5

This may seem an odd request, but I can't figure any way to find this out with out having both in my possession.

I am a bassist primarily, & have been for 45 years or so. I play electric & haven't played upright since my teens... 40 years ago.

I have a gig coming up playing string bass. It's for a movie so I'll only be miming.

I won't have an instrument until the week of filming most probably, so I'm trying to come up with some method of at least approximating the finger positions for each note, just so my surprise/fear isn't total when I first pick up the upright ;)
At the moment I'm doing exercises where I'm treating 2 frets as one [you wouldn't want to listen to it, but it gives me a feel for the longer scale].

Would anyone possessing both an electric & upright [I'm going to have to assume it will be a 4/4 not a rockabilly 3/4 size] be able to approximate the actual relative positions of maybe the first 7 'frets' on an upright as compared to a regular electric?

I know it can't be accurate, but if someone could even confirm treating 2 frets as one will do for now in terms of simply how far I need to be reaching to approximate the correct position, that might be a start.
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about matching the 'notes' merely the fret positions/distances for a visual-only guide.

  • Why not just rent one? Would that eat up too much of the pay for the gig? – Todd Wilcox May 18 at 14:51
  • 3
    I looked into it - if I was a schoolkid i could have one for a tenner a week; as an adult they want a 3 month minimum & I'd end up spending 300+. Not worth it. I'm going to see if I can talk someone at the studio into getting it early for me, but I'm not making a million bucks on this job [probably less than I'd make if I did 5 days of real gigs, just less hassle getting the gear in & out] – Tetsujin May 18 at 14:56
  • 1
    The fret sizes can be easily calculated using the ratio of the scale lengths; if your bass guitar is 34" and the 4/4 upright is e.g. 42", then each fret will be 42/34 or 1.235 times longer. (Start measuring and add up the results from the nut towards the bridge.) – Your Uncle Bob May 18 at 15:21
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    "Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a mathematician!" Dr. L McCoy. ;) – Tetsujin May 18 at 15:32
  • 1
    @MatthewBarclay As I understand it, 3/4 is considered full size for jazz and rockabilly, and 7/8 and 4/4 are mostly for classical orchestras. Oddly enough a 3/4 apparently has scale length 41.4" and a 4/4 is 43.3", so it's not as if a 3/4 really is 25% smaller. – Your Uncle Bob May 19 at 4:34
5

I'm treating 2 frets as one

This is pretty close to the way people play double bass, but not 100% true. The most common technique people study (and the one I've been studying) is the one Franz Simandl wrote in his books New method for string bass.

Basically he goes the "safe" way, assuming you are an average person, not a 2-meter-tall person with giant fingers (like Ron Carter), where he can use the fingering us commoners use on the electric bass. What he does is that he uses the fingers 1,2 and 4 for the first eight positions, the fingers 1,2 and 3 for the ninth, tenth and eleventh positions and thumb, 1 and 2 (occasionally the 3rd as well) for the thumb position (which starts at the octave).

So, on each position you use 3 fingers and not 4 like on the electric bass or guitar/cello.

The reason for this is that you can easier play the intervals with the fingers 1-2, 1-4 and 2-4 rather than stretching your fingers out to play four notes on each position.

Try practicing it this way on your electric bass.

IMSP has the aforementioned books, so if you have the time you can practice some basic exercises from the first one (on the first positions), where you will be able to see the fingering to figure out how you should behave on the upright bass.

3

If you know the scale length of a string instrument, then you can calculate the position of each fret by taking the distance from the bridge to the previous fret (starting from the nut) and dividing it by 21/12 or 1.059463 (ignoring practical details like string height, gauge and tension, which do affect intonation but have only limited impact).

These are the (theoretical) fret positions and sizes, as fractions of the scale length, and in inches for a typical "full size" 3/4, 7/8 and 4/4 double bass:

       FRACTION OF SCALE           41.3"            42.3"            43.3"
FRET  position      size       pos     size     pos     size     pos     size

