A few months back while reviewing a couple of Brian Bromberg albums for Bass Players United, I was inspired to give Piccolo Bass a try. Although it sounds great with a set of flats on it, I decided that my Rogue VB100 would be the bass I would use. I hadn’t been playing it too much and figured maybe I would breath new life into it, plus, being short scale, and hollow bodied, I figured it would lend itself well to this task.
Piccolo Bass Strings
I picked up a set of D’Addario Piccolo Bass Strings and simply swapped them out for the flats I had on. I suppose if I wanted to do it right I would need to change the nut, but it seems to work out fine with the stock nut, even though the strings are much smaller in diameter. Tuning is the same as a standard bass, E A D G, with the E A and D strings being wound, while the G is just wire, like on a guitar. To me the strings feel more like heavy guitar strings than bass strings, but they don’t hurt my fingers as much as guitar strings typically do.
The sound is definitely much more guitar like. They maintain a great bassy tone when played finger style, while the sound is brighter, clearer and more refined when played with a pick. As the strings are much smaller, playing simple chords is a breeze, and running it through different effects sounds awesome. I ran it through my little Fender Frontman 25R guitar amp with a bit of reverb on it and was very pleased with the tone.
Playing the Piccolo Bass
As the band I play in is a 3 piece we have found that on certain songs we do, mainly the two or three surf instrumentals we play, that there seemed to be something lacking. I decided to bring out the Rogue Piccolo to one of our practices and ran it through an Octaver into my GK MB200 Head and GK 1×15 Cab and we were all floored by the difference. I play simple bar chords throughout the songs and the Piccolo bass through the Octaver, played with a pick, lends itself well to this task.
Bass was my first instrument and as such I’ve never been very good at guitar. The thin little strings always feel like they are cutting into my fingers, whereas these piccolo strings are a little bit heavier gauge than typical guitar strings and provide a happy medium for me. As an added bonus they have brought new life to an otherwise neglected bass. At first I had second thoughts about changing the strings on my Rogue as it sounds so good with flats but am glad I did, plus when the time comes, switching back is as easy as changing strings.
Give Piccolo Bass a Try
If you’re looking to change things up a bit and have an extra bass that isn’t seeing much use, I recommend giving piccolo strings a try. If you are like me and enjoy experimenting with different sounds this may be just the ticket for you, and who knows maybe it will find a place in your regular set, it did in mine.