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Bowable Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BassMan1012, Apr 5, 2017.


  1. BassMan1012

    BassMan1012

    Feb 8, 2017
    Hello everyone, I'm here today with a rather unique question. I've been a fan of the Cello and Violin and I also love the Bass. I'm a huge Victor Wooten fan and in a video I saw him use a bowable bass. However, like all other basses, you could only bow the top and bottom string. (E and G). My question is, how could you modify the bass to make all the strings bowable? Would a cello bridge piece work? Or would the neck have to be arched? If so, then would the notes change on the fingerboard? Thank you. I've always been a fan of dissecting cello pieces and bowing them on my bass but I'm just so restricted with two strings. The cross between the two really intrigues me.
     
  2. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Chicago
    The fingerboard would indeed have to be arched. Dramatically arched fingerboards (most fingerboards have at least some "Radius" are usually only done on a fretless instruments though hypothetically you can have frets on anything. Some of the oldest Viol's had frets made of catgut wrapped around the neck.

    Essentially what you're describing is an EUB (electric upright bass) and there are bowable versions with shorter scales than the traditional 42" upright bass
    There's alot of discussion of them on the other side of the forum.
    Electric Upright Basses (EUB's) [DB]

    As one example, Kyddbass makes bowable EUB's in 30", 34" and 42" scales and I'm sure there are others as well.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
  3. BassMan1012

    BassMan1012

    Feb 8, 2017
    So, would doing this change the notes on the fingerboard? Could I just arch a fretless bass? I want this to be as close to a regular bass as possible, One that could be played strapped and not upright as well. I'm willing to do some experimenting.
     
  4. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Chicago
    Wouldn't change the notes much. Certatinly not enough to make it unplayable. remember that all classical instruments have an arched fingerboard and bridge. You would need a new bridge though.

    The first issue would be whether or not you could arch an existing fretboard enough to be playable across all strings. Remember that as you arch the board upward in the middle you will also need a steeper angle of attack to bow the 1st and 4th strings. To keep the bow from hitting the body you'd probably have to cut away the sides of the body or start with something roughly violinshaped like a hofner or somethign shaped like a steinberger.

    The second issue is whether there is enough wood on the fingerboard to get the shape you would need. I don't know the formula for determining the angles, but find yourself an upright and measure the angles between each string and the aproximate arch formed by the strings. My suspicion is that unless your instrument has a ridiculously thick fingerboard you would need to have a new fingerboard applied. Unless you're a very good woodworker, the carving and "Dressing" of a custom-bowed-instrument fretboard is somethign that would have to be done by a competent luthier.

    This bass we're describing actually already exists. If you're serious about the concept, you're probably best off buying a NS Design omni bass with a boomerang strap which allows for upright or horizontal playing.
    The Chezch built version retails for about $2.5k
    NXTa Omni Bass | Extraordinary Form and Function | NS Design

    If you have a local budget luthier around maybe they could build you something similar for a bit less, but it's going to be hard to do much better than 2k. Maybe contact Wendler and get a quote? Instruments | Guitar Repair Kansas City | Luthier Acoustic Electric Guitar
    He's currently building me a 35" (non-bowable) fretless, but the tone and features of his instruments might lend themselves to what you're thinking about.
     
    Element Zero likes this.
  5. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Cincinnati
  6. BassMan1012

    BassMan1012

    Feb 8, 2017
    This may be a stupid question, I'm just making sure I can transfer over to something like this without trouble, but I know on a double bass etc the scales are all different and change position because of the note changes. This wouldn't be the case here correct?
     
  7. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Chicago
    One other thing to consider if doing this yourself or custom/cheap is that if you want to still have magnetic pickups as well as piezo, your options on an arched fingerboard drop dramatically.

    Obviously the NS has it's proprietary version. Then there's the Schaller magnetic pickup who'se name escapes me. I've also seen P-bass pickups canted at extreme angles and bolted to the bottom of an upright fingerboard, so that's another way.
     
  8. lakefx

    lakefx

    Sep 14, 2012
    Eugene
    There's also the Zeta Crossover. Realistically, the erganomics of bowing a bass guitar in the normal horizontal orientation would be pretty bad.
     
