Squier Bass VI to Bass IV Conversion - A Thread of Ideas

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by handofdumb, Apr 30, 2019.

  1. handofdumb


    Sep 7, 2017
    Well hello, TB!

    I've had a weird idea brewing in my head for a few weeks now and I'd love to hear some feedback from the community before I mar an otherwise beautiful instrument.

    It all starts with the Squier Bass VI - I love it! I have a Vintage Modified version and am looking to get a Classic Vibe (simply for a color swap - I prefer black to sunburst). However, the love affair ends when I play this bass during a jam/rehearsal - I just can't play it right! My technique is too aggressive and imprecise for the crowded neck on this thing and I end up hitting all of the wrong stuff.

    I love the large body + P-bass width nut + short scale and am getting friendly with the pickups. So I wondered how I can drag this bass down to my level....

    Enter my idea for the Squier Bass IV - a four-string short scale bass in the style of a Bass VI. For those not in the know, the Bass VI is already tuned to the pitch of a standard bass, but has a bonus B and e string to get closer to electric guitar territory.

    It's silly! I know! But all other cheap short scales on the market are at 1.5" for nut width and lack the hulking body that the Bass VI brings to the table. But how do I easily convert a VI to an IV?

    After much deliberation, I believe I've found the easiest (err....easiest while still being DIY + sorta cheap) way to do it. Let's take it from the top!

    The Headstock
    This one is simple enough - it needs to be plugged and redrilled for a four string. Just dowel-up the existing six tuner holes, level it out, and use a drill press for some nice new tuner holes in a pleasing four string spacing. Place the string tree in the proper spot and voila! It is done.

    The question here is what tuner size? Do I go for standard Clover-style big 'uns or do I stick with the vintage-style guitar tuners? I'm not sure what would be better, but I think part of it depends on what strings I'll be using (Bass VI winding vs standard short scale bass strings) and the other part depends on how goofy four li'l tuners would look.

    Also, the nut would obviously need to be recut for a four string, but that's basic enough.

    The Neck
    No changes here! It's a neck. Should be able to handle it.

    The Pickups
    Hmm...I would keep it stock for now! But perhaps installing a 51-P-Bass-style pickup in the middle position would be a good starting point. Endless possibilities! But stock is fine for the time being.

    The Bridge
    A hurdle, that's for sure! But I want to keep with the standard pivoting bridge, just in case the vibrato would like to be used. To accomplish this, my current idea is the flip the existing bridge (to the undrilled side) and precisely drill four holes to mount the saddles onto. I would also upgrade to some vintage-style threaded saddles so, in case my four holes are slightly off, I can still adjust the string spacing to some degree.

    My worry here is that, since the saddles won't be touching, they might move a bit too freely. I've never had a Fender-style bridge where the saddles didn't touch but it's not like they're secured in any other way....I wonder if it would make a difference here?

    The Vibrato/Tremolo
    Oof - likely the worst part of all of this. I don't know what to do here, but I have two ideas.

    The first (and cleanest) would be to have a hard-tail conversion plate crafted to replace the vibrato unit entirely (this fella on Reverb sells 6-string conversion plates and they seem top-notch!). Having a custom piece made would be a drain on the ol' pocketbook, but perhaps I can score a six-hole plate and drill/route an additional four holes with the proper spacing.

    The second (and likely worst) idea is to use the existing vibrato, but with a new part. The piece of metal that holds the strings resembles the plate of a standard Fender-style bass bridge already. Obviously it has different dimensions (and that slick bend at the top to hide the end of the strings), but the basics remain the same. Can I modify an existing Fender-style bridge plate with new holes for accurate string spacing + cut it down to size to fit in an existing Jazzmaster-style vibrato? Probably. Should be as simple as cutting the bridge up + drilling holes, right?! But will the vibrato still work? Probably not - getting the dimensions right probably isn't possible with my skill level/without making a custom piece. Still, it's cheap-as-free, considering I have so many Fender-style bridges just sitting around.

    That's it! A few modifications and I think I've got a four string that works. However, I'm not a pro (by any means), so I'm not sure what kind of problems I might be creating here.

