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raw newbie questions

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by saxon, Jun 24, 2005.

  1. saxon


    Jun 24, 2005
    Hello all, I have just joined today and am a complete novice about the big double basses. However I have just inherited one. I want to know so much and dont know where to start. I know the Bass was bought in the 60's and was old then. It is over 6 feet tall has dark wood. I would like to measure it and cant find a how to measure tutorial on google, as in where to start and end measuring. I did find this site on google and have been reading your links and stickys for a while and now I guess I'll jump in and ask. I can take digital pics if that will help find out what it is. This big beautifu boy has a maroonish canvas case and a bow with some of the the hairs broken. I want to learn to know my new bass, how to care for it ...what not to do more than anything i guess.
    Thank you for letting me ramble .. any help especially links will be very appreciated.
  2. That's not really easy... there are only "Approximate Standards" with damn near anything associated with double bass :rolleyes:

    The closest thing to any kind of a standard is;

    A 3/4 size bass is six feet tall, with a 41.5" length of scale.
    A 4/4 (Full Size) bass is two inches taller, two inches wider, in general, and I THINK the most common scale-length is about 43+ inches.

    The L.O.S. is the distance from the bottom of the nut to the top of the bridge, as the bass is standing vertical.

    That is the most reliable determiner, though a 3/4 bass will vary half an inch in either direction from 41.5 inches, pretty commonly.

    If your bass is anything over 72" tall, the odds are good that it is a full-size bass (which is NOT the standard size).

    The "Standard" sized bass is the 3/4 size.

    It's difficult, if not impossible, to tell whether a bass is 1/2 size, 3/4, or 4/4 (full-size) by listening to a recording of it. All of those basses have the same tonal range, but different volumes, which doesn't usually come through in a recording.

    People who buy a 4/4 bass are typically:

    1. Newbies, who don't know any better
    2. Symphonic players, who need the extra un-amplified volume.

    The Length-Of-Scale determines how far away the notes are from each other, on the fingerboard. So, a longer the L.O.S. gives you a bass that's just a little harder to play, especially if you use Simandl Method. You have to develop more "stretch" in your left-hand fingers with Simandl method, if the notes are farther apart.

    To complicate matters further, there are "1/8" increments, with 5/8 and 7/8 size basses, though 5/8 basses are uncommon (if not extinct) in current production, and not too many makers offer 7/8 basses.

    I'm more than a little fuzzy on what constitutes a 7/8 bass, though it seems to be mostly a 4/4 body with a 3/4 L.O.S.

    The 4/4 body is typically two inches wider and a little thicker than a 3/4 body.

    If you have a 4/4 bass, that means that buying accessories (such as bass bags) is going to be a little more complicated, and it will be a little harder to get it through doorways and in/out of your vehicle, and not too much more.

    It should be a little louder, a little less convenient to transport, and VERY slightly harder to play than a 3/4 bass.

    So measure the distance from the bottom of the nut to the top of the bridge... that is the MOST standard indicator of size.

    If it's a 3/4, L.O.S. should be from 41.0 inches to 42.0 inches, though those measurements aren't "Graven In Stone".

    The nut is the piece of wood at the top of the fingerboard. The strings pass over it on their way to the tuning posts in the pegbox.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Pics are always helpful. You say you are a novice about DB, do you play electric bass at all or are you a BASS novice altogether?

    Some other things to look at -
    take a look inside the f-hole on the E string side. Are there any labels? What do the labels say?

    You say that "the bass was bought in the 60s", by whom? If they're still around ask them where they bought the bass, if they have any other info.

    You say "...and it was old then..". How do you know that? Did they say how old it was and how they knew it was that old? "Old" tends to be a far more meaningful adjective in talking about DB. While my bass is by no means "new", you can't really consider an 80 or 90 year old bass "old" when there are instruments 300+ years still being played.

    As far as care, even if the bass is in "playable" condition, your first stop should be to a reputable luthier. If you are planning on playing it, you'll want to establish a relationship with someone who will be working on the bass throughout your life with it. If you are not planning on playig it, a luthier will be able to help evaluate its value and let you know what you need to do to protect/enhance its value and/or playability.

    You say you "inherited" the bass, I am making the assumption that it was owned by a relative. If that is indeed the case and you are not planning on playing the bass and it has too much sentimental value to sell, may I suggest donating it to either a local symphony or college? Or even contacting the Gary Karr organization, they accept donations of instruments to put in the hands of students. That way you will honor the memory of the person who played the bass by allowing its voice to continue.
  4. saxon


    Jun 24, 2005
    Thank you Larry and ED. I was afraid i would have put the real players off with my ab ignorance and the anthropomorphising of the bass ( "this beautiful boy")
    I will do my best to get the Bass down from the attic for pictures and to peek into the hole you suggested for some lables. It is hidden up there with a fan to keep it cooler. I live in an old house.. 100 yrs + where security is just a pretense. Weather wise ,I am in Colorado . Keeping it wise ,I want to because it is beautiful and special but the playing of it does sound like an important factor. I teach silversmithing at an art school that is part of our fine arts Center and a small college CC .. so I bet I could offer it to be played here at home certain hours a week .That would probably be good for it too. I know it has not been played in at least 20 years. My uncle told me it was 100 years old when he bought it in 1961. Still who knows. I also have 4 electric basses and 2 guitars, a banjo AND a ukelele (sp?) I do want to learn so please be patient with me and i will try to keep with the board.
    Thank you again
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    In the attic? Even with a fan, the thing will likely get destroyed by the heat and cold.
  6. I'm in the Denver area
    ...if you would like to have me take a look, i'd be glad to.
    Send me a private message or email.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    SASANACH - Paul is a great resource to have close by, definitely take him up on his offer. As Ray says, get it OUT of the attic ASAP. If it's been up there for awhile I'm SURE it's going to need some work.
  8. christ andronis

    christ andronis

    Nov 14, 2001
    .and if you're in Colorado...think about a humidifier; but Paul, like it was said before, is a terrific resource to have close by and he can fill you in. also, take a look at the links right here on this site....

  9. saxon


    Jun 24, 2005
    OK, thanks for the continued help. And the offer from Paul. I have the Bass down from the attic. oops. It looks good , the bridge was taken off to store it in the bag, there is no lable inside but.. on the metal pieces of the tunning knobs, black knobs... the metal is stamped czechoslovakia. Sooo I think it cant be that old cause I dont think there was a czechoslovakia till the early 20's. I think.
    The back is bowed out and the bass measures 72" from the floor without the stand piece to the top of the curl on top. There is a nice mellow tight sound when thumped on the body. I will try to take , cut down and offer up pictures later . Thank You All Again

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