How the HELL is this instrument practical?

I started a thread on Benavente basses that went by the wayside and got zero responses. I’ll try again, but ask a more specific question.

This bass has eleven strings. The fretboard is as wide as about two and a half regular bass necks. How is it practical to play such an instrument? How can the fingers possibly reach the lower strings with comfort and ease?

Yeah. Like, a piano keyboard, is like, what, almost three times as long as an accordian keyboard. How is that even practical? Obviously it’s all about pianist envy.

I don’t know if this is sarcasm, or a joke, or what - but an accordion is obviously played vertically, whereas a piano is played horizontally. Longer keyboard neccessitates a different physical mode of playing. Nobody could play an accordion with 88 keys in the conventional manner.

A bass guitar, on the other hand, is always held the same way. Unless you’re suggesting that this Benavente bass be laid vertically and played in the manner of a pedal steel guitar, I still don’t see this being a practical or comfortable instrument.

One of the Internet profiles that keeps dumbfounding me is John Turner, a working musician and moderator at Check out his electric bass collection here:

Sure, he doesn’t own any 11-string from what I can see, but check out the bass in the middle of that couch – yes, it’s a double neck. 14 strings baby, count 'em if you wish. My back hurts when I think of that monster, he must have trapezius muscles the size of dinner plates.

Well…First …Ya gotta drink a lotta beer!..

Er. Have you ever played bass? Do you understand the origin of Argent’s incredulity? Or are you just talking?

Well, I can think of a couple of reasons to haul one of those monsters around. 1) If it’s an 11-string (or 8-string, or doubleneck, etc.) it’s probably a handmade, boutique bass that has a lot of thought put into the finish, shape, and wood. In other words, it’s pretty. And expensive. 2) You want to show off your mad bass-playing skillz by showcasing that you’re a) badass enough to know what to do with 11 strings, and b) (referring back to 1 above) serious enough about it to spend the cheese on an expensive, custom bass.

In other words, I think it’s all about style over substance, and seriously, if 4 strings was enough for Bootsy Collins, it ought to be enough for your lite fusion studio project. Hell, lord knows I’m no fan of Jaco Pastorius, but he had massive chops, and I believe he dragged around the same 4-string J-bass his whole damn career.

In general, if I even see 5 strings, I’m usually thinking “uh-oh.”

Double neck? Pah. Ever been to a Yes concert?

[Emphasis added.]

Thanks for making my point for me.

lissener: He asked how it’s practical. It is obvious to most of us that accordian keyboards and piano keyboards, although different, are both practical. It’s certainly not obvious to me, from looking at that picture, how one would play an 11-string bass, or that it’s even possible. If you know, please explain.

It looks to me like it’s a combination of a six-string (non-bass) guitar and a five-string bass. I say this based on the string thicknesses, and the arrangment of the bridge and the pickups. Also, the range of an 11-string bass with any sort of standard tuning would extend well up into the range of a regular guitar, or down below limits of human hearing.

As for playing, I’m guessing that you’d play the “treble” range like a regular six-string guitar, and the bass range with the left hand going over the top edge. Certainly a non-standard bass technique, but not impossible, and one you could teach yourself with any regular (five-string) bass.

That said, I can’t see how this design would have any clear advantages over a double-necked guitar/bass combo. It seems to me that the action on an 11-string would have to be a real compromise, and that fret-spacing for the treble side would also be less than ideal. Whereas a double-neck wouldn’t have those problems and also wouldn’t require learning a whole new technique.

It’s a strange beast, all right, and as has been suggested, I suspect it’s designed more for showing off than for top-notch music making.

That’s what I was thinking, another “This one goes up to eleven. That’s louder, innit?”

Well, after looking around the Benavente Web site, it looks like I was wrong about both of my basic assumptions. It is a bass, a custom SCB. Also, it looks like people with hands as big as Al Caldwell can play all the strings from the normal playing position. (See the picture of him with Vanessa Williams, about halfway down the page.)

So all it takes is big hands, and lots of flexibility and strength. But it still doesn’t seem to be a very practical instrument for most bassists.

Wikipedia confirms that the former is correct: “Extended range 11-string basses which go from a low C# up to a high Eb (one semitone below a guitar’s high E)”

Why? Isn’t it just an extended range downwards, no different to a five-string double bass?

It’s an attitude thing. In general, I see a guy trot out a bass with eleven strings, or two seven-string necks (one fretted and one fretless) , and I immediately think of a class of Jaco Pastorius lovin’, Pat Metheny worshippin’ yahoo that give off an insufferable “I’m way more progressive than you” lite-jazz vibe that I can’t abide. I don’t like the attitude, I don’t like the music, and I don’t like their approach to music in general. I saw the doubleneck bass and thought, “I bet the guy who plays this has a ponytail and little tiny Geddy Lee sunglasses,” and goddamned if I wasn’t right. That guy is exactly the type who’d say something like this:

I mean, c’mon. Get over yourself. 40 minutes. Jesus.

This guy comes on stage, and I guarantee you, by minute 15 of “Dante’s Cafe,” people are going to start migrating next door to check out the used book store, go grab a sandwich, or take a dump.

So it’s not the extended bass range per se that warns me off…

First thing I thought of when I saw that guy from Yes above, and of course the Geddy Lee-glasses-wearing dude Ogre mentioned…Harry Shearer playing a double-necked bass. :smiley: :smack:

40 minutes songs? And I thought I was superior because I listen to Tool. Hilarious post, by the way.

At first glance it (the bass in the OP) looks like something that would be played mostly by tapping, like a Warr Guitar or Chapman Stick. Doesn’t seem like consuming a lot of beer would be conducive to playing it well, though.

If we’re going to talk about multi-string configurations, don’t forget the late Michael Hedges, who was known for playing the Harp Guitar.

Look at this page and scroll down to the bottom, section 7. There are pictures of Michael playing different varieties of the Harp Guitar.

Sweet! I’m first to mention…

The six-necked guitar played by Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick!