I have seen advertised, electric violin bass guitars such as the following:

violin bass

Are they really any different from a normal bass guitar, and if so what makes them different and how then should they be best used?

8 Answers 8


the only difference to anormal bass is the shape. The shape may result in a slightly different tone from the bass, but otherwise it is just a normal bass with a violin shaped body.

The most famous user is probably a little guy called Paul McCartney...

  • So the effects and sounds that it can produce are the same? Could you pull out the bass guitar from any band and replace it with this violin one?
    – Vass
    Commented Mar 31, 2011 at 15:41
  • 6
    @Vass Well, Basically yes... In the same way that you can pull out a strat players guitar and replace it with a les paul... It will sound a bit different since each instrument is unique, but that's about it..
    – user399
    Commented Mar 31, 2011 at 15:50
  • -1 for not mentioning (semi) hollow body, and usually short-scale.
    – Dave
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 19:45

The classic Höfner "violin bass" design, from circa 1958, is a hollow-body archtop instrument with a spruce top, like an archtop guitar but without F-holes. It has a "floating" wooden archtop bridge. It has a short-scale neck which is small and has a narrow fingerboard width and string-spacing. It should be strung with the original-specification flatwound strings to get the classic Höfner sound.

Because it is a hollow-body archtop with a short scale, it sounds quite a bit different than a conventional long-scale solid-body bass guitar.

1962 Höfner bass 1962 model Höfner Violin Bass

All of the attention paid to this bass is as a result of Paul McCartney of the Beatles using it as his main bass throughout his career.

Today, Höfner makes several models, including some hand-carved in Germany with the highest grade woods and appointments; these are very expensive. However in recent years they have added two different models built in China that are very affordable.

Epiphone and other companies have long made copies of this design that are basically only similar in their external shape; they tend not to copy the design principles or the sound of the original.

If you play bass in a Beatles tribute band, you have to have a violin bass. Other than that, this style of bass has seen very little use in other music.


This "violin bass" is basically a knock-off of the famous Hofner bass used by Paul McCartney in the Beatles. While it will play and function similar to a regular solid body bass, a hollow body does change the character of the sound. (This applies to electric guitars as well). The Hofner violin bass has a very distinctive sound, and frankly, most of the knock-offs do NOT have this sound.

If you are trying to get the Hofner sound, buy a Hofner. If you play bass and think this has a cool look, you may want to try before you buy (or make sure they have a good return policy). It will sound different from a conventional solid body bass.


Note that this bass has 30.5" length, and therefore will sound differently (muddy and warm, 60s-to-early-70s-ish).

That's besides sounding like crap, as many cheap no-name brands usually do. Although there's always a chance for one of those sounding OK, I wouldn't count on it until I both read positive testimonials and hear samples.


A violin bass is just a hollow body electric bass guitar with a violin shaped body. The sound apparently sounds like a double bass with the Hofner model but otherwise its an electric bass guitar.


It's originally a VERY small double bass with electrical pickups. Sounds, in a way, like the ol' big double bass.


The Hofner Violin Bass has a unique sound that is very tradional. The best way to describe it is to think of an upright bass scaled down with frets. The German made Hofner bass provides a thick low end that does not get lost with the sounds of guitars or keyboards. Bright sounding bass guitars (like Fenders or Rickenbackers) can intertwine with the low end of guitars. Especially when guitars are tuned low, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish who is actually producing the low notes. The Beatle bass has a commanding tone and presence that is all "bass". The Hofner's body shape sets it apart from any other instrument ever made. Today there are many choices for copy models (from companies like: Rogue, Epiphone, Jay Turser and Stadium, etc...) their all pretty good but don't capture the totally feel or sound of the original. If you're serious about obtaining the real sound, feel and experience of a Hofner you're best to buy one. It is an investment that you will enjoy for a lifetime.

  • This is a bit opinion-heavy. In fact I'd rather claim the opposite from what you said: dull-sounding basses (which to my understanding includes Fender Precision) tend to get lost in the mix, because you can only use their very low-end – and in that range the human ear doesn't sense anything very accurately, so you have the choice between hardly-noticable background murk (mind, this is found in lots of recordings and some pretty good because their bass part just isn't so important) and uncomfortable subwoofer overpowering. Paul McCartney avoided this through his plectrum approach. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 21:49

Before I looked at the picture, I thought you were talking about one of the various electric upright basses. Usually looks like a stripped-down "doghouse" bass with no acoustic sound at all, just a center support for the bridge, fingerboard, and electronics. You play 'em just like a normal upright bass, either with fingers or bow.

  • The question isn't about an electric upright bass, so this doesn't answer the question.
    – Edward
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 14:47

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