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Piccolo bass guitars
Old 14th September 2012
  #1
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🎧 15 years
Question Piccolo bass guitars

I'm thinking of getting a piccolo bass guitar (octave higher). Maybe by buying a short scale bass, like the Squier Mustang, and putting piccolo strings on it.

Has anyone any experience in this area? Are there any off the shelf Piccolo bass guitars out there for reasonable money? Many thanks.
Old 14th September 2012
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Sounds cool Jim...never played an 8 string, but like the idea of trying one out. Also with the felt pick...I hear that Steve Swallow uses them.
Old 18th September 2012
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I used to be guitar/bass tech for (ex-NBA star turned jazz bassist/guitarist) Wayman Tisdale. He passed away in 2009. He favored his 5-string Tobias strung up with piccolo strings - strung up righty even though he was a lefty. The dude was huge - like 6'9" and 300+ lbs, so the Tobias (35 inch scale) looked like a guitar on him. I never heard a piccolo bass sound the way he made it sound. Check out this Youtube clip: Wayman Tisdale "Way Up" EPK - YouTube

For a regular-sized person, maybe a short scale bass would be more appropriate.

Ron Carter released double album called Piccolo in 1977 (Milestone Records), where he used an UPRIGHT strung with piccolo strings. He had another guy (Buster Williams) play bass lines on a regular upright. Drums and piano were the only other instruments on that record. The piccolo bass was more of a solo voice - that makes for a cool sound if you happen to be a virtuoso. I'm not sure if it's ever been released on CD, but if you can get your hands on a copy, I recommend giving it a listen.
Old 19th September 2012
  #4
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love Wayman's work...just beautiful. Was the 5th string a low B?

I've heard about Ron Carter's piccolo work but never listened to it, I'll have to search it out. I've got a 'cello tuned like a piccolo bass...not the same thing off course, but you can explore some interesting territory with it.
Old 19th September 2012 | Show parent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A440 ➑️
Also with the felt pick...I hear that Steve Swallow uses them.
I thought Steve Swallow used a copper pick.
Old 19th September 2012 | Show parent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A440 ➑️
love Wayman's work...just beautiful. Was the 5th string a low B?

I've heard about Ron Carter's piccolo work but never listened to it, I'll have to search it out. I've got a 'cello tuned like a piccolo bass...not the same thing off course, but you can explore some interesting territory with it.
Yes. The fifth string was a B, and the other strings were of course an octave above standard tuning. As far as I can remember, he always played with his fingers - I don't recall ever seeing him use a pick. Wayman was a great player, and the upside down tuning gave him a unique sound. It also made it easier for me to set up his instruments, since they were strung right-handed (left handed instruments are awkward for me to work on, simply because I can't play lefty, so it's harder to know for sure if they're adjusted properly).
Old 19th September 2012 | Show parent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinderwet ➑️
I thought Steve Swallow used a copper pick.
Interesting...I'm just quoting from hearsay about the felt pick so you may well be right.
Old 19th September 2012 | Show parent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A440 ➑️
Interesting...I'm just quoting from hearsay about the felt pick so you may well be right.
No that's ok, I haven't heard the felt pick version before, but I googled up and there are a few hits mentioning a felt pick as well. lol I couldn't find a picture where I can clearly see either of them, and maybe he used both at one point. Judging by the scars on his older basses, and the large pickguard on his current one, I would guess he plays with the copper one quite a lot.
Old 20th September 2012
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A440 ➑️
I'm thinking of getting a piccolo bass guitar (octave higher). Maybe by buying a short scale bass, like the Squier Mustang, and putting piccolo strings on it.
IME you'll get more interesting results if you stick with a long-scale instrument. I had a 30" Gibson EB-0 set up as a piccolo bass, and it just sounded kinda character-less. But I've also set up a 34" Steinberger L-2, a 34" Pedulla MVP, and a 32" SD Curlee as piccolo basses, and every one of those yielded far richer timbres and more responsive playing feel.

...which perhaps says more about Gibson EB-0s than it does about short-scale piccolo bases, but there ya have it.

Also, fwiw, I highly recommend going with a wound G string...even though most commercially pre-packaged piccolo string sets come with a plain G. Again, richer timbres and more responsive playing feel.
Old 20th September 2012
  #10
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Thanks Bob. Very helpful post.
Old 2nd October 2012
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Just to follow up. I ended up getting the Squier Mustang short-scale bass. The price was right and it's a well made instrument. I've strung it up with D'addario piccolo strings and it sounds and plays great.

I have to say Bob, that I think I should try and find a wound g string. The D'addario is un-wound and the tension is just a little bit too high. Can you recommend a brand?
Old 3rd October 2012 | Show parent
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A440 ➑️
I have to say Bob, that I think I should try and find a wound g string. The D'addario is un-wound and the tension is just a little bit too high. Can you recommend a brand?
I was never too particular when I did it, so it was whatever the local shop had in stock in the appropriate guage...which often enough was a guitar string.
Old 3rd October 2012
  #13
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Thanks Bob.
Old 4th October 2012 | Show parent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A440 ➑️
Just to follow up. I ended up getting the Squier Mustang short-scale bass.
I just saw this thread. This is the instrument I would have gotten, purpose built for just what you want to do.

