Building my first bass

Hi All - Been a long time since I posted as I've been busy just building CBGs and having a good time. These are all your basic 3/4 x 1 1/2 oak neck with a quarter inch fretboard and scarf joint. A few weeks back my son mentioned he would be interested in a bass so I've been thinking about that. So thats been rattling around my head for awhile and I've googled a few things, but basically I don't know doodley about basses. Sounds like my choices in scale length are 30" short scale - 32" - or 35" standard. I also believe the neck is going to have to be beefier than what I've been dealing with. Will a standard single-coil pickup work just fine on a bass ?   Any words of wisdom would be appreciated before I start my journey.

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  • If you decide to go the two-string route, why not a small scale (20") CB Bass that uses bass ukulele strings and a piezo? If you already have a box of Gitty parts, the only "extra" things you'd need are 2 tuners ($6 ea) and a set of Aquila Thunderguts or Kala U-bass strings ($20-$25).  I have a video on my profile of mine, and I'm still pretty happy with it. Good luck!

    • Hilo Greg, Which tuners did you use? I got a set of cheap bass tuners but the heavier two strings are too big to fit the slot.

      TN, it probably will sound different but our cbg's sound different too. I expect mine will sound great! There are a few discussion's in the bass group on the strings for more info.
    • I used the basic CB Gitty bass tuning machines (4 for $20.99). I stretched the end of the U-bass string with 2 pliers (1 in each hand) until it flattened out a little, then shoved it into the slot. Be careful not to stretch the part of the string you will be playing, or it will affect the tuning and intonation. 

    • Tried a U-Bass in the store and it sounded great. I've been afraid that a CGB version wouldn't live up to the standard--maybe because there are "secrets" to getting such a great sound. If it will work, a U-Bass size would be ideal for what we're all trying to do.

    • I think the "secret ingredient" was the $21 CB Gitty pre-amp/EQ kit. It really boosts the signal and warms up the sound. I was going for an organic "upright" sound as opposed to a metallic bass guitar sound, so the U-Bass strings helped achieve that. Also, very little tension on the neck so a regular 1x2 poplar was sufficient. 

    • Thanks. I'll spring for the $21 and try it. I actually encountered one studio guy who was sneaking his U-bass in because he preferred the rich sound to a Fender. I would love to have a "homemade junker" that I could play on stage with bluegrassers.

  • Standard is 34" for Fender Jazz and Precision basses.

    I've built a bass and a double neck 4/bass CBG, both used 34" scale and were set up with 1x2 necks (.75" x 1.5") and used only two strings. With a 1/4" fretboard glued to the top of the 1x2, it didn't need a truss rod.

    CBGitty sells P-bass style pickups, I just used one section of the two and it works fine.

    I've also built my own "Fenderbird" custom bass using a Chinese made Fender Jazz neck mated to a custom body. I paid about $90 for a remade neck on eBay and focused my carpentry efforts on the rest of the project. On my own I'd never have been able to build near as nice a neck.

  • I just completed my first CBB using a neck that was an inch thick and 1.5" wide (no taper). Three strings on that one and 30" scale. I did not install a truss rod and it seems to hold (though I just sent it across the country to my son - hoping it holds up in his whiskey band :). You can see pictures and a video of it on my profile page.

    I just started a new bass project - this time it'll be 4 strings, and somewhere between 30" and 32" scale (since it's fretless, I don't need to finalize that until I lay out the bridge/tailpiece). I'm taking some risk by rounding out the back of the neck a bit, and still no truss rod. But I'm also topping the neck with a 1/4" fingerboard on this one (didn't do that on the other). We'll see if that's enough mass to ward off warpage.

    I'll post some pictures of the current project when I finish this comment. Feel free to ask questions, but I'm definitely no expert.


  • Yes the neck needs to be beefier, four thick strings pulling on the neck vs a cbg with 3 guitar strings. The good thing is a little thicker goes a long way, a 1" neck is nearly twice the strength of a 3/4" one. 

    You could consider easing in a bit, make a 2 string bass.  I did a fretless 2 string with a narrow but deeper neck, and I used a 32" scale, as there are jazz bass strings for a 32" scale, they are somewhat thinner than standard bass strings.  I used the lowest two tuned to E A.  I used a piezo for the pickup, it sounds like a bass even unplugged, and plays what seems to be ok to me, although I really don't know how to play a bass beyond Louie Louie.

    Also worth mentioning is that if you use bass strings, you will need bass tuners as the diameter of the strings is too big for regular tuners.  The strings I used were able to work ok with standard tuners.

    • Never built one, but I play a bit. Kigar's advice sounds good to me. There are jokes about bass players only using 2 or 3 of their strings. Maybe not entirely true, but I'd rather have a reliable instrument with 2 or 3 strings than a warped neck. Also, have you considered a fretless fingerboard? They're not that much harder to play and you remove the buzz hazard. If you do fret, you're gonna' need big, honking frets to stand up to the bass strings.

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