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reduce scale length with capo???

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by jacove, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. jacove


    Apr 12, 2003
    Aalborg, Denmark

    I play 4-string 34" scale 75% of the time....but for example when playing 5-7 gigs a week, I sometimes feel a bit of pain in my wrist...I need to say that I have a very small hands, and sometimes have difficulties with stretching 1st to 4th!....I've tried putting on a capo on the first fret and tuning down a half step, it really helps me getting through intense periods of gigging....is there anything "wrong" in doing this, am I the only one who ever tried this....I should say that my bass gets more thumb by doing this, but the sounds is definitely not worse...just different
  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    It's a reasonable approach, especially if you've got a good reliable capo. However, you may also want to consider your left hand technique. Off the top of my head I can't think of anywhere I need to maintain a 1-4 stretch for any extended period. Working down at that end of the neck, I find that a much more relaxed approach covering about three frets works better, with a bit more position shifting and the occasional extension.

    Even on a song I played with a previous band that kept grooving round A A A F# G G# (or thereabouts) every bar, it sounded fine to play it as 4 4 4 (shift down) 1 2 4 (shift up) and the slight 'breaths' introducted as the result of the shifting actually helped the articulation of the line. I could keep that up for a long time (which was just as well as it was a very repetitive song!).

  3. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Another approach is getting a 5 string, and playing everything up 5 frets. It would give you (effectively) a much shorter scale length and the same range with the tradeoff being greater right hand work, but it would spare your left quite a bit.
  4. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    What he said ^^^^^^

    While a lot of players look at extended range basses with a crooked eye, one of the benefits of the "extra" strings is that you can generally work in the 5th-9th fret range and cover a wide range of notes in this position. A lot less stretching involved, you should really give it a try :cool:
  5. jacove


    Apr 12, 2003
    Aalborg, Denmark
    OKI, thanks for your reply guys, I've never really been a big fan of 5-strings...I think I'll probalby see if someone can build me a 33 or 32" scale...but the capo thing does seem to work for me, so I guess that is OK to do that! And it is pretty cheap compared to getting a 5-string or a custom made bass...hehe :p
  6. Hi Jacove,

    Mørch is buliding a 32 scale for a friend of mine. It's 6 string, but sure he could build a 4 with 32 or 33 scale.

  7. Yeah, the only thing that would screw me up is the whole "dot = note position" angle.

    I'd look for a cool 32" inch scale jobby. Or wear the bass a little higher, or anything that lessens the reach and wrist angle.

    Good luck.
  8. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    You can find used MIM Stu Hamm Urge basses on ebay every once in a while (I did). The earlier ones (and all the Mexi's, I think) were 32" scale. Not a bad little bass, BTW. Mine was like $250 I think.
  9. jacove


    Apr 12, 2003
    Aalborg, Denmark
    Hi Houmann ;) ,

    Yeah, why not...I might give Mørch a call...
  10. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    Upside to capo-ing is that you would have to tune up a half tone and increase tension in the process. I think it's a great solution.

    I agree too that more than 4 gives you the option of 'box playing' - or starting your work at the 5th fret. Up side to that is that the distance between frets goes from almost 2" at the nut to slightly less than 1.5" at the 5th fret.
  11. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    No, you would have to tune down. For instance if you capo the E string at the first fret you now have the open string being an F, which you have to detune a half tone to an E. If you tuned up the open string would be F#.
  12. Dincrest


    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    I've heard a lot of good things about the Cortobass http://www.cortobass.com

    And I believe there are other builders of shorter scale instruments that get a lot of love on these forums.
  13. bazzanderson


    Oct 7, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I did this exact same thing for a while with a 35" scale 5 string....worked fine. I don't like 35" scale so I basically brought to like 33.5" with the capo. The dots being "off" take a little bit of getting used to and you might have to raise your action to avoid fret buzz due to the less tension this shorter scale length will give you.
  14. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    I've got small hands, too. At maximum spread without straining, the distance between the pad of my first finger and the pad of my little finger is a bit over six inches. My middle finger from its base to its tip is 3 1/4 inches long. That's small.

    Sorry for diverting the thread from a direct answer to your question, but it might be useful to look at the underlying cause of your discomfort rather than a band-aid solution.

    How high do you wear your bass? If you say something like belt height or below, consider hoisting it up a few inches.

    What this will do is allow you to straighten your left wrist, because the neck will be up high.

    As you read this, try a simple experiment. Hold your left hand (if you play right handed, that is) up in front of you, palm towards your face. Now bend your wrist so that you're looking at your fingertips end-on. This simulates the wrist position you've got if your neck is low (i.e., wrist bent so that you can reach across the fretboard).

    Do your four-finger spread. Feel that tightness and tension?

    Now straighten your wrist out again so that you're looking at your palm. This simulates the wrist position you've got if your neck is high.

    Do the stretch again. See how much farther you can spread your fingers without straining?

    I was quite surprised at how much easier it was to play for extended periods when I shortened my strap.

    I don't wear the bass way up under my chin like some do...the upper body cut is right below my right pectoral, and the middle of the bass is an inch or two above my belly button. Say a little below where it is when I sit down. The key factor to me is having my left wrist more or less straight.
  15. jacove


    Apr 12, 2003
    Aalborg, Denmark
    adouglas, thanks for your advice, my middle finger is exactly 3.15", now that's really small...I am aware of that lowering the strap might help, and I think I have found a really great position where it is comfortably..I also think I got a good technique placing my thumb behind the neck and using the pivot technique and so on, still with this I can get sore in my hand after a few weeks intense playing...The capo idea has helped in some situationen, so I guess It's a neat little trick when your hand start getting tired...
  16. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    I switch to this bass, a Jerry Jones Longhorn, towards the end of the night. 30" scale, lightweight. Not to be confused with cheesy Danos. This is a first-rate bass, with a fine array of tones. I've got two!
  17. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings

    Note to self - don't post before coffee.....
  18. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    This is my #1 reason for loving the 5 string. I get to play 90% of the time 5 frets up, and it is much les fatigue for my left hand and wrist.

    jacove, there are other things it could be besides the scale length. My middle finger is only 3.25 inches, but I play 34", 34.5" and 35" scale 4, 5 and 6 string basses, and as long as the neck profile is right for me, I have no pain, and only have problems with fatigue after 2 or 3 hours.

    You have some very nice basses, but there is a chance that the neck profile may not be right for you.

    My Geddy Lee Jazz and my Ibanez 6 have very slim profiles, but they fatigue my left hand more quickly than my Zon, my Cirrus, or my Nordstrand.

    Slim doesn't always equal comfort, no matter how short your fingers.
  19. jacove


    Apr 12, 2003
    Aalborg, Denmark
    Yeah, Jeff!...I've been trough a lot of different basses through the years, and my J-bass is pretty chunky which I like, a small neck like my Sterling is great too, but doesn't fit the hand as well ...I'll just say that I can easily manage a 34", haven't played that most of my life, and still plays it.....but in periods of heavy gigging, the capo idea, has been a way of getting a bit of relief, just wanted to hear if that is a wacky idea, or anybody else has done the same...
  20. Mikkel-S


    Jun 27, 2001
    Herning, Denmark
    Hey jacove,

    As Christian said, Im the guy who ordered the 32" scale Mørch. If you want' comeby and try it out!!! :) Also Im waiting for my Fodera 33" Garrison 5. Also shorter scale, cause my hands are rather small too.
    Let me know, And come by! I would love to try your Sadowsky! :D