We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Piccolo Bass?

By Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Musical Expert is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Musical Expert, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A piccolo bass refers to either a bass instrument in the guitar family or a bass instrument in the violin family. Both instruments are most common to the jazz genre. They were developed to get instruments of a lower range with increased facility and a different tonal color. Very broadly, piccolo bass can mean any instrument that falls between the bass and tenor members of an instrument family in size or tuning.

When referencing the member of the guitar family, piccolo bass means a bass guitar that is tuned one octave higher than usual. Four strings is probably most common, but it is not unusual to see models with up to eight. Standard tuning for a regular four-string bass is E1, A1, D2 and G2. Piccolo basses with four strings thus are tuned E2, A2, D3, and G3.

The uptuning on a bass guitar is possible by shortening the length of the neck of the guitar. A musician also can convert his regular bass to a piccolo bass simply by putting on thinner strings, which is probably more common. This works because thicker strings vibrate at a slower rate, producing lower pitches, whereas a thin string can vibrate faster and produce a higher pitch. Thus, in theory, any standard bass also can be a piccolo bass with the proper string set.

Even though a piccolo bass guitar does not sound very bass-like, musicians like this type of bass because it has a different tonal color. The instrument is mellow but does not have the muddiness of a regular bass. The spacing of the strings on a bass allows guitarists to perform techniques such as slapping that are not possible on regular guitars. They can play the bass as a primary, virtuosic lead instrument as a result rather than simply supporting the bass line of a work.

The term "piccolo bass" less commonly refers to an instrument similar to but slightly larger than a cello. The range of the instrument is one octave above that of the standard double bass. Ron Carter, known for his work as a jazz cellist, normally is credited for the development of the instrument. He tuned his version A1, D2, G2 and C3, or a perfect fourth above the standard bass. These instruments have a mellower, richer sound compared to the cello but are not as dark as the double bass.

Even though people attribute Ron Carter for developing the piccolo bass, in reality, similar instruments were developed during the development of the violin family in the 16th century. These instruments were built as experiments in sizing and tone and were not standardized. They were used as classical instruments, however, not for jazz, which developed in the 20th century.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Logicfest — On Feb 17, 2014

It is very common to see people extend the range of standard basses to incorporate some of the sound made by piccolo bases. Les Claypool of Primus, for example, generally totes a custom bass with an additional eight frets added to reach those higher tones generally associated with a piccolo bass (listen to "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver," for example, to see how he effectively uses those higher notes).

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.