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What is a Piccolo Bass? The Definitive Answer [2021 Edition]

So what is a piccolo bass exactly?

That’s what this post is all about!

A piccolo bass guitar is a standard or short-scale bass guitar pitched up an octave to be in the same tonal range as a standard guitar with its four strings tuned the exact same as a standard guitar: EADG.

The word “piccolo” is Italian for “little.”

Usually, a piccolo instrument will be tuned higher than its standard counterpart.

And that’s precisely the case in this instance with a piccolo bass tuned one octave higher than a standard bass guitar.

This is also the case for the piccolo guitar.

If you look for a piccolo bass on the internet you will find mostly standard bass guitars with piccolo bass strings.

Why is that?

The main reason is that the piccolo bass originally conceived as a bass guitar with piccolo strings. Later on, short-scale bass guitars came into the market, equipped with either regular or piccolo-size strings.

As a result, the term “piccolo bass” is used interchangeably to describe:

  • A standard scale length bass guitar with piccolo-tuning strings
  • A short-scale length bass guitar with piccolo-tuning strings

The Difference in Sound Between a Bass Guitar and a Piccolo Bass Guitar

In this video, Scott Whitley demonstrates the sound of a piccolo bass – In this case, a regular bass guitar with piccolo strings. This means that the instrument is regular-sized, but tuned to a higher pitch than normal.

As mentioned above, the strings of the piccolo bass are tuned one octave higher than regular, meaning that it is tuned E2-A2-D3-G3 just like the last four strings on the guitar.

You can hear this brighter, higher sound in the video above. With the piccolo bass, you have access to higher pitches while retaining some of that distinct bassy sound.

Thanks to the contrasting differences in sound between the lower and high strings, you can use the piccolo bass as both a melodic and harmonic instrument.

To contrast this, check out the standard bass sound from the instrument in the video below.

Here CJ shows us a Squier Bronco Bass.

This is actually a short-scale bass guitar in standard bass guitar tuning.

In terms of sound, you will notice the much lower tones of course.

The difference in sound between these instruments really highlights how different a piccolo bass is from standard bass.

Why you might want to add a piccolo bass to your collection

The main subject to consider here is the type of sound you want to get.

  • A different instrument on its own right: A piccolo bass is the ideal instrument if you want to explore chord-melody arrangements closer in sound to a guitar but the familiar scales and shapes of a bass guitar.
  • Can fulfill the role of bass guitar if needed: A piccolo bass won’t quite fulfill that low register that a bass usually fills, but it’s a decent stand-in with unique musical opportunities as well.
  • Short-scale instruments are easier to maneuver: Although not always the case, piccolo bass guitars sometimes have shorter scale lengths. The short scale of piccolo bass models like the Squier Bronco is ideal for musicians looking for an instrument that’s easier to maneuver than a standard bass. In this regard, kids could greatly benefit from the shorter scale in terms of playability.
  • Pricing: All you need to get into a piccolo bass is by purchasing piccolo strings. Also, if you want to choose a short-scale bass, there are plenty of models at an affordable prince.

Downsides

A piccolo bass may not be a very good option considering the following:

  • Less common, fewer purchase options: Good-quality Piccolo basses that are both short-scale and come equipped with piccolo strings are hard to find. These are instruments built especially to carry the string gauge needed to produce piccolo tuning. However, you can still purchase piccolo strings and add them to your regular bass guitar. If you do this, many recommend swapping out the nut on your instrument to accomodate smaller gauge strings. Although this isn’t quite necessary, it’s probably worth it if you want a dedicated piccolo bass guitar.
  • Narrower frets: Small-sized piccolo bass guitars have less space between the frets thanks to the smaller scale. So, if you are a bass player, you might find yourself uncomfortable with the stretches and fingerings. The size and spacing of the fretboard is closer to that of a standard electric guitar.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is the piccolo bass the same as a bass guitar?

No. As mentioned above, a piccolo bass is a standard or short-scale bass with lighter gauge strings tuned one octave higher.

  • Can you play a piccolo bass like a bass guitar?

Yes, you can play a piccolo bass like a bass guitar and somewhat like a standard guitar too. The notes are one octave higher than a standard bass guitar and the same as a standard guitar. Thus, you can use the same fingerings and patterns as you would on standard bass guitar. And you can almost use the same fingerings and shapes on a standard guitar except without the two high strings on a standard guitar.

Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand what a piccolo bass is and why you might want to add one to your instrument collection!

As usual, let me know in the comments if you have any questions about this instrument or any other guitar-related instrument!

I don’t know if I can help, but I’ll do my best to try!

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