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C extensions

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Baron von Basso, Feb 3, 2003.

  1. Baron von Basso

    Baron von Basso

    Nov 3, 2002
    what are some machines available that folks are familiar with? I know that everybody is going to fingered extensions and I know that I'm a black sheep for liking the machines, but that's just how it is. I've always had the old clunky Horst machines and now I may have to get another kind. I don't like the fingered ones (especially for my big string length) so I'd only like to hear about keyed machines at this time. Any suggestions (other than to buy a fingered)?
  2. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    The USA standard is the Stenholm machine. Unfortunately Bob S. is now retired from making them. There may still be a few available from Robertson in New Mexico. They are pretty nicely made. I don't know of any others in this country, there might be some in the UK. Try contacting some limeys.
  3. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    The current rage seems to be non-mechanical chromatic extensions. If you're not sure what I mean by that (understandable, as I just made up the term), take a look at the cover art for Edgar Meyer's CD "Uncommon Ritual":


    Having recently gotten a nice one for my Arvi bass from Mike Shank, I can see why people like them. My last bass had a fingered C extension, and I truly hated fingering below the E. To me, it's an unnatural reach, and there are no great physical "cues" to tell you where the notes lie.

    The chromatic extension almost eliminates the need to finger below the E. In my experience, nine out of ten orchestral pieces that take you below E only do it for one note in any given part of the piece (usually the low note in an arpeggio). Thus you need only set the "capos" for E and the low note to be played, and Bob's your uncle! In the rare piece where you have a chromatic run below E, you still get the advantage of the capo for the first note, and for the rest, you're no worse off than with a fingered extension.

    Every alternative for dealing with low notes is a compromise that has its cost. I like the cost/return relationship with the chromatic fingered extensions.
  4. So that's what they are calling a fingered extension with 4 capos. That's a new one on me.
  5. Bassguyrob

    Bassguyrob Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2003
    Spokane WA
    Ok, to put my two cents in, the machined extensions are going the way of the dodo. No one wants to build them or fix them. It is almost like a secret society.I once had a 3/4 Juzek with a Fawcett extension that someone put on the bass (very poorly) and took some work to get into shape playing wise. All is not lost though. From time to time, one will come available as someone has a luthier take one off and either replace it or turn the bass back into a straight 4. I have done some preliminary research, and there are some names that keep popping up. Horst, which you are familiar with, Stenholm, which has been mentioned, Fawcett, Ron Prentice, Peter Barnaby. The only person that is still manufacturing is Peter Barnaby. He is a machinist out of England who's work is highly regarded. I contacted Robertson's in N.M., and Chris there was the one who recommended the Barnaby to me. He said that it was the most functional design and easy to use.He quoted $700 just for the extension, but I don't know if he would be able to get one or not. His knowledge comes from being their C extension guru, as they make their own capo extension. If you bought a bass from a shop, see if they have one lying around in their "dungeon," since your patronage would quasi motivate them to work with you. If not, try some of the larger bass shops, Gage, Kolstein, Hammond Ashley, Robertson, to assist you in your search. Good luck and happy hunting!

  6. javabird


    Jun 11, 2003
    Baron, by all means, do your darnedest to track down a Stenholm!

    A well-adjusted Stenholm locks and unlocks silently and swiftly, and doesn't jingle or rattle when open (unlike most other C extension machines I've encountered). My luthier added "aftermarket" locks on D and Eb for me, and I feel like that gives me the biggest advantages of the capoed-fingered extensions in addition to the facility/comfort of the mechanical (and really, how often would you use a Db lock?).

    Minnesota Orchestra's bass section (including my former teacher) has been running with 3-5 Stenholms (out of 8 players) for at least the past decade, which is plenty of endorsement in itself. Our household has 3 Stenholm extensions, and we wouldn't consider anything else (at least, not as long as it's possible to lay our hands on Stenholms). Two of them we got directly from Bob S. himself, the other we got from a player who removed a Stenholm in favor of a fingered extension.

    To anyone who's currently got a Stenholm C extension machine, and is considering a fingered extension, please sell us your castoff afterward! Even if you keep the fingerboard extension and just remove the machine, we'll take it!!!!!
  7. javabird


    Jun 11, 2003
    Two more cents in response to that assertion:

    My hope is that the pendulum will eventually swing back as soon as a high-quality low-extraneous-noise extension machine becomes readily available again. Doubtless somewhere out there is a mechanically-minded bassist who will step into the market niche left by Bob Stenholm's retirement, and take on the challenge of building a better extension machine (perhaps this time with locks on all notes).

    I use an extension machine because I like having all the low notes, and I like having them all available from right there in normal playing position, where I can get to them quickly and my shoulder/arm/wrist can remain relatively neutral.

