FOUNDED IN GERMANY IN 1887, HÖFNER
may forever be typecast by low-end
the company that made Sir Paul
“Beatle Bass.” After World War II,
its factory to Bubenreuth, Germany,
into high gear with the post-war
boom. Höfner made quite a few notable basses over the years, including
one of my favorites, the jazz
styled hollowbody 333, later called
President bass. Stu Sutcliff e
played a 333
before Paul took over bass duties in
the Fab Four and ordered a left-
handed violin bass from Höfner.
This slim solidbody gem, courtesy of
Nashville guitar shop Music City Pick-
ers (musiccitypickers.com), was built
in 1962 as part of the 173 guitar line.
Many short-scale basses of this era are
simply slightly larger and longer guitars.
In this case, it is apparent that someone at
Höfner must have been aware of the work
of a certain Mr. Fender in California. During the ’60s Höfner was exporting
different versions of its instruments all over
Europe, and this particular design, also known as the Artist bass in some circles, is a good example of the transitional nature of many of the company’s
designs outside of the iconic Beatle Bass.
The tomato red glossy finish is still in great shape after 50 years,
and the black pickguard and matching headstock are a nice touch.
The visual highlight has to be the fingerboard inlays, which are two
stripes of pearloid with a black stripe in the middle, which gives the
neck a unique, almost 3-D appearance. The machined metal hardware
gives this bass a sleek “modern” look, especially given the time frame.
The two-part tailpiece with a screw-on top is an interesting hybrid of an
old school “trapeze” bridge and a more modern approach, marrying the
strings to the body and helping with sustain. The metal saddle is aesthetically beautiful, but typically for this era, it has no adjustments other than
height. Luckily, the neck is straight and intonation is fairly accurate, though
experimenting with different string gauges could possibly dial it in
This bass sounds great and feels more solid than most short-scales.
front pickup has a deepness that belies the short scale, and with both pick-
ups blended together, the 173 has a punchy sound, not unlike its larger
American cousin the Fender Jazz. The neck pickup is much more
useful than the bridge pickup, which gives a nice crunch when
blended in but sounds a little thin on its own. The polepiece
adjustments offer a way to tweak individual strings’ level,
but overall this bass is very even and devoid of dead spots.
The neck is slim but fairly thick, not unlike Hag-
ström or Eko basses of that time period. The bolt-
on neck’s profile sits rather high above the body on
a level even with the relatively tall pickups. The
shorter scale length imparts a nice “rubberyness”
to the tone and feel. This bass has roundwound
strings, which give an extra growl that flat-
wounds would probably de-emphasize. I can
guess that this would make an excellent reggae
bass with flats or nylon tapewound strings.
Bending strings is a blast and gives solo playing another dimension.
This bass has a cool look, and its Fender-
inspired style is quite different from the violin/
jazz-guitar influence that was prevalent on earlier Höfner basses. It is well made and really is
much like a miniaturized Jazz Bass. The 173
came and went fairly quickly, but it survives as a
great example of a venerable company not being
afraid to stretch out away from its roots and absorb
new influences. We can all learn something from that
approach! Until next time, peace, love, and grooves to
you all. —DAVE POMEROY