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ERB Limit?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jammadave, Aug 19, 2004.


  1. jammadave

    jammadave Rudderless ship Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    Wow, after checking out the 10-string pics (thanks stew and co!), I started thinking to myself and have a question:

    With JT playing 7, Beem spankin' 8, Jean on 9, Stew at 10, and soon Jean at 11 strings (not to mention the Adler 11 - dont remember whose that is tho) - Will we see a limit?

    Don't worry, I dig ERBs and don't begrudge any of'em - Six is my personal top comfortable level but I've owned a 7 and will likely again.

    What I'm wondering is, from a practicality standpoint, will the musical ceiling be reached before the physical one, or vice versa?

    Specifically:
    - Will we have ERIs covering the full spectrum of human hearing? Doubtful - but how close would be physically possible to build?

    - Human differences aside, what's the limit on "comfort" in playing an instrument like this? JT still goes strong with 27 lbs of bass on, what about fretboard width?

    - And how much of each factor would make the player say "I don't need more than [X] strings"... Each person being different of course will have a preference, but I'm trying to think at the very edge.

    Not a specific opinion on my end as I've no experience above 7, thought I'd try to spark some interesting discussion though.

    Imagine the chords and runs.......
     
  2. oversoul

    oversoul fretless by fate

    Feb 16, 2004
    Portugal
    Well, if you tune it in fourths than the limit without repeating a note would be 12 strings, is this correct?
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I'd like to see an ERB with 88 strings, each a half step apart. Preferably it would be made of brass, and come in a black wooden case. Maybe the case would have a resonating board, and even a mechanism of some sort that would hit the strings.

    Call me crazy, but I think it can be done.
     
  4. jammadave

    jammadave Rudderless ship Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    if you tuned it in ascending 4ths you'd never repeat an open string frequency, technically.

    One point is though that I'm assuming we start at about 20Hz and go to 20kHz (what I was referring to as the range of human hearing, approximately of course).

    There are only 12 "notes" in the western scale regardless of what octave they're in...
     
  5. jammadave

    jammadave Rudderless ship Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    this is kinda the discussion point I referred to, although a concert grand piano has more like 264 strings.... at what point does one say "I cannot play this in 'guitar configuration' anymore" ?
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Leaving aside fanned-fret systems, I think there must be some kind of technical limitation to how many strings can share the same scale length and still sound or feel "good", or intonate properly.
     
  7. oversoul

    oversoul fretless by fate

    Feb 16, 2004
    Portugal
    You think of a new way of playing it and thus evolution happens and we have something totally different, then civilization collapses and we end up playing washtub bass again, until one day a guy starts adding more strings to the tub...
     
  8. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    If you tune in fourths, the real limit is caused by physics. There have been discussions of this before.

    If you started with a low C#, and used a string that would reproduce the fundamental(which is admittedly inaudible to most people) well, you would have a string that is around .168 - .175. It is pretty difficult to make a string larger than this that would have any kind of longevity. The low B and F# strings already tend to die quicker than the other strings, IME, and in the experience of the ERB guys who have posted on this subject before, jt in particular. And there is no real need or use for a G# string below the C#.

    At the other end of the spectrum, again basing this on being tuned in fourths, you run into the problem of having a string that is too thin to be playable, and ultimately, too thin to tune up to pitch. I believe that most high Eb strings are around .007, which is a painful gauge to play for guys used to the thickness of bass strings, and at a 34" scale length, is really tight.

    One possible solution is to use a fanned fret Novax fingerboard, but even this only helps to a certain degree.

    I can see perhaps a fanned fret 12 string, tuned C#F#BEADGCFBbEbAb, with scale lengths ranging from 39 1/2" to 30 1/2", but beyond that, you can't make a string thick enough and stable enough to tune below the C# and be useable, or a string thin enough and strong enough to be tuned to pitch above the Ab.

    Man, can you imagine what a monster a fanned fret 12 would be to play?:D
     
  9. well, although i am a dedicated 4 string player, who might one day venture out into the 5-6 string world, more for easier finger positioning than the range (but of course, i still hold out for the fender bass VI, that is one i'd get today if i had the money, and i could find one!), but i would say you'd be limited to the size of your hand/arm. it all depends on how far you can reach. if you are uncomfortable with the fact that your ERB's highest (treble side) string is being muted by your forearm when you reach for your lowest string (bass side), than i'd say thats too many strings.
    for me personally, i wouldn't mind an ERB, maybe 6 at the most (Bass VI is another story :D ) but i wouldn't want anything that goes lower than a B, or high enough that i can get into a guitar's full range in first postion...than i'd just buy a guitar!
    if my ERB can sound like a mondolin, than forget it!

