Too small to play bass?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ck98ac4, May 18, 2001.

  1. ck98ac4


    May 18, 2001
    Denver, CO
    I am an experienced drummer and my wife has played other instruments as well. She has expressed a strong interest in learning bass guitar. The problem is neither of us knows if she has long enough arms and fingers to effectively play bass. She is 5'2" and has fairly small hands and short arms and fingers. Obviously adult bass guitars aren't available in an infinite array of sizes, will it be a problem for her to find a quality instrument that fits her?

    If you do think it would work, what does a decent complete rig cost? We would like something fairly nice she could grow into vs. grow out of...any specific suggestions on brands, models, etc. Also, what about starting out with 5 (if it fits her) or 6 (probably not) string vs. 4?

    Thanks in advance for your replies!

  2. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Hmm... she probably should pick up a 4-string (slimmer neck).

  3. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
  4. notduane


    Nov 24, 2000
    No pun/offense intended, but ya' might wanna' consider
    a "short scale" (30" vs 34") bass. Some good ones that
    come to mind are the Epiphone Rivoli (I & II) and the
    Ampeg AMB1. Fender's Stu Hamm model is kinda' in-between.
    I think it's scale is about 32". Rickenbacker may still make
    a short scale model (3001?). Rick's also tend to have
    narrow necks too. I think the Fender 'Bronco' has a 30" scale.

    You can get an idea of the prices of some of these at Musician's Friend.

    D'ohh! Welcome to TB dude :D
  5. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Some other decent quality makers that offer short scale basses in their product lines are Hofner or Hohner Hofner copies, 30" scale Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, Danelectro, and Warwick is supposed to start offering 30' scale basses this year, (don't know if they are available yet). As they get proficient on the instrument, most small female bassists I know of seem to migrate towards larger instruments.

    A decent complete rig? That's a tough one, because what may be "decent" to one person may be a dog to another, given experience and budget.

    Also, it would really help to know what kinds of music you will be playing and what volume levels you'll be at, plus if the amp will be miked through a sound system. For instance, knowing whether the guitarist is playing Metallica stuff through a dimed Marshall stack or Sheryl Crow songs through a Fender Twin would be helpful.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    One of my students is 4'10" with really small hands, and still manages to tear it up on a standard Fender Jazz. I wouldn't worry about it. Pick the instrument that she likes, she'll learn to play it.
  7. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Don't despair. I know a woman the size of your wife who plays a full size double bass in a symphony orchestra.

    Without knowing the style of music you want to play, I'd say go for a four string. You are not committed for life to your "starter" bass. If you want a different one later, sell the starter and trade up.

    Your wife will probably be most comfortable with a lighter weight bass with a smaller neck width, narrower string spacing and less width between frets. Here's the best thing to do. Get a strap. Go to the music store. Put the strap an any bass that interests your wife. Have her stand "wearing" the bass. Have her try to fret the strings at different areas of the neck. Try several basses that way. That's the only way you will learn which bass is most comfortable.

    As for a "rig", for starters, I'd suggest a combo amp (amp and speakers in one unit.) Maybe an amp with a fifteen inch speaker or an amp with two or four ten inch speakers. Many manufacturers make these in various configurations and price ranges. Again, you can always sell it and trade up if it looks like you are going to be requiring a more impressive rig. You really don't have to feel that you only have one chance to buy a rig and no others. Besides it's so much fun to go to the music store and check out new equipment. (Fun and hazardous to your wallet.)

    Your wife is very fortunate to have a husband who is encouraging her to play and is trying to get advice to make her experience a positive one.
  8. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    One of the top call bassists in Atlanta is a woman about the size of your wife. She plays a Sadowski 4 string and kicks booty.
  9. oarsman


    May 11, 2001
    Take your time selecting a bass...I have smaller hands and thought I wanted a P-B but found the neck was too "deep". I had to use a bass where the depth of the neck was shallower...FYI: most any Hofner knock off will be a short scale with a shallow neck.
    Regardless of this my general feeling is that if your wife has strong hands she'll be able to handle most anything...if she's just keepin' groove then then neck size won't matter IF she stays with a 4 string. If you think she'll have loads of position changes then go with a short scale. My son plays a long scale, wide neck Epiphone entry-level bass...he knows nothing about positions and can zoom up and down the neck. He gets fret ring and misses his landings but he gets by and will get better. My point is he isn't much bigger than your wife and their hand strength is probably the same.

