have been playing double bass for one year. I'm playing a small 7/8 bass with a 42" string length and I have no problems. I also use extension fingerings in the neck register for all my scales. And I am very careful of not doing myself injury so I am not playing beyond my limits.

    It is more about flexibility and strength which can be developed. Your hands will be big enough to span a tone at the top of the fingerboard. You might be limited with some double stops and you might find yourself pivoting a bit around some things, but it's nothing to worry about.