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upright bass with E neck

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by bujums, Jun 30, 2014.

  1. bujums


    Sep 19, 2004
    I recently learned there are typically D or Eb necks for Upright basses because I have been shopping for a new one. Anyway, I was looking at my current bass and noticed that is seems to have an E neck. So I have E at the body of the bass. I have set my bridge between the marks on the F holes (watched and upton bass video on that) and then checked and found that E note. The string length is 42" if that matters. Is this odd? Should I reposition the bridge? to get an Eb or keep it as the video suggested?

    PS my bass is not an Upton... just a cheep, solid wood Chinese bass.

  2. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Your bass probably has an Eb neck but your bridge is probably poorly positioned....very poorly positioned.
  3. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    What note is at the crook of the heel on the G string?
  4. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    When you say "I have E at the body of the bass" this makes me think that you are measuring incorrectly. When we talk about a D or Eb neck, it is not the note you get on the fingerboard directly opposite where the top of the ribs are. It is the note you get when your thumb is positioned in the the crook of the neck, and your first finger plays directly opposite of that. If I am visualizing things correctly, you most likely have a D neck, because there is approximately a whole tone difference between those two positions on the neck.

    While the majority of basses are D necks and a few are Eb's, there are a handful of outliers out there as well. Some modern makers are experimenting with E necks or longer, and some old instruments that have been through various surgeries such as reduced shoulders, a new neck, shortened string length etc. have a neck that is a little bit different. My own bass has a neck that is perfectly situated at the quarter tone between D and Eb, which has thrown off everyone who has ever played it the first time. A couple of times it's been in the shop the guys have commented on it and said they could move things around to change it, but ultimately it was built that way.

    If you could post a photo or two of where that E is on your neck in relation to the neck heel, it would give us a better idea if you really do have something bizarre, or if you are just measuring in an unconventional manor.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  5. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.
    Maybe you chewed so much away... LOL!
    MikeCanada likes this.
  6. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Fixed. It's amazing what a little bit of space can do to language.
  7. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Until recently I always thought that all basses had an Eb with the first finger, or as I preferred to think of it, an F with the fourth, Simandl finger. I never heard of a D neck. I've only owned four basses since I started playing in 1960 and they were all Ebs. I've sat in on hundreds of basses during my play for pay days and never noticed a D neck. Who knows? Maybe I had been playing out of tune on those sit-ins? Or the horns and drummers were real loud :)
    Were Ebs more popular in the olden days? Funnily, I did notice a D recently when I was showing a kid at the high school a few tricks on a school bass, make unknown- junk! It really was bothersome. I'll have to see if one of my friends has a D that I can play with for an hour or so, just to get the feel.
    Is there a reason or preference for one over the other. Perhaps keys: Classical, sharps; Jazz, flats?
    Thanks, Mike. Your post are always a must read for me.
  8. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I think that both types of necks do exist for a reason and if one was considered far superior to the other, then it would be more dominant in the market. It can also be regional if there is a particularly prolific teacher in the area. Just like German bow and French bow, if you find a teacher or a school of teachers that have strong opinions and a lot of influence, then their students end up purchasing basses that fit those requirements. I had a teacher that liked a bass that had the "wrong" neck (I forget which one) and had the instrument altered to be the opposite.

    Some of our luthier friends would be far more knowledgeable than myself, but the proportions/measurements apparently work out nicer on a D neck. While inches and cm were important to a lot of makers, many traditionally worked with ratios and things like thumbs and hands and more easily available measurements. With a D neck the heel is at 1/3 of the vibrating string length, where on an Eb, it is some other much less friendly fraction. I am not going to pretend to know how/why all of that works, but "the math works out" seems like it would hold some value. A lot of makers offer both options though, because keeping your customers happy is always a good idea.

    I have played a couple of both, and I have to say that I have become familiar with and grown to like my in between neck. A colleague at my university bought a cheap instrument to keep at home when his nicer bass stayed at school, and he couldn't figure out why his intonation completely fell apart around the heel. He finally brought in both basses and we discovered one was a D and the other was an Eb. He learned to play both and adapt, but you really don't need any extra reasons for a practice room meltdown when you're at university.

    As far as preference, I never even thought about the keys encountered in classical or in jazz. I think knowing what note is going to be under your finger in that part of the neck is more important than which note that is, as it is just nice to have a reference point somewhere. If you are used to one and that makes your life easier and someone else is used to the other, I don't see either one as more or less valid. It is one of the first things I check if I am sitting in on a bass that is not my own. Given how rarely I sit in these days and how rarer still it is for me to play a bass in 4ths, it is comforting knowing what note is going to be there when I'm trying to find the rest of them.
    gerry grable likes this.
  9. Nathan Levine

    Nathan Levine Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2008
    Anchorage, AK
    Looking forward to my F neck bass that is nearly done being built. FWIW, the bass will be tuned in 5ths. ;)
  10. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Nathan, I am also in 5ths, so my "D quarter tone sharp" neck, is actually an E quarter tone sharp neck.

    Sometimes you just have to roll with it, although I managed to write a post about strings using the D string as a reference and language like "top string, bottom string etc." that managed to be both 4ths and 5ths friendly and still made sense. It may have taken three times longer to write than it should have, but I'm not particularly well known for my brevity...
  11. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I've never given any value to this issue. You pick up a bass and discover that the heel is slightly different than yours and you deal. It is one among many adjustments you must make when playing on an unfamiliar bass. It's a good thing to play as many different basses as possible whenever possible. Not only so that you can easily adjust, but so that you can recognize a good bass when shopping, even if it is very different from yours. I once got hired for a teaching gig based solely on that I picked up the half size school bass and started whipping off cello suites and played them reasonably in tune. The administrator was floored!
  12. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Some players give it a lot more weight than others. I know guys that refuse to play on anything other than their version of a D neck, and people who really couldn't care. When you get to a new bass, there are a ton of things you need to adjust to. If knowing one variable makes that adjustment easier for some people, that's great.

    The point about being able to play many different basses with a very short transition/adaptation period is a great one, and is often overlooked. There will likely be a situation in your playing career where you won't have your own bass without a lot of warning, and being able to handle that is extremely important.

    For those of us who haven't bought our "last" bass, it is great to be able to evaluate something as good and bad, instead of familiar and not. It is one of the reasons I try to maintain a passable level of 4ths playing, because I know I will never go into a bass shop and find multiple instruments in 5ths for me to try at my leisure. If I do encounter that situation, I might never leave that magical place.

    Nathan Levine and gnypp45 like this.
  13. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    I've been playing an F neck for about 5 1/2 years. It may be a little too much of a good thing; 'great if you grew up playing a stratocaster or a p-bass, but I don't think I'll build another for myself.

  14. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I was thinking along these lines too. When I play upright I never need to look down at all. On the Fender I like to glance at the board to make a shift of more than a third or so, which can be tricky when you've got a conductor and a lot of unfamiliar ink in front of you. With an F neck you're increasing the distance between the goal posts, so to speak, and I can imagine large shifts in the middle neck positions would be trickier.

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