String Spacing and Width for a Small-Handed Player

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ericplaysbass, Jul 18, 2013.

  1. ericplaysbass


    Jul 16, 2009
    Toledo, OH
    Hello there. Sorry for only bothering you all when it's convenient for me, but this is always the best place to come for solid advice when it comes to my bass work. Thank you all so much for that! On to my inquiry:

    I've got quite small hands. I've often compared them to the size of the average lady's and mine are, on average, the same size, if not slightly bigger or even slightly smaller. However, I've developed a fair reach all around the fretboard due to my background in guitar that carried over nicely to when I started playing bass.

    Currently, I play a Cort Artisan B4--a 4-string I specifically chose for its small string spacing, light weight and fast action--and an MTD Beast 5--a bass with gargantuan width compared with what I'm used to (19mm string spacing, 35" scale).

    Now, I will say I love playing the MTD despite its initial difficulty. Once I warm up to it, I'm flying around pretty well, but it still feels clunky from time to time and, admittedly, kinda hurts after a while of so much stretching. More than anything else, though, I love the sound of the MTD. It's not quite that signature MTD sound (Czech-made, only $500 used), but it's the closest I could get for now and has a fantastic growl.

    I say all this because I have the opportunity, as an employee of a local shop, to get a Cort Curbow 52 at cost on a special deal. I've played this bass before and quite enjoyed it. Even though it didn't compare to the growl of the MTD, it was much easier to perform on it than the MTD. Specifically, it actually has a pretty significantly smaller spacing than most 5-strings (17mm, I think) and a 34" scale.

    To jump on this deal, however, I would have to sell my MTD, as I do not have the cash and the deal is over with at the beginning of next month.

    Thus, I'm wondering two things:
    1. Should I go ahead and sell the MTD, compromising that sound I enjoy for the performance?
    2. Should I just tough it out and continue to adapt to the wider string spacing? (Furthermore, is it "healthy" for me to continue adapting to a wide spacing when my teeny hands don't seem capable of really excelling on such a scale?)
  2. I have 2 ibanez basses for that reason 16.5mm spacing. I had a 35er got rid of it just hurt too much. If your not comfortable playing a certain bass, time to think about going with smaller one. 34" isn't bad 32" is much better but it is hard to find a 5er in that scale. If you are not completely happy while playing because of size of bass, it will show.
  3. Tommygunn


    Nov 8, 2008
    Houston, Tx
    I love my danelectro. Worth checking out. I know its not like an MTD but still cool :)
  4. Sav'nBass


    Jan 18, 2009
    Virginia Beach
    I would say get what is most comfortable for your hands.. You may not get that MTD growl that you have come to like.. (I know what you mean.. and I have a Korean one and I love it.. ) but you can change things like electronics and strings to kind of tweak that.. You only have one set of hands and they need to last you a lifetime.. I like the MTDs because of the wider spacing.. My hands cramp up quicker with the tighter spacing. The wider spacing allows me to stretch my hand more comfortably..
  5. ericplaysbass


    Jul 16, 2009
    Toledo, OH
    Thanks for the replies so far, everyone! Much appreciated.

    @mjmeche Ah, thanks for the affirmation. Yeah, I haven't found any 5-strings at 34" while quickly browsing, but I'm really not looking to get another one aside from the Cort Curbow while I can with this super deal.

    @Tommygunn I've never had the opportunity to try a Danelectro, but when it arises, I'll definitely check em out! As I reiterated, though, the only bass I'm really considering at this point is that Curbow due to the deal I can get on it and how much I liked it the last time I had one to mess around with.

    @Sav'nBass Another vote for comfortability, cool! That's what I was thinking. There's always stuff I can tweak with strings and such. I've come to find that more of my personal sound comes from my approach, strings, and amp anyway, but I'll definitely miss that MTD growl if I end up going through it. Oh well, more reason to save up for the even better growl for me, the Warwick ;) And definitely true that I can't swap my hands, but I can always swap basses!
  6. Grissle


    May 17, 2009
    Which hand is it that's getting tired or sore, fretting hand or plucking/picking hand?
  7. ericplaysbass


    Jul 16, 2009
    Toledo, OH
    Oh, probably should've specified. Thought I hit everything, too!

    Fretting hand more than anything. Along with the spacing, the neck is really wide (another thing I kinda left out, but thought would be implied with the bridge spacing I guess). It's pretty difficult to get around on the fretboard as much as I'm used to with so much width.

    My other hand doesn't get nearly as tired, though there's still a difficulty there as well, specifically with string-skipping and such. But, the problem is predominately with the fretting hand.
  8. I'm 6'2" but have somewhat smallish hands, plus a couple of long-ago broken left fingers seem to have lessened my spread, so I have found that I like 1.5" nuts(on 4-strings- not sure what my 5, a Fender Jazz, or 6, a Stambaugh- measure out to be). At the bridge Im comfy w/wider(3/4" or 19mm)spacing.
  9. ericplaysbass


    Jul 16, 2009
    Toledo, OH
    Hmm. Maybe it's just more of a preference thing in the end. I keep chalking my own difficulties up to a physical limitation, and while it could definitely be that, it could also just be my approach, and my approach typically is the easier to dig in, the better.

