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D vs. Eb neck?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Jim Mass, Dec 12, 2004.

  1. Hello,

    After much anticipation, I finally was able to spend about an hour playing a Shen 180 bass at a violin shop within reasonable distance to my home. My general impression was very positive, the instrument had a warm, sensitive sound (and lots of it!), and I'm leaning strongly toward buying it.
    One thing about it, though, is that it has a D neck and my previous experience had been with Eb neck basses. I really have gotten to feel comfortable with this configuration with the easy reach to F# on the g-string, etc. I mentioned this to the shop owner and to my surprise, he started discussing 'lengthening' the neck by reshaping the heel - he didn't even flinch, he's a violin maker.

    So, the questions for discussion are:
    Assuming I buy this bass,
    - Should I just bite the bullet and re-learn fingerings (or make the big stretches) appropriate on a D neck? Anybody have a similar experience? Was it an easy transition?
    - Should I consider getting the neck lengthened by him? Any thoughts on the pros and cons here? Anybody have personal experience with this? Is this a pretty common (and safe) mod done by luthiers?

    There are certainly other ways to go, such as:
    - Contact Shen and ask if they could supply a bass with an Eb neck. These are factory basses, so... The shop I went to had 3 Shens in it, a 100, a 180, and a Willow, all had D necks - maybe that's their standard. Also, I understand that Shen basses are backlogged at this point, so there's that 'bird in the hand' thing.
    - Find some other bass (with an Eb neck). Anybody know what neck comes on the Christophers? D or Eb? But again, this 180 sounded really nice IMO.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
  2. Jazzman


    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    I went from an Eb neck on an Engelhardt EM-1 to a D neck on a Euro Artist. I found the transition very easy and my intonation improved greatly. I really prefer the D neck - don't know why, but I just play better with it. To me, having the stop at the D rather than Eb seems much more logical. Maybe it is because I originally played electric and the bass had a position marker on the 7th fret rather than the 8th.
  3. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Forget about modifying the bass. It will weaken the neck and hurt its value. Learn to play with a D neck. It's the standard.
  4. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    If you really liked the Shen then I would go with that. Choosing the bass on the D Vs. Eb neck is the wrong way to go.

    Go with the best bass for you. As Jazzman said, you'll be able to adjust your fingering ASAP.

    D is the standard. So if you ever have to use another bass on a the job, better to be playing D neck to start.
  5. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    Jim, was that shop in North Canton? If so, Joe is a super-nice guy and a pleasure to deal with. My office is just down the street from there. Is that 7/8 Willow set up yet? I was oggling that one the moment they took it out of the box and have been wanting to hear it.
  6. Hi Joe (or 'Hi Neighbor'),
    Yes, it is. I met Joe for the first time on Sat, agreed, great guy. (Why do I always expect these guys to be older?) The Willow was on display, but I don't know if it was set up. I played one note on it, spent all my time with the 180. That Willow is one gorgeous bass, though, I wish I had a few more bucks...

    Thanks to all who repsonded, easy to see that there's concensus here. I'll certainly take your advice.

  7. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    I'm sure the 180 would do a nice job. I have an SB100 with the old Gamba shape that I bought from Joe in 2001. It has been a good buy for me and Joe has been very good about looking it over when I wack something out of place.

    If the Willow is up in the shop with strings on it, I am going to have to stay away untill after Christmas. I can't afford to fall in love right now with a new bass.
  8. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    The D vs. Eb neck thing always makes me wonder why the brass-button concept that Red Mitchell leveraged isn't used.

    No one complains that any cheating is going on for having a neck heel as a reference point for good intonation...why not be rich bassists rather than poor bassists...

    The only thing the button idea might make a little more difficult is for shifting with the thumb behind the neck. Maybe offset them or something...
  9. I'm not familiar with the brass button concept? What's that?
  10. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    It seems he had brass buttons on the back of the neck to reference positions.
  11. I'd say keep the D neck. Most basses are that way, and if you ever need to borrow a bass or something it might throw you. I know whenever I have the misforune to grab a bass with the Eb neck it freaks me out. I can deal with it, but it just doesn't seem right...
  12. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I've played both and it doesn't matter to me one way or the other. I think the string length is the same so intonation shouldn't be a big problem (though I may be totally wrong, but I doesn't bother me). What I have noticed is that every bass, regardless of the neck is a little different. Playing another guys bass at a jam is always an adventure.

    When you are choosing a bass you'll just know. I tell my students to not worry about the specs but base you choice on the one that feels right and sounds right to you.
  13. No...When Red switched to fifth tuning he put a brass stud on the back of the Claudot bass neck he had at the time. Only one as a 'check in' guide. Do a search under Reds name or John Donnely. John bought the bass from Reds widow Diane. There are pictures of this bass on TBDB.
    Strange how stories always get bigger!
    On the D/Eb neck issue...you're making something out of nothing. One healthy three hour gig and you're in biz.
    Red switched from 4th to 5th tuning in four days. His first gig after the switch was a huge orchestra conducted by Andre Previn. I'm sure you can manage a D neck.
    When I was your age......HaHa?
  14. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    It seems all the pedigree basses I've made noise with had D necks. My Strunal has an Eb neck, and so it's quite an adjustment for me too (but on the other side of the fence). I'm used to having more "free space" around the heel, which I do like.

    D necks make the D easier to find, and it's much more common than Eb...but it doesn't matter in the end. Muscle memory and playing in tune would challenge me on any bass.
  15. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    My 5-string busetto hybrid has a D neck

    I prefer D neck.
  16. Is this true? All my basses were Ds until I got my hybrid with a Eb. I was worried but my teacher gave the bass a thumbs up and said not to worry, that I'd get used to it and he'd help me do it. David Gage wrote a column is bass player magazine where he said the split is 50-50 Eb to D. And he's seen a lot of basses! My teacher said it's like violin corners vs. gamba. In the end, the shape doesn't matter and neither does the neck, it's the sound. However most old good basses I've seen are Ds. Is the Eb neck a recent (20th century) thing?
  17. My vile-din cornered Chinese "Dual Joy" has a "D" neck, and my Stentor busetto has a neck which is closer to Eb than D - I think it might be that the body of the Stentor is slightly shorter than that of the "Dual Joy".

    I change from one to the other and I play just as out of tune on each… :meh:

    - Wil
  18. The obvious thing is with a D neck, you just lay the butt of you left hand in the crook of the neck, extend your little finger on any string and there, voila, you have the harmonics. You can't ask for a better hint as to the way the instrument is set up in overtone partials. Not so with the Eb neck.