string length and its general effects

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Just some guy, Oct 16, 2006.

  1. Is there anything to be lost from shortening the string length on a bass? Is there any loss of response or sound that cannot be countered by adjusting the neck? When I say shortening the string length, I mean from 42" to say 40" or 39.5". I'm just wondering if we still need long string lengths on old instruments that have a shoulder to bridge distance that would allow a shorter string length.
  2. Jake


    Dec 11, 1999
    I'm sure Ken is right about that, but in general, I have heard that a longer string lenth will have a more powerful sound. This makes sense, right? More tension. One of my old bass teachers just bought a bass with a 39" SL and he had a new neck put on his nice Italian bass and changed the SL to 39." I noticed that the strings are looser and the pizz response is totally different. I don't know how much pizz response matters to you since you're in the Houston Symphony. That's awesome by the way. I've heard that a standard 42" SL is best for jazz pizz. The arco differences are more subtle. I hope the experts (including Ken Smith, of course) can elaborate more on this.
  3. gonniff


    Oct 15, 2006
    Bristol, UK
    This touches on something I've long wanted to ask about, namely, why can two more or less identical basses have such different tension on the strings (and I don't mean difference in action).

    I've played a few basses (electric and DB's) that had strings you couldn't budge with a sledgehammer and others that had almost butter soft response and tension, but weren't de-tuned or anything like that.

    What's behind that? Is there any way to insure that with the DB I'm hoping to buy soon (still searching for the right instrument in my budget).
  4. GriffithLea


    Aug 29, 2006
    Cypress, TX
    Here is one anecdote - my stand partner in one of the ensembles I belong to has an old bass that had its string length reduced, and he says he doesn't think the sound changed a bit as a result of the shorter length. It was reduced by installing a new nut 1-2" below the original nut, and removing material in between the locations of the new nut and old nut (so that the strings would slope away from the new nut). I guess this what people mean by a false nut.
  5. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I think the stiffness of the top plays a big role in how the bass "feels". I play a fairly new Poellmann 5-string Bussetto in my orchestra. It has I believe a 41-1/2" string length and very low action, but a very stiff top. It is nice for the left hand, but whether you pizz or bow, it feels very hard, and the strings don't "give" the way they do on my own instruments. I get blisters easily, and have to watch out not to over-exert my shoulder. With my own instruments I can see the top sink slightly when I pull the E string. On the Poellman I see no movement. This quality works well for orchestra playing, but I wouldn't use the bass for anything else.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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