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Classical piccolo bass and all that jazz...err...classical

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bopeuph, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. bopeuph


    Jul 3, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    Hey guys, long time no post.

    I'm fairly new in Orlando, so most of the gigs aren't really coming my way, with there being fewer and fewer well-paid band gigs. I want to make some changes to drum up more work without having to rehearse guys who don't want to show up on time, call out last minute, or worry about venues just not "having the money" to afford even a trio these days.

    I want to try some new ideas with solo work.

    My background is heavily-influenced classical training with my knowledge, but my chops were always jazz oriented since I jumped onto double bass so late in the game; my bowing chops were never great. They're getting better, but I couldn't jump into a solo gig on it in three months from now.

    I've been thinking about going piccolo bass. I'm going to pick up a set of strings and put it on my Epiphone that never gets any play except for home practice. I've been debating on turning it into a tenor bass for years, anyway.

    But I think I want more of a classical guitar sound. My idea is to play classical guitar music for restaurants and possibly weddings. Now, to actually sit and learn to play a classical guitar could take me years. I want to be able to just transfer the music I already know onto an instrument with a very fast learning curve to get gigs fast. I have studied most of the Bach cello suites very thoroughly, and could add other stuff to it, like typical wedding music and lute music.

    Since I've always been a four string bassist, I feel like if I could just have a four string picc tuning, I could knock out this stuff much faster. But listening to piccolo basses on YouTube still have a bit of a muddy and, of course, electric sound. I would like to more or less fool the clients into my instrument being called a classical guitar.

    So my question is, how feasible is it to convert a 6-string classical guitar to a 4-string piccolo bass? If I were to take out two tuners and get a new bridge/saddle/nut set cut for four strings, would there be any trouble with that?

    Also, what about doing something very similar, but with a mandocello tuning? I think the piccolo bass tuning should work, but I wonder if doing a mandocello tuning would give intonation problems. If this could work, I think I could easily transfer the knowledge of the suites over.


  2. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    To my knowledge it would still be a guitar, just with 4 strings. What makes it a piccolo "bass" is the longer scale length that a bass provides. Why not just tune the guitar symmetrically so the patterns are the same?
  3. Register_To_Disable

  4. or a retuned tenor guitar. Which is what you'd wind up with....
    Better to get an acoustic bass guitar and work with that.... I have one tuned to ADGC for this sort of thing - nice for soloing, but the standard tuning will work well, too.
  5. bopeuph


    Jul 3, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    I thought about this, but the distance of the strings to each other would probably cause me to need more practice. I figure that four strings spread out like my electric basses would speed up the learning curve.

    I thought about this too, but I would really like to get the classical guitar sound. I feel like it would just sound more appropriate.

    Another path I was thinking was a mandocello...but I don't know how I'd do with the doubled strings.
  6. bopeuph


    Jul 3, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    My question here is if this conversion would be possible, or if it would just make the instrument worse. Is there any reason this just couldn't work?

    Also, I do plan on working on classical guitar; there's a reason the traditional design has been around for so long, but I just want to make it to where I can gig after going through the rep for a few weeks and just learning on a very similar instrument, rather than learning an entirely different instrument.
  7. tkozal

    tkozal Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    I would buy a Baritone, or a bass in the 28-30 inch scale range, tune it in fourths, and leave all 6 strings on. Get you the spacing of a bass, but the added range. I do a three finger and thumb right hand chordal stuff, and it works well on such an instrument. Some Bari's have tight spacing. I was thinking about getting an Ibanez Mikro 5 and stringing it an octave up.
  8. Duuuuuuuuuude


    Nov 30, 2005
  9. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Here's what Stanley Clarke has used as a piccolo bass: http://www.lieberguitars.com/basses/mando-piccolo/

    It's a short-scale (30") bass with piccolo strings (one octave higher). It definitely has a classical guitar sound to me; as a matter of fact, the first time I heard it I thought it was an acoustic steel-string guitar.
  10. bopeuph


    Jul 3, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    Now that's the kind of thing I'm wondering about. Problem is, I can't seem to find any links with a recording of a mando piccolo.

    I talked to one of the guys at Guitar Factory in Orlando, and he suggested I get a classical guitar and just take off two strings and play it like that for a while. He said it's quite possible to do what I'm thinking, but it would be a waste of a few hundred bucks if I don't like it, so I should try it with the two top strings missing for a while and see what I think. I can find a used classical guitar for some pocket change on Craigslist, then go from there.
  11. tkozal

    tkozal Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    Stanley's Piccolo is all over the Animal Logic CD's he did years ago with Stewart Copeland
  12. bopeuph


    Jul 3, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    Ah. I'll have to grab that record then. Thanks!