Post your tips for solid B on a short scale

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by the baint, Dec 30, 2013.


  1. the baint

    the baint Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2010
    Location:
    Greenville, SC
    I know Owen Biddle and Callowhill are pretty high profile proponents of terrific B strings on shorter scale bases. I have seen it argued here that long scale isn’t required for that low end “if you build it right”.

    But what does it take to accomplish a tight and satisfactory B in shorter scales? I’m planning a 33", but i know people go down to 30" or less. My case is less extreme, but I’m sure others would appreciate a stickyable trove of what works for the experienced builders.

    What do you see as key here?
  2. David Jayne

    David Jayne

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2006
    Location:
    Brookfield, CT
    Stiffness is your friend. Make the neck out of the toughest, stiffest wood and keep it on the fat/wide side.
  3. Triad

    Triad Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2006
    Location:
    Europe
    Disclosures:
    Bass Builder
    My personal view is that the sound can be good but it can be a bit too "flappy" under your fingers, so you'll have to use a pretty heavy gauge.
    I've made 5ers and 6ers in 32" scale and the B sounded good... never made a 5 30" because nobody ever asked for it but I'd personally recommend it only to players with very light touch and specific needs.
  4. the baint

    the baint Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2010
    Location:
    Greenville, SC
    Hmm, good point Triad. I forgot about the playability/feel factor being just as important and something short-scale detractors are quick to point out.

    Fatter gauge strings or balanced-tension sets like Circle K should help even out the feel of a floppy string. Anything else that affects the “feel” portion of the equation?
  5. jamesCD

    jamesCD Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2013
    Location:
    Huntsville, AL
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    Luthier: Carrigan Designs
    I just recently sold a 30" scale 5 string. Not the first one I've made. All of them had nice clear low B's using medium gauge strings.
    I've tried twice to make a 32" with a low B. Each time the low B came out slightly floppy and sounding like mud. Wound up stringing them E-C.
    For some reason I can get them to sound good at 30" and 35", but I just don't like the way they sound in between.
    Don't think I've managed to be of any help, but I wish you good luck with your build.
  6. tjclem

    tjclem

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2004
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Disclosures:
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I have done several 32 scale with low b and strung them with DR high beams never had a complaint. Don't go with TI flats though. Good luck and happy new year! :hyper:
  7. reverendrally

    reverendrally

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2008
    Location:
    Sydney Australia
    [​IMG]
    Just finishing this bass. It's rocking a 33" inch B. Sounds as good or better than my old Stringray 5. The key as others have said... FAT gauge B string. It's running a .130". You could even go bigger than that.
  8. the baint

    the baint Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2010
    Location:
    Greenville, SC
    Nice to hear it’s working so well, Rev.

    So far no mentions of break angles, through body, etc…
  9. Big B.

    Big B.

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    This has been my experience also. The sound on shorter scales B's can work well but the looser feel just doesn't work for me personally. I agree that stiffer necks do seem to maintain a more solid B but the biggest determining factor in making the B string sound the way I prefer is a quality pre with sweepable mids. The low mids can make a BIG difference in how those notes respond and sound.

    As far as feel goes that's a personal thing. I like a full sounding B but I have to be able to articulate extremely short notes as well and the shorter scales dont work for me in that regard. I feel comfortable with 4 string basses in all scales but I have yet to play a bass with less than 35" scale that had a B string that was perfect for me personally.
  10. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

    Joined:
    May 20, 2005
    Location:
    Norman, OK
    My 34" 5-string has a .136 gauge B string. (Actually, it has a .136 Balanced 5-string set from Circle K, so it's .136, .102, .076, .057, and .041). The strings feel good and sound great. The open B has the same basic percussive, ringing timbre as the open E, A, D, and G strings, and since it's a balanced set, approximately the same feeling as well.

    I'm quite pleased with the strings, and I plan to use them on every bass I build with anything lower than E1.

    So my tip would be: Use the right string.
  11. TheJoshinator

    TheJoshinator

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2012
    Nope. It's because those things don't really affect the sound or feel too much, from what I understand. The factors to be considered are the tension and flexibility of the string - a thicker gauge string will feel tighter under the fingers and have a greater harmonic content due to the increased tension. Conversely, a low-tension string has a stronger fundamental with weaker harmonics, and that sounds flabby and weak at low frequencies.

    The stiffness of the string can also change the feel - I've had loose-sounding strings that felt pretty tight because they were so stiff, and real heavy-gauge, tight-sounding strings that felt more supple because of their flexibility. In fact, I believe Circle K even says on their website to order strings a size larger than you're used to, because they make unusually flexible strings to get richer harmonic content out of them and they feel looser than they are.

    Edit: Beaten to the punch three different ways! XD As has been more succinctly said, use the right string. I've got a D'Addario .145 string tuned to A at 34" and it sounds fine - tuned up to B, it's massive!

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