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Are dead spots a function of the bass as a whole?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Temcat, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. I wonder if dead spots are a function of the bass as a whole or just a neck. By moving the neck to a different body, can you move or even (when lucky) eliminate dead spots?
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    In my experience string response in general is in the neck. YMMV.
  3. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    It's the neck. A dead spot occurs when the resonant frequency of a note matches that of the neck, so the neck absorbs the note.
  4. In general I agree BUT I think the mass of the body is part of the equation. I've moved necks onto heavier or lighter bodies and noticed a change in the dead spot.
  5. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Correct; the location of dead spots is a function of the resonance frequency of the instrument, which in turn is a function of the ratio of the headstock mass to the body mass. So, one has options in trying to change this ratio to relocate dead spots to areas where they are less offensive or sometimes no longer an issue.

    To change the ratio of headstock/body mass, the most simple change I can think of is switching to lighter tuners. I was able to effectively relocate/remove the dead spot on my Rickenbacker 4003FL (C on the D string) by doing this.

    Other options are available (body hardware), but generally, lighter is preferable to heavier, and depending on the nature and location of the dead spot, different changes will have varying levels of success.
  6. Tunaman


    Dec 26, 2004
    You can move it. Try adding a headstock tuner to see if you can, or a capo. May be a note you dont hit as much. I have a dead spot at B & I hate it so I adjusted my neck a bit & did that stuff & its not as much of an issue now
  7. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Neck, IME.

    Also IME, shortscale necks are much better at controlling dead/hot spots than longscale necks.
  8. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    It's a function/ side effect of the neck/headstock design, mostly. An asymmetrical headstock with relatively large percentage of the mass off-center has more of a propensity to have a dead spot. On a bass, the headstock vibrates sympathetically with the strings, and if asymmetrical, there is a twisting action to the neck also which shows up at a resonant note/frequency.
    This is also dependent on the rigidity/flexibility (front-to-back and sideways) of the neck. The vibration source and canceling is of course between the body mass and the headstock mass-
    some designs are more prone to the effect than others.
    Then again, what manufacturer does a stress and vibration analysis on the system before selling to the public?
    Basically anecdotal info is your best source of info.
  9. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    You can think of it this way:

    The geometry and mechanical construction of the neck will determine how much and how noticeable the dead spots will be. But the sum total of the neck, body, and hardware weight on the headstock will determine what frequencies the deadspots will be at. The neck causes them, but the whole instrument determines where they'll be.

    So, if a bass has obvious dead spots, adding mass to the headstock will move them up the scale. Removing mass from the headstock will move them down the scale. The trick is to move them half a fret either way, which will do the best job of hiding them between notes.

    Switching to a heavier or lighter body will also move them, but the effect is usually less. That is, it will take more weight change to make a comparable shift.

    But the dead spots will still be there, unless you switch necks or modify the stiffness of the neck. They are mostly a problem on Fender-pattern necks; 4-string, 34" scale, bolt-on. They will happen on other combinations, but not as often.

    We Luthiers have different techniques for avoiding dead spots. In my own experience with my Scroll Basses, two things eliminated them: switching to 3-piece laminated maple necks or going to 35" scale on a one-piece neck.

    I'm not sure why my 3-piece neck has no dead spots. It isn't significantly stiffer than a one piece neck made from the same wood. But it seems to change or reduce the ability of the neck to go into those vibration modes. That's just the particular combination on my basses. A laminated neck certainly doesn't guarantee no dead spots, but it seems to help.

    Other guys who build Fender-pattern necks add internal stiffeners or internal damper elements to eliminate them. Unfortunately there aren't any proven formulas. It usually comes down to trial and error.
  10. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    Add mass to the headstock with a Fat Finger.
  11. gleneg61


    Jan 10, 2008
    Osaka Japan
    I would say flaw, not function, but an unavoidable one nonetheless. Apparently, according to many demigods & mavericks of bass design, headless basses evolved as an attempt to rid us of this scourge & still remain to this day our best option I believe: whether they suit your idea of style over substance is your option. I love them but YMMV.
  12. never ran into this elusive dead spots.
  13. MoBe


    May 7, 2013
    I reckon Ned Steinberger solved the problem a long time ago but people wouldn`t buy his solution so his early designs are now collectors items.
  14. syisrad


    Oct 28, 2008
    Maybe dead spots are the result of an unseated fret
  15. IMO lighter tuners and/or a heavier bridge might help alleviate some of the issue.

    I currently have the problem with a Geddy Lee Jazz bass. Am looking at two options as follows:

    1. Mods - changing tuners, bridge and pickups.
    2. Replacing the bass entirely and saying the hell with it
  16. syisrad


    Oct 28, 2008
    Wasn't joking about the frets. Use common sense before hypothetical waffle.

    The most common cause for dead notes is a fret or frets that have come loose/unseated or were never installed 100% in the first place.

    It won't be a glaringly obvious loose fret and you will have to examine dead note causing fret carefully.

    It's the number 1 reason why good luthiers glue in frets. Majority of production line basses don't.

    If the fret isn't seated nice and tight it WILL produce a noticeable dead note at a lower volume to the rest. I'm not talking about buzzing frets here.

    If you're 100% your frets are perfect then worry about your Einstein theories.

    Certainly don't get rid of a bass before checking or having your local luthier check first!

  17. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru.......... Supporting Member

    So, how does that account for dead spots on fretless basses?
  18. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    ummmm...goblins???? ^^^^^
  19. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    Yeah, you would think that Fender would have figured out to give that 5-6-7 fret area an extra whack or two under the G string by now.