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Thoughts on Scale Length

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Demens, Aug 9, 2005.


  1. Demens

    Demens

    Apr 23, 2005
    Waco, Texas
    Okay... So, I am designing my first bass right now, and decided to make it a fretless piccolo bass. But, I was figuring I might be able to kill two birds with one stone if I could switch between piccolo gauge strings and regular gauge strings.

    My one concern was the scale length of a piccolo bass. It seems most people say 30" is the ideal length for piccolo basses.

    In everyones experience here, what scale length makes a "better" piccolo bass? Could I do 34" or 32" and not have much difference tonally?

    Thanks.
     
  2. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    I can't say a whole lot for tone, but if you go with the longer scales you're going to have a heck of a time finding strings. On the other hand, changing from piccolo strings to bass strings will probably require a nut change, which could make the whole project moot. Unless, of course, you find some clever way to make a modular nut. Perhaps a system where the nut can be clamped in place and then replaced with the strings? Sounds like a proper design challenge.

    In terms of 30" scale basses, I like 'em but I don't play 'em much. They feel great, but I'm scared that if I stick with my 30's (I've got a pair that travel in and out of playability (due to mod projects)) I'm scared I'll get spoiled. That's why 34" is still my most regular scale length.

    -Nate
     
  3. Demens

    Demens

    Apr 23, 2005
    Waco, Texas
    Good ideas on the changing thing... But no, I knew I would have to change nuts with strings, as well as adjust the saddles, etc for making the change back and forth between a piccolo and a regular bass.

    I was just wondering if there was an optimal scale length for piccolo, because if there is, I will just build the bass to that length, but if there isn't, then I will just do a 34" length so I can have a good sounding regular bass as well. (Or does 32" sound fine on regular bass? I only have experience with 34" and 35" :meh: )
     
  4. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Both 30" and 32" sound fine on regular bass. The only concern with a 34" scale piccolo is finding strings long enough. If you go down to 30" you can probably use extra long guitar strings, saving a whole lot of hassle.

    -Nate
     
  5. I wonder if a headless unit where you can clamp the strings in at the headstock would work. I mean, that lines the strings up, then you've got a zero fret. No nut at all, and I'd think you could swith gauges. Youd have to re-intonate and adjust saddles still, but I think it would work.
     
  6. Demens

    Demens

    Apr 23, 2005
    Waco, Texas
    Nate: So the only concern with a longer scale length for a piccolo is finding strings that would be suitable for it? If that is it, then I might just go ahead and go with a 34" scale, because Ken Smith Piccolo strings should fit it. Here is a description from juststrings.com:
    Paul: That is actually are really interesting idea... I won't be using it this time, I'm going to be building the bass to look more traditional/classic. But that is a very good thought.

    -Lloyd
     
  7. Now I'm hooked on the idea, thanks man!


    *thinks of 32" bass with piezos, no pickups, and fretless epoxied board*
    *thinks of a fretted brother*
    *has enough body wood*


    By the way, are those strings all wound?
     
  8. Demens

    Demens

    Apr 23, 2005
    Waco, Texas
    Yeah... I haven't found any piccolo strings that are flat wound (if that is what you are referring to), just round wound. But, I doubt that they would be too hard on a fretless... I am probably going to try and get ahold of one of Larry's stabilized boards for mine :smug:
     
  9. I was just hoping the G wouldn't be unwound. Thanks man!

    I'd love one of Larry's boards, but I don't know if it'll be in my budget. I mean, it's hard to beat paying 20$ locally for a board of lovely and colorfully grained cocobolo that'll yeild three or four fretboards.
     
  10. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Works fine. That is a standard SUBurban feature :D
    However, since I clamp the strings, i.e. no double-ballends, the strings become 'use-once-dispose'.
    As far as I know, the double-ballends on the market are all of the same dimensions.
     
  11. How well does it hold piccolo strings?
     
  12. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Maryland
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Just my 2 cents:

    I built a 32" scale piccolo bass. The string tension on the upper strings was considerable. If/when I do it again, I would do 30 or 32 maximum. The bass felt better to me dropped to a D tuning.
     
  13. Demens

    Demens

    Apr 23, 2005
    Waco, Texas
    Okay, this is what I was looking for... So, you think a 34" scale would be too rough on the strings of a piccolo? and that even 32" is too much?
     
  14. Thanks for the insight man!
     
  15. Demens

    Demens

    Apr 23, 2005
    Waco, Texas
    I was browsing around and found that the Hyperbass (made by Zon) is strung with piccolo strings, and is a 34" scale. And that bass is made to be a piccolo, so maybe 34" is fine?