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NancyJohnson

Fan-fret basses...scale lengths/the science.

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Never owned one, don't really like the Dingwall designs, but interest has piqued with the new Ibanez range, especially the EHB below.  Body shape has got a bit of a Roscoe vibe to it, which probably isn't a bad thing.  I'm sure it would be easy enough to play, but I'm not on the market for another bass priced at £1.4K bass just yet (I'm sure these will pop up at about half that before the end of the year).

I'm curious though; the scale on this (it's a B-G) is 33"-35"; I'm assuming there's some optimal scale length/string gauge science going on here, but feasibly how far can fan frettage actually go on four or five string basses?  I mean, could the difference from B-G extend beyond 2/2.5 inches?  What about multi-scale fretless?

 

369503-EHB1505MS_TSF_1P_01.jpg?w=768&h=7

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I can't comment on the science, but I just can't get over the looks. It's like one of those optical illusion puzzles. The fretboard always looks warped and bent to me, even though my conscious brain knows it's straight. So looking at them always (genuinely) makes me feel slightly nauseous. 

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I’ve had one. A prosebass.
Took five minutes to get used to and even my five year old could play it (so Maybe a guitarist could do it too)

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As others have said getting to grips with the fanned frets is a matter of seconds once you pick one up so long as you don't want to play chords wit more than 2 notes.

For me the important thing is the getting a good compromise between the scale length of the low and high strings to get the optimum feel and sound, and that's where all of them other than the Dingwall 5-string models fall down. IME there is no point in extending the low B scale unless you are going to go to at least 36". So for me the Dingwall 37"-34" B-G is about right. Everything else I have seen and tried the fanning simply isn't extreme enough to be worth the bother.

Edited by BigRedX
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I remain unconvinced that a B string needs to be over 34" to sound great. 

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And to answer the OP, there are very few fanned fretless basses for some obvious reasons. 😉

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I agree with you Ped. I’ve had or played pretty much every reasonably well-known brand of bass under the sun, including a number of fanned fret designs , and the best sounding and feeling B I’ve ever tried is on a Warwick Streamer Stage 1. Perfectly even and defined up past the 12th fret and 34” scale. I’ve never played a Dingwall that I liked the sound of (but the feel great) and personally fanned frets aren’t really necessary, and are a significant compromise at the top (and especially bottom) end - just try playing an octave C on B and A strings on that 37” scale. Over recently got a nice Ibanez BTB with 35” scale and whilst it improves the feel of the B the higher strings suffer a little, however overall it works as a bass. Plus fanned fret basses just look a mess IMHO :)

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My #1 is a Dingwall Super P5, which is 32-35” scale. To me this is the best combination of comfort and sound, the B is tight but still Fenderlike (rather than the more modern sounding 37” on their longscales), and the 32” G sings more to me. The 3” scale difference doesn’t bother me, and I hardly notice it other than when I’m way up the dusty end, when I just have to pay a little bit of attention. 

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My main problem with longer B & E strings (almost certainly due to my poor technique) was that the string excursion for the longer scales meant that I could get the action as low as I like with setting off some fret buzzing somewhere.

I like balanced string tension and appreciate the fact that for the longer scales you can use a lighter gauge for the same balance but short of playing with an overall heavier gauge that made the string too taut for my personal liking I just couldn't get comfortable.  Pity really as the concept is a good one I think.

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I tried a Dingwall at a bass bash a few years back and was amazed at how easy it was to get used to the fanned frets. 

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2 hours ago, ead said:

My main problem with longer B & E strings (almost certainly due to my poor technique) was that the string excursion for the longer scales meant that I could get the action as low as I like with setting off some fret buzzing somewhere.

I like balanced string tension and appreciate the fact that for the longer scales you can use a lighter gauge for the same balance but short of playing with an overall heavier gauge that made the string too taut for my personal liking I just couldn't get comfortable.  Pity really as the concept is a good one I think.

I find the opposite - the longer scale makes the string tighter at the same pitch, so it moves less and allows lower action on the B.

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I believe multi-scale brings tuning and string tension benefits.

It's like the difference between blended whiskey and a single malt. Can you tell the difference? Can you appreciate the difference? There is no right answer, just a personal preference.

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11 hours ago, ped said:

I remain unconvinced that a B string needs to be over 34" to sound great. 

My W&T is 33”, I seriously don’t think it’s any less of a B than my old 35” Modulus had.

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I’ve played a couple, like others have said it doesn’t take long to get used to them. The only thing that puts me off buying one is that it’s extremely difficult to play chords on them.

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You need a multiscale, so buy a harp or a grand piano (Steinway is 274 cm). The reason for different gauge strings is the equal scale length. But to find the string that works with the scale length is another story.

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14 hours ago, ambient said:

I’ve played a couple, like others have said it doesn’t take long to get used to them. The only thing that puts me off buying one is that it’s extremely difficult to play chords on them.

It really depends, some chord shapes are only possible high up on a fanned fretboard or short scale. Others are of course much harder. 

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Just as with short, medium and long-scale regular basses, it's largely just personal preference. One thing I like about the scale on the one I do have (Padalka - photo below) is with it being 34-36" a number of off the shelf strings fit (i.e. all the DR normal long-scale strings and some others as well) so no need to have to order or have made specific strings.

HGGS.jpg

Edited by Kazan
punctuation
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