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when to upgrade? and to what?

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  • when to upgrade? and to what?

    hi folks
    wondering what to do here. my 9 yr old son has been playing bass for two years now. he's got an ibanez Mikro short scale; he's maybe outgrowing it although he says it's still comfortable.
    more: mỹ đình plaza 2
    i guess the logical thing would be to wait until it's not comfortable. on the other hand, if we're going to be upgrading at some point in the nearish future anyway i want to at least start looking. i'm assuming full scale is next. i don't have a budget in mind really. less is always better, but i don't mind making an investment in his musical future and if there's something that will likely be a keeper i can probably justify getting it as long as we're not talking thousands.
    but......i know he is hoping to someday get an upright. not sure where that should fit into the picture. it's been recommended we switch up to cello next but not sure why really. frankly, i'd love to surround this kid with instruments - he will play anything he sees. any suggestions about what should come next? and how to know when it's time for something new?
    more: eco dream nguyễn xiển
    Last edited by blackcats; 12-08-2017, 08:43 PM.

  • #2
    In my opinion, unless he's big for his age, nine is really a bit too young for a full scale instrument - that's going to be a huge transition from that little Ibanez Mikro. Instead of going to a 34" scale bass, I'd recommend checking out a 30" or 32" scale model.

    Actually, I think the thing to do is to take him down to a well-stocked local music store, if there's one in your area, and let him try out a few different basses and see what feels comfortable to him. If he really likes the 34" scale models, then he might make the transition just fine, despite his smaller size and young age. If it's a struggle, then the next logical choice would be a 30" scale bass. That's not the most popular choice for adult bassists, but it's not an unheard-of one either - I have a couple of 30" scale length basses (and full scale ones too), which I use regularly. Something like a Squier Jaguar Bass SS or a Mustang PJ Bass would be a great step up from the bass he's been using, and neither is terribly expensive.

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    • #3
      Several years ago I saw a fairly small boy playing a Silvertone Precision Bass copy in a worship service. He didn't seem to be having much if any trouble. Your son may or may not be able to handle a standard scale bass at this point. Phil's suggestion is the best I can give. Take the kid to a music store and let him play a few basses and see what he gravitates toward and finds comfortable.
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      • #4
        The size of the bass has nothing to do with age or quality of the instrument. I been playing for 50 years and I own two short scales and two long scales. The matter is one of hand size and reach. The idea is to avoid strain on the hands and having the neck fit the hand. If it fits you can reach notes efficiently and confidently and excel at learning the music itself.

        As a parent you probably wont know how to properly fit a stringed instrument to the hands. In fact I know many professionals who haven't got a clue either. Many figure if a person can get to notes then the instrument whatever its size isn't an impediment.

        That's only partially true. Musicians tend to choose instruments based in all kinds of things, looks, sound, color, weight, brand, and even the feel, but unless they are taught how a neck is fitted, they may never know a neck may be impeding their skills because they acclimate their playing to any impediment that exists and simply think that's the way it needs to be and its them not the instrument that's the problem.

        If they get accustomed to the feel of a neck that's is actually a poor fit, moving to another that's also wrong will simply become a self sustaining issue and since few musicians even know what a properly fitted neck is they don't know its an important issue when instructing others.

        Seems like misery loves company and if they suffer from slow performance or pain, everyone else should suffer the same poor choices they do.

        I do give you kudos for investigating this for your kid however. No better source of information then asking pros about things like this.

        Thing is Its NOT just the scale length that's important. Its the necks circumference that affects the grip of the player that both facilitates maximum skill levels and prevents long term injury which in older players like myself can become chronic and/or disabling.

        I know musicians who have played their entire lives and never knew the neck should fit the hand in specific ways, nor knew what those specific ways should be.

        Luckily I do know so I can share it with you. Its one of the first things I sized up when teaching students just like my first instructor did when I was given my first lessons playing violin at his age. Its one of those things that get passed down from teacher to student. Unfortunately there are allot of bad instructors who may know how to play well but were never formally trained in schools where this stuff is commonly known.

