We truly believe that there is no bigger misconception than talking about upright bass sizes.
We will help you understand what is 4/4 upright bass size and why it’s not considered as the regular size while it leads us to the idea that it’s a full size or why 1/2 size is not the half size of the full-size instrument.
Table of Contents
Upright Bass Sizing Terminology and Common Concepts
To ensure you can understand the topic, here’s a quick glossary of the most important terms for double bass:
- Top (belly) - Front side of the Upright Bass
- Upper Bout - Upper part of the body - measured from the end of the neck to the C bout
- Lower Bout - Lower part of the body - measured from the C bout to the saddle
- C Bout - Middle part of the body - tonewood part between upper and lower bout
- Saddle - Woodblock found at the bottom of the bass top side
- Headstock - Top part of the instrument - made of several elements:
- Machine Heads - allows you to tune the strings
- Pegbox - Place where the strings are wound into machine posts.
- Scroll - the decorative wooden part on the very top
- Machine Heads - allows you to tune the strings
- Nut - wooden part found at the beginning of the headstock. It holds the strings in place
- Fingerboard - front neck surface
- Bridge - Part that provides support and shapes the strings further towards the tailpiece
- Afterlength - the string part from the bridge up to the tailpiece holes
- Tailpiece - this part of the Upright Bass connects the strings with the tailgut at the bottom
- Endblock - wooden part at the bottom of the bass that extends into endpin
- Endpin - metal part made of shaft and sleeve and some system to secure the shaft
What is the Wolf Tone?
An artificial unstable wobbling that reminds you of a wolf howling is called the Wolf Tone. It is usually found around G or G# tone on every string. You can diminish the sound by using a cheap eliminator that connects to the afterlength.
Upright bass can be played via string and it’s called bowing or also Arco or by plucking the strings and this playing technique is called pizzicato. And, while it may sound odd because of its size, upright bass can also be slapped like the real electric guitar.
What Sizes Do Upright Basses Come in?
The truth about Upright Basses is they come in various sizes which aren’t really standardized. There are some basic concepts about the size but even those terms are quite misleading because 3/4 Upright Bass isn’t 25% smaller than 4/4 (full size) double bass nor is 1/2 size 50% smaller.
And to bring the confusion even further, the modern full-size double bass is considered as jumbo and not standard Upright Bass while the standard size for the double bass is nowadays a 3/4 size model. As a matter of fact, all other Upright Basses combined are in the minority when compared to 3/4 size production.
So, let’s start breaking down all the confusion - here’s the list of all double bass models starting from the largest to the smallest one:
- 4/4 (full-size bass)
- 7/8 size
- 3/4 size
- 5/8 size
- 1/2 size
- 1/4 size
- 1/8 size
- 1/10 size
- 1/12 size
And here’s a quick chart size comparison about specific part sizes for some of them that your instrument might vary in exact size while it belongs to the specific group:
Width at Nut
Now that 3/4 is a new Upright Bass standard we might say that in general full size may sound a bit too boomy while 1/2 size will start producing a sound lacking a certain depth.
You might think that’s the case with the 7/8 and 5/8 size as well, but, to be frankly honest, we’ve got more of an impression these models are optimized versions of larger counterparts and may suit people who are larger or smaller than a regular adult.
Does Upright Bass Size Matter?
We’re living in an era where modern technologies allow us to optimize things that were beyond our reach before. This means that the sound qualities can finally be achieved with material that allows us to get physically smaller instruments. As a matter of fact, that’s how 3/4 Upright Bass became a standard.
Strings, for example, have been improved from the original gut making - nowadays they are made of steel. This change created much better notes, especially in lower regions. Of course, some physics traits are just diminished and not completely changed, so size will definitely affect the tonal shape for sure, but not as you would initially expect. The price of the upright bass will also significantly affect the overall quality so don’t be surprised to hear smaller upright bass as good as your cheaper but bigger one.
