Tanglewood TW15 Baby Bass modification – Gotoh small bass tuners + La Bella Deep Talkin’ Bass strings light

Tanglewood TW15 Baby Bass

Country of Origin: Far East

Back: African Mahogany

Top: Spruce

Neck: African Mahogany

Overall length: 39” (990mm)

Scale Length: 26.75” (680mm)

E String peg to slot: 29.5″ (749mm)

E String peg to bridge pin: 30″ (762mm)

Electrics: B-Band EQ – four-band EQ, volume, low battery indicator

Review: http://www.musicradar.com/reviews/guitars/tanglewood-tw15-baby-bass-ce-26519

  • I love the La Bella “Deep Talkin’ Bass”  flat wound strings for short scale bass but they are just a little too long for my Tanglewood TW15 Baby Bass.

I bought the Tanglewood Baby Bass in (I think) 2010, enthusiastically working my way through the first few days of an 8 week “Teach Yourself Bass” book and CD.  Then I got bored and went back to playing the ukulele.

In February this year, my partner started to get a band together to play at his birthday party at the beginning of June. Obviously, I offered to play ukulele, thinking that my Risa electric tenor or Soprano Flying-V would be eminently suitable. Apparently not!  Not even with a fuzz box or wah wah pedal or whacking up the Flange setting on my amp.  Philistines!

By the middle of April he was bemoaning the lack of a bass player and drummer, so I offered to play bass. I had no idea how to do it but I thought I would give it a shot! After just a couple of days of intensive practice, playing along to recordings of the band’s songs, my finger tips were painfully sore from the round wound strings. I had to stop and I couldn’t see how on earth I could get up to speed quickly enough.

Flat wound strings were obviously what I needed.  When I discovered them, it was like stroking a moth’s wing! I loved the sound of them too.

New tuners: Gotoh Small Bass Machine Heads

2016-07-29 Gotoh bass guitar machine head small enclosed GB70 composite

The original tuners on the Tanglewood Baby Bass are guitar machine heads. OK for the round wound bass strings that it came with but too small for flat wound bass strings.

To return the favour of the loan of my bass not long before this, a guitar-maker friend made the holes in the headstock bigger and fitted Gotoh Small Bass closed machine heads for me.

The Gotoh tuners are much nicer than the originals. Luckily, they are just small enough so that the bass can still fit in the gig bag that came with it.

New strings: La Bella “Deep Talkin’ Bass” Flat Wound Short Scale Extra Light

2016-07-29 La Bella Flat Wound Short Scale strings - smaller file

La Bella seemed a good choice after reading the reviews on “Short Scale Bass: String Choice

None of the standard short scale strings were quite short enough though.

La Bella “Deep Talkin’ Bass” Flat Wound Short Scale:

Ball-End to Silk: 32″

Tanglewood Baby Bass:

Scale Length: 26.75” (680mm)

E String peg to slot: 29.5″ (749mm)

E String peg to bridge pin: 30″ (762mm)

Flat wound strings terminate in a length of silk that winds onto the tuning post. The string itself should not wind onto the post or it risks breaking the outside of the string and unwinding:


Bad news!

The E string was too long, with the string itself winding onto the peg ! The flat wounds did sound and feel lovely, though!

2016-05-17 Tanglewood Baby Bass new tuners flatwound strings - smaller file

New set-up with Roland Bass Micro Cube RX:

2016-07-29 roland micro_cube_bass_rx_top - Full of Busy settings

That image is a bit of a cheat. I stole a photo off the Roland web site and then superimposed a scan of my crib card for a song I have been practicing. The top of my amp is not pristine – it is covered in spare plectrums stuck on with Blu-Tack.  I have also made clearer labels for the controls so I can see where they are when I am on stage.

I started using this amp in 2009 – it was a redundancy leaving present after 30 years working for the NHS. Back then I was using it to amplify electric ukuleles, playing with the same people but using different effects on different songs.  (Maximum flange is very good for whacking a ukulele with a chopstick on “Quark, Strangeness and Charm”!)

Crib card for Roland Micro Cube Bass Amp Settings:

Feel free to download this image to print if you would find it useful.

I was, and still am, hopeless at remembering the settings for different songs so I made a blank “settings template” the size of a small index card. I print them out four-to-a sheet on A4 paper. When I have filled one in, I glue to a card and laminate it. That is one reason why the top of my amp is covered in dollops of Blu-Tack.

The settings for the amp on that crib card in the photo are the same for all the songs, so far, with the band. We tried all the settings out and this is what the others thought sounded best for the band sound.  They were in a much better position than I was to make a judgement on that.

Roland Micro Cube Bass Amp Settings:

  • Amp Type: Flip Top
  • Equalizer:
    Bass: one o’clock
    Middle: one o’clock
    Treble: eleven o’clock
  • EFX: off
  • Delay/Reverb: off

Baby Bass B-Band Equalizer Settings:

The Bass, Middle,Treble and Presence settings range from -12 to +12. (Wow! The Volume goes up to 12!! Better than Spinal Tap!)

  • Bass: +12
  • Mid: 0
  • Treble: 0
  • Presence: -12

Sound clip:

So, what does that Baby Bass sound like now, with the flat wound strings?  Here is something I made earlier . . . this is a recording of a practice only a month after I started playing so please do not expect anything wonderful. The bass sounds very loud because I am playing amplified along to a recording that is going through the speakers in a MacBook Pro without any extra amplification.  This means you can hear the bass sound fine but it would not normally be so prominent.

