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BASSES- PARTS, GLOSSARY of Upright Bass terms
We now have GIFT CERTIFICATES!
Can't figure out the right size/gauge/color... whatever? That's okay, you can get your favorite bassist a Gift Certificate
instead! Certificates are emailed to you directly, so you can print them out without waiting for the mail to arrive - so even if you're pressed for a last minute gift, we've got your back. Available in several denominations, no fees or hidden charges.
Gift Ideas for the Bassist in Your Life
We've got lots of great (and affordable) stuff for the bass players on your gift list
! Under $25 items include our popular clip-on electronic tuner, the clever Turbo-Tune string winder, and our "nation of bass" hot beverage travel mug. We also have videos and book sets, a bass stand that fits virtually any upright bass, a great cleaning/care kit and more - all under $50! Most items don't require you to know specifics about their bass - they're delightfully universal, for the most part!
Getting Gifts In Time!
Gollihur Music is well-known for our very quick shipments and well-stocked warehouse, and we always hustle to make sure your orders get to you as FAST as possible. Ordering a gift for a bassist in your life?
Check out our handy guide for getting gifts in time
We now have volutes for Kay Basses!
I'm very pleased to announce that we've partnered with Roger at KayBass.com to stock the wooden volutes for Kay Basses
(both pre- and post-1952 models). We add these two new offerings to the Engelhardt models we have had for many years. Now in stock, and shipping free to all 50 states.
New Version of our Popular Gig Bag - IN STOCK
Our previous model gig bag was a useful carry case for small amps, cables, preamps, and other miscellanea - our newest version
is slightly larger, includes some handy new features, and has a new, lower-profile "BASS" logo for a classier appeal.
Line 6 Digital Wireless System (2.4GHz)
For years I've directed people to other retailers to get Line6 wireless systems; now, get one directly from us - one that's been tested to work with upright bass pickups!
SB200H Lightweight Bass Amplifier Head
We love the combo, now you can get the same great features in a standalone head. Tiny, lightweight, and quite affordable - this amp can do double duty; turn down the Low Expander and it's a great upright bass amp. But it sounds great for electric bass, too...
Not Just A Glossary
of Upright Bass, Double Bass, String Bass, Bass Viol, Contrabass, Bass Fiddle, Bull Fiddle, Acoustic Bass, Standup Bass, Doghouse Bass... terms (there is no difference among these, they're just different names for the same thing).
The images at right are labeled with parts of the bass, and the entries below may also include comments to help familiarize yourself with the parts and their purpose.
- Afterlength: This is the part of the string that travels from the bridge to the hole in the tailpiece.
- Bass Bar: This is a piece of spruce (usually) inside the instrument, glued to or carved into the top running parallel to the lowest string. It reinforces the top so it does not collapse under the pressure of the bridge. (interior view)
- Belly: The top, or front of the bass, usually spruce. The back and sides of basses are usually maple.
- Bout: These sections of the bass are defined by the shape of the top: upper, "c" (the middle, indented section), and lower.
- Bridge: The bridge supports and shapes the strings
- C Bout: See bout
- Dowel: See soundpost (interior view)
- Endblock: The wood at the bottom of the bass that provides the heft necessary to handle the pressures exerted by the endpin assembly. (interior view)
- Endpin/Endpin Assembly: The endpin assembly consists of a shaft and sleeve, and in most cases with some sort of mechanism to tighten the shaft. The Endpin Assembly also has a groove or some sort of arrangement to hold one end of the Tailgut (tailpiece wire). There are many variations of endpins, they are not interchangeable, and the endblock and/or endpin assembly must be modified to mate. The endpin shaft often comes to a sharp point; this allows a (usually orchestral) player to "stake into" the floor in order to couple with the stage (but always ask first!) For most players, the bass is played with the point covered by a non-slip rubber cap or screw-on cover.
- Extension (not pictured): An optional mechanism that is installed to the headstock, to extend the lowest string in order to produce notes below E.
- F-Hole: Also Sound Hole - an opening in the bass table (top) which allows the sound produced by the bass vibration to project outward.
- Fingerboard: The "fingering" surface attached to the neck, usually made of ebony or another hardwood (don't call it a fretboard, there are no frets!!). Ebony is traditional due to its hardness, but even it will eventually begin to groove and need planing to return it to playing condition. Does your fingerboard have a sharp angle between the E and A strings? See Romberg Bevel.