        In general, A neck to thin for the hand will cramp it up. A neck to fat will impede the players flex and speed. Think of it as having the right sized shores. You wouldn't want to stick a shoe on a kid that's too large or small. you want them to fit like a glove so they can be completely ignored.

        Neck Length is partly a matter of making longer jumps when changing positions, but its also a matter of reach in one position.

        What I'd check first is check his reach.

        If he plants his thumb on the back of the neck he should be able to play frets 1 through 4 using all 4 single fingers by themselves including the use of the pinky, by itself, holding down each string without the aid of others.

        He should be able to play notes between the 1st and 4th frets on the lowest string without changing positions (without sliding the thumb up the neck to reach to that 4th fret and hold it down without buzzing).

        If he cant switch between the 1st and 4th frets then a longer neck will only make this more difficult. He may be better off staying with a shorter scale till his hands are fully matured and both his reach and hand strength are better.

        At age 12 the hand size has usually maximized, but the strength is only beginning to catch up.
        By 16 to 18 years his size should have stopped and strength maximized. They should be able to play a longer scale even if it isn't ideal for their hand size because they've developed the strength and agility to make fast moves.

        21 is the apex of strength and durability and by 30 the slow decline begins varying with each player. They should become smarter to compensate for the physical losses as they age and a great fitting instrument is a key to lengthening their years of performing well. Look at how long musicians like Les Paul played when they built instruments that fit their hands ideally.

        What is just as important as scale length is not more so is neck circumference. If the circumference isn't a fit then it doesn't matter what scale length he has. It will all spell bad news.

        Have him grip the neck at the 1st fret.

        The first joint in his thumb should meet up with the edge of the one side of the fret board while the last joint of the first finger (where it meets the wrist) should meet with the other edge of the fret board.

        This should allow him to hold down the first fret with his thumb as needed.

        if the neck is slightly fatter by a few millimeters it will simply slow him down a bit. If the neck is too thin and the two finger joints are above the fret board when gripped, it can wear on the joints and cause long term joint problems in his older age.

        From there it takes a real pro to spot what's best for a beginner. They can move to a longer scaled instrument once they master the ability of planting the thumb on the back of the neck to obtain maximum reach over the frets. If they're still gripping the neck with the thumb wrapped around the neck then I'd likely wait till they have the wrist strength to do the full reach. Otherwise, learning to do that will simply be that much more difficult to learn.

        The worse thing is if the neck isn't right he's likely to pick up bad playing habits trying to compensate for the bad fit. Bad playing habits are extremely difficult to unlearn. Most players who have them don't even know they have them. Those who avoid those bad playing habits by being properly instructed (like a kid at a piano being coached by a maestro to properly curve their fingers) will be able to excel far beyond others who stumble over their bad playing habits.

        I was lucky enough to have been trained by an instructor who received his teaching degrees at Julliard and had played in professional symphonies for years. I didn't exactly like the guy but I was lucky to get him. Fitting of the had to the neck was the first thing I learned when he pulled out several different sized instruments and sized me up, and had me hold it so he could eye up my reach. He knew to check these things right off because he knew how it impacted my ability to learn.

        I simply carried those early lessons over when playing other stringed instruments.

        I should note I do own many instrument that are a poor fit for my hand too plus I do play guitar and bass so I constantly change scales like that. I've learned how to avoid injury when doing so however. That's not something young kinds who still feel like supermen will avoid so they need to be coached to avoid it so teaching them to size up an instrument is key. They should know when they pull an instrument off a rack to check the sizing right off. If its a poor fit to the hand, there really isn't much sense even plugging it in.
        Last edited by WRGKMC; 01-12-2018, 09:44 AM.


        • #5
          I didn't know that there was a big demand for bass guitars in symphony orchestras.
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          • DeepEnd
            DeepEnd commented
            Editing a comment
            I remember from some of his previous posts that WRGKMC started out on violin. His instructor probably played violin with symphony orchestras. (It makes more sense than an electric bass, anyway.)