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Is a 5/8 right for me?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by ChuckBass42, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. ChuckBass42


    Jan 11, 2013
    I have found a 5/8 1950's German laminate that I have the chance to try out tomorrow. It's about a four hour drive for me and I'll be trying out some 3/4 UBs as well. This will be my first upright. My question is, I'm 5'7" with small hands, so would the 5/8 be the best fit for me? I've played electric bass for 25 years. I have several 34" scale electric basses which I can play just fine, but my favorite is a MIJ Fender jazz bass that is 32" scale. I know the most obvious answer is to play the different instruments and see what I like, which I will do. I'm just hoping to get some advice from some smaller guys like me who have a preference one way or the other and why they have that preference. FWIW, I'll likely play very little arco, mostly pizzicato. A little jazz, some bluegrass/folk and some Texas swing. Don't know if that has any bearing on it. If I've left out any info that would help y'all offer me some good advice ill be glad to answer any questions. Thanks!
  2. I have to give you the lawyer's answer, "It depends." As you can read other places here, a 5/8 pushes a little less air, so very generally, they will not have the volume or depth of a 3/4. I have been the unhappy learner of owning two 3/4 basses that I found, after considerable struggle, were too big for me to play comfortably: short arms and fingers. One is currently on Craigslist Atlanta). For me, "fit" is a first consideration along with sound. On sound, be sure to have someone play each for you as you stand 8-10' in front of the bass. You'll be amazed at the differences. On fit, it's very subjective, but she should feel good in your arms. Happy hunting!
  3. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Bullhead has good advice. Keep in mind, it's not just the fractional size a bass is selling as, it's the actual dimensions of the components that count. So, measure the nut to bridge string length, and the upper bout width of any bass you try. They will probably vary quite a bit from bass to bass. A typical string length for you will probably be 39" in the 5/8 group and 41.5" in the 3/4, but these numbers are not set in stone. There are 3/4 bodies out there with shorter SLs. An upper bout of 19" may work for you and there are many 3/4 basses with this measurement and sloping shoulders, which will make it easier to get into thumb position, if you ever go there.

    Read this, too http://www.talkbass.com/wiki/index.php/Beginner's_Guide_to_buying_a_Double_Bass
  4. ChuckBass42


    Jan 11, 2013
    Thank you both for the benefit of your experience and knowledge. I had to postpone my trip to see the bass but I'm going to try to shoot for this coming weekend so I'll keep you posted.

  5. I just found this thread and am going to keep an eye on it - I'm looking forward to hearing about your experience with the 5/8 bass :hyper:

    I, too, am a smaller player. I'm 5'7" (with shoes on lol :D), have large palms, and shorter fingers. However, I've been playing guitar for about 15 years so I don't have much of a reference regarding basses.

    I started taking upright bass lessons in July and am renting a nice 3/4 bass with a scale of almost 43". I'm wondering if an upright with a shorter scale might be more comfortable to play.
  6. gottliver


    Dec 20, 2004
    wouldn't that be a 7/8?
  7. Turxile


    May 1, 2011
    I believe 3/4, 7/8 refer to the body volume of the bass and not the scale length?
  8. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    The fractions people use to describe size are not definite indications of the details. Some 3/4 bodies, particularly older basses, have long string lengths (42-44") and some 7/8 bodies, particularly modern basses, have 41-42" SLs.

    Yes, a 41.5" string length will be more comfortable to play than a 43" for most players, IMO. Not as much stretching in the low positions. Most of the modern instruments, 3/4-7/8, maybe even 4/4, seem to have 41-42" string lengths.
  9. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    43" is especially big, but possible. Are you sure it's not 42"?

    That inch is a big deal, especially for someone of, oh let's say "economical" stature. :)
  10. lol I like the term "economical" for describing my height.

    Also, I measured just to make sure and it is indeed 43" from the nut to the bridge.

    I'm thinking of going to the store where I got the bass (KC Strings in Merriam, KS) and asking if they have any basses with a smaller scale I could try. Since I'm renting to buy, and they are all really cool, perhaps they'll let me trade into renting to buy an upright with a shorter scale.

    From years of playing guitar, I know a distance as little as an inch can equate to a huge deal regarding playing comfort. Hopefully, KC Strings will have some uprights with shorter scales in stock.
  11. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    If you're starting out a 43 will be problematic. I'd try to get hold of a 42 at least until you complete the first Simandl book or equivalent. One of my basses is 43-1/4. The bass sounds great, which I attribute in part to the long string length, but there are certain things which are difficult to do, even though I've been playing for over thirty years!
  12. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I don't think they should have rented a 43" scale bass to a beginner.
  13. In early 1970's, I took D B lesssons from A S O basssist, Jane Little. Jane has been with A S O since her teens; still playing as far as I know. She must be in her late 70's- early 80's, now.
    She is a VERY petite woman and barely stands 5 feet if that.