- Flatback: The back of the bass, when it is flat, not rounded like the top of the bass.
- Gamba shape: The C bout (center section of body) edges are shaped as in the illustration, as opposed to violin corners, which are pronounced and pointy.
- Headstock: The top portion of the neck, consisting of the pegbox, tuning machines and the scroll.
- Lower Bout: See bout
- Machines/Machine Heads: Also Tuning Machines, Tuners - the gear and post mechanisms which allow for tuning the strings to their open (base) pitch.
- Mensur: The sounding (vibrating) part of the string between the nut and bridge. AKA "playing length."
- Neck: Usually made of maple, the part of the instrument which attaches to the top of the body and supports the fingerboard and contains the pegbox and scroll.
- Nut: The block of wood at the top of the fingerboard, usually ebony or whatever hardwood that is used for the fingerboard. The nut is cut to hold the strings in place, with slight indents that are smooth and no deeper than half the size of the string.
- Overstand: The distance from the bass' top to the bottom of the fingerboard.
- Peg Box: The squared-off opening in the top of the neck where the strings are wound onto the tuning machine posts.
- Ribs: The curved "sides" of the bass that create the body's depth.
- Roundback: The back of the bass when it is rounded, like the front of the bass, rather than being constructed with a flat piece of wood, as in a flatback bass.
- Romberg Bevel/E-Bevel (not pictured): An optional flat-planed area of the fingerboard beneath the E string, which allows for more area for the large E-string to vibrate, so it doesn't hit the board. This is a tradition dating from when E-strings were larger in diameter and "floppier" - the "need" for the bevel has diminished with more modern string technology. However, some basses are still made with one because they are a "tradition" and some players prefer them.
- Saddle: The block of wood, usually ebony or a stained hardwood, located at the bottom of the bass top. The tailgut (see below) runs over this block to the endpin assembly.
- Shoulders: They develop below the neck joint; more sloping shoulders can be useful to soloists and other thumb position players, for easier access.
- Scroll: The traditional ornamental spiral shape at the top of the headstock.
- Sound Hole: See F-Hole
- Sound Post: This round "wooden dowel", usually made from seasoned spruce, spans the top to the back inside of the bass. It is not glued in, but is held by the pressure of the strings and bridge. The location is usually in vertical alignment with the high string side bridge foot, a bit below it. Typical placement is from one to two inches from the foot, but location is determined by the desired effect on the sound. Warning: Loosening/removing the strings will often result in the sound post falling out of place. (interior view)
- Table: The top or front of the bass, usually spruce.
- Tailgut: The length of material around the base of the endpin assembly that loops through and secures the tailpiece. These are made from a variety of materials, such as gut, solid and stranded cable, synthetics, and specialized rope.
- Tailpiece: This device anchors the strings through the keyholes at the top, and is held in place by the tension of the Tailgut at the bottom. Usually made of ebony or whatever hardwood matches the fingerboard. Its weight can be a critical contributor to the sound of the bass, so light ebony is often favored, but as with most parts, it depends on the instrument. Tailpieces are can also made of composite materials, metal, exotic woods, and there are even devices that use nothing but wire in order to eliminate the mass of the tailpiece.
- Tailpiece Wire: See Tailgut
- Top: The belly, or front of the bass, usually spruce.
- Tuning Keys/Tuners: See Machines
- Upper Bout: See bout
- Violin Corners: A structural difference where the C-bout has a slightly wider construction and pointed edges like a violin.
Contact us if you have a term you feel should be added to the list!
Products Related to This FAQ
The Fine Print:
The information contained herein is based on what's in my brain and/or my opinions as of
today and is subject to change. Like any topic, a great deal more information could be added—but
the intent of these writings is to present easy to understand, quick FAQs, to address common questions
and improve the reader's general knowledge. What's written here is by no means the authoritative absolute
answer, I am not the world's greatest authority on bass (not even close), or on anything else for that
matter. I hope the information and opinions here are helpful to you, that's the point!
I welcome email with dissenting and additional viewpoints that help improve my personal awareness and the
content pages. If you have a question that you think belongs here, please let me know