Bass of the Week: Hofner 500/1 Vintage 1963 Violin Bass

In 1955, Walter Hofner came up with the idea to make a short scale bass guitar with a violin-shaped hollow body. The idea came to life the next year at the Frankfurt trade show and made its rounds, eventually landing in the hands of Beatles member Paul McCartney, who had to switch from guitar to bass following the departure of Stu Sutcliffe. In 1963, Hofner sent McCartney an updated bass, which he used during a performance an the Ed Sullivan Show, and an icon was born.

Hofner 500/1 Vintage '63 Violin Bass

Hofner decided to reissue an exact version of the bass in 2004 with the 500/1 Vintage ’63 Violin Bass. The bass features a select German spruce top with back and sides of flamed maple, while the 3-piece neck is constructed of maple and beech. The rosewood fingerboard sports 22 frets with mother-of-pearl dot inlays.

A pair of Hofner’s “Staple” humbuckers are controlled via dual volume controls as well as on/off switches and a rhythm/solo switch. Hardware includes the company’s 72/20B ebony bridge, 62/30 trapeze brass tailpiece, and a floating pearl celluloid pickguard.

The process of building a Beatles bass is quite remarkable, as documented by this awesome video Hofner uploaded to YouTube:

The Hofner 500/1 Vintage ’63 Violin Bass is now discontinued, but is replaced with the Vintage ’64. For more details, check out the Hofner website.

Hofner 500/1 Vintage ’63 Violin Bass closeup Photo Gallery:

Hofner 500/1 Vintage ’63 Violin Bass Specs:

  • Select German spruce top, back, and sides of flamed maple
  • Maple-beech-maple neck
  • Rosewood fretboard with 22 frets
  • Mother-of-pearl dots
  • Scale: 30? (76cm)
  • Neck width at nut: 1-5/8? (42mm)
  • Machine heads: Hofner 61/73B (4 individual)
  • Hofner 72/20B ebony bridge with movable metal saddles for perfect intonation and string spacing
  • Hofner 62/30 trapeze brass tailpiece
  • Hofner 65/36-P floating pearl celluloid pickguard
  • 2 Hofner 511B “Staple” humbucking pickups
  • Hofner A2-B control panel with 2 volume controls, 2 on/off switches, and rhythm/solo switch for volume boost
  • Nickel-plated hardware

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Share your thoughts

  1. Very cool nice looking bass but you can shoot arrows off the strings just sayin :)

  2. My very first bass guitar was this baby, my Beatle bass! Wish I still had it today, traded it for a Rickenbacher.

  3. My 500/1 was stolen when I entered the service in 1970. I play the Icon model now. Not the same!!! I miss my baby too! Ditto

  4. Love my v63 500/1 , I was very fortunate to come across it when I did. And it’s a lefty to boot! They seem very hard to come across just like the original 63- 500/1- lefty.

  5. Love my V63 – 500/1 , I was very fortunate to come across it when I did. And it’s a lefty to boot! They seem to be very hard to come across just like the original 63 – 500/1 – lefty.

  6. Love my V63 500/1. I was very fortunate to come across it when I did , and it’s a lefty to boot! They seem to be very hard to find now just like the original 63 – 500/1 – lefty.

  7. Here is My Baby that I purchased while in the service many years ago in Germany I have not seen one like it here in the states. Can anyone help me with a ID for it. Still have it and it plays like a dream…

    • Hey Ron,
      Nice bass! Looks a lot like this Early ’70s Hofner 500/1M:

    • If it doesn’t have the switches between the sets of knobs, it may be a 500/1B.

    • Hi Keven Yes that’s as close as I can get to identifying it exactly. Mine has a different type of bass boost switch ( only one and it is a push button and the pick up selector switch is a different style) It is a 500 series though and I have been told it was a limited edition Super Beatle Bass that was only sold in Europe. It has no serial #s but I do have the pot #s (Vol Pot # 182/250K and Tone pot # 31056). I sent a msg to Hofner today waiting to see if I hear back from them.

    • Cool! Let me know what you find out. I’m intrigued.

    • @ Kevin ( @[68110761:2048:Kevin Johnson]) I will and you guys at No Treble keep up the good work…BTW those bumper stickers made great Christmas presents for a few of My bass playing friends Thank You!

  8. I just got a CT 500/1 last week. Lovely! Now I want Hofner to make a long-scale violin bass.

  9. You lucky dog Kirk. Wish I could afford a new Hofner. Teachers don’t make much doe but we love our Hofners no matter what version.

  10. I had a mid 60s Hofner for a couple years until the neck bowed badly.
    But it is the easiest bass guitar of all to play or learn on.

  11. I’ve got an Ignition series Beatle bass and I love it. It’s not as well-appointed as the Contemporary model but it plays great and, strung with La Bella flats, it has the ’63 sound (no center block). Of course, I lust for the more expensive models, but this one serves me well.

  12. Mikael Lindgren

    I got a 63, 500/1 that will be for sale in a while (a year or two). It´s not in mint condition, but has never been altered. Neck is strait and it sounds great. Really easy to play …love it, but i will be going for a long voyage in a 2-3 years time, then it will be for sale.

  13. Jicky Czar

    The Hofner shown in the slide show is not an exact McCartney Hofner.
    Macca’s has the “strip” style machines. The one shown has individual machines.