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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