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Contrabass conversion to gut strings and "baroque" set-up


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Hello all you great Maestro-netters

I have been a lurker here for many years, and greatly appreciated all those who weigh in on debates and offer their invaluable experience and knowledge. So finally I have come to the inevitable, when I have a question "worth asking", that I haven't found much discussion about in previous threads. And a grateful THANK YOU all in advance!

I'm doing a conversion of an old double bass (by my assessment, late-18th century Tyrolean), which had previous been rather rudely adapted as a 5-string. The neck had a flat joint to the body, which had broken and been repaired only about 10 times... with a massive screw and many hardwood pegs going all directions. The neck itself had been twice laminated and widened in a wedge shape to accommodate a wider fingerboard for 5 strings.

The customer has requested a baroque set up with gut strings and a baroque bridge, to which I and my colleague agreed. However, having begun work on it we realized there are many, many variables to which there simply don't seem to be "standards" as with violin or even modern contrabass.

So for all those with a well-spring of experience in baroque contrabass set-up, now's the time to show your stuff!!!


Can you recommend a "break angle" over the bridge, and bridge height?

Neck angle and overstand are also obvious question marks, we plan to "divide the wedge" - leave some overstand on the neck, and some wedge to the fingerboard. Hoping this way can leave the neck a bit thinner near the body than with a full wedge.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated, and taken with a grain of salt ;)

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I'm only a Cellist with a degree in performance practise and not a bass expert at all. However, I think the problem is that the lower instruments especially,  were constantly improved and changed, and I don't think you will find a clear cut answer. Many violones in the da braccio style had only three strings until well into the nineteenth century, however, you'd find da gamba style basses with 6 strings, or things in between with four or five strings with differing intervals between them. A popular viennese tuning for four strings around the end of the 18th century has a whole slice of Repertoire for it (Sperger being the biggest exponent). If you can find an original 4 string bass with similar vibrating string length that you can copy that would of course be great, but otherwise my gut feeling is just to not stray too far from current standards and make the optics fit. I know many bassists that play on practically modern instruments with baroque gut strings, and call it done.

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