Piccolo bass

A piccolo bass is either an electric bass drum or acoustic double bass which has been tuned to a higher frecquency, usually one octave higher than conventional bass tuning. This allows bass players to use higher registers during soloing while retaining a familiar scale length and string spacing.

Piccolo bass
A 1963 Hofner Model 185 bass converted to piccolo tuning
String instrument
Classification String instrument (bowed, fingered or picked; rarely strummed)
Hornbostel–Sachs classification321.322
(Composite chordophone)
Inventor(s)Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke
Playing range
(a standard tuned four-string piccolo bass guitar)
Related instruments


In the early 1970s, Ron Carter and Stanley Clarke were independently exploring the possibilities of stringing their instruments in a higher, or piccolo, tuning. The earliest recording of Carter playing his piccolo bass is on the 1973 album Blues Farm.

Design considerations

Acoustic piccolo bass

The acoustic piccolo bass is constructed in the same way as a double bass, allowing the player to use the same arco and pizzicato techniques. The scale length will usually be similar to that of standard upright bass, with thinner strings to allow a higher-pitched tuning. The acoustic piccolo bass is usually tuned in fourths, E2-A2-D3-G3, although Ron Carter often uses A1-D2-G2-C3.[1]

Electric piccolo bass

The electric piccolo bass is generally constructed in the same way as an electric bass guitar. In many cases, these are conventional bass guitars which have been converted to piccolo tuning. This typically requires a new nut to accept the thinner strings. The tuning is E2-A2-D3-G3, which is the same as the lower four string on a guitar. Some short-scale piccolo basses may be strung with conventional guitar strings. However, in general a piccolo bass will require special string sets to cater for the longer scale length, and larger ball ends to cope with the larger drilled holes in a bass bridge.

The tuning varies with the personal tastes of the artist, as does the number of strings. Joey DeMaio from the heavy metal band Manowar plays with four strings on his piccolo bass. Jazz bassist John Patitucci used a six-string piccolo bass, unaccompanied, on his song "Sachi's Eyes" on his album One More Angel. Michael Manring uses D'Addario EXL 280 piccolo bass strings, in a variety of tunings, on his four-string hyperbass, made by Zon Guitars.

Notable players


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