    MEKer and Seanto like this.
  9. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Chicago
    That (bolded) is not really true. Doublebass has the same notes and intervals as electric bass, there's just more space between each note on the board. Of course no fretted instrument can ever be perfectly harmonically in tune all the way up the fingerboard, but compensating for this on doublebass is not much worse in this regard than a fretless electric bass. If it's even a tiny bid worse it's just because of the longer string length and the greater change in string length when fretting due to having strings a bit higher off the fingerboard. I wouldn't worry about this particular aspect. It shouldn't be an issue, especially since you want to stay with 34" scale.
     
    Element Zero and lakefx like this.
  10. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Chicago
    Very true. You'd want something like the boomerang strap to allow for vertical and horizontal play.
     
  11. BassMan1012

    BassMan1012

    Feb 8, 2017
    Yeah, I don't want to lose piezo when playing, is the omni bass the same way? I would want magnetic pickups, going about this my own way may be cheaper but I want to make sure it functions properly and I know modifying a bass would be riskier than buying the omni.
     
  12. BassMan1012

    BassMan1012

    Feb 8, 2017
    Yeah, planned on picking up something like that, I wouldn't want to play horizontally. You guys are being a huge help, thank you
     
  13. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Chicago
    You wouldn't lose piezo, "piezo" is the non-magnetic pickup transducer pickup that most uprights and EUB's use for amplification. Some electric basses have them too. The Wendler I linked to above has a Piezo and a Mag pup on a unique passive circut.

    Financially you may be looking at this the wrong way. Modifying a bass would technically be cheaper but going on your own you're likely to end up with an unplayable mess that has no value. On the other hand if you look around and buy a used Omni, Zeta or Kydd, you can buy the thing, know that it will function propery and if it ends up not being your thing you can resell it and be almost guaranteed to get back what you paid for it as long as you haven't modified it in any way.

    If you've got woodworking skills and can build from scratch I'd never tell you to not give it a go. If not, think about how much you'd have to spend on a bass, fretboard, potentialy hiring a luthier. Are you willing to possibly throw that $ away?
     
    lakefx likes this.
  14. BassMan1012

    BassMan1012

    Feb 8, 2017
    I totally read that the wrong way, I looked at that as pizzicato, I apologize so much. I type a little too hastily. But yeah, I'm not sure I'm willing to throw that much money away. Saving up for an Omni would probably be the best choice. $71 a month for 24 months isn't bad. The payment options are pretty good.
     
  15. Use an EBow, volume pedal to simulate bowing
    An arched bridge is only way you can bow 4 strings.

    Bows require rosin or they won't work
    A properly rosined bow produces a great deal of rosin dust Not an issue with string bass but may play havock with electrics

    I understand what you are wanting to do but the best way is to buy some version of EUB as mentioned in previous posts
    May look cool to do a Jimmy Page with your bass but so not worth it
    My 2 c
     
    lakefx likes this.
  16. lakefx

    lakefx

    Sep 14, 2012
    Eugene
    If you're looking for a cheap EUB to get into as a starting point, look up Ergo. I had one a few years ago and playing it is closer to a bass guitar than an upright, which is why I ultimately sold it. Well made, simple, and very affordable if you can find a used one.
     
    Ductapeman likes this.
  17. BassMan1012

    BassMan1012

    Feb 8, 2017
    I can do the same thing with the Ergo with the omni correct? Slap a boomerange strap on that beast of an instrument. I don't know why but it looks much bigger than the others I've looked at, maybe it's just my eyes playing tricks on me. It's not strictly upright though is it?
     
  18. lakefx

    lakefx

    Sep 14, 2012
    Eugene
    It has the longer mensure (scale length) of an upright. I think they are 41" scale, but they play closer to a bass guitar because of the neck shape and the lack of neck body joint. It's more of an upright than the Omni or Zeta, but less of an upright than a lot of the other EUBs.
     
  19. BassMan1012

    BassMan1012

    Feb 8, 2017
    Alright man , appreciate it. All of you have been absolutely wonderful. I'm new to the classical instruments, just picked up on violin but I'm a bassist at heart. The Omni bass is absolutely what I'm looking for. Thanks all.
     
  20. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Chicago
    You're very welcome. Best of luck on your search for a bowable instrument. Do some looking around and maybe there's something like the omni out there at a lower price point.

    Oh, and kudos on the violin. Not an easy instrument to pick up.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2017

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