1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Is it so terrible to play a 1/2 size bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by CherylTheSinger, Apr 12, 2014.

  1. I have been studying bass now for about 8 months. I am almost 5'1" tall. I played a 3/4 for a few months, tried a 5/8 at a shop, but now play a 1/2 size. Although it's not as loud as the 3/4 I can actually play it! With the peg up about three inches my hand bow pretty much reaches past the finger board. I don't get cramps in my hands after 10 minutes of playing. I am an adult beginner, and enjoying playing all sorts of styles of music. I play standing up, and don't know how to play using a stool yet. I could reach all of the notes in 1/2 position with on the 3/4 sized bass, but had to put the peg up for my bow hand to be low enough to play in the right place. This caused my left hand to be about 7 inches higher than the top of my head. This half feels like butter when I play on it. I start my first adult orchestra rehearsal next month. Let's see who picks on me first? haha My teacher at first didn't think the 1/2 was a good idea, but at the first lesson I brought it, he said that it really did seem better for me. I think it's going to be interesting when I learn to play more notes. Just at D it's feeling like violin finger close. but my ring finger size is a 4 1/2. I am not huge, just have a span.

    I am renting right now, but I am seriously considering purchasing a hybrid half-sized bass next year. Am I making a mistake? Do adults actually play half sizes?
    johnny_bolt, lcpierce and enahs like this.
  2. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    It's a marriage....you wanna be married to someone you'll fight with?
    Life is short. Play what pleases you.
    johnny_bolt, ed morgan and riffaday like this.
  3. There are some nice smaller basses. Why not? For one they are not easy to resell. Two, you won't be able to sit in on someone else's usually.

    I think it's good that you feel comfortable. I could be wrong but it seems like a half size bass is only 10 per cent smaller on average than the 3/4 bass. There isn't a standard size really.

    While many people use a 3/4 bass and some 7/8, the 3/4 basses vary a lot in size.

    So half size isn't really HALF the size. It's ball park 9 tenths the size of a 3/4. Do the math. So, maybe you're a smaller person about 7 per cent less than average? You are not HALF the size. Does that make sense?
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  4. I don't play DB, but I can only imagine that you would be better off in the long run with a 1/2. It isn't about being an adult, it's about your physical build. You're a smaller person, so you need a smaller instrument. Again, I could be wrong because I don't play DB and there could be something that I'm not aware of, but that's my $.02
  5. MIMike


    Jan 1, 2013
    West MI
    I play a 1/2 size for many reasons; First, it fit in my car better with the rest of my gear. Also, the scale length difference was significant enough (from about 42" to about 39") that it made it much more comfortable to move from electric to upright. Lastly, I have never really needed acoustic volume since I play mostly swing and blues and always have it amplified. Like jeffbonny says, why fight with it. The more comfortable you are, the better the chances you'll stay with it, practice more, progress faster...all good stuff.
    Reiska likes this.
  6. Yobnwal


    Oct 15, 2009
    I had a nice 1/2 size that I took to my 3rd semester audition at North Texas. At first the teacher was skeptic about it but after the audition said 'that's the best sounding half size bass I've heard'. I sold it to a Grammy winning bassist/producer.

    So, a good half size is great for study and get thumbs up from real professionals! Good luck with your search!
  7. Wally Malone

    Wally Malone

    Mar 9, 2001
    Boulder Creek, CA
    AFM International Representative Endorsing Artist: Accugroove Cabinets & MJC Ironworks Strings
    I play a 1/2 size as well and do not play acoustically but amplified. It's a 1930's German carved bass and can get around on it really good and the switching back and forth with the EB's is seamless.

    johnny_bolt and pnchad like this.
  8. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN

    It's not like the bass police are going to come and take you away. As long as you draw a sound that you are happy with and it's playable for you, then go for it.

    People recommend 3/4 sizes because there are many people who are your size (and probably even smaller) who play 3/4 size instruments fine, and there is a benefit in finding a wide variety of high quality instruments should you ever decide to upgrade. In short, it's "industry standard", so if you start there and make it work, then it's a positive in the long run.

    However, industry standard doesn't work for everyone, as you are certainly aware. That's why there are fractional instruments. there are even older instruments with smaller sizes (see the Delmas Maggini)

    Be happy with your instrument!

  9. If the mensure ('string length') isn't the problem, it's quite common to find small-bodied basses with a 41.5" scale. Basses described as solo basses commonly have a small body but a standard scale length, you just have to look for one.

    The only problems with 1/2 size basses are purely practical, and they've been described already. Play what you love, love what you play. Cliché, perhaps, but never a truer word spoken.
  10. korotkov

    korotkov Supporting Member

    May 19, 2010
    St. Petersburg, Russia
    Several months ago I found a great bass with a 97cm scale. I still can't decide if I should play it or pass it. If I practice on this bass my intonation suffers on regular basses, wich I still have to play a lot. If I don't practice on that bass specifically I just can't play it cause the neck feels so different

    I really like the sound and feel of that bass but I can't get used to switching between 97cm and 108cm of my other basses
  11. Cheryl, there is nothing "terrible" about playing a 1/2 size bass. I am a 5 3 1/2" female, some back issues, and I have had a number of uprights, and decided the best fit for me is a Chinese 5/8 bass with sloped shoulders and a 41 5/8" neck length. I have also learned that a deciding factor in an upright is how heavy the bass is. Sloped shoulders, meaning leaner at the top of the body, makes a big difference. This carved bass, Venice Sunrise, along with the lighter weight Mooradian bag is easier to transport in my Matrix. You have to find a bass that resonates with you and a bass that feels good to play, otherwise playing becomes a struggle and a chore.

    The other bass I am planning on is the Eminence, which is much smaller and does a good job of being a small scale electric type of upright bass.
    johnny_bolt likes this.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    John Neves had a German half size as his office bass when I studied with him at Berklee, it was louder than the Kay I had at the time. Any reason, though, why you're limiting yourself to a new hybrid? Put the word out, you might be able to find a nice carved bass in your price range, since they're harder to sell than 3/4 basses. I don't know if he still does, but Paul Nowinski used to kind of collect half size basses....
  13. BawanaRik


    Mar 6, 2012
    New Jersey
    I was in my late 50s when I bought an UR. It's a 1/2 Shen and while I need to clear junk out I'm probably gonna sell the J I had as a kid first.

    My hands are old. Most of the difference you hear most people won't. And the first subway gig will make you a convert to the half.

    Check the used market. And keep in mind that everybass is different. Playing a dozen halves will result in at least one that has a sound you will like.

    And shelling out for Spiro-cores might help.
  14. I live paycheck to paycheck, then try to catch up with what I couldn't pay from the last paycheck with the current paycheck.. I rent.

    I am limited to what I have paid in rental fees after three years, so that's why the limitation. If I want to have a bass now, I have to rent. Might as well use that money. I certainly won't have a large stack of cash on hand anytime in the far future. No, that's not the best deal in the world, but it will get me a bass. I take what I make from teaching voice, and put it back into my bass rental and bass lessons. It's almost enough, as long as the little darlings don't cancel too much.

    I would do it another way if I could. I just don't see another option for me. I am able to play the bass; it's awesome! I just want to get the right one. I drive cars until they are dead, dead, dead too. Not one to trade things around, even musical instruments. I am enjoying my little half size plywood rental right now. I am not getting any younger either, but I don't like to think about that. :)
    VWbug likes this.
  15. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    The guy in Dread Zeppelin played a little bass and he sounded (and looked) great. Really good shot of his bass around the 2:27 mark.

    VWbug likes this.
  16. This is the second reference to that band I heard today. For some reason it was playing in the car that my husband and I rode from our wedding to our reception in 2001. Haha, I forgot about that. Not the kind of bass I was referring to, but hey you reminded me of my wedding.
  17. some small instruments can have different (in a good way) sound characteristics. I have a friend who proudly plays a cello tuned as a bass somewhat often (mostly to make travel easier)

    that particular setup has a really beautiful sound. big, open, warm low end. not that this will be the case with any small instrument, but my point is that they can sound good

    a good sounding 4/4 size bass is useless to the majority of us here. it's like a great steak to a vegetarian. its good, sure, but we just can't experience it!

    the instrument must fit you and feel right to play. struggling to play a great instrument is worse than being comfortable on a student model.

    i dont think anyone would really disagree with that!
  18. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    I caught a recent Berkllee grad playing a 1/2 size DB.
    Sounded good.
    He was a small adult so it worked for him.
  19. There's a reason Orchestra members refer to their instruments as 'medieval torture devices'.
  20. I believe you! I played for the first time with a bad cold or whatever this is. It kicked my butt more than singing a four hour opera does with a fever!