Spend £50 for Free UK Shipping
Royal Mail First Class Post
Trustscore [total_score]/5 out of [total_reviews]+ reviews.

What are the correct length strings for a Hofner Violin Bass?

Designed by Walter Hofner, The Hofner Violin Bass (more specifically the 500/1 Model) was first introduced to the world back in 1956 at the famous Musikmesse Trade Show in Frankfurt. 

The bass was designed as an accessible alternative to an upright double bass.  Hofner’s semi-hollow design emulated the tones of a double bass without the inconvenience of playing and transporting such a large cumbersome instrument.

Being semi-hollow means that the bass is extremely lightweight and it’s shorter scale length makes it extremely comfortable to play too.

It just wouldn’t feel right to write a blog post about the Violin Bass and not mention it’s most famous player of all.  Back in early 1961, Sir Paul McCartney was pictured playing a violin bass with The Beatles and as a result it quickly gained massive popularity.  In fact, Hofner have never ceased producing the Violin Bass’ since it's inception.

Tonally, the violin bass produces a deep low thud, not too dissimilar to the double bass tones it was designed to replicate.  This makes it particularly appealing and despite it’s roots being firmly laid in the 50’s and 60’s, the Violin bass has made its way into the hands of many bassists and onto many records... even being used to lay down bass grooves in dance music and reggae too!

"For a light, dinky little bass, it has a very rich sound"

Paul McCartney, Guitar Player Magazine, July 1990

McCartney was drawn to the bass, not for it’s tonal qualities, but purely because it was a cheap purchase for him whilst The Beatles were in Hamburg and it's design allowed him to easily flip the bass upside down and restring it left-handed.   He felt that because of it’s symmetrical body shape, it looked more aesthetically pleasing compared to reversing a cutaway bass.

In fact, McCartney’s affiliation with the Violin Bass is so strong that it’s often referred to as the ‘Beatle Bass’ or ‘Cavern Bass’ by some.

The Violin Bass has a diminutive scale length of just 30”. If you have read any of our previous scale length blogs, you will recall that the scale length of a bass is calculated by measuring the distance from the inside (leading) edge of the nut to the middle of the 12th fret and multiplying this measurement by two.

The Violin Bass’ 30” scale length most definitely puts it in the ‘Short Scale’ bass bracket, however, before you run off and buy a set of short scale strings for this bass, let us chat about the quirks of why that should be approached with caution. Oh and don't worry, there's no recommendations in having to remove strings from a piano just like McCartney was known to have done!

What length of strings are needed to fit a Violin Bass?

If you read our previous blog post on the Fender Mustang Bass, you’ll remember that whilst it is considered a short scale bass, its design means most short scale sets will in fact be too short in length.

The Violin Bass is a similar beast!

If we were to try and fit most “short scale” bass sets to a violin bass, there’s a strong likelihood that they would come up too short.

"Huh? But the Violin Bass is short scale? That means it needs short scale strings right!? "

Not quite.  Let’s take a closer look….

If we take a look at the image below, we’ll see that the strings are anchored several inches behind the bridge with the ball ends residing in the trapeze style tailpiece.  It's important to always be mindful of how far behind our saddles our strings are anchored. This isn't just applicable for the Violin Bass but for all bass guitars in general. 

Above: The ball ends of the strings are anchored 2-3 inches behind the bridge saddles

Depending on the design of your bass, our strings are anchored in a whole manner of different ways and distances behind the saddles.  The further behind the saddles our ball ends are, the longer our overall string length needs to be.  Sometimes, this can result in us needing longer strings than our 'scale length' would suggest. 

As we’ve discussed before, measuring only our scale length gives us half of the story.   In order to find out the true length of the strings we require, we need to look beyond scale length and measure the distance from the ball end of our current set to the rear side of the nut (see image below).

Above: To find the true length of string we require, we need to measure from the ball end of our string to the rear side of our nut

In the case of our Hofner here, this measures 32.75”.

This 32.75” measurement is very important as it’s the minimum length of wound string needed before any silk winding (or tapering) should start.  If we were to use a set of strings where the silk or taper starts before 32.75”, they wouldn’t be suitable as the silk would be sitting on the fretboard side of the nut. This would result in the strings not vibrating effectively and they would just sound poor.

What about the silk down at the bridge? The length of silk at the ball end is also significant too.  Much how we don’t want any silk starting before the nut, we certainly don’t want any silk running over our saddles either.  

