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Very Large Acoustic Bass Guitar for Jam Sessions

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Stevie D, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. Stevie D

    Stevie D

    Feb 1, 2013
    Like many others on this forum, I have gone to acoustic jams with an acoustic bass guitar (ABG) and been disappointed that no one could hear it when the other instruments were playing. This happens even in small groups. Typical ABG bodies are just not large enough to produce much acoustic volume. Does anyone else want a very large ABG, roughly the size of an Ernie Ball Earthwood, for use in jam sessions? I want like one, and I have found a luthier, Alistair Hay of Emerald Guitars, who can build one out of carbon fiber, and, I believe, make it playable. A one-off custom instrument is beyond my budget, but if enough of us are interested, we could either split the development and tooling costs or convince him to make it a production model. If this sounds good to you, keep reading and reply to this post if you would be interested in buying something like this.

    The present best in class ABG's, the Emerald XB34 and Tacoma Thunderchief, can be heard acoustically if there are one or two guitars in the mix and the players are not strumming too hard, but beyond that the bass gets lost.


    In the past, there have been some very large bodied ABG's, such as the Ernie Ball Earthwood and the Maton Bindarra, that had more acoustic volume, but were difficult to play because of their shape and size. Side note: despite being 30-40 years old, hard to play and uneven in build quality, Earthwood basses presently sell for $3K to $5K, depending on condition.


    I had a ThunderChief for seven years and it was challenging to play, especially at first. A larger body with the same form factor would be even harder to manage, but the right shape could make a large bodied bass playable. The four major problems I had with the ThunderChief were: balance due the neck being heavy, having to reach too far to get to the lower frets, the edge of the body digging into my right arm and having to crouch over the body to see the frets. The balance and reach problems were solved by an improvised version of the Strapture. See attached photo. I used a heavy shoelace, but any sturdy string would work. As you can see, this trick would work with almost any body length. I played with the neck at a 30° angle to reduce the arm digging, but it never went away completely. A cutaway on the upper rim, similar to the Emerald XB34, would fix this. The only alternative I found to crouching to see the frets was to sit down and angle the bass toward the ceiling, but that made the body dig into my chest. The best way I can think of to fix this would would be a wedge shaped body somewhat like a Guitarron or the Rigel bass.


    Another benefit of the wedge shaped body is more physical volume, which translates to more acoustic volume. Another side note: I did consider the Rigel bass, but the archtop acoustic guitars I have played tended to have lower volume and less bass than flat-tops. I suspect the same will hold true for an archtop bass vs a flat-top bass.

    My initial thought would be an XB34 with a longer and wedge shaped body, say 28" long by 18" wide by 9" deep at the bottom tapering to 5" at the top. Compared to 20.25" x 17.25" x 5.25" for the XB34, this would roughly double the physical volume of the body. The Earthwood (24.5" x 18.25" x 6.675") has a different body shape, but I believe the total physical volume would be similar. Of course, the final size and shape would be subject to analysis by Alistair for playability and aesthetics, and the cost will depend on how many people want to buy one. Why carbon fiber? A large wood ABG would be heavy; carbon fiber can be ergonomically shaped more easily than wood, and carbon fiber tends to have more acoustic volume.

    Attached Files:

  2. just get an upright, problem solved
  3. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    +1. There is a reason it is so large...
  4. Acoustic problem solved with an upright, yes - but I'm not taking an upright car camping, or down around the campfire, or down to the beach. There are situations and applications where a nice ABG that really does sound good acoustically is very desirable.

    Maybe a sousaphone is the answer?
  5. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist Bassist for Michael "Epic Mic" Rowe

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Problem solved :smug:

  6. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist Bassist for Michael "Epic Mic" Rowe

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
  7. I recently got an ABG after not having one for a few years and at this point I just suck it up and bring a small amp. Those Ampeg BA-108s or 110s would be the ticket. There are others, of course.

    There's also battery powered ones you could try, I think Roland makes one, but likely you'd have to swap a small bass speaker in there (eg Eminence Alpha 8 or whatever).