    (err....really just questions I've had from a few people I've told this to IRL)
    • I don't get it. What?
    Check out a REAL CRAPPY, NOT TO SCALE pic that I drew of it in the hyperlink (also attached as a pic to this post)!
    • Why are you doing this?
    Because I love the vibe of a Bass VI but can't play well enough for the string spacing - my caveman abilities require four strings or less!
    • What about strings - will you use standard short scale strings or bass VI strings?
    Either one! It all depends on what route is taken for the tuners.
    If they remain their tiny vintage selves? Bass VI strings all the way (Kalium makes them in tons of gauges, so getting decently thick ones won't be an issue).
    If I plop on some big ol' clover-leaf tuners? Standard short scale strings can happen.

    Does anyone have any ideas/opinions/thoughts on any of this? I'd love to hear them.
    And yes, please feel free to tell me I'm an absolute monster!

    I'll update this post as I progress. I expect this to be a slow-moving project, but I think I'll see it through! I just need to get my hands on a black Classic Vibe first...

    Edit: I hope this is in the right place! I wasn't sure where this fell....Basses, Luthiers, or Hardware, Setup & Repair.

    I figured this wasn't about a bass that exists, so Basses was out. And I'm not making anything from scratch or doing any heavy Luthier-work, so that's out....which left me with Hardware, Setup & Repair!

    Please let me know if I have this miscategorized and I'll move it on over :ninja:

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 30, 2019
  2. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    I'd leave the original VI neck alone, and get something from Warmouth or some other source(you never know when you'd want to sell the VI intact). There's plenty of short-scale 4-string Fender-esque necks around, Rondo/SX, perhaps? Make sure you verify the neck pocket dimensions. I've seen Burny or Greco versions of that very concept on Ebay. Also, you would have to swap pickups fairly quickly with the reduction to four strings. Check into pups with bar magnet singles as a '51 P may not match the string spread for the pole pieces.
    handofdumb likes this.
  3. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    You want a Fender Rascal.
    It was made to be a 4 string version of a VI.
    Same scale, similar neck, similar body, same pickups under different covers.
  4. handofdumb


    Sep 7, 2017
    This is something I've thought about quite a bit!

    You're correct that I may want to sell the VI one day, but finding a neck is CRAZY. Eyeballin' the neck pocket, it's not gonna allow for a standard Fender-style short scale bass neck. Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be a decent (and obtainable) short scale neck built with a larger-than-1.5" nut. If I were to get a new neck, it would need to have some major modifications done to it before it would fit.

    My original thought was to get a P-bass neck without a fretboard (or lift the fretboard off an existing neck), shorten it up to the exact Bass VI neck specifications, then place a new fretboard on it with the right spacing. This is crazy though, since that's like 100x more work than I'd like to do, lol. But it's a thought!

    Given the amount of work necessary (and the scarcity of a fitting neck with a decent nut width), it's just easier (and probably cheaper) to modify the existing VI neck to accept 4 tuners. The good news? It won't be pretty, but it can be doweled + redrilled again for VI if I ever wanted to turn back :)

    Ooh this is a good point. The pickup pole pieces....

    I actually think I might be okay here, but I won't know it til it happens, lol. There's the ol' endless debate of whether or not polepieces-matching-string-spacing truly matters. I could be fine with the 6 pole piece spacing - after all, there are quite a few classic pickups for bass with 6 pole pieces under a cover. But still...it's something to keep in mind and I appreciate you mentioning that. Bar/rail pickups might just be the ticket to avoid the hassle!

    Thanks for your reply!

    AHH yes I came across this in a thread this weekend. It seems to fit the bill! It has a cool vibe + I really dig the bridge (what is that - DeArmond/Guild style?).

    Finding one, however? Seems tough. Plus, the specs from Fender's site are GONE (weird, right?), so I'm not able to see what the most recent iteration had in terms of nut width and the like. Still, this is a great alternative if it can be found. Thanks for mentioning it!
  5. hotbass57


    Nov 27, 2011
    Those are strangely attractive.
    lz4005 likes this.
  6. lizardking837


    Jan 28, 2009
    It looks like a Fender and a Danelectro had a bit too much to drink one night and decided, "why not?"
    crobasster and hotbass57 like this.
  7. Naviiin


    Jun 2, 2019
    Sorry to revive a topic from 4 years ago, but with the release of the Squier Rascal Bass I was thinking about this mod again. I know there would be more work involved, but I was wondering if this could now be as easy as slapping a Rascal neck onto a Bass IV and switch out the bridge setup. Anyone think that's doable?