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Short-Scale Piccolo Bass on a Tight Budget?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Apr 18, 2018.


  1. I’m looking for a 5 string short-scale bass (30” or less) with bridge and neck humbuckers to defret and turn into a fretless that is tuned at least one octave higher than my fretted 34” scale.

    In an ideal world, I get a custom made instrument to my ideal specs, but I’m on a budget and looking to spend somewhere around $300 CAD or even less. I’ll probably have to make some compromises somewhere, and I’ll likely have to buy something used and modify the hell out of it.

    There are a couple 30” 4 stringers on my local classifieds for $300 or less, but they are 4 stringers and don’t have bridge pickups. There are also some 7 string guitars with a 25.5” scale within the $200 - $300 range, but I have no idea how I’d turn a 7 string guitar into a 5 string (with even string spacing) without a custom bridge. I’d also like something a bit longer if possible (like 27” scale or more). I could probably just defret a normal guitar, but ideally would have something with wider string spacing.

    Again, I am sure I’ll likely have to make some compromises, but I’m not in a rush and I don’t mind waiting for a year or so to find the right candidate.

    We have a lot of creative people here and I just thought I’d plant the seed to see if anyone has any ideas or can list some things for me to look out for. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. eJake

    eJake

    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    Ya I just got an SX Ursa Jr 30" scale 5 string delivered today. I think it was 220 shipped

    Edit: J pickups not humbuckers as per OP.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  3. BruceWane

    BruceWane

    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Yeah there is that one, too.
    SX Ursa 2 JR MN Ash 5 NA 5 String Bass - RondoMusic.com
    Fretted, so some work to be done, but also a bit cheaper than the two above.
     
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  4. Thanks guys! The SX Ursa is definitely closer to my budget after I factor in conversion, shipping and related fees and taxes.

    Do they make these in fretless at all?

    I think the models shown on Rondo are typically based on stock so I don’t know if they get them in periodically.

    Also @eJake are the pickups a typical size allowing for an easy swap?
     
  5. Also, it looks like if I were to replace a 7 string guitars bridge with a 5 string Hipshot A bridge and slide the string spacing inwards a little bit, then I could make that work... I’d need to change the nut and maybe fill the tuner holes for strings 2-3 and 5-6, drill a new hole in between, and paint, but it’s doable.

    Unless I get the guitar for free though, this mod would likely push me over my budget (the bridge alone would eat most of my budget).

    This is also definitely a lot more work than just finding a short scale 5 string bass though.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018
  6. BruceWane

    BruceWane

    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Rondo has had fretless Ursas in the past, 4, 5 and 6 string, but I couldn't say if they ever had any that were short scale.

    They have their stuff manufactured overseas, and seem to receive bulk shipments from time to time. Their stock of Ursa 5 and 6 strings has been dwindling down to nearly none over the past 6 months or so. They've had a pretty decent selection in the past, multiple colors, rosewood fretboards, USA ash bodies, etc. So maybe they're due some new stock. I suppose you could try contacting them to see.
     
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  7. Will do. I appreciate the tip!

    I also don’t mind defretting a bass, so I wouldn’t be opposed to getting a fretted one and going to town. I’d be more comfortable defretting a raw wood fretboard though, like rosewood.

    Has anyone had any luck defretting a finished maple fingerboard with block inlays/paint?
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018
  8. I did pick up an Ursa 1 fretless shortscale about 16 months ago. It was 4 string (only $115)
    I have not seen a 5 string version since I started browsing the site, late in 2016.
     
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  9. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    How big is your budget?
     
  10. Around $300 CAD.

    I don’t mind going over the budget slightly to do mods and stuff as I can do that over time, but I’d like to spend less than that on the core instrument.
     
  11. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    A really nice little short-scale that's not expensive ($299 USD new, much less used) is the Gretsch Junior Jet Bass. It only comes as a 4-string however so I don't know if that'd be a dealbreaker for you. Huge sound and a build quality that is far superior to what you might expect at that price point.

    Scott Whitley has a video on his piccolo bass which was created using an ordinary short scale bass. The only difference was the picolo string set.



    You might want to consider going with a baritone guitar. On the staff, it falls between a guitar and a bass. You can sometimes find a used one in your price range. If you're not familiar with the sound of a baritone guitar look below:

     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018
    HaphAsSard and Matthew_84 like this.
  12. Awesome! Thanks 40Hz, I appreciate the suggestions.

    Before being a stickler about 5 strings, I should probably look into my string options and make sure there’s even something for me and if I am restricted to a certain scale length or something. FWIW, I was looking to tune it to D-G-C-F-Bb. If anyone has any knowledge about this, I’d appreciate it! I’ll do some research this weekend though.
     
  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Its called drop tuning. Looks to be only a step down from standard tuning so it shouldn't pose a problem from a physics perspective. Tuning up is far more problematic due to the increased tension.

    If you'r into alternate tunings I've found open-G or "Spanish" guitar tuning very versatile and it can be adapted for use on a bass. (In case you're not familiar with it It's DGDGBD or the 515135 intervals of a G major chord. So going in triads starting on the 6th string you get a 515 G power chord, another 151 G power chord, a 513 G major second inversion chord and a 135 G major chord in the root position. And all on the same fret which is pretty handy. )
     
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  14. Thanks again @40Hz! I’m not really into alternative tunings that much. I’ve tried tuning in 5ths a few times, but I don’t like the extra shifts involved, and would especially hate it on a fretless.

    I tune my 4 string bass to D Standard because I often need below E, but rarely need below D, and I wanted to keep all strings tuned in 4ths.

    It never occurred to me that an intricate tuning system like the one you mentioned is a thing. That would just make my head hurt, lol.

    Also, I looked into Baritone guitars and I appreciate the tip! I’m not opposed to a 6 string instrument, but the string spacing looks a little too narrow for my fat fingers, but I’ll look into a bit more.

    I appreciate it again!
     

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