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Problems with my 3/4 double bass..

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by `Jas, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. `Jas


    Sep 23, 2010
    I followed the advice given to me when I asked a question a few months ago about a 1/2 size bass vs a 3/4. I ended up renting a 3/4 bass two months ago and have found a lot of problems with it. What I find in my area, is that 3/4 basses have extremely large bodies, at least relative to my size. I'm not at all tall (just under 5'2) nor extremely muscular, which makes it a problem when I have to play 6th position harmonics as my arms are not long enough to reach the notes (and I end up being a semitone or two flat!). I have inquired about smaller 3/4 basses or 5/8 basses, however they do not have any 5/8's for rent, neither do they have smaller 3/4 basses for rent. Would a 1/2 be more comfortable for me, considering my short arms and short fingers? Currently, my technique is declining due to the hunched over posture and the normally unnecessary stretches in 1st and 2nd position.. Any thoughts on perhaps renting a 1/2? Would this improve my technique? Is a 1/2 acceptable to learn more technically difficult pieces?

    Also, do you have any advice on modifying extremely high bridges on a double bass? All the basses I've seen so far have an unnaturally high bridge and causes a hassle when I need to play in the higher range.

    Thank you, advice and comments are much appreciated.
  2. MaxJohnson

    MaxJohnson Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    What are the dimensions of your bass? I had a 7/8ths with big shoulders that was too big for me (5"9), but you can find a 3/4 bass with sloped/solo shoulders which should be as hard to play. Also, you should definitely check out the Rabbath method of left hand fingering, as it helps pivot around larger string lengths, in addition to assisting fluidity. But, a shorter string length (41"?) might be a better idea, but still fit on a 3/4 instrument. Also, concerning the bridge, do you have adjusters, because you should invest in having a luthier set up your instrument with bridge adjusters so you can lower the action to your comfort. I currently am having Upton build me a BIG bass, with a big lower half, but a slightly smaller upper half so I can play on it comfortably. I would research by playing ALOT of instruments and seeing what dimensions/string lengths/bridge heights are most comfortable, and invest in an instrument that is comfortable to play.
  3. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    I would advise you to take the instrument to a competent luthier/repairman and have them help you with the bridge height. If this bass came with a set of strings you might look at upgrading as well.
    First and foremost I would contact a Double Bass teacher in your area and book some lessons. You may be struggling with things that can be fixed by a teacher observing your technique and suggesting modifications. Working with a teacher can save you lots of time and frustration and make sure you are not playing with bad habits that can affect your performance or even injure you.
    Since I can't observe you playing I would generalize and say that students I have that are shorter (5' or so) should probably start with the endpin all the way down. Rufus Reid advocates that the nut should be at about eyebrow height. If you have no access to a teacher I would strongly advise getting Rufus Reid's DVD even if you are not a Jazz Bassist, it is really helpful. As Max said, I would check out the Rabbath approach (there are great beginner books by George Vance to help), there are enhanced CDs and DVDs available to help you there. Check out www.lemurmusic.com
    Good luck!
  4. `Jas


    Sep 23, 2010
    I'm not too sure I can bring it to a luthier in my area as:
    a) It's a rented bass
    b) The only luthier in the area rented the bass to me and therefore isn't so keen on improving an old, rented bass.
    c) I signed a contract with said luthier about not "tinkering" with the bass without his permission, therefore it'll be pretty tricky to 'sneak' around it.

    I'll definitely have a word with him about it. I currently take double bass lessons, and my teacher agrees that it's the bass that is interfering with my technique and posture, not a bad habit. I actually am studying books by George Vance, it has helped my technique a little, however the bridge height and width of the body is inconvenient. Thanks for all the advice, I'll definitely listen and try it out.
  5. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    My ex-wife is 5'2" and 100 lbs. soaking wet. Now 60, she has successfully played 3/4 basses since the age of 14. Her primary instrument since 1971 is a 1951 Juzek shop bass, not a particularly small instrument. It can be done!

    You do have good options these days with quenoil style or other 3/4 bass models with upper bouts that have steeply sloping shoulders and greatly reduced upper bout sizes. They come in a variety of price ranges from a wide variety of makers. A bass shop that rents to middle school or high school students will undoubtedly have some of these.

    Good luck in the hunt and let us know what you find!