Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

variable string number/grouping

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Taylor Livingston, Feb 14, 2003.


  1. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    i'm building a bass and i was considering making an eight-string (strings doubled), then a five, then a ten (again, strings doubled). i was wondering if anybody is making/has made basses with the ability to be setup for mutiple string arrangements, ala dulcimers. i had no search results, so forgive me if this has already been asked. can anybody give me any info on variable bridges, nuts, any kind of whacky string arrangements?
     
  2. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    well, i don't seem to be getting any input, so maybe i'll be more specific. i was thinking that i should do with this bass what i can't do with the ones i already have. so, i was wondering if anybody had any basses with whacky setups.

    what i meant by "ala dulcimers": dulcimers can be setup with two sets of three strings, three sets of two strings, six individual strings, probably others (this is just the size that my friend has - there are probably tons more string numbers and ways to group them). so, does anybody know if there are basses using this style, wherein one can change the grouping of the strings?

    i think i'll probably do a 5x2 design and have a bridge with which i can remove or add strings easily (like a hipshot, though they're a bit expensive). basically, i want this to be an experimental bass (which, i guess, it already was, since it's my first). anybody have any thoughts as to kind of whacky modifications i can do when building the bass (not electronics or tremelo)?
     
  3. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    While I'm not terribly familiar with dulcimers, it does seem to me that the setups you mentioned all have one thing in common: six strings. And when I read your first post, one of the first things I thought about was, if you converted from a five, or a doubled five, to a four, or doubled four, what would you do with the extra tuners? And the extra width on the neck?

    Here's an idea for something unusual. It's not original, since I've seen it on a guitar, I think a Burns but it also might have been a Rickenbacker.

    The guitar was a convertible 6/12-string electric. It was strung like a standard 12-string. But, under the strings between the pickups, there was a device with six "fingers" with small hooks on the ends. It pivoted so that you could raise it, hook the six octave strings, and pull them down towards the body, and lock them down there. In this way, they were pulled out of the way of the guitar pick, so it played and sounded like a 6-string. (Although to the left hand it still felt basically like a 12.)
    You could make a 4/8 or 5/10 string bass in this manner.

    Since you're asking for wacky ideas...
     
  4. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    that's exactly the kind of input i was looking for, and, in fact, that would be more conveniant than removing and adding strings when the mutliple courses were/weren't called for. i should clarify: i'm not looking for two sets of three strings or three sets of two, those are the setups on my friend's dulcimer. i would want more than that. and, i am not converting a bass, i'm building one.
    also: how would the strings react to being pulled down like that? would there be any detuning or general string unhappiness?
    come on, i think you guys can be wackier than that.
     
  5. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    I don't think it would be too bad, assuming a decently slippery nut, and string tree if present. It's a little more stretch than fretting a note up at the 24th fret, but less stretch than most people use when bending a string.
     
  6. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    would the tension on the neck be safe? having those strings (at most, five octave strings) being pulled down by the "fingers" for an extended period of time scares me; but, i don't have any experience making basses, so i honestly don't know. sorry if i'm asking too many questions and being a nuissance; i feel really privileged having so many people so knowledgable about bass to talk to.
     
  7. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    I think you would need two truss rods, just as you would on any bass with this many strings. Carbon fiber reinforcement is also widely used.

    Yes, the tension would increase when you pulled the octave strings down, but not by too much.

    You could test the idea by doing the following:

    Take a good look at a "normal" bass from the side; now press all the strings down, between the pickups, until they meet the fretboard. Now observe the neck again. I think you will find that you did not add too much to the curvature of the neck.
     
  8. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    has anybody else seen one of these? i'd be interested in seeing a picture of this apparatus, to see if i could copy it.