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Downsides of a narrow body?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by InternetAlias, Oct 27, 2020.

  1. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    Hello, I would like to design a bass that is extremely lightweight, and for that purpose I would also like it to be moderately narrow. It also helps with my right hand position, that there is not a lot of wood that would cause my wrist to bend.

    So, are there any typical downsides to this build? I am asking because, aside from basses like Status Streamline, I am not sure I have seen basses this narrow.


    Here is how it overlies on a jazz ass body:

    mikewalker, ObsessiveArcher and osv like this.
  2. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I own a 1986 Steinbeger XP-2, which has a very narrow "flying vee" shape. The body was 1-1/2" thick, which was thicker than it needed to be, I suspect just to make it balance. The only downside i can think of is that you have minimal to no place to rest your right forearm. On really light basses like a Hofner, you can "clamp" the body with your forearm to counteract neck dive, but if your bass is well balanced, that shouldn't be necessary. The early Steinberger L2's with the pivoting chest strap are the most perfectly balanced basses ive ever played. Balance shouldnt be a problem on a singlecut, but what kind of tuners? The single string headless style are pretty light, but the all in one machined block sryle were heavy enough to be a big consideration on balance.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
    ObsessiveArcher and Reedt2000 like this.
  3. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    Naturally, I will be machining my own hardware for tuners. This means that I have no headstock to worry about. The neck is not going to be the lightest, but with a strap button at 10th fret position and tuners at the body end, it should balance, right? Another consideration is that I plan on having this headless system fairly lightweight - under 1lb.

    So really, the only thing I am worried about is that for some reason the ergonomic just don't work out. This is still supposed to have a bevel contour for the forearm, it's just going to be quite a bit smaller than on say, a jazz bass.
  4. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    This was exactly my thought.
  5. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Design and build it to suit your personal taste and ergonomic requirements:thumbsup:. That's all you need to consider:). Anyway I find narrow bodies aesthetically displeasing and thin bodies "toy" like but these are personal quirks and not meant to discourage anyone from doing what they feel they need or like:bassist:.
    T_Bone_TL and Reedt2000 like this.
  6. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    You can always mock your design up in plywood, MDF, or some other expendable wood just to see what it feels like before committing time and more expensive materials. Just do the whole thing, neck and all so you can hold it and really judge whether you think it will work for you. You could also consider hollow body sides like the Yamaha silent guitar to have the resting points for your forearm and leg. Without adding significant weight.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
  7. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    To some extent you'll simply have to try it. If you don't like it, then you'll have the option to change it - mocking it up should help, but you may discover things after it's actually built, and then you address them. Undoubtedly worth both mocking it up, and then building it to the point of playbility without final-finishing it, to simplify any modifications that spring to mind when you play it for real. Such is the double-edged sword of build to suit you and to heck with convention...you get to suit yourself, but sometimes you find that what yourself wanted may have missed some detail that convention had covered - then again, sometimes it's pure awesome - or you fix what isn't until it is.

    Overlay that on an early Steinberger and it won't look so small. I also think the "skeletal edges" option is a good one if you find a need for physical points further out - plenty of examples that are much more abbreviated than the silent guitar's full rim in the EUB world, for instance (Including, I guess, the Yamaha silent upright bass, but there are examples with far less rib structure, much more minimalist.)
    Reedt2000 and Beej like this.
  8. Build it and you'll find out, if it doesn't work out, it's time for a redesign.
    If you're NOT building it with the same exact materials, we have no way to predict it for you.

    And I agree on the Steinberger XL, the strap arm is so comfortable and stable.
    The best and most comfy minimal body design I've played.
    The XP was not close when I had one, because of the lack of strap arm.

    Good luck,
  9. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    It’s not wide?
  10. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Other than crude rules of thumb, I don't have any good way of predicting how a bass will balance ahead of time. I posted that question on LC, and the word "Centroids" came up, which sounded suspiciously Math-ey. I have built full scale plywood mockups by laminating two pieces of 3/4" plywood together and cutting/carving the shape. It's not a perfect analog for solid wood, but close enough to get the feel anyway, particularly if you already have (or have made) the hardware. It's a cheap balance test, and gives you a chance to practice operations stress-free. Plus you can use the offcuts as gluing cauls. :D
    Beej likes this.
  11. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Check out builds by @shai-ga

    Some really small bodies , but made to work. :thumbsup:
    shai-ga, Joshua and Reedt2000 like this.
  12. arbiterusa

    arbiterusa Guest

    Sep 24, 2015
    Like the shape and really like you've mapped out your balance points. Most builders don't do that and then wonder why people complain about how it hangs. I usually put the strap pin at the 12th fret because that works for me. I'd like to try one at the tenth.

    The Steinberger L/XLs are even narrower, I have one, and I never miss having a place to rest the right arm.

    My only concern, and proper wood choice should render this irrelevant, is that with that little body, you will lose some body mass and some low end resonance. And you'll hear it in the end product. I would not do the usual "go to" option where most guys just jam some really heavy maple in as the body; that usually doesn't work real well. Find a piece of wood that is really resonant to your tap test and use that.
  13. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    "rest your right arm"????

    That's a thing??

    @InternetAlias , that looks like a nice streamlined design! Can't see any reason it won't work. It will look and feel alien at first, but I believe that we all need to have our preconceptions and biases challenged every now and again. :cool:
  14. Slade N

    Slade N

    May 28, 2005
    portland, or
    dralionux likes this.
  15. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    One alternative to a narrow body is... a skeletal body - one with fairly normal outlines, but big voids. That avoids it rocking around on you, but keeps it light. I made a guitar once that was a stick down the middle (wide enough to mount pickups on), and then “outriggers” (think Hawaiian canoe) spaced wide enough from the stick to provide stability against the player’s body.
    RBrownBass likes this.
  16. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Ibanez Bean Bass.

    Status Streamline (as you already know)

    Then, of course, there are the Steinberger designs and their many copies. All of these seem to have a following.

    The primary consideration that jumps out in my mind is strap button placement. Of course, the left hand (neck end) one should be near the top. But to insure the bass doesn't roll on you, I would also figure out a way to make sure the bridge end strap button is not centered with the neck. Make sure it is above the neck, or at least in line with the E string. That way the bass will "hang from the top" so to speak, and not roll forward or backward on you. Other than that, I think you'll be all set.
  17. Probably one of the most comfortable basses I’ve ever played, standing or sitting, is the Steinberger XL 2A. A huge part of that design was the boomerang pivot on the back where the strap attached. The fact that there was no body to speak of to rest my arm on was not an issue at all, and up to that point I’d been playing P or J style basses—it took me no time at all to adjust to the tiny body.
    CF3504DD-66FE-4D70-9E45-8903C3CAAC9E.jpeg 556E899D-4C6B-4553-BB76-10B969B79575.jpeg
    Gilmourisgod and T_Bone_TL like this.
  18. The hardest thing for me to get used to with my Steinberger is if I'm really getting after it on stage. I use my wrist area to lock the bass to my body so I can move but keep my bass and right hand locked in about the same place, but I had to really work out my right hand technique to figure out how to keep doing that.

    Otherwise the only issues I've had appear rectified by your design.
  19. Should be good. I'd use stacked pots though, because the the space difference.
  20. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    You guys have convinced me to go with cuting mdf/plywood sample first. I will see how it all feels and try different strap button positions. Will also try to calculate final weight and distribution in CAD and simulate it for purposes of testing!

    Hopefully at some point I will actually have the project completed and can show it in all the glory :D
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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