    For people who are happy shifting all over creation, or who really don't make that much active use of those low notes, I guess fingered extensions can make sense, especially if they've got larger hands and longer arms than I.

    For moderately-proportioned people like me who are actively playing symphonic repertoire which needs agility in that range, fingered extensions (with or without capos) are simply not a realistic answer, at least not for long. With all the ridiculous contortions and oddly-angled leverages that the left wrist/arm/shoulder are subjected to in order to play a fingered extension, not to mention how much sudden force is moving the tendons and bones for those awkward positions as you're shifting quickly in and out of extension notes...bass is demanding enough on the body without inviting extra trouble that way.

    (Note: Any fingered-extension player you meet who is nursing a rotator cuff injury or left-arm tendinitis, will most likely vehemently deny that their extension could possibly have contributed to their condition. I advise smiling and nodding.)
  8. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    One of my luthier pals tells me that a "capo'ed" low E will bow just fine, but won't sound as good in a jazz setting as a regular open E.

    (What do we call that -- a "nutty" E?)

    What do you extension users and installers say?
  9. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Has anyone noticed our page sponsor KC Strings? He has an ad for Extensions right next to this post on the left.

    Does anyone have any experience with them? They look kinda nice. I love thier Machines and End pins. I would like to hear from anyone with experience of playing th KC Extension.

    My Mystery Bass is getting one when all is said and done with it's restoration. I am casually shopping it until it's time for the installation. Then we have to do it once and do it right.
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Thanks for the link on the extension. I am seriously considering it. I have one question on your Bass, Why is your Scroll and Neck all Black? Is is Graphite?
  11. The bottom picture in the thread? It was just my semi-artistic side GIMPing (just like photoshopping) a selcted colorization. everything is in greyscale but the extension. Just a way to highlite the parts that were new.
  12. open source makes me happy.
  13. javabird


    Jun 11, 2003
    This user says that it probably varies depending on extension adjustment for how forcefully the string is closed, and varies even more depending on the material that closes the string. My Stenholm extension machine and many other extensions have firm rubber pads pressing the string to the fingerboard. I've seen other extensions that have leather pads, or even use bare wood. My guess is that the hard surface of bare wood probably sounds more like a regular open E than something stopped by a softer surface, but is probably less forgiving about any deviance in adjustment.

    Personally, I like to think that the locked low E on my bass sounds like a fingered note as opposed to sounding like an open string. To me, that's a good thing because it's a more consistent tone quality. Others' opinions may vary.
  14. My first teacher used a mechanical extension back in the '80s. I thought it was pretty slick. Part of my lessons involved practicing scales and such using the extension. At that time it seemed like most of the orchestra bassists with extensions (which was most of them) used the mechanical type. I don't remember any problems with noise etc. He had the robust cast brass type though. Some one should develope a high tech version made out of lightweight material like titanium or something with presicion adjustment that doesn't butcher the bass. It would prefferable bolt onto the extesting fingered extension fingerboard and not the neck or scroll.
  15. w302nv


    Mar 9, 2004
    Moline, IL
    FYI about this time last year, Chris relocated to Iowa, and opened Heartland String Bass...he sent me a link this morning to pictures of two his latest B and C extensions...


    Try giving him a call...866-730-0731
  16. bcarter


    Sep 11, 2008
    Cleveland, OH
    maybe some of you luthier types can clear this discrepancy up...

    my luthier and i have talked about putting an extension on my bass soon. i trust him because he has done a beautiful restoration on my instrument and his resume speaks for itself.

    i was told that with capos there is a chance that the wood will change and warp and there is not much one can do when the capos are in the wood. but with a mechanical extension it can be changed and adjusted to fit the ever-changing nature of the instrument. at least that is what i understood of the conversation (i'm a player... not a luthier)

    could some of you more luthier oriented folk enlighten the lowly players on the pros and cons of each circumstance? and see if what i just stated has any weight to it at all?
  17. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Lemur Music seems to have "Stenholm's" - not sure who actually makes them.


    STENHOLM Low C Extension Machine for Double Bass - Antique B

    Item Number: A1316A
    Unit Price: $1,095.00
  18. javabird


    Jun 11, 2003
    We bought a new Stenholm-style C extension machine from Lemur last year, when we added another bass to our household "fleet". To our great relief, the new Stenholm seems to be living up to the standard set by the old ones!

    If you came to our house and we told you that our four extension machines were three direct-from-Bob-Stenholm and one from Lemur, I doubt you'd be able to tell the difference, either by looking or by playing.

    Bob Stenholm had only offered the machines in chrome plating, Lemur also offers bright gold, antique brass, and black hardware finishes. We chose the chrome-plated model because it matched our other basses, but the other options might be of interest to those of you worried about getting "looks like somebody grafted a flute to your scroll" comments from the peanut gallery (see other C extension forum threads here at TalkBass).