The silk at the ball end of most strings is usually around 1” long.  This length can vary from brand to brand and in our experience, the length of silk can be inconsistent even with sets from the same manufacturer, so it’s difficult to give a definitive length for each set.

That being said, in the case of the Hofner Violin bass, the length of silk down at the ball end is less of a concern as the strings are anchored a good 2-3” behind the saddles so it's highly unlikely that you’d ever find a string with that amount of silk winding at the ball end.  Just something to be mindful of though.

One more additional measurement...

We can go one step further and measure the distance between the back of the nut and our first machinehead.

Ideally, we only want the silk winding of our string to be wrapped around our machinehead, not the wound portion of the string.  Therefore, we need the silk to start after the nut but before it reaches the post of our first machinehead.  

Whilst this is not absolutely essential, it’s really important if you are using flatwound bass strings which seem to be a popular choice for many players using a Violin bass.  The windings on a flatwound string are wound seamlessly adjacent to one another, thus creating that flat playing surface.  If you wind the wound portion of a flatwound string around the post, these windings can separate, exposing the inner core of the string which can make the strung vulnerable to breaking or unravelling.  Both pretty undesirable.

In the case of the Violin Bass, the distance between the back of the nut and the first machinehead measures 2.25”.  

If we add 2.25” on to our ‘ball end to silk’ measurement of 32.75” we can now deduce that the silk winding on the strings for our Hofner Violin bass needs to start anywhere between 32.75” and 35” from the ball end of the string.

**NB** It's worth checking the 'ball end to silk' measurement on your own bass. It is our understanding that from around 1965-66, Hofner used a shorter tailpiece so the string length required may vary for models before this era.

So how do I know what sets on your website will fit?

For all the bass sets we stock, we make every effort to measure the length of these from the ball end to the start of any silk winding or taper.  We then display this information at the top of the description in the listings of each set on our site.

We also have a handy filter down the left hand side of the screen that shows all the Ball End to Silk lengths.  

For your convenience, here’s a handy link to see all the bass sets we stock that fit the Hofner Violin Bass.

You may notice that many of the sets in this link are actually classified as ‘Medium Scale.’

"But the Hofner Violin Bass is considered a Short Scale right!?"

Yes it is, but as we’ve discussed, whilst it’s scale length of 30” indicates that its a short scale bass,  when you take into consideration the ball end to silk measurement (in our case here 32.75” - the true indicator of string length needed) more often than not (depending on the brand you choose) it’s a medium scale set that’s needed.  

This bass is so iconic that there are several string manufacturers currently making strings specifically for a Violin Bass.

In fact, Hofner make their own string sets.  They produce a roundwound and flatwound set (both in 40-95 gauge) and they also have a Nylon flatwound set available too. Click the banner below to check out the Hofner range;

Black Nylon Tapewound strings are a popular choice for the Hofner Bass too with Sir Paul McCartney known to have played Rotosound Tru Bass strings during the Abbey Road sessions. He can also be seen playing these strings during their performance on the top of the Apple Building in 1969.

Nylon bass strings typically feature a flat nylon wrap (similar to a ribbon) wound over a steel core. This combination means the strings are able to be used with conventional basses, they feel ultra smooth and comfortable to play producing a mellow warmth in comparison to roundwound strings. This all contributes in helping to further deliver the tone often associated with the double bass. There are several brands that offer nylon bass strings including Rotosound, D'Addario, La Bella, Fender and GHS.

New York based brand La Bella also produce 'Beatle Bass' specific sets in gauges 39-96 and 50-100. Click the banner below to check out all the sets we stock that are a suitable length for the Hofner Violin bass.

We hope that this blog post has helped give a better understanding of which length of strings will be right for a Hofner Violin Bass. The steps we took to measure the required length can be applied to any bass guitar so if you’re unsure what strings you need for your bass, just follow the steps here.  

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to pop them in the comments box below or you can always email us at guitartech@stringsdirect.co.uk where we’d be happy to help.

If you’d like us to feature a specific bass in future blogs, don’t hesitate to send us a message and we’d be happy to see if there’s anything we can do.

We’d like to thank Steve Finley from Barnes and Mullins for the loan of the Violin Bass.

As always, big thanks to Chas Johnson for the additional Beatles and Violin Bass information.

Until next time….


Your Cart
Item added to cart
Item removed from cart
Sort & Filter
Sort & Filter