the contrabass or contra guitar

jpeg photo of Niibori contra guitar (jpg)

An Aria AC-75CB contrabass with Hannabach 841 strings

Read more about the contra | prime | bass | alto | our total sound

The contra guitar

hago's contrabass guitars (or "contras" for short) take the role of the double basses in our orchestra.

The contra is 750mm long from nut to bridge. It's a different beast to the acoustic bass guitar.

What's in a name?

Strictly speaking, contra- means "an octave below", so the "proper name" for this guitar is the contra guitar - it's an octave below the normal guitar, not an octave below the bass. But the name "contrabass" is etched in the minds of the manufacturers, so the confusion lives on!


The contra is tuned 8 notes lower than a Classical Guitar, although the neck is only about 3 frets longer, meaning that the strings are considerably thicker.

All the strings are wound - indeed the bottom strings are double wound and taper to a single winding at each end so that we can tie a knot in them.

The bottom 4 strings are the same pitch as an orchestral double bass. The body is mercifully quite a bit smaller but this gives it a thinner tone than a plucked double bass. Mind you, we've been behind the curtain - read about hago's modification to improve the bass.

The contra has an extremely deep body, and the region from the bridge to the end of the guitar is noticeably extended, to increase the volume of the body.

One needs quite supple hips to play the contra in the classical seating position!


Where the contra fits in the guitar family | How big is a contra guitar? | hago's modification to improve the depth of sound

Interested in trying a contra guitar? It plays from conventional notation. See our Playing Tips