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Re: Question on Bass Sizes

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Posted by Rich Laird on December 17, 2001 at 09:30:46:

In Reply to: Question on Bass Sizes posted by J Greene on December 17, 2001 at 00:22:31:

: I'm a beginner and just purchased a Becker student spruce top bass, then took it to the local bass tech and had it set, work done on fingerboard, etc. Now my instructor says that the bass size is not right. He measured all the other 3/4 basses in the store and states they are all 14" from the nut to 4th position and the intonation at the 14" (4th position) is not the 4th and is not right. I played a bass with correct intonation and it made more sense. My bass measures 15" and I cannot just go up the fingerboard and easily get to 4th position. I'm taking the bass back to the store where I bought it (not the instructor's store) and I'm really disappointed I have a bass that is not in a normal type of intonation. Is it reasonable to request a replacement? They want to adjust the bridge, so there goes the money I spent having the technician set up the bass. Any suggestions?

I'm a little confused because a fretless instrument is only in tune when you play it in tune. It has no inherent intonation of it's own. So, I guess I'm not really sure what you mean by "normal intonation".

Let's assume that by 4th position, you're talking about where your first finger would be on D on the G-string (sorry, but it's been a long time since I worried about those position numbers!)

When you refer to the measurement from the nut to the fourth position...are you saying that D is 15 inches from the nut? If so, that means the entire string length is 45" - that's a long string length, but not unheard of.

OR: Are you saying that it's 15" from the the nut to the crook of the saddle, where 4th position typically falls? If that's the case, it sounds like what you've got is what would be termed an "E-flat neck". That's not particularly unusual and IMHO, not a reason to expect the dealer who sold you the instrument to do anything about it.

Either way, I would be curious as to the level of your instructor's experience and why this seems to be such a big surprise to him.

At any rate, the bridge should be set so that it's feet are centered over the little notches on the sides of the f-holes - or at least not far off from there. I would not recommend moving it from there. If that's not were the technician placed it, then I would think that it should be redone at no added expense to you. Sometimes it works, but setting the bridge on a location other than where the maker intended it to be is usually a really bad idea.

Here's another thought: I think there's some music education organization - it might be the MENC - the has promulgated standards (of what they consider to be correct) for things like dimensions and set-up of the stringed instruments. You might try surfing the net for info. on that and see if your instrument diverges radically from those standards. In this day and age, I would think it's reasonable to expect that a new instrument sold by a respectable dealer would be within shouting range of such standards. That's assuming that this is a modern instrument that was represented to be a standard instrument intended for students.

However, you should keep in mind that Double Basses in ages past have been made in all sorts of sizes and shapes. String lengths will go from 39 inches (and probably less) to 45 inches (and probably more) and necks from well below D to well above E. It's interesting to look at a web page like - where all the dimensions are given for a wide range of instruments - just to see the diversity of what been done with bass-making over the years.

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