Seven String Double Basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Silversorcerer, May 5, 2005.

  1. When I was up at the local 5-Spot today for lunch, the proprietor told me of a band that recently played there whose bassist was plucking and bowing on a 7-string doublebass. He insisted that it was not an electric model, and that he wasn't confused. This fellow is pretty savy about instruments and jazz, and he was not pulling my leg either. I searched the web diligently looking for such a beast I would have surely thought to be extinct for more than 200 years and I have found that another band, the Paul Dunmall Quartet: credits their bassist, Paul Rogers, as using a 7-string DB. Has anyone else heard of that recently?
  2. Actually a picture of one- I think Ken Smith posted it on one of those horrible ERB/anti-ERB slap-fests as evidence ERB's are nothing new. I'm sure I saw one in Bassplayer mag, also pointing out the fact 'it's been done before'. I want one. With frets & fancy inlay.
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I did? Ok, if you say so but slips my memory.

    I do know that 16-18th century Viola Da Gambas were 6 or 7-string but varied in size. Usually the were smaller than a Double Bass but not always.

    I guess you could have a Bass made today with 7-strings but it's taken me a lifetime to play halfway decent on 4-strings... I'll stay with 4 or maybe 5 for the Beethovan stuff.
  4. I could be having false memories, though I'm certain about the Bassplayer bit. It was on the last page- I think the article was by(former editor)Jim Roberts.
    As for wanting a 7-string DB, it would take the rest of my life to pay for a newly-built one, let alone learn to actually use it to anywhere near it's potential. I heard a soundclip of a Conklin 7-string EUB here(forget the name, sorry). Very impressive.
  5. I've seen a few photos of this 6 stringer over the years, which is definitely DB scale, but also is 300+ years old:

    I haven't seen one this big with seven strings, just the smaller gamba size ones. There are plans available from that museum for a smallish 6 stringer and photos of a seven stringer in the same size category. I'm hoping that band, I can't recall the name, will show up at the 5-Spot again and I can get a look the modern version.

    I have to agree with you on the 4-stringer, Ken. People used to ask when I was buying a new bass and my answer would be, "After I learn to play this one." 30 years later, that is still my only electric bass. I still think I haven't exhausted the possibilities on it, but I'm at an age where now, I just want to be more adventurous anyway, the goal of virtuosity having succumbed to the goal of having fun. On the DB side I now have the 5-stringer and have decided more strings isn't so hard to get used to. It is difficult to find exercise material that uses the lower string though so I've been transposing things down a string.

    You (Ken S.) built a 6 stringer back in '81 or before that was sort of a ground breaker for EBGs if my memory serves me. I'm just wondering who is building these new 7-string DBs, and what they sound like. I know the theory goes that the more strings, the less projection, etc., but that turned out not to be the case with my fiver, so maybe these new sevens aren't far off the mark on sound either.

    I'll see if there's a way to get into the Bass Player back issues and search. Bassteban, if you come up with anything solid (oops, I mean hollow) on that photo, please post a link.
  6. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Maybe it was Ratzo? he plays a 6-string DB
  7. And perhaps that wouldn't be a bad way to spend one's life...

    These things don't end up costing all that much sometimes if my 5er DB is an example. I think your current equipment list has some pretty pricey goodies in it already, but anyway, I agree with you on getting the "potential" out of it.

    I completely respect what you have said, so this is not meant to be argumentative. But let me offer an alternative perspective on instrument purchasing, playing, building, etc.

    I own more than one instrument that I will never acheive full potential with as a player. I don't own any instruments that are worth less than what I purchased them for, nor do I own any that I will out-live;- barring a tragic fire, my expiration date will come first.

    Sometimes there are things we own that are just pure investments for pleasure. When we pass, they continue to give pleasure to others. Sometimes it is best to consider ourselves caretakers during our lifetime rather than "owners". If I commission an instrument (like my 5-er was a commissioned instrument) certain in the knowledge that I am never going to play it in a Symphony, still, that bass that I "break-in" someday may be played in a Symphony and I will have enjoyed what I could do with it and passed it along. Most of the instruments that are highly prized came to us that way. It is satisfying even if one is just a footnote, to be a part of that ongoing process.
  8. I think the BP photo was of a viola da Gamba, not a double bass. This would be closer to a cello scale. Seven strings were common for solo work. I have never seen, nor heard of a seven string contrabass viol, six strings being the most, five being common, though I'm sure it's possible. If this guy plays a seven string double bass, it's probablly some freakish modern creation with an extra two high strings.

  9. Thanks for that link, Alexi, but his calendar had no Atlanta dates and the club owner swears it was a seven stringer. He plays some himself so I don't think he would have miscounted.

