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Convert to Piccolo Bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by mnadelin, Jun 6, 2003.

  1. mnadelin


    Apr 6, 2003
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Recently, I got my hands on a copy of Stanley Clarke's "Live at the Greek" album. While listening, I found out about the piccolo bass he uses. So I was thinking, I have this old low-level Ibanez that I started on and my younger sister messes around with sometimes. I hardly ever use it, so I'm more willing to try different stuff out on it. Anyway, would it be possible to purchase some piccolo bass strings and simply replace my current strings with the piccolo strings? If I did that, would the bass need any serious adjusting? If anyone has tried doing this, please feel free to let me know how your experience was and give me any tips.

    Thanks in advance,
  2. Ben Mishler

    Ben Mishler

    Jan 22, 2003
    San Jose
    I have not done this myself, but I would imagine that you may need to get a new nut that is fitted for the correct string gauges. Also, you will probably need to adjust the neck, as there well now be more tension on it with the smaller gauge strings.
  3. Changing to piccolo strings won't make a piccolo bass. Stanley's basses were usually short scale (32")to begin with but a piccolo would be somewhat smaller like perhaps 30". I don't know an exact figure for piccolo's. The strings are closer together and that allows some of the pyrotechnics you heard Mr. Clarke set off. At any rate, your Ibanez is a 34" scale and there's no way to change that shy of changing the neck. Even that would likely require a custom job made for the purpose.
  4. mnadelin


    Apr 6, 2003
    Kalamazoo, MI
    All right, thanks for straightening that up, hambone. I don't think I'll mess around with it then.
  5. Killdar


    Dec 16, 2002
    Portland Maine
    piccolo bass: oxymoron.
  6. Sinister


    Apr 27, 2003
    I have an old Univox hollowbody, a Beatle bass copy, that I got off of ebay for not much money... It's a thirty inch scale, quite short for a bass, the shortest I've seen.

    If you wanted to do the piccolo thing, you could probly get a Beatle copy bass of some kind for pretty cheap, they are usually less than 34 inch scales, anywhere from 30 to 32 inch scales.
    If you dont want to do the hollowbody sound, check into Explorer basses of verious types, they are akward tho..
    I have an '85 Gibson Explorer that's a 32 inch scale, and the body type in general is so big, I'm betting other Explorer basses are short/medium scales too.
    Hope this rambling helps..
  7. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    Changing to piccolo strings will make a piccolo bass. A piccolo bass need not be a shorter scale than your average bass. Many times it will have a shorter scale, but not necessarily. The piccolo strings are made for a long scale bass. D'Addario and GHS are two companies that make such sets.
  8. Ben Mishler

    Ben Mishler

    Jan 22, 2003
    San Jose
    An example.
  9. His reference to Stanley Clarke puts the topic squarely on short scale basses. It's news to me that scale length isn't a determining factor in calling a bass "piccolo". It seems to me that to keep things straight as far as the musical terminology goes that a piccolo bass's have to be smaller.

    So who determined that the particular gauges in the D'Addario set from the link is "piccolo"? The largest string was .58". Does that mean that a string of .60" isn't "piccolo"? Or would that mean that our standard G strings are actually "piccolo" and the other larger ones are standard?
  10. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    Well, it appears that D'Addario determined that for their set.
    "EXL280 XL Piccolo Bass Regular/Long String Set".

    What determines a piccolo instrument is the tuning, which is an octave above the standard tuning. Often times the instrument is smaller (such as with flutes), but that is not a requirement.
  11. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe

    Jun 4, 2001
    Missoula, MT
    For what it's worth, BP did a thing on piccolos a while back and said that a 34" is fine to convert. Bunny Brunel uses a 34" pic.
  12. Yeah, I went around and did some extra research on the word "piccolo" as it refers to basses. You are correct about it being an octave higher than a standard voiced bass. No reference to scale length or string gauge

    But when you get down to it, how can this 4 string instrument - voiced the same as the lower 4 strings of a guitar - be considered a bass? All tradition aside, isn't that all you've got - a four string guitar? If it's pitch (not timbre) isn't different from a guitar how can it legitimately be called a bass?
  13. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    I'm with you on that. The timbre derived from the different scale length and make-up of the instrument itself seems to be the only difference.
  14. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe

    Jun 4, 2001
    Missoula, MT
    I never really gave it that much thought, as my bass can get just as high as a 22 fret piccolo, and an octave and a half below it... :)
  15. mr_musica


    Dec 1, 2014
    Sorry to bump this really old thread but just want to share my opinion about it.

    I would think piccolo would stand for the tuning of the instrument for the most part. The thing with scale lenghts is that the longer the scale, you would have to increase tension to get the tuning, so maybe regular bass strings won't get you to the tuning so easily (or even they'd break) as piccolo specific strings. The tension also affects the playability of the instrument, some prefer looser strings, but for speed and agility I think it is easier to use strings that are a bit tighter (or play really close to the bridge where the string vibrates less).

    So if you have any bass you could turn it into a piccolo to explore your musical side (note-wise), and when you have that figured out, you can get a shorter scale if you really feel you need a specific tone or less tight strings to get sounds that can't be obtained with a regular sized scale. The thing I would consider most than scale size is the pickups, because of the tone of the sound and it's use mostly as an instrument for soloing I would consider a bass that has more than one pickup and humbucker type or at least active pickups because those can give you more brightness to stand out in a band, so maybe not a precision but an Ibanez GSR or the Fender Dimension (haven't played one but it has humbuckers), there are some Yamaha active basses that really have lots of treble but going into brand and tone territory is more of a personal choice.

    I was planning on turning my first passive yamaha RBX into a piccolo just to try it out, but couldn't so I sold it, maybe later I get myself a piccolo, it really sounds interesting to me.

    Just my two cents.
  16. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    AKA guitar.
  17. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    So if you start by saying you would like to tune the instrument to ADGC, all you need to do is buy an ordinary set of strings for your average 4-string bass, then buy the upper C string that's commonly used on a 6-sring set. Install the ADGC strings, set it up and play away. Does it work for you? You can refine from there.

    But if you want something tuned to something like CFBbEb, you are going to have to look at custom strings. Source the strings first, try them out with the tuning you want, then address refinements afterwards. At least that's the way I would do it.

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