Bass Geometry: The "Triangle Theory"

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Dr. PhunkyPants, May 25, 2004.

  1. Dr. PhunkyPants

    Dr. PhunkyPants Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    I've been through quite a few basses over the past several years. In the process, I've developed a technique for assessing AT A GLANCE how comfortable a bass will be--the "Triangle Theory". I thought I'd throw this out there and see if anyone else has been using this.

    When looking at the front of a bass, the "points" of the triangle are:
    1. Where the strap attaches to the upper horn
    2. The 12th fret, bass side of the neck
    3. The nut


    12th fret..............Nut

    The first thing I've learned, is that (with my relatively short arms) an upper horn that does not extend all the way to the 12th fret leaves the nut too far out in space for my comfort. (This is why the two Warwicks I've owned felt like I was reaching into space). The Warwicks looked like this:

    .....12th Fret...............Nut

    By way of comparison, I owned a Ken Smith BSR-MW 4J that had a horn that reached to a point above the 12th fret, but was unusually far from the 12th fret and also felt odd to me. It looked like this:

    12th fret......................Nut

    There you go, that's my theory--that the relationship of the upper horn to the 12th fret determines a whole lot about how the bass will feel on a strap. I used to think it was all about the distance from the back edge of the bass to the bridge saddles. That can indeed push the nut farther out into space. But as long as the horn is over top of fret 12, then the nut will be in the same place in space.

    Now, I am able to look at basses in magazines or online and make a guess in advance about how they will feel in my hands. I don't know if that helps any of you think about why you do or don't like the various basses you try along the way, but I hope it does.

    BTW--the bass that fits me best? Music Man Sterling--horn is close to the neck, and right over the 12th fret. Makes for very comfortable playing for me.
  2. birdsg


    Dec 18, 2003
    Birmingham England
    Interesting theory. I have a MM Sterling and I would have said that the horn was nearer to the 13th fret whereas my Jazz bass the horn is definately level with 12th fret. Maybe a Fender Jazz would suit you as well?

  3. I'll have to check out my basses when I get home. The one I'm always chirping about how comfortable it is, my EDA905 fits into your criterion pretty well.

    The upper horn strap button is opposite the 11th fret, and there's almost no body overhang past the bridge. It also has a smaller than average body and headstock. The body is also slightly concave, so this just adds to "belly comfort."

    This definitely IS an interesting theory!

    Good brainwork, PhunkyPants! :cool:

    Mike ;)

    P.S. This bass also balances EXTREMELY well.
  4. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    I seem to favor basses with longer upper horns as well. I will have to go home tonight and check your theory out. I will agree that short horn basses make the lower register feel miles a way, ala Warwick Thumb.
  5. It's a rule of thumb in building basses, that the upper horn should reach the 12th fret for good balance.

    Of course this doesn't take into account the mass of all of the different parts but it works as a rule of thumb.
  6. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    I agree. I prefer basses that have an upper horn reaching to the 12th fret.

    I also like Dr. Phunkypants' point about the reach to the end of the fretboard. I had a Charvel star-body bass, kinda like an explorer (80's metal thing, doncha know) which was amazingly uncomfortable. Not only did I have to reach way out for the low frets, but due to the "hang" of the bass my right hand had a tendency to play too close to the bridge which gave me blisters on at least one gig. This bass was also a neck-diver. I didn't own it very long.

    The horn on my Warwick SSI5 bass goes only to the 14th fret or so. Balance is still good (because of the freakin' heavy maple body) but the reach is still different than my other basses. It's not nearly as bad as the star-body was, though.
  7. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    ... But that bass fails when it comes to the smell test.. I had an EDB600, it smelled like yuck.
  8. Cliff Bordwell

    Cliff Bordwell Commercial User

    Jan 6, 2004
    USA , Orlando , Florida
    Owner of CB BASSES
    I like to here that others have put as much thought into this as I have.
    Now we just need to find out how to make carrying a 4 x 10 comfortable! :meh:
  9. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    Excellent Doc! I agree that your triangle is a good way of looking at the ergonomics and would add that the length and shape of the body, the weight distribution as well as where the strap attaches at both ends is also really important. For my own body, I've come to the conclusion that the neck bolt plate area should be centred about 50mm (2") min to the right of my body centreline, which due to it's......ahem....round shape means I can still easily access the upper frets. Basing my evolving custom design around that as a centrepoint, an upper horn that reaches to the 11th fret or above, and a lower strap mount that's quite high and to the left looks like giving me the balance I need.

    I've been thinking about this a lot as I'm having a custom made and want to get the balance and 'hang' correct for my body. The other reason it's important is I had an accident several years ago where my left shoulder was badly smashed up and I don't have quite the reach or flexibility there now as I did before, or compared with my right shoulder. The shape of the bass is moving towards something similar to the Ritter Seal cross polinated with a Sei Flamboyant. Lots of MDF has given it's life in the quest so far.