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Increasing string length on 1/2 size bass

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by martin durkin, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. Hi. I'm new to double bass and have just bought a 20 odd year old Boosey & Hawkes 1/2 size bass. The dimensions of the bass are more like 5/8, and the string length is 38 1/2 inches. I am 5'11 so the end pin is fully extended. I have heard that the string length can be increased by moving the bridge down say an inch, then adjusting the tailpiece and sound post. I intend to study and play this instrument, and when I can afford, to upgrade to 3/4, of better quality; I am worried about learning all my scales, shifts etc and developing poor technique due to the short scale e.g., I'm using my third finger a lot if playing in Ab or Db in first position, because I can. I'm just concerned the shorter scale will allow me to become stuck with bad habits, therefor that is why I was thinking of modifying the string length. Any suggestion; has anyone modified a bass this way?
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Bite the bullet, sell it, and get a 3/4 bass. You'll be glad you did.

    If you keep it, learn to play it with the same technique you will use on the larger bass. I wouldn't use 4 finger now. The transition should be smooth if you stick to Simandl 124.
  3. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    You could try sliding the bridge down, but the geometry might not work out since you will be steepening the break angle below the bridge. This could be solved with a raised saddle, of course, but then you might not have enough downforce on the top... You also would want have the soundpost moved down as well.

    I'd try it the way it is. As long as you stick to Simandl fingerings you won't create any bad habits. It could actually be an advantage to start out with a shorter scale. The easier the bass is to play the faster you will learn, but you should probably plan to go to a 3/4 after a year or so.
  4. Thanks for the feedback guys. I'm bidding on saman dk book one at the moment, and hope to get it tomorrow, I'll increase my bid to make sure. Also am getting scales and arpeggios book with finger/shift positions. Will work on them. I've been using a John Bartoli bass guitar book for scales, and stuff like the cycle of fifths, chord progressions etc. I still wouldn't know how to play in first position without using third finger eg Ab major etc, but hopefully Simandle will sort that. I now realise that dropping the bridge will also lower the action, which would mead raising the bridge. Also the tailpiece would need to be shortened to make it harmonically in tune with itself. I've set up violins to be harmonically in tune, so the same theory applies I guess. I've never moved the bridge away from the grooves in the f holes, so I'm not sure how that would impact on the sound projection, potential wolf or boom/ dead spots etc. I can't afford an upgrade right now, but was thinking of thinning the bridge anyway to put a bit of mid into the E. I'd probably start with a replacement bridge and keep the original. Do you think this is worth the bother, or just relearn shifts when I upgrade. The string lengths on my three violins are the same to the mm. I've considered trading in a violi, but you never get what they're worth back.
  5. Sorry the book I'm using is by Joel DI bartolo, and it's for electric jazz bass. I'll move to the Simandl as soon as I get it, and avoid the Bartolo until I've entrenched myself with proper DB technique. I might shift the bridge 5/8 of an inch, and reduce the tailpiece 1/8 inch to get the string length up to just over 39 inches, which at least will put me into 5/8 catagory( sort of)! Do you think I could get away with bridge height and need to adjust sounpost with this minor adjustment?
  6. uprightben


    Nov 3, 2006
    Boone, NC
    The main concern with moving the bridge away from ff nicks is will the E foot still be over the bass bar. You can slide a ruler into the ff hole until it hits the bass bar and figure out exactly where it is that way. Not having the foot over the bar is structurally unsound and bad for tone. One other concern that has not been addressed is that the fit of the feet to the top may not be right in another position. If you move your bridge and don't readjust your sound post your tone will suffer.

    In my experience, going between different string lengths is fairly easy, and I have played some 1/2 size basses I really liked. In the Simandl system, there is no position in which you can get an F and an Ab on the E string without shifting. Welcome to the dark side.
  7. You cannot move the neck joint, so you might not like the result when moving the bridge.
    Also the sound will suffer even if you adjust the sound post. There were enough arguments not to change anything (except the bass needs it himself).

    Leave the bass the way it is, learn three finger system (Simandl) and avoid four finger system (this might not work the same way on a larger scale) now. Get a teacher and don't try learning from books only!
    It only takes a few weeks (maybe a month) to adjust to the longer scale if you get a 3/4 later.
  8. I think a bit of OCD might be kicking in here. I've spent years trying to cut the perfect bridges on my violins and wouldn't think twice about a 50 mile round trip to have my soundpost moved a mm or two. I might just fight the urge to mess with the bass and get stuck into the simandl, and leave things a few weeks. Thanks for the advice though. I've plenty to think about before I slacken off those strings and start messing up a perfectly playable instrument!!!