And while it might be needless to say, the player technique can also compensate for some of the size differences as well.
So, in the end, our advice is not to stress out too much about the upright bass size and pick the one that makes you feel right. The right size will always inspire you to sound the best you can.
What Size Upright Bass Should I Get?
Here’s a quick hint on how to tell which Upright Bass Size is the right for you:
How to Pick a Proper Upright Bass Size
Place an upright bass in front of you and fully extend your left arm so it touches the heel of the neck. Now, without using the endpin extension, bring the bass towards you and if the nut of the bass is somewhere around the level of your eyebrow, you have a proper upright bass size chosen. Double check the size by reaching the top of the bridge without arching your back more than 45 degrees.
And now that you know the basic size, these are the factors you should consider before purchasing an upright bass, too:
The key factor for playing upright bass is to feel comfortable. There is no right size for all players and commodities are something you should take into account first - if you’re feeling any kind of pain or unnatural stretch while you’re playing, consider choosing an alternative.
If you’re in doubt, and you’re a beginner, always go for a smaller size. Advanced players should pick bigger ones instead.
In most situations, 3/4 upright bass should be a great choice for all adults and teenagers. We guess that really tall people could go for 7/8 and 4/4 size upright basses, but for the vast majority, 3/4 will be ideal instruments.
If your hands are smaller when compared to the average adult, we would recommend you to go and pick smaller upright bass, such as 5/8 size.
Proper Upright Bass Size for Children
If you’re struggling to pick the right size for your children, the general rule of the thumb is that you should get a bass that is one size smaller than an appropriate violin for your child’s age. This means that you should get 1/8 size for a 7 years old child and that it should move towards 1/2 once they turn 9 years.
We hope that we managed to help you out with understanding the size differences between various upright bass models and that it may aid you further in picking the right size for you. Remember to always choose commodity over upright bass size first.
People Also Ask
You would be really surprised how people get shy when the question time comes around. That’s why we have decided to resolve you some of the most frequent concerns people had about upright bass. We will cover the small hand and height dilemma, upright bass prices and explain what regular size actually means:
Can You Play Bass With Small Hands?
As of its tonal range, the hand movement won’t require you to cover large gaps, so you can play regular sizes with no problem. But, if you have hands that are smaller than average, there is always 1/2 upright bass available for you to compensate for the physical differences.
How Much Does an Upright Bass Cost?
While you may find upright bass instruments listed for much more affordable figures, our suggestion is to avoid 3/4 models that are below $1,500 as they are not worthy of your time or money. Bear in mind that some professional models may come even with five figures. Bear in mind that smaller sizes cost less.
What Size Bass is Considered “Regular Size”?
While it may sound odd, the real Regular Size is the 3/4 Upright Bass. Due to improvement in string and body material, modern 3/4 Upright Basses sound about the same as the original one. So, nowadays, the full-size Bass is still available but it’s looked upon as jumbo bass.
How Often Should You Change Double Bass Strings?
Because of its thickness, Upright Bass strings shouldn’t be changed so often so you can expect them to last even up to five years. Once you notice a significant difference in sound brightness or you notice a bit of rust, it’s advised to apply new strings.
What is the Scale Length of a 3/4 Upright Bass?
3/4 Upright Bass has a scale length of 41.3 inches. In case we’re talking about the 3/4 Kay model, the scale length is a bit longer - 41.5 inches.
How Tall Do You Have to Be to Play a Bass?
While the size may confuse you at first, when you think about it, you will find out that you don’t need any particular height to play bass. Bass is just bulky, not a heavy instrument and because of its tonal range, the hand movement won’t require you to cover large gaps.
Can I Use an Electric Upright Bass to Play?
There is no reason why you shouldn’t pick Electric Upright Bass. Sure, there will be a sound difference when you compare it to the acoustic one, but if this works for you and you feel motivated and eager to play more, we can only say go for it!