It's not entirely fitting with our acoustic lutherie, (and I've probably mentioned this before but...) as a bass player, I've groused for years about 5-stringers, 6-stringers, 7-stringers and worse!  So I'm going in the other direction.

The project has been almost a year in the works but it's 90% done. The bass will be finished in a stock 3-color 'burst. Both chrome 'ashtrays' will be installed, mostly to hide the bridge set-up. Tuning will either be B-E-A or E-A-D... yet to be determined. Silly? of course it is... but it's been fun.

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I'm a bassist, too.  37 years as a "4 string purist" on the same Jazz Bass, and I figure if you can't "git 'er done" with 4 strings, you're a poser.

So I hope you don't mind if I poke a little fun at you...  ;-)


Are you planning to play balalaika-metal , or will this be for a "Presidents Of The United States Of America" tribute band?



Nah, I don't mind at all... it's all a bit silly to begin with!  Actually, the fun experience has been in the figuring-out of things like string-post spacing for even pull, how to ground all 3 separate bridges with no wires showing, that sort of stuff.  

The biggest challenge (for me, at any rate) will be getting the 3-color sunburst to look right. When it's all done, I'm afraid it'll be a case of "now what the #@% do I DO with it?!" :)


Be a non-conformist.  Tune it in 5ths.  Go D-A-E...

I introduce my 4 string balabalabalaika.xtra tuner is black so as to be incognito...made by Carl McIntyre

years ago.I love this thingI usually tune it cgda,cgdg or...?Started w/3,I added 4th.


"if you can't "git 'er done" with 4 strings, you're a poser."

Amen brother!

I'm not a bass player but I've played around with a few odd ball, three string instruments before and I found that you can do a lot on it even if you are forced to use more of the neck. It looks like fun.

Hi Mike.

Cool project. 

Two things:

1.  I see you're using EMG Select pups. 

I installed some on a Frankenstrat project a few years ago when Stew-Mac had 'em on sale for $16@ and was amazed by how great they sound.  I hope you're pleasantly surprised too.    Near boutique quality at bargain basement prices.

2.   Your grounding of the 3 bridges/saddles. 

You might want to consider routing a small round bottom slot perpendicular to the saddles and begin and end it in the center line of the outer ones. Inlay a solid copper ground wire [ a 12-10 gauge buss wire would be ideal] into the slot and leave enough of the wire above the body so it makes contact with each saddle. 1/64" will do and the saddles will compress the rest into the body.  Carefully mark the saddle locations and mark the wire where it would be exposed (in the slot) on the body. Remove the wire and remove stock on each area of the wire that will be exposed on the body so that the "filed" area is slightly below the top of the body.  Inlay matching wood or use wood filler to cover the exposed wire.  The SB finish should cover the work.  Then all you have to do is drill a single feed hole for the stranded ground wire from the control cavity.

Whew!  If you're confused (heck, I think that I may be), I can send you a drawing in MS Paint that will make it easire to understand.

Somebody's gotta have a better idea so let's have at it.

Best of luck.  Again, a cool project.

Good idea, Paul.... but I've already pulled the grounding trigger:)  I drilled 3 long holes (starting under each bridge and angled-down into the bridge pickup cavity. The 3 wires are joined under the bridge pickup and are invisible, so it worked, but kudos for your clear thinking!

Yes, the EMG selects were recommended by another repair guy up in Portland. Good prices and good quality, according to him, but I haven't actually fired 'em up yet. I'm using an active 9V module so it'll be interesting to hear them in an 'active' mode. Do you have any experience or opinion with them in an active vs. a passive mode?  

Hi Mike.

I don't have any EMG Select gone active experience.  Should sound great though.

Have fun.

funky cold madina
Hey, Tony Levin has had a custom Ernie Ball 3-string bass for more than a decade. Who uses the top string, anyway?

I'm thinking that Billy Sheehan may use that top string a bit.  :-)


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