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Are there any differences between a Tenor and Piccolo bass guitar?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mordechai, Mar 11, 2010.

  1. mordechai


    Dec 8, 2007
    Blaine, WA
    Are there? What are they? I don't know much about either of these. Scale lengths, string gauges, ect...

    Any info would be great! Thanks!

  2. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    Tenor bass is usually tuned a fourth higher than the typical bass.

    4-string: A D G C
    5-string: E A D G C

    Piccolo bass is usually tuned an octave higher than the typical bass.

    4-string E A D G (octave higher)

    Piccolo basses generally have a guitar-like scale of around 25" (see Marleaux basses). Tenor basses are typically normal 34" scale basses.
  3. lug

    lug Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Actually the original piccolo bass was built for Stanley Clarke by Carl Thompson and was 30 1/2" scale. I've seen them in short medium (32" scale) and long scale more often than super shorty's. Some of the major tonal differences would be lost when dropping down to a guitar length scale.
  4. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    Fair enough. I'm basing my knowledge of piccolo basses off of the ones I played at NAMM, which were only the Marleaux basses, and I'm fairly sure those are only 25" or so.
  5. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    I have a short-scale 6-string piccolo bass, it's called a guitar.
  6. johnp352


    Aug 19, 2005
    Endorsing Artist: Rick Turner, GK
    my tenor is 30", 5 strings tuned a/d/g/c/f. We started out calling it an extended tenor, but a Rick Turner Deuce Renaissance Extended Tenor Bass got to be a bit..extended?

    I have played with the piccolo idea as well, since I heard SC in '75.. I am currently building up a mule for a new one on an sx 30" scale. I have found 30" to be the right length, anything shorter loses a bit in the speaking length/tonality of the string, anything longer, especially a 34", seems awkward on the higher pitched strings, especially a super long 020 for the "g" string. You get a sort of "cheese grader" effect on your right hand that is NOT pleasant.The ideal appears to be a Ralph Novak fanned fret system ala Charlie Hunter, but I couldn't seem to do the chording I wanted to pull off on one. I still might try that ..if people start paying musicians again.

    There's lottza 7/8/234 string bassists here who will chime in on all of this too..I don't doubt what they say, but I am still trying to play a bass, not a lute.

  7. Then they must be special ones. I used my jazz, which is a 34'' scale bass, and they fit normally. It would be plain stupid to get a 25" scale piccolo bass, that's like getting a four string guitar. I'll echo a comment made earlier, that a lot of the tonal differences between a piccolo and a guitar would be virtually lost. 30" is normal for piccolo, but 34" I believe to be the correct scale because lets face it, if you want a short scale instrument with thin strings, only one comes to mind.

  8. johnp352


    Aug 19, 2005
    Endorsing Artist: Rick Turner, GK
    have you ever heard the Carl Thompson or Rick Turner piccolos made for Stan Clarke? Another reason why 30" seems to be the right scale. Another important thing to consider is what I came up against in a design, the right hand spacing..with thinner strings, it seems appropriate to have the spacing a shade tighter than a standard 34". I went from everything from a long guitar scale to a 34" with different spacings..but ended up with a tight 5 string spacing for the tenor, on a 30" scale. it seems the right size for being able to do open voiced chords on 3 strings as well as a bass line, while still giving the bass line some heft (as opposed to the 25.5 scale on a guitar, though having said that there are some great examples of Joe Pass and Herb Ellis playing 7 string guitars). I also play "bass" on this as the main instrument, so the compromise in the scale and RH spacing turned out good..I play straight fingerstyle though, no slapping etc.

    The solution for a lot of people..Charlie Hunter for one... is a Ralph Novak fanned fret, but I didn't want to go there.
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