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owning basses with different sting lengths

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by lowEndRick, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. lowEndRick

    lowEndRick Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2006
    I am just wondering about those of you who own multiple basses. Do you find it advantageous to have the same string lengths? Do you see downsides to owning different string lengths? Does a difference between 41.5" and 42" really matter? Does the difference mess with your sense of intonation?
  2. I own seven or eight pairs of shoes. Sneakers, boots, slip-on dress shoes, tie-up dress shoes. I walk different in each pair. Basses are the same way.

    Even factory-made basses have variances. Half an inch of slop on a 42" scale instrument isn't a big deal. You learn to compensate.
  3. gprigge


    Dec 19, 2007
    Rice Lake, Wis.
    I have a bass with an Eb neck, and one with a D neck. I play the D neck bass in community orchestra, and play just that bass during orchestral season. I need all the intonation advantage I can get.
    Otherwise, I happily switch back and forth, and quickly adjust.
  4. lowEndRick

    lowEndRick Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2006
    I have 3 double basses.

    Upton Hybrid 42"
    50s Meisel Ply ~41.5"
    Eminence EUB 41 1/8"

    I don't play the Eminence much, but when I do, I sometimes find it difficult to adjust. This got me thinking. The adjustment between the Upton and Meisel is much less difficult although I wonder sometimes how it affects my overall development of better intonation. Is it hurting or helping? I've been thinking of selling/upgrading/trading anyway and was pondering the value of having all instruments at the same string length.
  5. I have 2 really different basses. (Upton Brescian and Old German) but I never really developed a strong "muscle memory" so string length isn't as much an issue.
    Not too hard to find D & E on either bass though.
    Even if I did rely on muscle memory, I don't know that it would be a problem.
    I once had 2 motorcycles, a typical left foot shift and a Royal Enfield (India) with a right foot shift. The ride home after buying the Enfield was a little rocky but once I was use to it,
    I could switch between bikes without issue. Point being, the human brain can be pretty flexible in it's programming.

  6. I have two basses, 42.5" and 41.5" string lengths. When I'm playing on both equally and often, it's not a huge problem. If I've spent more than a few weeks on just one, adjusting to the other can take a little work.

    The string length is only part of the issue. They also have very different set-ups. The bigger one has thicker, heavier strings which are spaced a bit wider on the bridge. It also has a very fat neck and completely different response. The smaller one has the thinnest, loosest strings I can find set very low and close together. I think these things are what make the switch a real challenge. The string length difference is relatively minor.
  7. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I only have one bass, but when playing someone else's bass, string length is pretty much the last thing I think about.

    D neck vs. Eb neck, neck width/radius/shape, if there's a bevelled fingerboard, string spacing, type of strings, how the bass responds, shoulder shape etc. There are so many other variables that my brain is trying to deal with all at once that a slight change in string length is there, but likely not the first (or even the fourth) thing I'm thinking about. Sure I'm used to mine (around 41.5") and if I'm playing something that's 43+ or under 39 I'm going to notice the difference, but if I'm playing a bass with that much of a string length difference, then there likely are a ton of other differences as well.

    If you want to own two different basses with different string lengths, then I'm sure you will be able to figure it out just fine. Just like Dave's motorcycles, you end up getting used to both instruments, but your brain thinks of them separately. I'm sure this is why I can play a double (or electric) bass tuned in 4ths without too much of a struggle, but my brain just can't handle when I switch my own instruments back to 4ths.

    I would be much more worried about owning a D neck and an Eb neck, but I'm sure you could get around that as well. Chances are if you own multiple instruments they are intended to serve different purposes anyway (a jazz bass and a classical bass, a "good" bass and a ply for outdoor shows/bar gigs etc.) so you've already created that separation in your mind anyway.
  8. I think I remember reading another post on this forum from a member who suggested that owning several different basses that have a distinctly-different "feel" to them (neck shape, mensure, etc) might actually be a good thing, as it can help prevent someone from developing CTS and arthritis in the hands. Essentially, the switching back and forth is supposed to prevent the repetitive strain that supposedly leads to those problems...

    Can anyone corroborate that?
  9. geoffbassist

    geoffbassist UK Double Bassist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2006
    Founder - Discover Double Bass
    I find that string length isn't a huge deal when changing basses, but I do find playing on basses with different neck stops or string heights can be hard.
    If I owned more than one bass I would try to keep the action, string length and neck stop same, but that's not easy as basses vary so much... So I would just do my best and accept that they will have differences.
  10. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    May be some validity there, unless one of the basses has characteristics that lead to RSI's for a particular player. Getting that bass out of the mix would be a good thing.

    I'm on my second "second bass". The first one was very close in size to my A bass but had an Eb neck. I put a reference dot on the fingerboard to help get used to it. I nudged the bridge up 1/2" to get to closer to A's (41 5/8) string length, too. One thing I could not change was the very different feel and response which made me alter my playing style on that bass. That was quite the learning experience, and in the long run, a good thing.

    My most recent 2nd bass is again of a similar size, an Eb neck which I now know how to adjust to, and with 41 1/8 stringlength. Not too much trouble with intonation and I'm feeling the shorter string length is very easy to play. I haven't had any problems switching basses although the 2nd bass is still a work in progress setup wise.

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