    At her request, I bought a 7/8 , as she said this is minimum size for symphonic use. I stood nearly 6 feet then at age 17. I have large hands although not basketball player-sized. Soon after purchasing the 7/8, I whinned to Jane about finger strain, hand size, as I had been using a 3/4.

    So Jane solved the problem.... She held her hand palm-to-palm against mine. Her hand was like a childs next to mine.

    Next she played[ bowed] a flurry of notes in all positions with full vibratto on each fingered note, emphasizing her facility in lower positions. I WAS STUNNED. She played a 7/8 D B like a speed metal guitarist. [ Her left hand finger tips were like a frogs toes. She even referred to them as finger pads]

    She handed me my a$$ fully humbled and schooled, saying, "So what was your excuse about your hand and finger size?..YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE..IF I DON'T, YOU SURELY DO NOT".

    In conclusion: With String Bass / Double bass..HANDS, FINGERS, ARMS ..Size doesn't matter. I have witnessed it "first hand".
  14. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Sorry, Zon, this is dangerous advice. While your teacher may have learned how to navigate a large instrument, at least enough to show you at a lesson, this is just one example and an isolated incident. There is a long history of serious players who put in a lot of time on their instruments developing physical problems because of various strains, RSI's, carpel tunnel, etc. caused by ergonomic and other issues related to playing a musical instrument. If a player is planning on putting in a lot of playing time for a lifetime of music making, a bass that taxes the system as little as possible is going to be essential, IMO. I, too, have seen small women playing large basses. That doesn't mean that relationship will last or end well in the long term.
  15. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    +1 re Eric's post. Also, the "rule" that a 7/8 bass is the minimum for symphonic use is nonsensical from a number of points of view. Chief among them is that there really is no standardization with regard to such fractional sizes. There certainly are basses with string lengths typical of what we call "3/4" (i.e., 42" or so) that have large bodies and deep ribs and that are capable of producing a thunderous "symphonic" sound.

    As for teachers, hands, and individual differences, one of my teachers could pull off fingering stretches that I never could and never will. Other than my being far less capable, talented, and accomplished, than is he, I realized that part of the problem stemmed from the different anatomy of our hands. For example, he could/can stretch and arch his pinky in ways I cannot because mine is relatively shorter (although my hands are larger). For a time, I practiced and practiced his personal approach and that led to pain. I simply had to adapt my playing to my hands. I think this squares well with what Eric said.
  16. Disclaimer: In no way do I express any intention for any of us to injur ourselves. If you fear injuiry on a larger scaled instrument, then do not use one of that scale.

    With that being said, I presume that it still holds true that Symphonic basses are 7/8 minimum and some do use 8/8.

    In a jazz, bluegrass, folk or LOCAL orchestra; you'll be welcomed with whatever bass you have and whatever talents you offer.

    I was disheartened to learn of the very low pay of most symphonic musicians; regardless of skills. Symphonic basses are in my opinion museum pieces, as well.

    This is partially why I sold both my 3/4 as well as my 7/8 in favor of exclusively playing electrics. String basses; D B of reasonable quality are very tempermental; needing some maintenance, especially in our humid South. Electrics?..set it and forget it.

    Some of my friends were making more $$ in clubs, playing rock radio cover in the 1970's, than degreed symphonic musicians.

    Mrs Little has made a career with Double Bass in A S O; beginning in her teens;essentially from A S O's inception.
    She does have outstanding facility on a D B that perhaps few other have regardless of stature/ hand size.

    I don't want to discourage anyone from buying or using a string bass/ D B, but if you aren't playing symphonic music; arco, then a fretless electric will more than sufffice. You will probably look into the many systems to amplify your D B ; essentially making it an Acoustic/ Electric hybrid in my opinion. I have been flamed to an ash in this Forum for this opinion, which I still hold as true. Also, "Simandl method" will hamper your facility on electric, which pretty much demands one-finger-per-note, instead of forgoing your ring finger until 7th or thumb position.
    Good luck..and play safe...
  17. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    No, it does not hold true and never did, for at least the reason I stated above. It's more about the body size, power, and sound.

    Wow! There have been few statements I've read in all my years on TB with which I disagreed as much or more. So, you're saying that if you play mostly jazz pizz., then a fretless electric would suffice. I don't think so! The sound and experience are, IMO, vastly different. I feel comfortable saying that most here agree with me. Your statement strikes me as akin to saying that, unless you're on a race track, driving a Volkswagen is essentially the same as driving a Maserati.

