900 scale length

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
larryguitar
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900 scale length

Post by larryguitar » Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:46 am

I have decided to delve into the world of the contra guitar, specifically, this one:

http://www.hilhorst.demon.nl/contrabass.html

played here: https://youtu.be/NasbUWPj-VA and here: https://youtu.be/8nz-fzzy6pE

This guitar is often called a contrabass guitar but that label is really a misnomer because it is not contra, one octave below, a bass, but contra a guitar. The tuning is the same as a standard classical guitar.

I fell in love with the bass on this instrument and could not get the sound out of my head, I just had to have it.

Anyway, I don’t have the guitar yet, I’m getting a case built for it, but I can’t help but wonder how it will be to play. The scale length is 900mm, so it will be a challenge!

A luthier friend described playing this guitar as warming up in baseball by swinging four bats. Haha. If I can get used to this scale length, 660 is going to be child’s play in comparison.

I found a teacher who is willing to work with me on “lower-pitched” repertoire. Any suggestions of pieces in that area? Of course, the Bach cello suites! I hope to also play the guitar in a guitar orchestra. Fewer notes, more fun!

Peter Constant, the guitarist in the videos, is an excellent guitarist and is part of ZooDuo. You can find a lot of their videos on YouTube.

I can’t help but think that Peter’s wrist is out too far when playing this monster, that he could get closer to the neck by curling his fingers more, but, I haven’t tried to play this thing yet, so I will discover what gymnastics it takes to play it. Any thoughts on technique when it comes to playing this guitar?

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Michael.N.
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:53 am

A number of different guitar types seem to be given the title of 'contra guitar' including schrammel types. Then there's the quintbass guitar (also sounds lovely) but that only has a string length of around 700 mm's. 900 mm is one mighty long string length!
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larryguitar
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by larryguitar » Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:21 pm

Michael.N. wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:53 am
A number of different guitar types seem to be given the title of 'contra guitar' including schrammel types. Then there's the quintbass guitar (also sounds lovely) but that only has a string length of around 700 mm's. 900 mm is one mighty long string length!
Ha, it certainly is, and amazingly, Hannabach sells a 900mm string set as a regular order! Peter plays a 880mm four string classical bass and he has to special order his strings. There must be a few of these guitars on the earth, but where? Who has them?

I have to believe that this guitar is one of a few, if not one of a kind. I had looked at 750mm Esteve and Aria contra guitars, easy to get, but this guitar sounds so much better than those instruments.

I have long arms and big hands so perhaps I can wrap myself around this guitar and play it. We shall see. I don’t want to hurt myself. I’ll have to work on hip joint flexibility, haha!

I think this guitar is a valid use of the double top. Why build something this large if you can’t hear it. I’ve always been amazed at how hard it is to hear the double bass in a jazz group. Why is an instrument the size of a small compact car almost inaudible? Well, of course, plucking imparts very little energy to a string compared to bowing.

I don’t know the Schrammel type instruments, I’ll look them up.

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Michael.N.
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:28 pm

Here's the quint guitar, 7 string. I'd like to make one but I suspect the demand (unlike the scale) is tiny! It's still 700 mm vs your 900 mm - which is a huge difference. I thought the difference between 650 mm and 700 mm was a lot! I guess these really long scales are more for continuo/ guitar orchestras where the left hand doesn't really do a lot of big stretches and flying around the fretboard. Probably not unlike the theorbo which also has a challenging scale length. I suppose in guitar orchestras you also find the opposite - very short scale guitars tuned to G or A.
My hands are tiny so it's very unlikely I'll be putting my fingers around any of these monsters, 700 or 900 mm.

[media]https://youtu.be/r4O971uAX9I[/media]
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larryguitar
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by larryguitar » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:50 pm

Michael.N. wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:28 pm
Here's the quint guitar, 7 string. I'd like to make one but I suspect the demand (unlike the scale) is tiny! It's still 700 mm vs your 900 mm - which is a huge difference. I thought the difference between 650 mm and 700 mm was a lot! I guess these really long scales are more for continuo/ guitar orchestras where the left hand doesn't really do a lot of big stretches and flying around the fretboard. Probably not unlike the theorbo which also has a challenging scale length. I suppose in guitar orchestras you also find the opposite - very short scale guitars tuned to G or A.
My hands are tiny so it's very unlikely I'll be putting my fingers around any of these monsters, 700 or 900 mm.

[media]https://youtu.be/r4O971uAX9I[/media]
That's quite lovely, thanks for posting. Yes, I suspect that the demand for any of these kind of instruments is limited but I think they're charming in their own way.

Right, these instruments are for continuo. There is a lot of beauty in the bass register, in my opinion. It will be very difficult to play complicated chords on this guitar but there is really no call for it, I think. I'll be quite happy to play single lines, and to pull that off credibly. My teacher told me that quite a few guitarists learn the bass in order to get more gigs and that they enjoy playing bass.

A luthier friend of mine has restored a soprano guitar, one octave above a classical guitar, tuned the same. He says it is a sweet instrument. I'm going to stick with the lower register. Let me know if you know of anybody who might be interested in a soprano guitar.

