Easily convert a cello into a very nice mini-bass that
has the same notes and octave as a big honker upright bass
& plays/sounds great.

I was given an old student-grade 1/2 size cello recently &
not playing the cello, I set about on the quite simple task 
of converting it into a bass.

I've read a bit about doing just this but it seems the web 
folks who've attempted the conversion must be using the wrong 
strings and don't seem satisfied with the results. I myself 
am very surprised & very happy with the tone, volume and ease 
of playing this converted instrument. It's a LOT of fun to 
play & a heck of a conversation piece.

A little bit later note after a few days playing this little 
thing: Over the years I've made and converted hundereds of 
instruments. There never has been any sort of guarantee that an idea 
would pan out - in short, I have a special shelf in the garage 
for ones that didn't! Duds, failures. This cello to bass conversion 
is certainly not one of these duds ---  I absolutely - absolutely 
LOVE it! -- so much so that I'm on the lookout for another cello 
to convert for friends. It's SO easy to play - just to sit back 
& accompanying music with it held like a guitar is a joy!

The actual conversion is a no-brainer:

- Replace the strings
- Enlarge  the string  grooves in both the bridge and nut -  if needed
- Enlarge the string holes in the tuning pegs - if needed
- Retune to EADG (low to high) in the same octave as a big upright bass.

Fender flat-wound 9050L electric bass strings are THE KEY to success 
here -- they work absolutely perfectly & cost $22.35 from elderly.com 
in early 2013). I first tried an old set of round-wound electric bass 
strings which, altho the tone was nice, created an intolerably loud 
"scratch" whenever you wanted to slide into a note - in contrast, the 
flat-wounds are smooth as silk and virtually silent when sliding. 
Do not use round-wounds. I also experimented with weed-whip nylon line 
in gauges up to .130 inch with poor results. USE THE FENDER FLAT-WOUNDS!

When I resuscitated my badly beat-up cello which came with no tuning 
pegs, I used inexpensive Grover knock-off guitar tuners ($16 a set) 
which easily handle the reduced tension of the shortened Fender strings.
I had to enlarge most of the tuner's string-holes to accommodate the 
fatter new strings. I unraveled some of the string's outer windings 
for a half an inch at the ends so as not to have to drill too large a 
hole in the tuner shafts. The same issue will likely occur with regular 
wooden friction pegs & is handled in the same manner.

Not owning proper nut/bridge files, I enlarged the grooves in the nut & 
bridge in a few minutes using a combination of an exacto-knife, chain-saw 
sharpening file, hacksaw blade & a bit of folded sandpaper. Dirty-up each 
groove with a #2 pencil for lubrication.

A word about string-tension.  This converted cello can easily handle the 
new, thicker strings for this reason:  the string-length on a 1/2 size 
cello is about 23 inches. The Fender flat-wound electric bass strings are 
designed to be put on electric basses which have a string-length of 
around 34 inches, so as you can see, to achieve the same bass pitch on 
the converted cello, the strings are tuned considerably lower, slacker than 
if mounted on an electric bass, negating any worry about taxing or breaking
the instrument. What surprised me was that, despite the lessened string 
tension, they still made for a fine tone and decidedly non-flabby feel 
on the mini-bass! No complaints at all. The same Fender flat-wound 
strings should work fine if used on a full-size cello, the string-length 
still being a lot shorter than on an electric bass.

Please let me know if you make this conversion.

Dennis Havlena - W8MI
February 13, 2013
northern Michigan
Click here to access my webpage

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