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Excellent 1/2 or 1/4 sized DB?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by jgeary, Mar 30, 2013.

  1. jgeary


    May 16, 2008
    San Diego
    Hi all,
    I've had so many back, left hand, and shoulder injuries - it's amazing I can still function ;)

    I would love, love, love to play the DB again. It's been many years since I've played, and it was my injuries that caused me to give it up. Although I have gone to other, much smaller instruments (e.g. classical mandolin), I am still crazy about the bass.

    I bought a short-scale Fender (Asian) bass guitar - 30" scale - and it's fun, but I'm an acoustic person at heart.

    So I'm looking for a DB which I can play for my own enjoyment - pretty much around the house or with some friends - and it will have to be a 1/2 or 1/4 size bass. Arco would be nice as well.

    Are there any really good quality basses of this size? I'm guessing they are all student models and, from what I've heard, they just sound horrible.

    Any links or suggestions would be appreciated! I'm not overly concerned about cosmetics, but a good set-up is imperative.

    San Diego
  2. bssist


    Jun 23, 2007
    St. Louis, MO USA

    I don't have a link, but I can tell you that there are some decent 1/2 size basses out there. I bought one years ago by mail order. I know I got VERY lucky, but it held together very well. With several upgrades is sounds very nice. Before I switched to a 3/4 last year I used to get compliments on the full, rich tone constantly. It is very playable, with only a 38" mensure. It has a larger body than most of the 1/2 size instruments I have seen, I thought it might be a 5/8 for a while.

    Since I no longer play it, it sits in the basement waiting for a purchaser. There is not much market for 1/2 size or ccb instruments.

    Good luck on your search, there is a bass out there for you!

  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I think if you want a high quality 1/4 or 1/2 you will have to have it custom built...$$$$ :(
  4. Jill,

    There is a quarter-size fully carved Wilfer for sale in Boston. I'm not sure what the owner or consigner hopes to get for it, but it's probably a pretty penny.

    On the plus side, there are several members of this board who live in Boston and may be able to examine the bass for you, and I can refer you to a carrier who travels across the US monthly and who could get the bass safely to San Diego for a nominal fee.

  5. mdcbass

    mdcbass Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2005
    Seacoast of NH
  6. Wally Malone

    Wally Malone

    Mar 9, 2001
    Boulder Creek, CA
    AFM International Representative Endorsing Artist: Accugroove Cabinets & MJC Ironworks Strings
    I'm in the same boat and prefer to have a smaller bass. I just bought a 1/2 size 1930's German carved bass two days ago. I wasn't happy with the pickup and took it back to the luthier to put on the same pickup that I have on my 1/4 size Kay, a Turner UB-1. I'll get it back on Monday and can't wait to spend some serious time with it. Good luck on your search.

    The link above for the bass in Southern California looks like that may be your ticket. It's a little above my price range and reason for not going for it but it looks like a good bass.

  7. Low Main

    Low Main Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2004
    I was told a year or so ago (can't remember by whom; maybe the Upton guys) that you can get any level of Shen bass in any size.

    So I take that to mean that you could get a decent hybrid or fully carved 1/4 size or 1/2 size Shen.

    Also, it seems that they are starting to offer a gamba corner option on some models - I think previously most everything came through with violin corners.

    A Shen dealer should be able to sort the details out for you. Maybe contact Steve Swan, who is out your way.
  8. BawanaRik


    Mar 6, 2012
    New Jersey
    I have a Shen S80 1/2 with Spirocores. Keep in mind that I am not an Upright player, I like it. I tend to keep it in a corner to get the volume and I can't play worth anything but I like it.
  9. jgeary


    May 16, 2008
    San Diego
    Thanks to all of you for your support. The Wilfur sounds interesting but the ad implies it is a 3/4? I'm nervous about promoting more injury by my starting up on the DB again, but I won't know if I don't try. Maybe renting a 1/4 size, just to get back into playing? Then a 1/2 size for a time? But, again, the problem with renting is the lack of quality.
    I did PM the seller of a 1/2 DB who lives not too terribly far from me (got the info from MDCBASS in this post, thank you!), so we'll see. It's exciting to think I may be able to play the bass again, even if it is only for my own pleasure.
  10. The persons selling the Wilfer know little or nothing about music. I've spoken to them several times, and most of what they know about the instrument came from me, which isn't a lot. The proportions look all wrong for it to be a 3/4 bass, but if it is the right size, it may be nice.