The first half of “Full of Busy”, words and music by Jeff Moore:

Short Scale Flat Wound E String unravelling on post:

2016-07-28 Tanglewood Baby Bass Flatwound strings E wind - composite

There are various ways to fix this, not including going back to round wound strings.

One would be to buy custom flat wound short scale strings. Octave4Plus.com already do a custom set for the even shorter scale Ohana OBU-22 “bass ukulele”.  They are pricey and there is a long waiting time.

My friendly, neighbourhood guitar-maker’s first suggestion was to add a tail-piece to increase the scale length. That would also involve doing something complicated to the bridge that he explained very well to me but it went went in one ear and out of the other!  His second suggestion was way more complicated and involved fixing a block inside the body and feeding the strings down through it . . . the rest is a blur!

Obviously I need another bass guitar!

I absolutely LOVE playing bass guitar!  It is so much fun in the same way that playing the ukulele is so much fun – but different!  I am not very good at it yet but I think part of the attraction is that, like the ukulele, there seems to be a steep learning curve to get to the point where you can produce something vaguely musical.

I have tried playing the guitar and the banjo (4 string Tenor Banjo, Chicago tuning DGBE). The learning curve with them seems much more of a marathon slog up a gentle incline to get to the point of playing with any sort of fluency.

The Cuatro (Venezuelan) experience has been more like the ukulele while my Baritone Ukulele efforts veering towards the other side, the “dark side”, where the guitars and banjos lurk . . . taunting me!  I do like a nice Requinto or “Guitarlele”, mind.

Semi-hollow seems the way to go.

Back to bassics!  I would like a proper short scale bass that can take “off the shelf” flat wound strings without any modifications. For the band sound, solid would work better but I need something lightweight. Permanent nerve damage in my shoulders and arms rules out anything else, as I would rather not be in excruciating pain and at risk of losing the use of my arms and hands again. I even use a wide bass strap with the Tanglewood to help to spread the weight as it can start to feel very heavy.

It is quite hard to find out the weight of particular models. Most forum discussions about “lightweight” basses seem to revolve around things that weigh between 8lb and 10lb. The lightest short scale basses, at about 6lb to 6.5lb, seem to be the Hofner Violin Bass, Hofner Club Bass and the Danelectro Longhorn Bass.

I found a lot of complaints about those Hofners and their clones having “neck dive”, due to the body being light in comparison to the neck. That sort of imbalance can make the instrument seem heavier than it is because you have to support the neck even when wearing a strap.

At the moment I am lusting after a Duisenberg Starplayer Bass after having had second-hand temptation put in my hands!  I am such a sucker for Art Deco and it is so beautifully balanced that it feels even lighter than it already is.

2016-07-27 Duesenberg Starplayer Bass official smaller

A cheaper shortscale, lightweight bass would be a Danelectro Longhorn.  Also rather gorgeous but not in the class of that Duesenberg.

2016-07-27 Danelectro Longhorn Official

I have considered a LOT of other possibilities and these two are my favourites.

I do not know how much the Duesenberg Starplayer weighs but it does not feel very heavy.

At least the string choice would be easy with the Danelectro Longhorn – La Bella make a flat wound, short scale set that also happens to be designed for Danelectro basses:


I might post an update at some point. If I am not full of busy enjoying myself playing ukulele and bass guitar.

Singer-songwriter, music-maker, organiser and unionista, bit of a geek, life long learner - there is always room for improvement!

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Posted in Bass Guitar
3 comments on “Tanglewood TW15 Baby Bass modification – Gotoh small bass tuners + La Bella Deep Talkin’ Bass strings light
  1. coloradocityboyinthesticks says:

    Good post. I to play the bass guitar and have done for about 18 months. Isn’t it the best. Trying to play the guitar for years and it never took. Once I got a 4 string on my hands I couldn’t put it down. I’ve currently have two basses. The first is a cheap short scale Ibenez that was given to me from someone that quit playing. It’s strung up with medium gauge flats. My main bass is a Schecter Studio 4. It’s got standard rounds. I decided to try the flats just to see what they sounded and felt like. I loved it!!! Compared to rounds they’re like strings dipped in velvet so I strung both up. I did end up going back to rounds on my Schecter mainly because I wanted to have faster action from the instrument and the flats, because they require a lot more pressure to properly fret the note, made that more difficult. But I still love to play the flats on the Ibenez. It’s like a vacation for my fretting hand.


    • Hi coloradocityboyinthesticks ! MANY apologies for the delay replying! I am still in love with flat wound strings and have even got them on ukuleles and guitars now – Thomastik Infeld Flatwound Classicals 🙂

      I have also got a Danelectro Shortscale Longhorn bass and another one that I will have to finish writing up about soon as it is rather unusual.


  2. Hi Colorado,
    I am glad you liked the post. I added a bit afterwards about the settings on the amp and the bass EQ, ramping up the bass-nerd factor to 11 🙂

    In my scouring of Bass Forums for info about short-scale lightweight options I came across recommendations for the Schecter Diamond and that was on my short-list for a while.

    Another One thing I like about flat wound bass strings is the more “thuddy” sound. Have you ever tried a “Bass Uke”? They usually have silicone strings that were quite high-friction originally – with advice to apply talcum powder to the hands – but I am told that the newer ones are much more silky-feeling. They sound quite “thumpy”, more like an upright bass so go well with ukuleles.

    After finding out how lovely the flat-wounds feel on the bass I am very tempted to seek out flat-wounds for my ukes that have wound strings and for a lovely little parlour guitar in Nashville tuning that I don’t play nearly enough.

    If I can stop myself playing bass for long enough. The instant gratification aspect of the bass is very hard to resist!

    Best wishes,


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