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Newbie wants to know: 3/4 strings on 4/4 bass?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Easy Rider, Jan 27, 2004.

  1. Yesterday I took the plunge and bought myself a double bass. It's a German 4/4 ply, with ebony tailpiece and fingerboard (which is why I bought it, for 450 euros)

    When I tried to tune the strings to the correct pitch I broke both the G and D string, so (after a LOT of foulmouthing) I figured the strings on it were solo strings.
    I want the standard orchestral tuning, so I'm going to look for another set of strings (anybody got a pizz set left?)
    The cheap strings have my fancy as getting a good tone is less important than learning to play right now, but those are all 3/4 (106cm).
    Can those be used on a 4/4 (110cm) bass? I believe the other way 'round doesn't, but at these prices I'm considering every option.

    Also, how do I know when the strings are at a correct pitch? I don't want to repeat my 'oops, octave too high' bumbling. In my memory the strings on a double bass were a lot tighter (maybe those were a heavy gauge) than these (solo strings) are, so I overtightened them. Does anyone have a method or maybe a recording of open orchestral strings?

    Please forgive my stupidity!

  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    The actual differences in string length vary a great deal among all basses. 4/4 doesn't really say much of anything. Do you know the actual string length of the bass? The length from the nut to the bridge?

    I would guess that you could easily use lower tension, 3/4 strings on a 4/4 without issues. They would just feel a bit stiffer. As long as they were long enough for the silks to clear the nut, which they likely would be.

    As far as tuning it up, use a tuner. If you can't tell which octave you are supposed to be tuning to, try comparing it to your EBG. Even against that, you should be able to easily tell if you are tuning to the next octave. I can't believe that you could actually do that, though.

    Good thing the strings broke. They must have been some sort of synth core. If you did that with steel core strings, it might have snapped the neck!!!
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Didn't he say 110 cm ? That's just over 43".

    Should be fine with most ordinary DB strings?
  4. Broke the neck???? :eek: I did hear a *tiny bit* of complaint from the bass... I believe the blood just left my brain... I'm going to lie down now...


    I'm back now... Well, the bass still seems in good order, despite the hell I apparently put it through... I feel light headed again... no, I got it.
    Well, it's a good bass, then. Sturdy. I do have to inspect all the seams and joints again, then...

    I tried tuning the strings to orchestral tuning with my tuner, but the strings stil felt so floppy and loose, I didn't think it was right, so I tuned up. It had a weird tuning, but it hadn't been played for a while, so I thought it was just off. I think the strings that were on it were solo strings, and that it was probably tuned BEAD. Maybe the previous owner used it in a metal band or something, the guy selling it hardly played it, he got it on a trade.

    Anyway, 3/4 strings would probably go just fine on a 4/4 bass? The actual scale length is 110.5 cm, or 43.5" (sorry, forgot about the inches last time), so that's pretty long.

    Thanks for the info!


    *faints again*
  5. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    Yes, Bruce he did indeed. I guess my Americentrism (made that up. How'd you like it?) ignored the metric units. :) Sorry.

    Solo strings are typically tuned F#,B,E,A. If the bass was really tuned down a full fifth. Any string would have felt pretty flabby.
  6. I think the only strings that would be an issue are the Thomastik True 3/4 series , those would be a problem over about 42.5"
  7. The string length (mensur) is meaningless in this situation. It's the the string length PLUS the after-length that needs to be considered. The after-length can add or subtract several inches from the total. You need to know the length of the metal wrapping (including the thread wrapping at the tailpiece end) to know for sure if that 3/4 string would work for the 4/4 bass.
  8. My Bad! (didnt even think of that one!)
  9. Well, the total string length, from ball-end to the top (that's the scroll end) of the nut, is 152.5 cm or 60".
    And I misread my earlier measurement, the scale length is about 112 cm, so that's about 44".

  10. Well, I found some 4/4 strings for a nice price, and got them today. Unfortunately, either due to a typo on the website or, hopefully, grabbing the wrong set off the shelf they turned out to be 3/4...

    ...and no, they do not fit.

    So that answers that then. I guess I'll have to fork over some serious dough for real 4/4 strings, because it's starting to look like there aren't any 'budget' 4/4 strings out there... I saw this coming when I bought it, being 4/4 and all, but then it still had four strings, and the dreaded day was still a long way coming...

    *sigh* It's not like I s--- the stuff!! :mad:

  11. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Not to dismiss BB's afterlength advice, but I'd think if the afterlength is tuned then it's probably longer than for a bass with a smaller mensur, thereby cancelling out major concerns about mensur and string tension being anything but directly proportional.

    I'd simply go after light metal strings or gut strings if I felt too much stress was being put on the bass.
  12. Actually, on a factory produced instrument the odds are that they will use the traditional German standard of 1/6 of the mensur for the after length. You would be surprised how many of these so-called "tuned" afterlengths turn out to be 1/6 the length. Any improvement is probably caused by eliminating the false 7th harmonic.

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