    That said, give priority to the bass you can drive to check out. Mail order rarely seems to work out.
  11. jgeary


    May 16, 2008
    San Diego
    Thanks Kung Fu!

  12. Guinny


    Mar 24, 2013
    I switched from cello to 1/2 because I'm a tiny girl, but learning to handle a 3/4 is the best investment I ever made.

    I don't even think they're easier or more comfortable to play anymore. If you want a little less pressure, try cello for a while. Easier to find than a tiny bass and if you use a bass technique and tune it in fourths, you'll have a comfortable time playing it. Intonation is going to be precision work, but at least it won't be a strain on your limbs.

    Which reminds me: I know a guy from Czech who can play cello fingerings on a 4/4 bass. He's a giant of a man, a busker in Prague.
  13. Hi Jill,

    I don't know what the bass shop scene is like on the West Coast-- I'm fortunate enough to live in the Central Atlantic, a veritable hotspot of musical instrument makers! :)

    I think one route to try would be to see if you have any shops who import basses from Thomas Martin in the UK. They have a "Concert" lineup built for them by a shop in Hungary. They have 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 4/4 sized instruments in that lineup, and they have an excellent reputation.

    You might also consider looking at "5/8" sized basses-- while not really an official size designation, they are basically at the smallest end of the spectrum of what are traditionally-known as "3/4" sized basses, and seem to be gaining traction with the bass-buying public in recent years. I know that Upton, based in New England, makes many of their models available in a "5/8" size. It is also my understanding that "5/8" basses can take most "3/4" strings. If this is true, it would make shopping for strings a lot easier, and give you many more options!
  14. jgeary


    May 16, 2008
    San Diego
    Guinny - I used to play cello, and oddly enough that is what kept re-injuring my hand. I won't bore you with the details, but perhaps using bass fingerings on a cello, and tuning in 4ths might work?
    Calypso - I have played a 5/8 (a friend has a very expensive, old one) and I loved it. Just not sure what makes the most sense for me.... If I could borrow a 1/2 or 1/4 from someone around here for a week that might help me sort this out. My left hand injury is somewhat of an angle/positional thing on the fingerboard (difficult to explain - my physical therapist could tell you!) - but I'm thinking that a shorter scale length and bass fingering may work?
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    There's not as deep a market, but it's out there. Paul Nowinski, for one, keeps collecting half size basses form all around. My teacher at Berklee, John Neves, had a great sounding German half size.

    But I'm not sure that's gonna fix the problem, the fingerboard may be shorter, but string tension is going to be the same and the "angle of approach" if you will remains pretty constant. When I was visiting friends in Asheville a few years back, I played a half size Kay, the shorter mensure wasn't that noticeable and the string tension pretty consistent with other folks basses....
  16. jgeary


    May 16, 2008
    San Diego
    Thanks for the advice everyone. I need to check on a 1/2 size I think. Probably a good idea to rent one for awhile and see if I can physically handle it under my circumstances. Now if I can just find a 1/2 that has a decent tone and a great set-up!!
  17. Guinny


    Mar 24, 2013

    That works. Strings are a little slack and intonation is difficult, but with a little practice it works. Especially if you play pizzicato.
  18. flutebass


    Feb 2, 2013
    I just went down to Norwood to look at the Wilfer bass. It's in very good condition. It's definitely not a 3/4. It's 1/4 size bass. String length is 36". It sounded pretty good pizzing, didn't take my rosin so I couldn't try bowing. They're not sure what they want for the bass.
  19. Try Ideal Music in NYC. They have a website.
  20. Nathan Levine

    Nathan Levine Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2008
    Anchorage, AK
    I supposedly got Ideals last 1/4 size bass for my middle school a couple of years ago. A 25 year old NOS Wilfer that hadn't ever been out of the box it was shipped in. It was a nice match for the inventory of 3/4 and 1/2 Wilfers bought new from Ideal 25 years ago. :)

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