    Now, in terms of say, single notes, a poorly amplified DB may sound much like an acoustic/electric hybrid. Even so, the approach, style, technique, and tactile feedback from the point of view of the PLAYER remain vastly different. Now, consider that many of us amplify our DBs in a manner that fairly faithfully conveys the unique sonic character of the instrument. In either case, IMO, your assertion ends up being way off the mark and far removed from reality. It seems you never were a DB player at heart. Maybe you never were bitten by the bug. This statement bolsters that notion:

    For those of us who play and love the DB, taking care of them is often a labor of love. Even when that labor is not so lovely, we tend to feel that the effort is is well worth the reward. We certainly wouldn't trade it for having an electric which, for us, is an unacceptable compromise when we want the sound and feel of a DB. Note the qualifier-- this is not a denigration of electrics. When the characteristics of an electric are what you want, then you don't want a DB. When you want the characteristics of a DB, electrics just don't suffice.
  18. Jsn

    Jsn upright citizen

    Oct 15, 2006
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Don't mean to flame you, zon6c-f, but let me respectfully point out that there's a good bit of reductive logic in your post:
    1.) Nobody (outside of "symphonic music") cares what kind of bass you play, and:
    2.) You're going to be amplified anyway, so you're already halfway electric. Therefore:
    3.) A fretless electric "will more than suffice." ​

    Unfortunately, there's a next step to this kind of logic:
    4.) Heck, just show up with Garage Band loaded on your iPad. That's good enough, right?​

    The thing is, I'm on this side of the Talkbass forums because some years ago I came to a different set of conclusions. Particularly since I'm rarely plugged in, it does make a difference what instrument I play. And the difference is worth the time, expense and effort.
  19. Jane did this because you were being a whiney teenager making excuses. I've had plenty of experience working with teenagers and it is something in which all of them excel.

    If I were giving lessons to a 6 foot teenager with big hands who was whining about playing a 7/8 upright bass, I would have done the same thing because obviously you just needed to get used to the new scale length. That doesn't mean, however, that I would encourage students not to listen to their bodies when they are in pain.

    Also, when it comes to guitar, I'm perfectly capable of playing one with the standard 25.5" scale; however, it is MUCH more comfortable and fun to play guitars with a 24.75" scale. Does that mean I should just suck it up or that I simply cannot play a guitar with a 25.5" scale? No - it just means that I should listen to my body and make sure I don't hurt myself.

    It's like working out - there is good pain and bad pain. The trick is knowing the difference between the two. Knowing the difference will enable you to get in better shape while simultaneously avoiding injury.
  20. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    FWIW, I'll likely play very little arco, mostly pizzicato. A little jazz, some bluegrass/folk and some Texas swing. Don't know if that has any bearing on it.

    I think it has bearing on it and I don't believe anyone's addressed it. I lurked on this forum a long time before I got my DB last Summer and found all kinds of useful info. Like you I wanted to play mostly roots music, bluegrass, rockabilly and maybe a little jazz. On a limited budget, I found a good deal on a Shen hybrid. No money left for lessons and no friends locally who play to teach me but I decided I was going to learn anyway, despite all the warnings on here about how you just had to get a teacher or you'd wind up crippled for life from poor technique. Some of these guys on here, while well meaning, seem to think everyone is in training for the London Philharmonic. Some of us just want to pound out a few Bill Monroe and Hank Williams songs...and guess what? I seriously doubt their bass players had ever heard of the Simandl method.

    So I watched some vids and started playing and you know what? It ain't all that hard! If you have been playing EB and know the I/V and walking patterns in country music you will be rocking from almost the gitgo once you learn your way around the larger scale. It just ain't rocket science. I found I was already doing that clawhand technique or whatever it's called that is recommended to avoid stress before I had ever heard of it. It just seemed the natural way to grip the beast to fret notes. I'm 5'8" and the 3/4 is no prob and I doubt if the string length were one inch longer it would make that much difference slapping out a I/V. That said, I encourage you to find a bass that feels right to you and don't sweat all the tiny details too much.

    Just start playing whatever it takes. I been at it 6 months. I play almost every day and no injuries yet. I just joined a new roots country band that just lost their bass player after recording a CD at a small but respected studio in the roots music scene. Next month we leave on a tour and will be playing all over the country at some pretty decent venues and festivals this Spring and Summer. Am I a great bass player?...Hell no. Am I even a good bass player?...Probably not by the standards of most on here. Am I good enough to play roots country?...Hell Yeah! :bassist: