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Move to a smaller Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by bdengler, Dec 27, 2004.


  1. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    I've been suffering from a combination of arthritis (mild), tendonitis and something called "tenosynovitis" in the knuckle joint of my left index finger. My hand specialist told me I should think of moving to a smaller instrument, like a cello. I had thought of moving to cello, but the conductor of our community orchestra suggested I try a "church bass" or a smaller bass with a shorter string length. Do you think this is good advice? Or are these basses (e.g., half-size or 5/8's size) "kiddie" basses that just have no sound? I'm finding that a 39" string length is much more comfortable than the current 41" string length that I have right now. Thanks, Brian
     
  2. i dont have that a very wide knowledge of this kind of thing,
    but i can say if you're comfortable with the 39" then you should go for it, just aslong as your not hurting yourself.

    N
     
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Equally important to size is the ease of playability. There are many Solo size Italian and French Basses for sale for a fraction of the Orchestra sized Basses. If the Bass is small and hard to play, you still have a problem. If the Bass is regular or smaller sized but plays like butter, you can take much of the strain off you hands and fingers...

    Good luck..
     
  4. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    Thanks for the advice. I currently have a "smaller" 3/4 solo bass, but the string length is about 40.75 inches, and the neck is pretty thick and wide. It's uncomfortable to play. I use to have a beautiful Lowendall that was shaped like a cello; it had a 38.5 inch string length but it packed a sound. I sold it when my bass teacher told me it was a "toy" and that I needed a 7/8's. It was downhill from there.

    There other thing I'm going to do is quit classical playing and stick with more jazz style. That way, I won't have to give up the bass.

    Brian
     
  5. prelims222

    prelims222

    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    Brian,

    You might want to contact Paul Biase - I tried a Jacquet 5/8ths bass that had a big 7/8ths sound in an easy to play 39" string length. Very nice sound. He also had a smallish Czech bass that was super easy to play and played like a live wire. Also had an interesting sound, but not nearly as much of the lower overtones.
     
  6. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    I had a wonderful 5/8 Josef Muller (circa 1880) with a string length of about 39 1/2" for a four day period several weeks ago that was a real revelatation to me. Strung with Eurosonic ultra lights, it sang ike a bird, had a good bottom end and was a dream to play. Unfortunately for me it was the perfect bass for a good friend and I sold it to her at my cost. I play large 3/4 or 7/8 size gut-strung basses most often with a 42" string length. I used to dismiss out of hand and wouldn't even audition any bass with less than 41" string length. No more!

    Steve swan
     
  7. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I am now looking for a smaller bass after playing a large 7/8ths for a while. My bass sounds wonderful, but because of my height(5'6") it is difficult to play especially in thumb position. It has really high shoulders, and I just can't get comfortable with the bass. My teacher agrees.
     
  8. Brian, glad to hear you havent given up on the beast just yet.

    I don't have an answer for you but maybe if you provide some details about where the pain is and what triggers it, someone will have experienced something similar and maybe found a solution in either a particular instrument model, luthier, design, etc...

    I'm surprised that you find jazz less strenuous/painful than classical, is it during long tones that you experience the most pain?

    Hang in there,
    Dave
     
  9. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    Yes, when I play Jazz style, I think I press the note and let go with the left hand. I also use more open strings. In classical style playing, we're typically playing more closed strings and we need to keep pressing while bowing the note. I put a death grip on the neck a ripping up my tendons by doing it.

    Brian
     
  10. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    Where is Paul Biase located? Thanks, Brian
     
  11. prelims222

    prelims222

    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    42nd St. just off the West Side Hiway in NYC. Its a little tough to find - Ken Smith has the contact info.
     
  12. Brian, do you mind describing what you've tried in terms of altering technique, string action etc, to avoid using excessive hand strength to hold the strings down.
    It seems like there should be some way to play without overstressing. Even if low action and maybe light strings may impair tone and projection, it's better than not enjoying the instrument at all.
    I certainly hope you find an instrument/setup and or technical method that allows you to continue.

    Dave
     
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    In the last couple of months, I have all but abandoned any adherence to Simandl and adopted a more Rabbath-like approach of less shifting and more pivots of the hand.

    With this approach the whole hand pivots and there is less tension in the joints. It has helped me a great deal. I play twice as long with no fatigue at all in the hands.

    I haven't tried the bent endpin, but I have noticed that tipping the bass back a bit and having it less perpendicular to the floor also helps. As it is easier to use the weight of your hand and arm and pull with the big muscles verses a grip approach.
     
  14. With regard to the bent bass angle, I've noticed the same thing.
    I havnt tried the endping either but I have a stool that's a little shorter than standard and sometimes play in a more cello like position. The bent endpin would help but in some ways it seems alot more comfortable.

     
  15. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    Brian,

    Martin's Violin Shop in North Canton,OH had an interesting 5/8 carved Hungarian bass that I didn't want to put down the other day. For a small bass, the E string was huge and it had a very nice singing tone. The neck is slim and very easy to get around on. I was surprised how loud it was. Is it normal for a 5/8 to have full depth ribs or are they usually scaled down with the rest of the instrument? On this particular bass, the ribs were about the same depth as the 3/4 Shen sitting next to it.

    If you are still looking for a small bass, you may want to give them a call. They don't have any other smaller instruments at the moment, but that one is unusual. I'd guess North Canton is about 2 hrs from you straight up I77.
     
  16. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    Joe, thank you, I'll check out Martin's; I'll probably take 71 to US30. I think Dave Irwin got his Shen at Martin's. I have seen smaller basses with fat bodies; I use to have a nice Lowendall that was shaped like a cello (damn hard for thumb position). It had a 38.75" string length but a body that was deep like a standard 3/4's. Boy, did it have a great sound! My Bryant is a smaller 3/4, but the body is still deep. I'd keep the Bryant if the string length was shorter. Thanks for the tip and have a Happy New Year.

    Brian
     
  17. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I am actually thinking about buying a Bryant Solo bass. I really like the way the shoulders look on it. String length isn't a concern for me. It is more shape....
     
  18. BTW, Martin's is where I got my Shen. They are really nice people. I wonder if the Shen he has is the 2nd one he had along with my 7/8ths. It sure was pretty, and sounded good too.
    :)
     
  19. There's something wrong here. A "death grip" is never proper technique, regardless of genre.
     
  20. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    Don, you're absolutely right. I switched teachers and the new teacher noticed right away I had trouble shifting. He noticed that I was grabbing the neck so hard that I was still tugging on the old note while trying to reach the new one. It's stress related. The problem is I have been doing it for 4 years and I pretty much destroyed the knuckle. I'm not sure if I should keep playing.

    Brian