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How necessary are C-Extensions?

Discussion in 'Accessories [DB]' started by LeifTheBeef, Apr 4, 2019.

  1. I'm a high school player currently, only a sophomore. I'm in an outside of school youth orchestra, and I was talking to one of the other bassists about C-Extensions. She has one installed and she said she highly recommended it if I was able to afford one (as far as I've researched, they can be quite expensive!).

    Are they worth getting this early, or should I wait until college or even the professional level (if I even get there?).
  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    You are correct--getting a C-extension installed can be expensive, and you are unlikely to get nearly what you put into that extension back when/if you sell your bass. They are nice to have, but plenty of double bass principals make it through college without one. If you are not planning on focusing on some form of classical performance, they are generally extraneous. I would say wait at least a year or two, and if you are planning on upgrading to a better instrument, wait until then.
    groooooove and dhergert like this.
  3. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    Get one in college.
    damonsmith and isolated like this.
  4. at the end of the day, this conversation is about the price of an extension and whether or not you find that to be worth it.

    I got through college just fine without one. nobody i went to college with had an extension on their bass. when i see those guys now, about half of them - obviously enough, the ones who are predominantly classical players - have them.

    i agree don't put one on a bass you'll be selling.

    i'm getting one made for one of my basses soon - it's time. i'm well into a full time career teaching and playing music, and i wish i had one constantly.

    they are by no means a "must have."
    Lee Moses likes this.
  5. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    Think of C extensions in the same vein as MacBook’s. Is it really necessary, or are the rich kids trying to show off?

    Oh, Christian McBride doesn’t use one and he does okay doesn’t he?
    nbsipics, SteSte and james condino like this.
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    That's not really a viable analogy. Over an above the question of how far you're pursuing an orchestral career, I'd say the other consideration is the value and career longevity of the instrument to which you're considering adding it. If you're playing a plywood or entry level carved bass, you might want to wait until you buy an instrument you're going to start doing professional auditions with. That way you haven't:
    1. added an expensive option to an inexpensive instrument with little expectation of getting a return (a double wide with gold plumbing and a La Cornue range is still a double wide)
    2. added an expensive option with little expectation of financial return not expecting a career change decision (sure the La Cornue range wa a good idea for the trailer when I was going to be a professional chef with my own restaurant, but I decided I want to be an equine veterinarian).

    Another viable option (and one that seems to be de rigeur for European orchestras) is to buy a good student model 5 string bass.
    zon6c-f, Inara, Will Yager and 2 others like this.
  7. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    Gee... I wasn’t considering orchestral endeavors... But, in High Schools... Hmm...
  8. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    On a great instrument, they expand the possibilties of greatness.

    On a mediocre instrument, you go from a mediocre E to a mediocre C....
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but both those parameters (orchestra, high school age) are in the original post.
    tonequixote and Inara like this.
  10. I would say it depends on your resources, if you or your parents have the means and you find a bass you like with one, it isn't bad to get used to using one sooner than later. While they are expensive, a good bass with one will hold the value pretty well.
    wathaet likes this.
  11. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    It takes work to truly learn the extension and the best time to do that work is in college. Having one in college is a must if you intend to play orchestra professionally.
    As for nobody having one where you studied, I am pretty sure everyone had one where I studied.
  12. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Aren't extensions more of an American thing and 5 string basses the more common European way to achieve the result?

    I bet there are dozens of threads on "extension versus 5 strings" but since I am not an orchestral bassist and never will be, we'll leave that exercise for the student.

    Just pointing out that there appear to be two accepted paths to playing notes below E.
  13. I think it is more a German and Austrian thing, but, yes, extensions are what most American orchestral bassists use, since the OP is in California, that would be the way to go.
    You can find them on all sorts of basses, I know a bassist in CT that has a ply bass with one. People get them for community orchestras and as well as serious high school students.
    As late as the 1990s you could still get one added for $500 or a bit more, now they are pushing $1000 or more. I am for young students getting the tools they need as early as possible and should only be limited by means. If the bass playing doesn't stick, they are going to have sell the bass anyway. A good bass program is rigorous and one less thing to work out once you get there is not a bad thing.
    wathaet likes this.
  14. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Where I studied, there were only a few bassists that had extensions. But that's been over 2 decades ago.

    Umm, definitely more. You can get the KC Strings extensions around that price, but more typically you are going to pay in the $2000 vicinity for a good extension done by a reputable luthier.
    james condino likes this.
  15. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    I studied in the US 95-01. You dont need one to win a job, you need to know it really well for the subsequent trial though...

    As an aside, my first extension on the bass I got freshman year from Robertsons there was only an E stop. IMO, that is a good thing on a first extension as you really learn to actually play it. Then when you get stops it is just a big bonus. It also costs less.
    james condino and csrund like this.
  16. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012
    An extension or 5 string is not the only solution for everyone.

    Yes, to be a classical pro in North America an extension is expected. Some auditions specify one if hired. A serious student will want one. The op is a high school student so an extension seems a bit ambitious at this time. Later if needed.

    An alternative to an extension or 5 string bass is tuning in 5ths. This has worked out fine for me. Nobody pays me to play classical so I can do what I want. A,D,G,C and I don’t have to transpose or fuss with an extension. For jazz I prefer my other bass in 4ths.

    The bass sounds great in 5ths, and the high A sounds way better with a bow than any G string I had on before. My bass is a 7/8ths and has really taken to the low notes down to C. The high Ab wolf note disappeared, the bass is wolf note free. I now can play the lowest notes as written, for the cost of strings and a bit of effort woodshedding the board.

    The scroll on my bass sits far enough forward that it would need to be cut for an extension. David Briggs at Robertson's told me I would have to get my bass to New Mexico for them to do it. Iirc the current cost is $2800 at Robertson’s. Evidently you get what you pay for with extensions.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
    contrabajisimo and DoubleMIDI like this.
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
  18. Had a student sub with us recently, and his bass had a fingered extension. He keeps a guitar capo attached to it for passages like those interminable bars of low D pedal tones in Mahler 1.

    As another aside, 5-stringers seem to be catching on in my neck of the woods. Played a pro-am concert with Indianapolis Symphony recently, and four out of the seven in the section were playing fivers. One of the area's more affluent high schools has even acquired several 5-stringers for its orchestra program. No doubt reflects the influence of the ISO assistant principal, who is a 5-string player and has a number of private students playing them now.
  19. that's a really great point. if you are heading straight for the orchestral audition world, get a bass worth putting one on - or a bass with one.

    as for my colleagues, about half of them were jazz and/or bass guitar players. I also started in a community college, none of us had money for extensions, or even decent basses.
  20. Kieran O'hara recently quoted me at $2800 for a fully gated extension. that's about the going rate.
    Lee Moses and james condino like this.
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