The Banjo Bass Viols
I have made smaller versions of the double bass banjo which I intended as banjo-cello's although they took on experimental scale lengths in the end due to a measurement error when I checked out a cello, I took the tailpiece to nut length measurement instead of nut to bridge so it is 3 inches longer than cello scale length.
Actually it worked out ok as it happens to be the same scale length as an electric bass which means it ended up being in fourths instead of fifths and a familiar length and compatible with the bottom four Viol de Gamba strings.
They are essentially the same as the double-bass banjo only using a tom as the resonating chamber.
They all sound excellent and have more volume, more bass and more tops than a conventional cello.
You can get some really amazing tones with radical bowing which cello's just don't have. There seems to be a greater expressiveness and sensitivity available and a greater range of tonality. They are quite a thing to try to tame, for my poor bowing technique anyway, like a wild horse.
I still have one more half done.
Here I have a picture of the first one which I made for my very lovely friend Caitlin. It was made with sitka spruce and cedar for the lattice and New Guinea Rosewood for the neck with an Indian rosewood fret board and an old maple 13"Premier tom as the drum. She is very happy with it.
Here she is trying it out for the first time.
The second is a banjo cello (full size) and has been heavily modified by my friend Stef since he bought it. Originally it was much like the others but Stef just had to butcher it; changing to a shorter neck (to make it the same scale length as a cello should be) using Blackwood (I used the old new guinea rosewood one he replaced to make the resonator cello,) changing the neck and drum and foot angles, chopping down the base of the neck and foot twice, changing the drum and then chopping it down too, changing the feet and the tuners, another even smaller drum and next the bridge and the neck again. Now it is less cumbersome and easier for him to play.
I think it is really nice now in it's more streamlined and rakish form and his several improvements in design will be much appreciated by owners of future banjo cello efforts. We like it a lot. Although it lost a bit of its bass and resonance acoustically with the small drum the electrified tone has tightened up and carries well.
He is planning another we think and has made some fantastic Australian hardwood tapping instruments lately and has been very creatively engaged with multiple materials in various awesome projects.
Stef has a web site you can visit with some of his work to check out
including a cool six-string headless bass he made and his great doofing trailer/studio/stage project and I love to check out some of his latest things whenever I go down to Sydney. He is now building an awesome plastic bearing beach going pedal powered track chair contraption with chrome molybdenum frame and plasticgears so it is lubricant and maintainence free which is looking awesome.
His site is called imembrane.org
The third one is the same scale length as an electric bass and has a 70's 14" Premier maple tom and New Guinea rosewood neck and Indian rosewood fretboard and the same kind of lattice. This one has just been finished and sports the bottom four bass Viol-de-Gamba strings which sound quite amazing; livelier, deeeeeep and very nice feel being made of Perlon, or fake gut so rubbery and soft to touch. Super Sensitive make them. They're great.
This instrument is no longer for sale and I traded it for a 7 string fretless Conklin Bass which I am sure will be easier to sell. My friend Cye Wood has been playing it for ages and was sad to see it go.
I show here the bridge, the head stock, the neck and the drum with the foot and tailpiece and the finished instrument. The bow is a generic fiber-glass cheapy with real hair though. I'm very proud of this one, especially the sound.
The last pictures shows it's new maple foot after the last one got snapped off. My good friend Jake now uses this instrument in the studio, kit'n'kaboodle productions and the mothership studio. Wonderful folk for professional sound system setup, mixing and events spaces, musicians for hire and state of the art CD and DVD production, recording, mastering etc.
more on the way...
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