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Alembic Club » Owning an Alembic » Troubleshooting » Archive through March 08, 2009 » Can I convert a baritone to a piccolo or tenor? « Previous Next »

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Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 1306
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2008 - 1:49 pm:   Edit Post

I recently bought a Baritone guitar off a member here and although there is nothing wrong with it, don't really feel It fits into what I'm playing currently so after spending a bit of time with it I realise I probably bought it in haste and out of curiousity. I 'd always thought that deep meaty sound was what I wanted but I don't really have an outlet at the moment to play it live.

So here is my mind working overtime now.

Could I convert this guitar to a piccolo bass by ordering a new nut and bridge and tailpiece?
At the back of my mind I'm almost sure that would not be as simple as that and also the cost of those brass bits would I'm sure be quite high. Maybe neck issues with I presume higher tension.

I know there are some very knowledgeable people here who could advise me on the wisdom or otherwise of my folly, or maybe Mica can chip in too?

If that's not possible I'll think about selling it in the new year either here preferably or on Ebay.
Here is a link to it.

(Message edited by jazzyvee on December 22, 2008)

(Message edited by davehouck on December 23, 2008)
Senior Member
Username: hieronymous

Post Number: 499
Registered: 1-2005
Posted on Monday, December 22, 2008 - 2:22 pm:   Edit Post

Would you keep it as a 6-string or make it 5 or 4?

I converted my Stanley Clarke from BEADG to EADGC. It was barely acceptable with the bridge saddles and nut as they were, but fortunately I live relatively close to the mothership so I dropped it off and they made me a new nut & bridge saddles. I also restrung my Exploiter with strings ranging from a low C (I was experimenting with cello tuning) to a piccolo set that was almost like guitar gauge strings. The adjustable nut on that one made it easy to just raise or lower as necessary.

Personally I would recommend experimenting (unless of course you really are thinking of going 5 or 4 string) before committing to new parts.
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 1307
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - 12:07 am:   Edit Post

I should have said, I was thinking of a conversion to 4 string instrument not a 5 or 6 so that means I would need new bridge, tailpiece and nut at least. I'm also assuming that the baritone bass and treble electronics would still have a suitable frequency range for a piccolo bass.

Your translation sounds like it was a lot easier and more straightforward than what I'm considering.
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 7286
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - 8:54 pm:   Edit Post

The headstock would have to be sawn off and a new one scarfed on. And personally I would only want to have something like that done in Santa Rosa. And I would think that you would want them handling the geometry as well; they wouldn't be able to send you a slotted tailpiece, since they wouldn't know exactly where the strings are. Same thing with the bridge and nut. So, if it were me, I'm thinking you're looking at shipping it to sunny California.
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 1308
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Tuesday, December 23, 2008 - 11:40 pm:   Edit Post

Oh so I take it you don't recommend me taking a night class in woodwork before taking on the project. LOL
Seriously though I'd forgotten to think about the headstock.

I didn't think it would be an easy task but now you have broken it down finer and I've given it some thought i presume the the cost would be prohibitively high...

Maybe it's best I ring/email Mica directly in the new year and get some idea of what would be involved and whether it's practical or even a sensible idea.

Thanks for your input to my thought process.
Username: mario_farufyno

Post Number: 40
Registered: 9-2008
Posted on Sunday, December 28, 2008 - 5:44 pm:   Edit Post

You may have problems to tune it right. The distance is so big that you may have trouble in adjust intonation and truss rod (the strings may get too tense or too loose).
Advanced Member
Username: keurosix

Post Number: 389
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Sunday, December 28, 2008 - 5:59 pm:   Edit Post

Hey Jazzy,
Mario has a point. What is the scale length of the guitar? 25"? A short scale bass is 30" or 5" more in length than what you have (if 25" is the Baratone scale). I have a 30" short scale bass tuned to standard bass guitar pitch - about the shortest length possible for the pitches. I'm assuming that you would be tuning this somewhat higher than that? Is Piccolo tuning = one octave higher than bass guitar or same as guitar?
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 3456
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Monday, December 29, 2008 - 7:20 am:   Edit Post

Alembic baritone guitars have a scale length of 28".

Bill, tgo
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 1309
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Monday, December 29, 2008 - 7:34 am:   Edit Post

yeah It is a 28" scale and my idea would to be to tune it one octave above standard tuning.

However the more i think about it the less i think it is a sensible thought as having the headstock removed and replaced and all the other brass replacement work sounds like it would be seriously expensive. I can see costs being high.
Senior Member
Username: hydrargyrum

Post Number: 431
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Monday, December 29, 2008 - 9:47 am:   Edit Post

You could tune it from A to A without too much trouble, although maybe that isn't quite low enough for you.
Senior Member
Username: georgie_boy

Post Number: 620
Registered: 8-2005
Posted on Monday, December 29, 2008 - 9:57 am:   Edit Post

I used to use a Piccolo bass that I converted
It was a 1966 Gibson EB2--D
I bought the bass in London from a shop in Leytonstone High Rd. (Holiday Music) for £180 !!
Can you believe that??
It was owned by the bass player of a band called "Johnny Johnston and the Bandwagon"
It could scream like a LP Junior and give great note feedback. I loved that bass..................then my buddy asked me to try it out......................bah humbug
It came back with apologies and the headstock missing..........I literally cried that night,
I got it fixed by JE's tech (who was also mine!).
Guy asks me to borrow it again....sure accidents happen.....ask Keavin.
Came back again with the headstock removed!!!

Anyway............sorry Jazzy....but it was the best Baritone / Piccolo ever

Tou don't need to spend a fortune on the conversion.....I did it for the price of a set of strings!!

I think I used....52, 40 30 18


Username: pacificshine

Post Number: 17
Registered: 7-2008
Posted on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 - 9:59 am:   Edit Post

Converting to "Piccolo Bass" Tuning of a Baritone guitar (6 string to 6 string) is going to give you standard guitar tuning (E-E) but from what I see you want to go to 4 strings and convert to Piccolo Bass tuning (EADG). I would not physically alter the guitar as it will be expensive and you will end up with a non-original instrument. Instead, I would sell the Baritone Guitar and purchase a short scale 4 string which can be a lot easier converted to what you want. I was able to convert a medium scale (32") to Tenor tuning without any modifications, using heavier gauge strings. I don't know if a 32" scale can be converted to Piccolo tuning but you can ask Alembic if they’ve had any experience doing that. It may be that the trust rod range will not cover this type of strings, but it's worth investigating since a 32" scale (e.g., Spoiler) is a lot less expensive than a typical short scale (e.g., SC). With a 30" scale you will not have a problem converting as long as you get a proper nut and bridge saddles.
Username: mario_farufyno

Post Number: 50
Registered: 9-2008
Posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2008 - 6:10 am:   Edit Post

Which is the expected Lenght of a regular Piccolo String Set?

My point was that a Set is intended to tune with a certain Tension/Lenght ratio. So Tension is directly related to Lenght, right?

If the "desired" Lenght should be 34"~32", we'll shorten it in 4" or even 6". This would make the strings tune above the desired pitch, or you could tune it down to reach the regular pitch. But this would diminish Tension.

And anyone who ever tried low tunings must have experienced that an unproper string tension can causes problems in pitch and intonation.

I'm shure you can adjust Truss Rod and Saddles. What I'm not shure is if it will result in a good sounding gear (considering that much Alembicians are more sensitive to this subtle issues than other bassists).

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