    Don't discount what your wife can do. let her playing decide that. The big Ricks and entry level Peaveys are the ones you should probably avoid.
    My personal opinion is playing bass is cool...a woman playing bass is the coolest. Keep on encouraging her....good luck.
  10. ck98ac4


    May 18, 2001
    Denver, CO
    Hey guys (and gals?), thanks...

    After reading your replies, I think we're going to try to stay with a seems like something she could handle with a little bit of extra hand/finger conditioning as long as we choose the right one. I would probably be right in also saying that a "normal" sized bass would be easier to sell when its time to upgrade, would I not? Anyway, thanks again. I appreciate all the sincere, detailed, non-attitude replies. Great forum...I'll be back!

  11. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Yeah, where have all the weenies been posting this week? :D
  12. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Yeah, where have all the weenies been posting this week? :D [/QUOTE]

    Ya callin us small ppl weenies?! :D har har har
  13. air_leech


    Sep 1, 2000

    Alembic has short scale instrument which are very hi-end and wouldn't be hard to get rid off although they have a relatively low resale value but I don't belive you'll want to sell it anyway.

    Warwick which have some models with very small bodies now offer 32" and 30" scale necks but bear in mind that both of the above are heavy basses.
    if your wife still wants a full scale bass (I would recommend that) she can get a Curbow petite which is full scale but very small or a high end ibanez which feature very slim neck with smaller bodies than your average Fender Jazz and clones (just don't get tempted to buy a low-end ibanez, the quality varies too drastically for a newbie to be able to pick a good one).

    overall I suggest you look into the used market, that can save you serious cash when you purchase your first bass.
  14. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    since not too many folks have addressed it yet, let me say that i think she should start on whatever she would like to play, string-count wise. if she wants to play a 5, start on a 5, if she wants to play a 6, start on a 6.

    good luck.
  15. It's a matter of getting the right bass. My daughter (4'6") plays a short scale Bronco and it suits her fine. I have students that also play short scale basses. I personally suggest to any new student (under approx. 5'5) to invest in a short scale bass. Long scale basses will only lead to frustration.

  16. I play a 30"er, and i'm 5'8" with long spider fingers. it works for me, but its also the only bass i've ever owned... its all good.
  17. Man...i'm 5'0 or 5'1 and i play a 34" scale! add to that im 15! been playing for 2-3 yrs with ONLY 34" scale basses...never had a problem with size. i might have long arms or somethin' but i can reach all the frets very easily and my friend who's like 2 inches taller than me tires his arm out trying to reach 1-3rd frets.

    i've tried 5's and 6's at the geetar store many times and had no problem with fretboard width either.

    my dad's 6'4....
  18. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I never thought of my height (5'1") as being a burden. I know I have small arms. My biggest problems, and I think I've mentioned this in some past thread, are my small fingers. I mean, they are like a babies. Hehee. My almost-4 year-old nephew's hands are almost as big as mine! I really have trouble sometimes wrapping my hand around the neck.

    But here's my advice to your wife, ck98ac4, don't let size discourage you. Let it empower you to strive harder.

    I'm waiting for that day that I take the stage for the first time and blow em all away. Heeehehe...I mean, every always calls me tiny. Wait till they see me with that big ol bass! HAHHAAAAA> :D


  19. Same thing here. I am 5'4" with small hands. My longest (middle) finger outstretched is barely 3" long :)

    I never wanted to buy short scale since I've started with a 34", and got used to it.

    For the last 2 years I played a 5 string Jazz and had no significant problems with it. The only thing that bothers me is the weight. It hurts when you have to play standing for 2 hours straight holding that thing around your neck.

    Well, if for it's a practice bass, then I guess weight doesn't really matter. Maybe a lighter string gauge (?) would help.

    Take your time and try what works best! Preferences are different from person to person.
  20. well it depends, if she's going to play stuff like rancid, lots of stretching at high speed, she's gonna have to practice a lot. other than that, i think she'll be OK. i believe the great guitarist django reinhardt only had 2 usable fretting fingers, and he still played incredibly. i bet it's easier to play bass with 4 short fingers than to do that.