Double Bass size for children

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Bassina, Nov 16, 2005.

  1. Bassina


    Nov 15, 2005
    Hey all,

    I am looking for some advice of what double bass sizes i shoud choose for a startup school. Intended is to teach 5 -8 students with ages between 8 and 13.

    I wonder what is the size dsitribution you have seen in similar schools.

    I was thinking of 2 1/4 and 1 1/2 size plywood bases or eventually the 1 1/4 and 2 1/2 bases ?

  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Inactive Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    My Son at 10 played a 3/4 Shen 41" string length and at 12 played a 7/8 model with a 42" string length.

    At 8 I would try for a 38-40" string length 1/2 size Bass or 5/8 at the least. The smaller Basses often has a weak sound and can be difficult to set up properly.

    Playability is the key. Softer strings are available now for beginners. If the Bass is set up well, they should be trained to have a proper left hand and play the positions correctly. Then make sure the Bow is decent or they will also develope bad technique there as well.
    CaseyVancouver likes this.
  3. mtto

    mtto Supporting Member

    May 25, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Is this the conventional wisdom? Should 12 year olds start on a standard 3/4 bass, or do they need a smaller instrument?
  4. Ludwig


    Aug 17, 2006
    Bass size useable does not depend on age but on size of player. For that age group I would get a 1/8, a 1/4 and a 1/2 size bass. If you get a smaller 9 year old girl as a student, even a 1/4 bass could be to big.
    If in doubt, a smaller bass is better then a too large instrument. Sound depends a little on cost as well, you can get 1/8 basses for several 1000 dollars. For smaller basses, you have to add amplification earlier to be loud in a larger room. But a small instrument can sound very good if you play it as a student in a small room with not that many people listening. Solo bassist playing mostly in the higher registers often prefere a smaller bass (1/2 or 5/8 or a 3/4 on the smaller side), that projects better with the higher frequency. Big basses are more for big orchestras or using a deep 5 string.
    BarfanyShart and jj.833 like this.
  5. Ludwig


    Aug 17, 2006
    Here is a link for factory basses from germany, starting with a 1/8 for € 3400.-. That small bass will sound good and be useable in a student orchestra: Kontrabass Rudolf Mastri von Mastri
    Winoman likes this.
  6. Do you want to buy or rent?
    For a young player that's growing fast, maybe it's more advisable to rent. If possible of course.
    Winoman likes this.
  7. My son just started playing a 1/8. Thomann stock, great playability, good sound. He's 7, second highest in his classroom. The bass is exactly his size, I guess next year he'd be better off with 1/4.
    I agree that smaller bass is better than a bigger one for the beginner. I can see how physically overwhelming this new experience is for him.
    Staccato likes this.
  8. Ludwig


    Aug 17, 2006
    To check size: with nut at around eye level or a little above, the fingers of the right hand should be able to reach the bridge. If the left hand has to reach above head to get bowing hand to good position, that would be uncomfortable and the bass to big. It is possible to play that way and I have seen it (mostly from small women playing larger full size basses in an orchestra), but not good for the health. I would avoid that for a growing child if possible.
  9. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    orchestra teacher here,

    I have 1/8th size basses in my classroom for 4th graders. about a 32.25" string (just measured.)

    they are from kolstein and work great for my kids. for some of the taller kids they "can" handle a bigger bass, but a smaller bass that is a lot physically easier to play makes everyone happier. i've checked in with plenty of former students who do just fine graduating to larger bodied basses later (ie there is no unusually high attrition rate from my program when they go to middle/high school)

    i've seen the "cello string as bass" before and don't love it. super small basses seem the be the answer.
    AGCurry, mtto and marcox like this.
  10. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    Just to toss this out there for fun, here is Gary Karr with a 1/8th bass

    groooooove, AGCurry and BarfanyShart like this.
  11. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    I got two kids doing bass: An 11 year old who is big 5'2", 140 lbs; and a 9 year old who more average sized, 4'8", 80 lbs. They both play on the same 1/8 (32") bass at home, which is more the little guy's size. At school they both play on the same 1/4 (35"), which is a little more the big guy's size. They actually don't care about the difference in size, and they can both play on both instruments well enough.

    I do not think it's a great idea to go to 3/4 size until the kid is getting close to full grown, like 14+ years old - and even then, the trend has been for college music students to be playing smaller instruments than used to be typical, 5/8 or just over. Heck, I've been playing my whole life, and my next DB is probably going to be a 1/4 or 1/2 size instrument.