Mezzaluna Electric Basses

The shape of the Mezzaluna bass body is designed to enhance ergonomics of the instrument, in particular to improve hand position of the fretting hand and thus reduce conditions that exacerbate tendinitis in that hand. The shape was not chosen for arbitrary reasons – this is a case of form following function. It is most difficult to maintain good hand position when playing in first position, as the hand is far from the shoulder. Statistically, first position is where most playing is done. Positioning the neck at roughly a 45° angle to vertical and adjusting the strap will allow good hand position while standing and playing in first position for most people.

A number of basses do not balance well like this, with the neck tending to rise above 45° or falling below that angle (the latter is far more common). So the first step in the design of an ergonomically enhanced electric bass should be to provide for good balance at this position. The solid body Mezzaluna basses using medium weight body wood (ash, soft maple, mahogany, etc.) and medium weight tuning machines (Gotohs) balance well. The hollowed body instruments use lighter Hipshot machines to offset the lighter bodies.

Players with long arms may need to adjust the strap pretty high to achieve good hand position in first position and this may be inhibited in instruments where the strap button is positioned a good distance from the shaft of the neck. The Mezzaluna bass design curves the upper horn very close to the neck so that the strap button can be placed close to the neck shaft. This curved upper horn also makes the instrument far more comfortable for women players.

Since most people spend a lot more playing time practicing and rehearsing than they do performing, most bass playing is done sitting down. This being the case the ergonomics of the instrument should be optimized for playing while sitting as well. Again, a near 45 degree neck attitude will result in optimum fretting hand position for most people, but such an angle can not be achieved with a number of instruments because the lower waist cut is too shallow – the instrument falls off the leg if the neck is raised to this angle. The Mezzaluna bass design features a wide and deep lower waist cut so the instrument can be positioned comfortably on the leg with the neck at this angle.

For more on fretting hand ergonomics in the design of bass guitars see the paper Tendinitis Among Bass Guitar Players: An Instrument Builder’s View.

The downloadable instrument plans are available for non-commercial use and may not be redistributed.

Initially appeared: March 15, 2002
Last updated: January 25, 2022

Mezzaluna Bantamweight Electric Bass

This version of the instrument further enhances ergonomics by substantially reducing weight. Of all ergonomic enhancements possible to a solid body bass, weight reduction appears to be the one offering the most all around benefit. With its hollowed body, light neck, and light weight hardware, the Mezzaluna Bantamweight Bass retains the modern electric bass sound while weighing in at less than 6 pounds. The instrument has a set neck, using a Gibson electric style horizontal dovetail joint. That’s a Bartolini BB4C pickup you see. Read about the construction details for this instrument here.

The downloadable copyrighted instrument plan is made available for non-commercial use only and may not be redistributed.

 Download Full Size (36"x48") Mezzaluna Bantamweight Electric Bass Plan (.pdf)

Mezzaluna Acoustic Electric Bass

A fretless hollowed-body instrument with piezo transducer and wood bridge. This version of the Mezzaluna bass has a good upright-like tone in a very lightweight electric style instrument. The front faces of the instrument are particularly clean looking, with no exposed hardware for the bridge, string anchors, electronic controls, even the truss rod adjustment cover plate screws. The piezo transducer and onboard buffer preamplifier for this instrument are described in the paper Constructing an Under Saddle Transducer. Informal construction details and some more photos can be found here. Michigan luthier Mark Swanson applied the basic design concepts of this instrument to an acoustic electric guitar. Check out his fine instrument on his website.

The downloadable copyrighted instrument plan is made available for non-commercial use only and may not be redistributed.

 Download Full Size (36"x48") Mezzaluna Acoustic Electric Bass Plan (.pdf)

Mezzaluna Solid Body Electric Basses

Plans for the basic solid body instrument are here as well as plans for a 25.5" scale piccolo (small) bass and a 19.125" scale piccolino (tiny) bass. The piccolo is tuned an octave above the standard instrument and the piccolino is tuned an octave above that. Both of the smaller instrument use standard electric guitar strings. The piccolo uses the following strings: E = .052"; A = .042"; D = .030"; G = .020". The piccolino uses the following strings: E = .032"; A = .024"; D = .016"; G = .011". All the basses use Bartolini BB4C pickups and Hipshot Ultralight tuning machines. The bass pickups work very well in the higher pitched instruments. In the piccolo and piccolino instruments the coils are wired in parallel. As mentioned bass tuning machines are used in all the instruments, but the fat posts of standard bass machines would make for very touchy tuning on the higher pitched instruments. To counter this, Hipshot made custom posts for these instruments. Guitar machines could have been used here, but I wanted all of the instruments to have that bass look.

Construction Details

Side view does not appear in any of the plans, but all of these instruments share "standard" Fender electric guitar and bass thickness dimensions. Bodies are 1.75" thick. Neck pockets are 0.625" deep. Nominal thickness of the fretboard is 0.25". The neck shaft thickness ranges from 0.5" at the 1st fret to 0.75" at the end in the body, for a total neck plus fretboard thickness of 1" at the body end. There is no neck angle - the top of the fretboard is parallel to the top of the body. The neck thickness and pocket depth add up to the top surface of the fretboard at the centerline being 0.375" above the top surface of the body. The headstock is angled to the fretboard at 15°.

The downloadable copyrighted instrument plans are made available for non-commercial use only and may not be redistributed.

 Download Full Size (24"x48") Mezzaluna Standard Electric Bass Plan (.pdf)

 Download Full Size (24"x48") Mezzaluna Piccolo Electric Bass Plan (.pdf)

 Download Full Size (24"x48") Mezzaluna Piccolino Electric Bass Plan (.pdf)

The story of the piccolo and piccolino basses may be interesting to you. In general my efforts are directed towards solutions to real design issues or to actual research, but in this case I built a quartet of electric basses (one standard bass, one piccolo bass, and two piccolino basses) just on the whim that some group of bass players might want to play some quartet pieces. I've heard various bass ensembles and they all sounded pretty muddy and so thought that a range of instruments that could all be played by bass players would be of some interest. When the instruments were done I showed them around to the usual suspects (the local working musicians and academics that work with my instruments and provide critical feedback) to see if there were any players that wanted to make up an ensemble to play them. Although there was a lot of interest and a lot of folks played the instruments no one really wanted to make a commitment to putting together an actual quartet. My friend Hankus Netsky at the New England Conservatory pretty much nailed the situation right on the head. He said that most academics, when presented an odd ball instrument like a piccolino bass might wonder what to do with it, whereas, in a place like Nashville folks would simply play it.

So to Nashville the instruments went. It should probably come as no surprise that the quartet was picked up and enthusiastically used by Nashville session great Dave Pomeroy. The photo at right shows Dave playing the Mezzaluna piccolo bass with his All Bass Orchestra. The piccolino is also being played by Roy Vogt, the second guy from the left in the orchestra. What to hear how they sound? There is a YouTube video of this performance here. The piccolo and piccolino are also featured on Dave's solo CD Angel in the Ashes.

I also have pdfs available for a 30" short scale version of the Mezzaluna solid body electric bass. These are beta plans - I have not built one of these instruments yet, so I have no idea how good the plans are. If you want to take a shot at building this instrument I'd like to hear how you made out.

The downloadable copyrighted instrument plan is made available for non-commercial use only and may not be redistributed.

 Download Full Size (24"x48") Mezzaluna Short Scale Electric Bass Plan (.pdf)


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