Marleaux BassGuitars, Consat Soprano, short scale bass, Babybass, Minibass, Marlow, Marlox
Old 4th October 2012
  #15
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the Marleaux looks funs Jeff ... 22.5" scale!!..woah, that's short! (the Mustang is 30"!)
Old 4th October 2012
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I played with a couple of them at the 2010 NAMM Show, very cool! Seriously well made; if I was a soloing type of bassist I would have one by now.
Old 11th July 2013
  #17
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I've made a short video of the Squier Mustang Bass strung as piccolo, for future reference.

Piccolo Bass Guitar - YouTube
Old 11th July 2013
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Sounds cool Paul! Love the rendition of So What!

It occurred to me that it might sound interesting to record a familiar tune by playing the bass line on a piccolo bass, and playing the guitar parts on a Bass IV (tuned an octave below standard guitar tuning). It might not sound good at all, but it would be an interesting experiment.
Old 11th July 2013
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Zander Zon is one of the best piccolo bassists that I've ever heard. I really like his version of Pachelbel's Canon. In my opinion, the piccolo bass is a whole new instrument - a 4 string, 34" scale length, electric guitar - and this guy really makes it sound beautiful.

Old 11th July 2013 | Show parent
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato ➑️
Sounds cool Paul! Love the rendition of So What!

It occurred to me that it might sound interesting to record a familiar tune by playing the bass line on a piccolo bass, and playing the guitar parts on a Bass IV (tuned an octave below standard guitar tuning). It might not sound good at all, but it would be an interesting experiment.
Thanks Hot Vibrato!

I like you're idea of a Bass VI and Piccolo bass duet...I'll have to see if I can borrow a Bass VI
Old 11th July 2013 | Show parent
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A440 ➑️
I've made a short video of the Squier Mustang Bass strung as piccolo, for future reference.

Piccolo Bass Guitar - YouTube
Nice! The clean sound is great. The overdrive sound reminds me of some of Charlie Hunter's music.
Old 11th July 2013 | Show parent
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AstroZon ➑️
Nice! The clean sound is great. The overdrive sound reminds me of some of Charlie Hunter's music.
Thanks AstroZon! I'll definitely check out some Zander Zon and Charlie Hunter.
Old 12th July 2013
  #23
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"piccolo bass" is an oxymoron - kinda like "cold heat" or "dry water".
Old 12th July 2013 | Show parent
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein ➑️
"piccolo bass" is an oxymoron - kinda like "cold heat" or "dry water".
I think we call it piccolo bass out of convenience really John...otherwise we'd have have to call it 'bass guitar with octave higher strings' or something like that. Which is a bit of a mouthful
Old 13th July 2013 | Show parent
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A440 ➑️
I think we call it piccolo bass out of convenience really John...otherwise we'd have have to call it 'bass guitar with octave higher strings' or something like that. Which is a bit of a mouthful
Try "regular guitar minus the two high strings"......

Or "vanity instrument for bassists who really wish they were lead guitarists".
Old 13th July 2013 | Show parent
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein ➑️
Try "regular guitar minus the two high strings"......

Or "vanity instrument for bassists who really wish they were lead guitarists".
Hey John, it's not really like playing a guitar minus the two high strings. Because of the longer scale it feels quite different and sounds quite different tonally.

As to the vanity thing...not really. It's just nice to able transfer the technical facility developed on a regular bass over to the treble clef. I'd say it's more about fun than ego
Old 13th July 2013 | Show parent
  #27
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Originally Posted by A440 ➑️
I'd say it's more about fun than ego
Fair enough.

If you're fooling around in the treble clef who's holding down the bass?
Old 13th July 2013 | Show parent
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein ➑️
Fair enough.

If you're fooling around in the treble clef who's holding down the bass?
Well, when I saw Miles Davis live there were two bass players. One regular, one piccolo.

Here's a video of Marcus Miller (jazz bass) & Joe "Foley" McCreary (piccolo bass) taking those roles. There's a nice solo from Foley at around 4'20" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00tzc...=miles%20davis
Old 14th July 2013
  #29
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Quote:
Here's a video of Marcus Miller (jazz bass) & Joe "Foley" McCreary (piccolo bass) taking those roles.
I saw those guys once in a show(not with miles, unfortunatly), it was ubber cool.
Old 15th July 2013 | Show parent
  #30
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein ➑️
Fair enough.

If you're fooling around in the treble clef who's holding down the bass?
When I traveled with Wayman Tisdale's band (as bass/guitar tech)*, the keyboardist held down the low end with his left hand ehen Wayman played piccolo bass (which was about half the show). It sounded great that way.

The piccolo bass guitar is indeed a unique solo voice. Because of the difference in scale length and string gauge, it sounds much different from a guitar.

*check out the link I attached on post #3 of this thread.
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