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Is a 5/8 Too Small for Me

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Rumblejohn, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. A 5/8 German or Czech fully carved bass, built around 1875, has been offered to me for a price in my budget(think new Shen hybrid). I'm 6'4" and 310 lbs, should I even bother to go look at it?
    I play in two community orchestras, and this bass is owned by a pro orchestral player (not his main bass). I live in central Florida, and it is hard to find a used instrument that isn't black with red and yellow flame paint, strung with weed whackers.
    The closest Shen dealer with a known reputation is in North Carolina. What do you guys think? I'm retiring soon, so a trip north would not be out of the question.


  2. jnel

    jnel Guest

    Dec 19, 2012
    imo- you need a 7/8-
    save your time looking at it-imo, but good luck in finding the right bass for you-
  3. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    That 5/8 won't push enough air. Take the trip, it'll be worth it.
  4. tyb507

    tyb507 Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2004
    Burlington, Vermont
    Won't push enough air? I play on an old, German 5/8 (or small 3/4), and it moves plenty of air both pizz and arco. My teacher plays on an old Venetian bass that's maybe even a bit smaller than mine, and it's a beast volume and tone-wise. Without being familiar with the specific bass in question, one can't make assumptions about such a thing. Of course go look at it! Becoming informed won't be a waste of time.
  5. jnel

    jnel Guest

    Dec 19, 2012
    310, 6'4 you'll look like a misplaced cellist-sorry- i mean no offence, but it seems that it needs to be said. :bag:
  6. dude, i would go try it out! all basses are different. you can't judge it without playing it. and who cares about how it looks! at least it wouldn't be too big for you and too hard to play. and always remember Ray Brown played a cello like a bass sometimes and it sounded great... not that this 5/8 would sound like a cello, but it may have a unique sound all its own. definitely worth a try.
  7. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    There are a lot of variations within each size (3/4, 5/8, etc) due to the size of the bass. I play a small 3/4 and it has plenty of size.

    I would recommend a 3/4 (which is standard). A 7/8 may work but they are quite large. I would get a lesson with a teacher because there are more factors at play such as:

    -shape of the the shoulders has a profound effect on the ability to get around the instrument
    -string length impacts the distance between notes
    -necks - D vs. Eb neck can impact the feel
    -the relationship between your right arm mechanics and bow placement / distance from bridge

    I had a student get a 3/4 size Shen (SB80) and it was 'solid' 3/4 size - a bit larger than my carved Rogeri style bass (made by Rumano Solano).
  8. Nathan Levine

    Nathan Levine Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2008
    Anchorage, AK
    Ever see/hear Wilbert de Joode's little Lott chamber bass? It puts out air to spare. I heard him compete sonically with Han Bennink, who isn't exactly a quiet drummer, in an acoustic setting some ten years ago. I couldn't believe that he cut through like he did. Granted, it is a special instrument and he has the gut strings cranked up into no mans land. Wilbert is pretty unbelievable.
  9. One shouldn't make assumptions, but one can make generalizations... It's all physics in the end!
  10. Violen

    Violen Instructor in the Vance/Rabbath Method Banned

    Apr 19, 2004
    Kansas City Metro Area
    Endorsing Artist: Conklin Guitars (Basses)
    im 6'3 and 320 pounds

    Every time i walk in KC STrings they say "You need to be playing a 7/8 or a full size"

    and i go "Yah right!"

    And then they hand me one of their new 7/8s or 4/4s and i wonder why i dont have money to spend.

    Dont believe the hype. For big guys like us, bigger basses arent that big.
  11. jnel

    jnel Guest

    Dec 19, 2012
    maybe the owner will let you take the 5/8 bass and you rehearse with it, ane maybe play a concert. This would probably help you to know if you are okay wiith it or not.
    It will also show you if you can tolerate the many comments and questions; is that a cello? Is the neck too small for your hands. Do you also play a lot of chamber music? Where did you get the 27 inch end pin? Was it hard to cut off the stool and keep the legs even?That's not what you would call a bull bass, is it? Here, let me help you bag it. Careful, I'll get the door for you-oops, i thought you had a bass. Just to mention a few. why is your "bass" so much smaller than the others?.
    Did you get a violinist to bless it? that's important-you know
    Did you take your bass to a scholl shrink?
  12. LOL! I was like ***?
  13. Thanks for the replies. I think I will go take a look at the bass. The friend who referred me, was a former concert master for several world class orchestras. He collects and trades extremely high end violins, hoping to bring him along. So far a few things bother me, no label, no definite country of origin, no definite date of build, etc. I realize that there are some blockless european basses which play and sound great, but that would make me nervous too.
  14. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Edgar's Gabrielli is a tiny Italian bass. ;)
  15. jnel

    jnel Guest

    Dec 19, 2012
    how many violinists does it take to check out an old bass viol?

    ans: one plus

    one bass luthier to reverse the strings and to help him hold it under his chin(s)

    of course, the smaller the bass, the easier it is

    "do you know "foggy mountain breakdown" good, play that
  16. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yikes! Ok, ok, an unpopular notion. And yes, I've played Wilburt's bass a few times and found it to be, not less loud but with less fullness. I mean, sure, it's a romantic notion that a 5/8 bass will be enough and maybe it would but I've personally never played one that had as much sound as a great 3/4 or 7/8. Lindsay Horner has a beautiful 5/8 that sounds great but best plugged in or mic'ed. I've been down the 5/8 road, from Europe to Robertson's. I've never found one that would be enough for myself in small groups so I can't imagine one holding it's own in a section with all larger instruments. I mean, if they did, wouldn't there be a lot of them out there in use? A decade ago there was a Testore 5/8 at Kolstein's that sold for a ridiculous price because it was small and no one really wanted it....I wish I could believe the 5/8 fable but I stand my ground...a great size for chamber music or solo applications but not for a section. However, there may be A FEW out there that are exceptional. I agree, go ahead and look at it. I bet you a hundred dollars you don't buy it...
  17. Jason Sypher

    Jason Sypher Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2001
    Brooklyn, NY
    Edgar wouldn't use his small bass in a section, he has a bigger bass for that....guarantee it
  18. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Perhaps. But his solo bass projects sound just fine.
  19. jnel

    jnel Guest

    Dec 19, 2012
    ok, just picture me beating my head against a brick wall

    with all the orchestral 3/4 and 7/8 out there in your price range, why , why , why

    i am sure that your friend is an exception, but I can't think of any violinist who can really tell a bassist about a bass, and vice versa- but, have a nice trip

    sorry, don't take me seriously- no one else does

    locked up in jail- my mind goes to wondering...
  20. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Hmm... the pictures of Edgar I just checked does show a bass with Italian corners and therefore Italian but I swear I saw him with a gamba shaped bass that was Czech... I stand corrected - thanks!!! :)