 0    1.000000                41.30            42.30            43.30    
 1    0.943874    0.056126    38.98    2.32    39.93    2.37    40.87    2.43
 2    0.890899    0.052976    36.79    2.19    37.69    2.24    38.58    2.29
 3    0.840896    0.050002    34.73    2.07    35.57    2.12    36.41    2.17
 4    0.793701    0.047196    32.78    1.95    33.57    2.00    34.37    2.04
 5    0.749154    0.044547    30.94    1.84    31.69    1.88    32.44    1.93
 6    0.707107    0.042047    29.20    1.74    29.91    1.78    30.62    1.82
 7    0.667420    0.039687    27.56    1.64    28.23    1.68    28.90    1.72
 8    0.629961    0.037459    26.02    1.55    26.65    1.58    27.28    1.62
 9    0.594604    0.035357    24.56    1.46    25.15    1.50    25.75    1.53
10    0.561231    0.033373    23.18    1.38    23.74    1.41    24.30    1.45
11    0.529732    0.031499    21.88    1.30    22.41    1.33    22.94    1.36
12    0.500000    0.029732    20.65    1.23    21.15    1.26    21.65    1.29
13    0.471937    0.028063    19.49    1.16    19.96    1.19    20.43    1.22
14    0.445449    0.026488    18.40    1.09    18.84    1.12    19.29    1.15
15    0.420448    0.025001    17.36    1.03    17.78    1.06    18.21    1.08
16    0.396850    0.023598    16.39    0.97    16.79    1.00    17.18    1.02
17    0.374577    0.022273    15.47    0.92    15.84    0.94    16.22    0.96
18    0.353553    0.021023    14.60    0.87    14.96    0.89    15.31    0.91
19    0.333710    0.019843    13.78    0.82    14.12    0.84    14.45    0.86
20    0.314980    0.018730    13.01    0.77    13.32    0.79    13.64    0.81
21    0.297302    0.017678    12.28    0.73    12.58    0.75    12.87    0.77
22    0.280616    0.016686    11.59    0.69    11.87    0.71    12.15    0.72
23    0.264866    0.015750    10.94    0.65    11.20    0.67    11.47    0.68
24    0.250000    0.014866    10.33    0.61    10.58    0.63    10.83    0.64

And this is the same in centimeters:

       FRACTION OF SCALE          105 cm          107.5 cm          110 cm
FRET  position      size       pos     size     pos     size     pos     size

 0    1.000000               105.00           107.50           110.00    
 1    0.943874    0.056126    99.11    5.89   101.47    6.03   103.83    6.17
 2    0.890899    0.052976    93.54    5.56    95.77    5.69    98.00    5.83
 3    0.840896    0.050002    88.29    5.25    90.40    5.38    92.50    5.50
 4    0.793701    0.047196    83.34    4.96    85.32    5.07    87.31    5.19
 5    0.749154    0.044547    78.66    4.68    80.53    4.79    82.41    4.90
 6    0.707107    0.042047    74.25    4.41    76.01    4.52    77.78    4.63
 7    0.667420    0.039687    70.08    4.17    71.75    4.27    73.42    4.37
 8    0.629961    0.037459    66.15    3.93    67.72    4.03    69.30    4.12
 9    0.594604    0.035357    62.43    3.71    63.92    3.80    65.41    3.89
10    0.561231    0.033373    58.93    3.50    60.33    3.59    61.74    3.67
11    0.529732    0.031499    55.62    3.31    56.95    3.39    58.27    3.46
12    0.500000    0.029732    52.50    3.12    53.75    3.20    55.00    3.27
13    0.471937    0.028063    49.55    2.95    50.73    3.02    51.91    3.09
14    0.445449    0.026488    46.77    2.78    47.89    2.85    49.00    2.91
15    0.420448    0.025001    44.15    2.63    45.20    2.69    46.25    2.75
16    0.396850    0.023598    41.67    2.48    42.66    2.54    43.65    2.60
17    0.374577    0.022273    39.33    2.34    40.27    2.39    41.20    2.45
18    0.353553    0.021023    37.12    2.21    38.01    2.26    38.89    2.31
19    0.333710    0.019843    35.04    2.08    35.87    2.13    36.71    2.18
20    0.314980    0.018730    33.07    1.97    33.86    2.01    34.65    2.06
21    0.297302    0.017678    31.22    1.86    31.96    1.90    32.70    1.94
22    0.280616    0.016686    29.46    1.75    30.17    1.79    30.87    1.84
23    0.264866    0.015750    27.81    1.65    28.47    1.69    29.14    1.73
24    0.250000    0.014866    26.25    1.56    26.88    1.60    27.50    1.64

Double Bass - Fret Position and Size

  • 2
    This, and finding a pole or such like about the height of the string bass with the metal leg in position. Then mark as many 'frets' as needed, staring from where the nut would be...+1. – Tim May 18 at 16:34
1

Roughly speaking there are 2 kinds of upright bass, depending upon where the heel of the neck starts. On a "D" bass when you hold the first string and slide down the neck your hand will naturally stop when you get to D on the G string. On an "Eb" bass the heel will stop you at Eb. So the heel will show you where the 7th or 8th fret is.

The join of the neck and body will be at the 10th fret so the octave is about two fingers past the join.

One thing that should help when you have a very short time to prepare is: write position markers on the side of the neck in pencil. Frets 5, 7, 9, 12, etc. just like the dot inlays on fretted instruments are very useful to have marked. And pencil marks are easily removed when you return the instrument.

0

treating 2 frets as one

That's way to much. Comparing a full scale bass guitar (34") to a double bass (41.3-43.3") gets you a ratio of 4 to 5, i.e. the 4th position on the double bass is at the same distance as the 5th fret of the bass guitar

That's still too much to use "one position per finger". What works well for me in the lower regster is "three position for four fingers", keeping fingers 2+3 together as a single virtual finger and stretching 1 and 4 as far as they will comfortably go. I'm sure this will look fairly authentic. See for example https://discoverdoublebass.com/lesson/left-hand

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