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So who uses a 4/4?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Georgia Watt, Aug 15, 2002.

  1. Georgia Watt

    Georgia Watt Guest

    Mar 2, 2002
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the 3/4 is the most common size bass, esp. in jazz circles, and the 4/4 is for more orchestral work.

    If someone is tall, but wants to play jazz, would you recommending hitching up the 3/4 or getting a 4/4?

    And other than the 4/4 being obviously larger, and perhaps a little louder, is there any other real difference?


    Thanks guys!
  2. I've never seen a 4/4 size bass, or heard of anyone who plays one. I'm sure someone must, somewhere.

    It's my understanding 4/4 basses are very difficult to play, and really aren't common at all. I could be completely, humiliatingly wrong though.

    If you want a larger bass, a 7/8 size would be the next logical step up.
  3. Did I read that Ron Carter used a 4/4? I can't remember for sure. His website is totally cool, though. www.roncarterbass.com

    Check it out, you'll see what I mean.
  4. Georgia,

    AFAIK, there are no reliable, fixed criteria for what is a 3/4, what is a 7/8, etc. (One of our more knowledgeable bass luthiers may want to carrect me here.) Even if there are, this is probably more relevant to double bass transportation, and less relevant to double bass playing.

    From a player' spoint of view, the more pertinent variables you should look at are length of the string from nut to bridge (sometimes called the "mensure"), and the shape and size of the upper bout. These are the main characteristics which determine the ease of playability. (There is also neck width and thickness, plus lots of other more subtle features, and of course I am ignoring sonic aspects entirely.)

    In fact, there exist larger-bodied basses with shortish mensures and smaller-bodied basses with longer mensures, in addition to more typical large-long and small-short combinations. Also, any of these designs might produce a louder or softer, and brighter or darker sounding bass.

    In fact, the vast majority of basses out there have a body size which is generally referred to as 3/4, but these will cover a wide range in terms of playability and sound. My advice is don't get hung up on the 3/4-7/8-4/4 moniker, and just look at each bass for what it is.

    Hope this helps.
  5. My bass is described by the manufacturer (Christopher) as being a 7/8, but it has the same mensure as their 3/4. The size difference is a wider lower bout and a deeper body depth overall. The 7/8 definitely gets a deeper, warmer, bigger sound than the 3/4.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Just because a bass is bigger, doesn't mean that it will sound bigger. I would agree that the a 7/8 may be a little deeper sounding than a 3/4, but I have heard 5/8 size basses sound louder than a 7/8. I was in Heinl's the other day, and they had a 4/4 Carcassi in for repair, and it was giant! String length of 44"!! It wasn't particularly loud though. My Italian has more volume. There is no advantage to owning a 4/4, and they are few and far between.
  7. Georgia Watt

    Georgia Watt Guest

    Mar 2, 2002
    Great info - thanks heaps.

    So back to one of the original questions...why play a 3/4 over a 4/4? Both are available at the same price.

    Thanks again
  8. I guess what everyone is saying is, "it all depends."

    Play both basses and decide for yourself (maybe with the help of your teacher or other players) which has the sound, response etc. you like best. If you prefer the 4/4, there may be a trade off in terms of playability (re: longer mensure).

    I played a 3/4 and a 7/8 and found that while the 3/4 probably had a more focused sound that would cut through the din of a quartet better, I went for the warm, "enveloping" sound the 7/8 offered.

    There may be practical considerations, too. Can you fit the 4/4 in your car, for instance? ;)
  9. b0nes83


    Dec 14, 2000
    This has nothing to do with this post,....besides the link roswell1965 threw down. I spent about 5 minuets playing a little tune with the links on ron cartes site. peace
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Agreed. Thanks for the heads up.
  11. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    Dr. Mark Morton has two bass' one kind of small he uses for solo work, His orchestra bass is has a huge body, I would guess a 4/4 ++ size. He said that if the bass had not been modified some time in the past two hundred years it wouild have something like a 46 inch string length. Some time in the past 200 years some one had a smaller neck grafted on. The peg box is huge too. The big bass has HUGE sound as to be expected out of a body that size.

  12. Some of you people are amazing...
  13. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Also nothing to do with this thread-I agree with Aliendude. Chris is amazing. Amazingly funny, amazingly helpful, and apparently an amazingly good guy. A little prone to sarcasm though.
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Uh, wouldn't that add up to five little tunes? Or did you combine them?

    Jeff - Thanks for the props. Waddaya mean, "a little prone to sarcasm"?
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Back on topic, there was a guy here at the University named Dave Anderson who played a 4/4 bass. I heard it in a small room, and that thing was LOUD! I'm sure it didn't hurt that Dave is a great player. I can't remember much more about the bass except that it was about the size of a Buick, and according to Dave, about as much fun to lug around without a V8 to make it go.
  16. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I think the proper question is why play a 4/4 at all?
    Fingering is a nightmare; they are not necessarily louder; you'll never get your money out of it when you sell it, it's an albatross.

    Although you say a 4/4 is "more for orchestra work", I don't see 4/4's there, either.

    It's unweildy, not user-friendly, and for what?

    Stay with 3/4 or 7/8.
  17. i have been intirested in 4/4's before also because i am a giant. and if your a giant then 3/4's and 7/8's just dont cut it. the only reason you would try to buy a 4/4 would be if you are just completey huge and when you play a normal bass it feels like a cello. so if thats not the case then a 7/8 is just right.
  18. Hi,
    there has been a lot of discussion what determines
    if it´s a 3/4 or 4/4. String length or body size or
    both ?

    I have a Pfretschner with a string length of 109.5cm
    but the body is "normal" 3/4. Very loud...

    Here are some details maybe interesting :
    The Royal Swedish Opera has a fine collection of basses and theire string length is as follows :

    Maggini 109.5cm
    Rudolf 108cm
    Barbé 109.5cm
    Jaquet 109
    Öhberg 107.3cm
    Lambert 106cm
    German 108.5cm
    Nyman 108cm
    Göteborg 109.5cm
    Claudot 108.5cm
    Elias 107.5cm
    Hawk 107cm
    Barock 105cm
    Galiano 110.5cm
    Dallinger 110

  19. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    I have heard of basses, 7/8 and 4/4 with 41" to 42" string lenght, in fact if you go to www.lemurmusic.com, you'll see that some of the newer big basses have average string lenght.
    I wonder if even with average string lenght they are still hard to play due to the body size, has anyone played such basses?

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