    Guitarrons are an option but they are hard to play, great sounding instrument, though :cool:
  8. I have a Warwick-Rockbass Alien Deluxe 6 on order for a tentative March delivery. Today is Feb. 1, so I have about another month to go. :hyper: I am aware that it will still require amplification and that's fine with me.

  9. I'm really not sure you'll ever get the body large enough to get the volume you're talking about.

    These guys are right about the upright bass thing, more or less you're gonna need that big of a box to pump that much air and volume.

    I saw a "Bass Player" article a few years back when Zeppelin was going on a tour or something and they interviewed JPJ and he had some kind of a crazy acoustic bass. The mofo looked like it had one and a half sets of sides; kinda like two bodies glued on top of each other, but the bottom one was cut in half.

    So the side profile looked like this:

    Regular guitar: (neck)[______]

    JPJ's bass: (neck)[_______]

    So I'd be curious to hear if that add any substantial volume, without being too cumbersome. More or less I still think it's just an issue of physics...
  10. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    The solution is the acoustic bass guitar of your choice...with a piezoelectric transducer and/or magnetic pickup - and a small, portable, battery-powered combo amp of some sort. Check out makers such as Crate, Pignose, Roland, etc. :meh:

  11. bluehevy75


    Dec 1, 2007
    Chicago, IL
    I had a Epiphone El Capitan for years. Traveled with it, took it to jams, beaches, camping, etc.

    I had the older style without the cut away. Don't know if that matters.

    I found the secret to be in the action. I adjusted the truss rod till it had very very high action and I played it very very hard. I wouldn't say I was loud but I certainly could be heard. I played it with chromes if I remember. A set of brights would probably do even better.

    Having the action that hi help the sound cut I could even get a little "dog house" effect sometimes as the strings slapped of the fret board.

    Not something for everyone and you can't play every style this way. You also can't play super fast. But it suited me well for roots: country, honky tonk, folk, irish, roots rock, etc...Exactly the kind of music that I imagine peeps playing around campfires etc.

    I'd recommend getting the cheapest acoustic bass you can find that will stay in tune and raising the action really really high. If it doesn't work out you are only out $300 or so.
  12. tkozal


    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    I used to use a Guild B4 ABG, with one of those little Marshall amps that clipped on my belt.
  13. Stevie D

    Stevie D

    Feb 1, 2013
    Amps are a good solution when they are allowed, but there are enough people who take the "acoustic" part of an acoustic jam seriously that they cannot always be used.

    I have tried an upright. There would be a significant learning curve to get around the playing position and, even more, the lack of frets.

    The Guitarron is closer to what I am looking for but still no frets. I have heard of some luthiers putting a bass neck on a Guitarron, but, if I recall correctly, the body had to be modified to take the new neck and the top needed to be reinforced to withstand the extra string tension. At some point, it makes more sense to build the desired instrument from scratch, rather than modify something pre-existing.
  14. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    A couple of years ago I was looking for something similar, and considered getting a guitarron, but in the end went for a double bass because it seemed the only way to get the sort of volume I needed.

    Sure it's not the sort of thing you casually throw in the back of a car to take to a party but any acoustic bass capable of the same sort of sound pressure levels won't be any smaller. On the plus side I can now play double bass and get a bunch of interesting gigs that I couldn't have played before.
  15. Jeff K

    Jeff K Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2005
    Memphis, TN
    Don't mind the dust. Doesn't see a lot of use, but a pretty nice little box (albeit a bit pricey). AC or battery, and sounds pretty good. I don't think any ABG can cut through several acoustic guitars without a little bit of help. The Tacoma probably comes closest, but I'd still want to use something like this or a Pignose Hog, etc..

  16. Kickass


    Jul 20, 2012
    Scottish Borders
    I made this to get round the problem.


    There is a link on there to 2 youtube vids. I play seated with the bass upright and my left knee inside the back of the drum.



    djaxup likes this.
  17. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.