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SIZES: Double Bass Sizing FAQ
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Bass sizing is not an exact science. Rule #1: There Are No Rules. The Double Bass (a.k.a. Upright Bass) is an instrument that only recently evolved over the last few hundred years, that is still being made by hand by individuals who build them to satisfy their own interpretation of the instrument. There are a lot of variances.

3/4 size is recognized as a regular size bass. 99.5% of the basses on the planet are 3/4 size (and 74.38% of all statistics are made up on the spot). But you will find that 3/4 size is by far most common bass size. While I've seen more 4/4 basses being advertised for sale lately, I have to wonder if it is a marketing gimmick, in some cases, since many probably wouldn't quality as a 4/4— maybe a 7/8 on a good day—but then, who cares?

You care. Playing double bass can be quite the challenge, and if you are tall and/or have big hands, be thankful. You will find playing 3/4 size basses less of a challenge than we short folks with small hands. Generally speaking, a 4/4 bass is not going to automatically be better than a 3/4 size bass -- your selection should be based on the instrument and your specific needs among other factors. Size, in this case, may not matter, unless bragging rights are important to you.

All of the above said, the information below shows some generally accepted guidelines for bass sizing. I am guessing that the original numbers were stated in Metric and were converted for U.S. use, which accounts for the uneven numbers. Again, keep in mind that these are approximate numbers for reference purposes only.

Note also that it's not uncommon to have some measurements on your bass correspond to one size, and some correspond to another - your bass may have a 3/4 scale, but an oversized body that measures like a 4/4 bass. Or some other combination, like the Kay and Engelhardt Maestro Junior models, with their (roughly) 1/2 size body and 1/4 size scale. Like I said - it's not an exact science!

All measurements
are in inches
4/4 3/4 3/4 Kay 1/2 1/4
A Full Height
bottom of body to scroll
74.8 71.6 71.6 65.7 61.4
B Body Height
bottom to shoulder
45.7 43.7 43.7 40.2 37.4
C Scale Length
nut to bridge
43.3 41.3 41.5 38 35.4
D Upper Bout Width 21.3 20.3 20.25 18.7 17.3
E Lower Bout Width 26.8 25.6 26.5 23.6 21.9
F Scroll to Shoulder 29.1 27.9 28 25.5 24.0
G Width at Nut 1.8 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.5
©copyright Gollihur Music

Steve Freides is a longtime customer (and private bass teacher in Ridgewood, NJ - see his listing in our Teacher Directory) -- he offers this helpful, thoughtful consideration on choosing a bass size for a child learning bass:

Your web page implies - quite correctly, in my opinion - that a 3/4 size bass is the right size for the overwhelming majority of adults. I'd like to add three points based on my own experience in the world of basses and teaching bass, a chronology of basses through the course of a life, if you will:

1. Starting Out: The overwhelming majority of 5th grade students should be playing a 1/4 size bass. I see a lot of 5th grade bass students. I have yet to meet a 5th grader for whom a 1/4 size bass isn't the right size. It's not too small even for someone 5 feet tall or a little over in the 5th grade. The reach is challenging for everyone new to double bass, and - this is the most important point - it's better to have the bass be a little too small than a little too big for elementary school-aged children.

2. Transitioning to Adult Size: Although 1/2 or 5/8 sized basses are nice, most students can successfully transition without one, moving from a 1/4 directly to a 3/4 sized instrument. The age at which they do this will depend on when they grow and how big they are. I've had students play a 1/4 all the way through the end of 8th or even 9th grade then switch to a 3/4 size for high school, and I've had students to move to a 3/4 size in 6th grade because they're a lot taller than average (and usually, so are their parents).

3. When You've Stopped Growing: My own bass teacher is 6' 5" and doesn't play a 4/4 - he plays a 7/8 size. If you think you need bigger than a 3/4 sized bass, well, think again. You may decide, of course, that you like or want a bigger bass, but "like" or "want" isn't the same as "need." Unless you're big enough to have considered basketball as a career, you'll be fine with a 3/4 size bass - and even then, a 3/4 may be the right size for you.

Thanks, Steve!




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The Fine Print:

The information contained herein is based on what's in my brain — and/or my observations and opinions from my personal experiences (and those of Bob, before me) — as of this moment today, and is subject to change. I'm sure that a great deal more information and detail could be added — but the intent of these writings is to present easily understood, quick FAQs, to address common questions and improve the reader's general knowledge.

What's written here is by no means any kind of authoritative absolute answer, for I am not the world's greatest authority on bass (not even close), or on much of anything else, for that matter. So, by all means, get a second opinion, and know that all the information provided here is for general informational purposes only. I am not providing professional advice; be aware that, where applicable, any information acted upon is at your own risk.

I simply and sincerely hope the information and opinions here are helpful to you on your quest for knowledge about the bass and related subjects... that's the point!

I welcome email with dissenting and additional viewpoints/information/updates that help improve my personal awareness and these content pages. If you have a question that you think belongs here, please let me know.
Mark