    Any other thoughts on this matter, anyone?
  10. NewGuy


    Jun 4, 2006
    You mentioned you didn't know of any 5 strings that were "34 but many Warwicks are. For a while I wanted the MTD Heir (since at the time I couldn't afford the MTD535) but once I got my hands on a Warwick $$ Corvette NT (bubinga) I was in love with the feel. Very nice sound and excellent B string. I recently sold it for my dream coffee table bass LOL. I miss it. I know Warwicks are either love or hate around here, but since they have an awesome growl + "34 scale I would say give it a try.
  11. wooheehaa


    Jul 14, 2013
    width, thickness are all imo are just about adaptation and techique. if you really have short fingers, you should be looking at shorter scale imo.

    victor wooten have short fingers too but yet . . wow
  12. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Not to mention Anthony Jackson....

    I think you're on the right track to trade the MTD for something you're more comfortable with, but maybe not for the Cort. The Cort is a compromise (as is the MTD) and a good price is only worthwhile if it's the right instrument in the first place. This would be like buying shoes in the wrong size just because the price was right.

    There are really lots and lots of fivers out there, many of which have narrow string spacing. It seems to me that it would be best to wait until you find a bass with a feel AND a sound that you love before you part with the MTD.

    I agree with the others that say that you can master the MTD with technique, but there's also a lot to be said for having a bass that feels comfortable to you right from the start. You have small hands... why fight a wide neck if you don't have to?
  13. ericplaysbass


    Jul 16, 2009
    Toledo, OH
    Thanks for the responses while I was gone at work!

    @NewGuy Huh, really? I always figured Warwicks were 35" as well. I've always wanted a Warwick, but I'd want to save up for the $4000 Corvette $$ NT. Right now, my options are sell the MTD and go for the deal, or don't do anything.

    @wooheehaa I really do have short fingers, haha. Though yeah, I get used to the bass every now and then, but it really is a struggle.

    @Lo-E Well, I wouldn't really call the Cort a compromise. Aside from winning Best of Show in the bass category at last year's NAMM, the bass itself from what I remember was superb. If I sounded like I was knocking its sound earlier, then I apologize; I only meant to say it doesn't sound like an MTD. It has its own character and feel that I really enjoyed while I had one at my shop to mess around with. Now, with a special deal ending soon, I figured it would be high time to jump on top of it, albeit for the cost of one of my other basses that I find myself not being completely satisfied with anyway. That's also why waiting is out of the question for this specific case. I really want to either jump on this time-limited deal now or just wait (and for a while at that).
    That's pretty much how I'm looking at this right now. Is it worth toughing it out until I semi-permanently become comfortable with my MTD or just go for something that's comfortable now and will stay comfortable? For that reason, I'm really thinking of jumping on this before my time is up.

    Thanks again for all the feedback. At this point, I think I'm just about set on selling the MTD and nabbing the fantastic Curbow 52 while I can. If there's anything anyone else can add, though, it would be greatly appreciated.
  14. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    IMHO, left hand technique, appropriate to the player and the instrument, is great leveler. I play a pretty standard 3/4 upright with a 42.0 inch scale length. I have a 10 year-old double bass student who plays a 1/2 size upright—that is an instrument with a 37.5 inch scale.

    Scales and arpeggios diligently practiced with well-thought out consistent fingering, shifting, pivoting help us acquire technique applicable to hands of all sizes. One of my teachers, brilliant on upright and electric, was a 5' 7" slender Japanese woman with hands smaller than mine.

    Get a teacher who knows how to approach technique systematically. You can play pretty much any length scale you desire.
  15. Herrick


    Jul 21, 2010
    Munchkin Land
    Most Warwicks are 34" scale. Older ones (I think pre 2009) have thick necks (space between your fingers & palm) so you may not be into that. Newer ones have thinner necks. Also, check out Ibanez SRs. I had one years ago and it was comfortable & had a thin neck. it was an SR504.

    How long have you been playing that MTD? If you've been playing for a while and still haven't adapted to it, then you should sell it. However, I think Jim Carr's advice is good too.
  16. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I would shop around a little more before buying a Cort to replace an least now you know what you require in a bass. Any perceived tonal advantages of playing on a wider (and longer) neck don't mean much if you can't play the damn thing....
  17. I have to say that I don't believe it is always simply a matter of technique, or practice- perhaps a majority of the time, and there are of course many smaller-handed folk who become are very capable on larger instruments- in fact it sometimes seems smaller folk may more often go large. My point is that I won't tell you what is *right* but what *works for me* and why. :)
  18. NewGuy


    Jun 4, 2006
    To the OP, did you sell the MTD and get the Cort? If so, how are you liking the feel of the Cort?