Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
dougcalton
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Feb 02, 2016 7:37 pm
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Post by dougcalton » Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:58 pm

Thinking about using a cheap classical guitar to try Savarez single strings to make correct tuning for a contrabass guitar, to play around with. Savarez makes single strings for 7 to 10 string guitars that would fill out the lowest three strings. My understanding is that the lowest strings are actually wound at the ends to accomodate the eyelets in the bridge and tuning pins, so should fit, and are scaled for a normal guitar length (not the true contrabass length). I'm thinking of the following:

5213 R Low E
5210 R Low A
5207 R Low D
545 R G (using high tension 5 string, or low A)
544 R B (HT 4 string, or D)
543 R High A(TH 3 string, or G)

Not sure if the tension would be excessive for normal bracing, or if there are other issues/risks with this experiment. Has anyone else done this before, and have some observations/insights.
I'm using an old throwaway guitar to test on, so will probably try it if I don't get feedback, and will post my findings. Thanks in advance!
1989 Marin Montero
2011 Jerry Robert's Maple back and sides, Kenny Hill lattice top

Laudiesdad69
Posts: 1990
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2016 1:16 pm

Re: Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Post by Laudiesdad69 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:16 am

This sounds like a fun project. Hopefully the chosen "Victim" guitar has a truss rod. Have fun with those nut slots. What are the gauges of the strings you are going to use for the bass strings? Hope your bridge stays on😨

gilles T
Posts: 183
Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2014 4:11 pm
Location: Paris, France

Re: Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Post by gilles T » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:49 am

Hello dougcalton,

I like the idea of tweaking around the good ol' classical guitar... Nonetheless, never tried your "contrabass" tuning so I can't give a clue about possible tension issue. But I did try a less radical — althought very pleasant — low tuning, that I knicknamed "the poor man's baritone" : it simply consists in tuning the guitar from B to B, with a regular string set (omit the 1st E string) and a low B (Savarez and Hannabach both have these single strings, I found Hannabach to be more reliable and sounding less boomy) for the sixth string : this is a very lush tuning, full of beautiful overtones, that fits perfectly the music of Bach and Weiss for instance.

As for your idea, be aware that you might need to file the slots at the neck to accomodate the thicker strings. This must be done very, very, carefully in order to avoid the strings from buzzing, so if you don't feel like doing it yourself leave the job to your favorite luthier — and in any case, it's wiser to experiment these kinds of tweaks on a spare guitar or a beater.

Hope this helps, keep us posted.
regards,
Gilles

Salvo
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:40 pm
Location: Livorno (Leghorn), Italy

Re: Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Post by Salvo » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:18 am

Aquila make a "contrabass" mute for standard 65 cm scale:

https://aquilacorde.com/modern-instrume ... i/?lang=en

Tension is the same as any standard mute and strings fit into the standard holes in bridge and pins. I tested them with much satisfaction. Sound is excellent down to fifth string (low A); sixth (low E) is a bit less efficient, but that's a normal issue with standard scale instruments.

dougcalton
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Feb 02, 2016 7:37 pm
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Re: Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Post by dougcalton » Thu Jan 11, 2018 4:55 pm

Thanks - I'll keep these in mind, if the experiment works. For my first run, I'll keep the ordering stateside with Savarez singles
1989 Marin Montero
2011 Jerry Robert's Maple back and sides, Kenny Hill lattice top

dougcalton
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Feb 02, 2016 7:37 pm
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Re: Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Post by dougcalton » Thu Jan 11, 2018 4:58 pm

I'm reaching out to a luthier I know to see if he can help with the nut. Thanks for the reminders!
1989 Marin Montero
2011 Jerry Robert's Maple back and sides, Kenny Hill lattice top

soltirefa
Posts: 1596
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:59 am
Location: Southern California

Re: Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Post by soltirefa » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:22 pm

Maybe a baritone tuning would be less extreme and more doable.

dougcalton
Posts: 21
Joined: Tue Feb 02, 2016 7:37 pm
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Re: Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Post by dougcalton » Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:26 pm

Got the strings from strings by mail and put them on. Sound ok, except for the low E, which is just too faint and tubby. Going to think about it for a few days before committting to a new nut. May go with the baritone thought instead, because all of those strings sounded ok. Short-term no signs of fatigue around the bridge. Of course, with that, only time will tell....
1989 Marin Montero
2011 Jerry Robert's Maple back and sides, Kenny Hill lattice top

ct8
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2018 3:29 am

Re: Using single bass strings to make a poor man's contrabass guitar

Post by ct8 » Fri Apr 06, 2018 11:22 pm

dougcalton wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:26 pm
Got the strings from strings by mail and put them on. Sound ok, except for the low E, which is just too faint and tubby. Going to think about it for a few days before committting to a new nut. May go with the baritone thought instead, because all of those strings sounded ok. Short-term no signs of fatigue around the bridge. Of course, with that, only time will tell....
I'm curious as to whether you decided to keep your "poor man's contrabass" or if you went the baritone route.
My goal is to have a creamy sounding acoustic bass guitar that is nylon strung---pretty much a guitar that's an octave lower) so that I can accompany my friends on guitar.
I really like would like a bass like this one:
Search YouTube for "Yamandu Costa e Guto Wirtti - Boleros"

-Carlos

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