    Ratzo has a link to Merchant's site, so I wonder if Merchant did his six as a conversion.
  10. I guess I'm mixing up Viola de Gamba & Double Bass- completely different instruments, yes?
    And spending one's life learning to play could be good- spending one's life paying for an instrument, particularly at the cost of playing time, IMO would be not so good. As for learning to play the bass, or any other musical instrument, to it's full potential- well, I certainly have room to grow on my humblest(not even mentioned in my public profile :rolleyes: ) bass(es). Lastly(for now), all my instruments are investments in pleasure, & as such, they are coming very close to achieving their full potential. :)
  11. I've seen different versions of all that, but the big hunkers historically I think were referred to as Great Bass Viols or Violones. These were ususally DB size like the playmate in the link I posted earlier, gamba shaped and six and seven strings were not uncommon. Frets were tied on. Easy enough to do away with those. The tuning was kind of different with a 3rd tuning stuck in the middle somewhere depending on the strings and some of them were non standard shapes as well. Apparently most of these were cut up into the original double basses as Orchestras became popular. I have seen modern 5 string DBs credited to Carlo Otho in the late 1870's, but it is a stretch by that time to really say he "invented" anything new. He just put a missing string back on it. Admittedly it was more violinish by then and tuned differently, but the long perspective, considering what is happening now with six and seven string DB's popping up reveals a history of constant variation in a more or less stable design layout.

    I wouldn't recommend going into debt buying instruments or anything else for that matter. I bought my best stuff back when it was just considered "used" and not priceless "vintage" stuff. My new bass is the only thing I've bought new and I have to say, the deal was sweet. Other than that I've traded for some things, photography for instruments. You still have to look at it as paying, but for some reason time for time seems to be a better deal. Rehearsal time has to be earned like any other time. I'm lucky. Other than my musical indulgences I live a bare bones existence. It's not for everyone, but it works for me. :)
  12. hirort


    May 17, 2003
    Yokohama, Japan
    Just FYI,

    I have a picture of 6-string double bass. I don't remember when I got this and who it was. I guess it was taken more than 20 years ago.
    As far as I remember, it's a custom made by Pollman in Germany with Low B and High C.

    Attached Files:

  13. mikjans


    Dec 17, 2003
    Uppsala, Sweden
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    What's the acoustic output of a body that small? Does this cat amplify it all the time.

    I haven't heard Ratzo's 6er in person, I imagine that trying to get an acoustic instrument to support the range (especially below B) is a challenge!
  15. Mudfuzz


    Apr 3, 2004
    Looks like you can get one fretted; so as long as you buy one of these Paul can't get on you for "calling" it a fretboard:p :D

    I bet it has action too :bag: ;)
  16. Thanks mikjans, that was quick. I'm going to order a CD with Paul Rogers (with his quartet) on the 7 stringer to hear what it sounds like. I'm hoping that other band that used a 7 stringer shows up here locally again. I'm suspecting that they were using a more traditionally shaped instrument because the proprietor didn't remark on any unusual body shape.

    I like the sleek looking body and the f holes on these, though. My impression is that the body may have been made deeper (is "profundeur" French for depth?) to increase the interior volume of the instrument so it still has a full sound. It reminds me quite a bit in shape of the row boat bass Aaron N. posted a link for over on the mast/fingerboard thread. The plans for that are at the ALG website (but it really needs longer strings). That would be so much easier to build than a traditional double bass. As far as shapes, f holes and strings, it appears we have come nearly full circle to that variety of designs that preceded standardization. On the string tunings, I'm guessing that it doesn't go below BB, probably goes up above c to f. BB is nearly subsonic already. Another 5th below that would be almost inaudible and closer to a seismic event.

    The seven looks wider than the six and the bow Paul Rogers uses looks very non-standard, about 4 inches or so between the wood and the hair. I can't see how one could easily play arco without hitting at least two strings at once, I'll get the CD and see how he sounds.

    Thanks again for the quick research. :)
  17. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Geez, Aaron, that pic is just so sick and wrong.
  18. The maker makes them without frets to, to his credit. The fretted one is an anomoly. Aaron just did that to yank some chains. I think they should be the tied on frets if you're going to have them. You know the frets are going to make it a PITA to set up too. But on the other side of the coin I'm hearing of a fretless banjo rage going on up in western N.C., usually home made. It's a weird world, indeed.
  19. mikjans


    Dec 17, 2003
    Uppsala, Sweden
  20. Ashley Long

    Ashley Long

    Jan 3, 2004
    The bow that Paul Rogers uses is basically a modified Baroque style bow hence the large gap between the wood and hair. The acoustic properties of the bass means that the overal sound production is lower and he does amplify a lot of the time, but not exclusively. I know that Paul worked his way up through the number of strings (from 4-5 etc) and from hearing and seeing him play on many occasions, I know that he is quite easily one of the most talented bassists around with a truly formidable technique, and being a free improiviser myself, a 'hero' of mine.