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Michael.N.
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:04 pm

Not just charming, very impressive too! There's a bit more to the guitar than the 6 string in standard E tuning and I'm all for variety.
Well mainly continuo. Doesn't mean to say that you can't play some solo works on them. The baroque lute usually has a string length of around 700 mm's but they make use of the tuning and open strings, left hand isn't normally required to do fiendish leaps and finger breaking stretches.
I'm sure the Bach cello suites will sound great on these long scales. I have a CD of them being played on the theorbo. It can't match the continuous sustain of the cello but it does retain some of it's rich texture.
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larryguitar
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by larryguitar » Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:41 pm

Michael.N. wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:04 pm
Not just charming, very impressive too! There's a bit more to the guitar than the 6 string in standard E tuning and I'm all for variety.
Well mainly continuo. Doesn't mean to say that you can't play some solo works on them. The baroque lute usually has a string length of around 700 mm's but they make use of the tuning and open strings, left hand isn't normally required to do fiendish leaps and finger breaking stretches.
I'm sure the Bach cello suites will sound great on these long scales. I have a CD of them being played on the theorbo. It can't match the continuous sustain of the cello but it does retain some of it's rich texture.
Oh, I agree, I decided to get the guitar with the Bach cello suites firmly in mind as something I want to play on it. I will work on solo material, not just continuo, and now that I've lined up a teacher to work with me, I will be forced to practice every week. This thing is not going to play itself.

Sometimes I think I'm mad to get it, but I didn't go off and buy a tuba or some other instrument which I have no ability to play. I also have to face the fact that I'll never learn to play the cello.

Yes, I am also in favor of variety. You know, I could get another regular classical guitar, and there would be differences, but this instrument will be much more different in terms of sound than any other guitar I own.

Elephants can dance. Here is Catalin Rotaru playing one of Bach's violin partitas on the double bass:

[media]https://youtu.be/LONNQSjkMu8[/media]
Last edited by larryguitar on Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

hpaulj
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by hpaulj » Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:34 pm

I noticed that when Peter plays Bach Bourrées (bwv 1010) on the classical bass, he generally uses the higher position. Especially on Bourrée 2 (which I'm currently practicing) he plays way up on the neck, even above 12. His focus on the fingering almost makes me think this is a difficult piece.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdUECy7PuYE

Andrew Pohlman
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:58 pm

larryguitar wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:46 am
... I fell in love with the bass on this instrument and could not get the sound out of my head, I just had to have it. ...
Um, did I read correctly on the link? That Contrabass guitar lists for 11,500 Euros ? That is a serious chunk of change. Based upon your statement, this will be an expensive love affair.
2013 Rodriguez FF Sabicas blanco
2015 Trevor Gore custom Neoclassical
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larryguitar
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by larryguitar » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:07 pm

Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:58 pm
larryguitar wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:46 am
... I fell in love with the bass on this instrument and could not get the sound out of my head, I just had to have it. ...
Um, did I read correctly on the link? That Contrabass guitar lists for 11,500 Euros ? That is a serious chunk of change. Based upon your statement, this will be an expensive love affair.
I'm outside the EU, so that's not the price. Sure, it is still expensive, but it is a one of a kind guitar. I daresay that people with five guitars or more have spent more than that. Anyway, you're ruining my dream by talking about price, harshing my mellow, as the stoners say. ;-)

A new guitar is cheaper than divorce resulting from any other kind of love affair, although new guitars can cause divorce, ha.
Last edited by larryguitar on Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Michael.N.
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by Michael.N. » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:11 pm

Yeah but it's twice the size of a standard guitar so you should half that figure. :wink:
I don't suppose the case or shipping will be cheap either. If someone feels passionate about something - why not?
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larryguitar
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by larryguitar » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:36 pm

Michael.N. wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:11 pm
Yeah but it's twice the size of a standard guitar so you should half that figure. :wink:
I don't suppose the case or shipping will be cheap either. If someone feels passionate about something - why not?
Yeah, why not. I've always been willing to try new things, and if they don't work out, I sell the gear. What can be bought can be sold.

I'm hoping to have a lot of fun with the guitar. I think it will be a blast to play.

Andrew Pohlman
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:53 pm

larryguitar wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:36 pm
Michael.N. wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:11 pm
Yeah but it's twice the size of a standard guitar so you should half that figure. :wink:
I don't suppose the case or shipping will be cheap either. If someone feels passionate about something - why not?
Yeah, why not. I've always been willing to try new things, and if they don't work out, I sell the gear. What can be bought can be sold.

I'm hoping to have a lot of fun with the guitar. I think it will be a blast to play.
And assuming I read it correctly, and it is a 6 string bass guitar, you are automatically set up for duets or ensemble work! Go for it dude! Enjoy it!
2013 Rodriguez FF Sabicas blanco
2015 Trevor Gore custom Neoclassical
- redwood top, Palo dorado B+Ss.

larryguitar
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Re: 900 scale length

Post by larryguitar » Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:03 pm

Andrew Pohlman wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:53 pm
larryguitar wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:36 pm
Michael.N. wrote:
Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:11 pm
Yeah but it's twice the size of a standard guitar so you should half that figure. :wink:
I don't suppose the case or shipping will be cheap either. If someone feels passionate about something - why not?
Yeah, why not. I've always been willing to try new things, and if they don't work out, I sell the gear. What can be bought can be sold.

I'm hoping to have a lot of fun with the guitar. I think it will be a blast to play.
And assuming I read it correctly, and it is a 6 string bass guitar, you are automatically set up for duets or ensemble work! Go for it dude! Enjoy it!
Thanks! Yes, it has six strings and is tuned exactly the same as a classical guitar, just down an octave. You're right, I'm automatically set up for duets and ensemble work. I have been practicing duets with someone, that was another reason I decided to go for it. A classical guitar orchestra said they would try to fit me in next year so that's another possibility.

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