    Charlie
     
  10. oversoul

    oversoul fretless by fate

    Feb 16, 2004
    Portugal
    Embellisher, I believe the SIT low C# for Stew is 195' gauge, their low F# is already at 165' and its the ideal measure.
     
  11. jammadave

    jammadave Rudderless ship Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    Ahhhh, evidence-supported speculation appreciated, Jeff - it's a logical conclusion to be sure.

    And what a monster it would be! I had enough trouble stretching to the 37" of a Dingwall B, but then again I have little hands. (my 35" 6-string isn't bad at all though...)

    spec on!

    :D
     
  12. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Obviously, as oversoul pointed out, I was wrong about the gauge of the C# string, but as you can see, the real problem is with anything above a high Ab string.
     
  13. oversoul

    oversoul fretless by fate

    Feb 16, 2004
    Portugal
    I would hate to be near that string if it snapped :bag: :p
     
  14. hey all,

    as someone's who's played the 11 Michael Adler built for Garry Goodman, I can tell you a few things.

    first, the weight and balance of the instrument were not a problem. playing across the fingerboard and navigating that width weren't either.

    however...

    all the concerns about strings are absolutely viable. while I have no appreciable decay of my SIT F# string, the strings I used to use don't boast the same longevity or tenacity.

    the high strings have been a problem for me simply because I was not used to unwound strings before this latest set.

    I have a hard time -- personally -- with anything higher than about a Bb above F because I don't hear/feel the same timbre, so I opted to stop at 10 strings. Garry's approach is much different than mine and he exploits his range radically differently.

    I hope that was some help.

    from the lows,

    Stew
     
  15. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    If you're willing to tap only, Chapman Stick and probably Warr and Megatar are already past 11.
     
  16. yep! 12 and 14 strings respectively!

    from the lows,

    Stew
     
  17. Jean Baudin

    Jean Baudin

    Aug 27, 2003
    redwood city, ca
    Endorsing Artist: See Profile
    Chapman Stick and Warr guitars are kinda cheating with the string count though, since the lowest string is in the middle there's duplication on both sides. I'm pretty sure they go just as high as an 11, but I don't think they go to a low F# or C# ... afaik. Don't know about the megatar... but it sounds like something godzilla would fight. :hyper:

    GODZILLA VS. MEGATAR

    :rollno:
     
  18. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jean, do you think that a high Ab string is possible? An .005 at 34" would probably break a couple of semitones before that pitch, wouldn't it?
     
  19. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    yes, there are only 12 notes, but whats wrong with repeating a note? its a different octave.
     
  20. Jean Baudin

    Jean Baudin

    Aug 27, 2003
    redwood city, ca
    Endorsing Artist: See Profile
    hey embellisher - I think it's possible but not by "regular" means. I could see adding a high Ab by doing something like those read "step" basses - but It will definitely some R&D time for the builder as the frets will be misaligned. Going thinner than .007 is a bad idea, just shorten the scale should be okay.

    http://www.readcustom.com/vw1.jpg

    Also, just to note that fan you mentioned (39 - 30) before is too akward for playing the 1-3 frets on the low strings unless you made the "straight" fret the 5 or 6th fret which would make all the high frets and the bridge at a very extreme angle (the high frets would be pretty hard to play). If you keep the "straight fret" at the 12th the tension would be too much for that Ab with a regular headstock, and by shortening that side of the headstock your hand will be bumping into tuners when fretting the 1-3 frets on the B and lower strings. Hope that makes sense. What kinds of funny about this is that I've had a few lengthy conversations with 3 builders about this!!! hahaha. On top of that a 36"-38" is one thing on a 5 or 6-string but it's something else entirely when you have 3-4 inch neck width to contend with! :eek: Tapping no big deal but regular playing - OUCH. I can feel my hand ripping apart and my wrist exploding putting my index on the 3rd fret and my pinky on the 7th - BOOOOOM! :bawl: