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ATTENTION! All Music Man bass owners: "Weak G string" solved for good!

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Radguitars, Mar 2, 2018.

  1. I just purchased a 1983 Music Man Stingray bass from Bass Central in Florida without getting to play it first due to being states away. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous as it wasn't a cheap investment. It's a beautiful bass with an ash body in natural finish. The neck is straight, the truss rod works and it all looks correct for it's year minus the control knobs and pickguard that are clearly not original. Structurally the bass is awesome and a keeper and I was stoked about the bass… until I started playing it...

    Upon closer inspection I noticed the G string was considerably lower in the mix (lower output) and lifeless, meaning it was very muted in the high end. This was not an acceptable problem for the money I paid for this bass. I really wanted to love this bass but this could be a real deal breaker if this issue couldn't be solved. I started digging deeper to see why the G string was so bad and decided to take the strings off to access the pickup. I noticed the bass had an unmatched set of bass strings and the G string was not like the others. In my head, I was singing, "One of these strings is not like the others.", I remembered from watching Sesame Street when I was a kid. Lol! The E, A and D looked to be a set of DR Pure Blues strings. The ball end of the G was green colored (D' Addario maybe?) and the others brass.

    My first thought was to do the whole, "raise-the-pickup-to-get-the-pole-pieces-closer-to-the- string-solution" but this did very little, not to mention, it was already pretty maxed out. "Is this why the owner sold the bass?" I pondered as I questioned my sizable purchase! Did I just buy a problem? I pressed on.

    Next, I took the bass apart to check the pickup, preamp and anything else that looked suspect. Nothing looked off to me. I used a small screw driver and tapped on the pole pieces and listened to the tap sound to see if output was different between strings. I also listened to treble response and they all seemed to be pretty equal. This was a good thing and the pickup seemed solid and totally balanced and functional. I then changed out the op amp since I had one laying around from a previous repair I did on a buddies '79 Ray and it had no effect on the G string at all.

    I started thinking about it and it dawned on me that if the G string is made from different materials and is less magnetic than the other strings, it's going to present as having a weak output compared to the other strings. I had my 15 year old daughter help me do a magnetic experiment and we took a magnet to see if the G string seemed less magnetic than the others and it was definitely less magnetic. Was this the core root of my problem? Not quite, as I would soon discover.

    I bought a new set of DR Blues in 105-45 and installed them. I played it and the G string was very close to being as strong as the other strings and I thought I solved the problem. I played the bass further but I still was not impressed with the G string's clarity; the output seemed better but the tone was still lacking high end. Hmmm...

    I started google searching "weak G string on Music Man Stingray" and discovered that this is a fairly common problem and saw that many MusicMan owners have been plagued with the dreaded “weak G string” phenomenon. Some have actually sold there basses as they could not come to grips with an instrument that didn't have a balanced output and tone on all strings. This was not acceptable to me either so I pressed on.

    As I searched TB and the many threads on the subject, I found many solutions addressing the problem from many different angles and none of them made sense to me. Some went so far as to suggest changing your playing technique when playing the G string. Really?

    What then is the solution I came up with? I noticed that the pickup position in relation to the strings was not even at all. In other words, looking straight at the face of the bass I could see that the A and D strings were fairly centered over their respective pole piece but the E and G were off to the edge. In fact, the G string was the closest string to the edge of the pole piece. The G string was to the left of the pole piece and needed to move to the right or treble side to get closer to center. The basis of my discovery is, that magnets are much like microphones and have a magnetic polar pattern or invisible field space so to speak. Moving the string to the edge of the magnet is like moving your mouth away from the center of a microphone; the output and tonal response becomes compromised the further away from center you get. As I started looking at as many Stingray pictures from the same era I could find, I noticed that the vast majority suffer from this manufacturing flaw. The pickup pole pieces on the G string are really close to the edge of the magnet! How did this get overlooked?

    Solving the problem with as little invasiveness to the bass was high on my priority list since it's a vintage bass. "How do I get the G string more centered over the pole piece and not effect the position of the others?" I pondered. Everything seemed so fixed that I scratched my head for awhile. Moving the pickup was not an option nor was moving the bridge as this would require major surgery.

    The solution? I realized the saddles are all independent of each other and I decided if I could put shims between the bridge saddles, I could nudge the G string closer to the centerline of the G string pole piece and not disturb the other strings. Actually, I put a .030” brass shim, about a 3/8” square between the A and D string saddle. Then I put a .020” shim between the D and G string saddle. Finally, I put a .010” shim between the E and A string saddle. The combined amount I was able to nudge the G string to the center of the G string pole piece added up to right around .060-.070”. This is a huge amount in magnetic terms and the field that hovers invisibly over it!

    I then measured the centerline from string to string at the saddle and the E and A measures .760”. The A to D measures .775” and the D to G .770”. This amount is barely percievable to my right hand and it has made ever string closer to the center of their respective pole pieces.

    Did it work? You're damn right it did! Problem solved! Every string is balanced and the tone of the G string has all the output and treble response of the other 3 strings. Thank you Jesus! I made no invasive alterations to the bass and it is almost perfect. The only thing that became a bit of a problem is the angle of the string where it anchors at the tail of the bridge is more extreme and the G string wanted to slip out of the saddle groove so I filed a bit of a notch on the G string saddle it works perfectly!

    I hope this is becomes helpful to others that have written off your prized MM bass because the G string was not consistent in output and tone with the other strings on your bass. It’s so simple, but so easy to overlook and underestimate the position of the string over the pole piece and it's affect on output and tone. Magnets really are like a microphone and have a magnetic polar pattern they send out and to get maximum output and tone from the individual strings, the string to pole piece relationship cannot be underestimated. The strings must line up as close to centerline of the magnet as possible; at least on the Music Man Stingray bass that is. IMHO.

    Now I’m going to go play my newly acquired ’83 Music Man Stingray bass and bask in all it's tonal glory on all four strings! Blessings, Ryan.

    P.S. If anyone is interested in this thread, I'll happy to post some pics to show the before and after results.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
  2. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Hows the alignment on the neck? In other words, is the g string the same distance from the neck edge at the last fret as the E?

    I have just been looking at pics of stingrays on the Google and every one that is as you describe needs the neck shifted towards the G to even put the string neck margins: the G is too far inward from the edge and the E is too close to the edge. Loosening the neck bolts and swinging the head toward the G side would fix the problem. Example 7085E91D-9885-47CA-9DF6-CD035DCFDD56.jpeg
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
    kesslari likes this.
  3. Great question. In my case the margins were pretty similar on both sides and .065” didn’t change the margins that much. TheNeck joint is really tight so moving the neck would not have been an option for me.
  4. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    So the bridge plate saddle retaining "bumpers" weren't right up against the ends of the E and G string saddles and allowed the saddles to move horizontally?
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2018
  5. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    You’d be surprised how a hair of movement at the pocket rotates the head to the high side. Now look at your pocket, so tight. ONE SIDE IS PRACTICALLY WIDE OPEN. look at that nice rounded heel.

    Geometry. this has been discussed over many times. And the ones that don’t believe it are proven wrong every time.

    Think triangle. Draw a 20” line. Draw a 1/4” end side, the nut, and draw the return line. Look at the starting point, the heel. The small angle at the heel end and tiny spread of distance just past the point, yet you have 1/4” movement at the other. How does that translate into how far the string will move? FAR.

    Bolt on necks can move. Aligning them is a rarely thought of item that should always be looked at occasionally just as you assess relief and action from time to time.
  6. Another great point and one I didn’t address. In my case, the saddle on the G string was near the end of intonation screw and I had room to move towards it. If the saddle had been lower on the screw, the bumper would have been an issue for sure. I noticed this when I went back to check intonation. I lucked out as it was very close. Personally, if the bumper were an issue, I’d remove it to make the G string output right as the bumper is redundant as it has 3 screws and another bumper. IMHO

    I agree and I never found that thread or correction in my search but wholeheartedly agree this would get g string closer go the treble side edge but I still prefer my method as that .065” of nudging I did took all of 30 min and it yielded exacting results.

    What I felt was a missing link in the discussion is how important the string to magnet relationship is on this design. Strings closer to the center line of a pole piece have a stronger signal than strings off to the side. Moving the pickup up and down and blaming the preamp or adjusting the tone controls don’t solve the issue.

    I do like your idea though and it’s great advice for others should they have the same problem. I’ll certainly check it out for myself. Thanks!
    Steinbergerer and Giffro like this.
  7. 2B5423F9-F497-4C35-AF38-A84D8FD9F93D.jpeg 3199F345-CA3E-48ED-A795-AC8077637F62.jpeg
    Here are a couple of pictures to show the margins I had to work with. Zoom in close and you can barely see the brass shim stock which were .010” and I just layered them to get the desired thickness. Hope this helps.
  8. bass12

    bass12 Have you seen my tonsils lately? Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Good work! :thumbsup:
  9. levis76

    levis76 Defender of the Low Ender

    Apr 14, 2007
    Metro Detroit
    That looks to me like the entire bridge needs to swing to the right OR as suggested above, the neck needs to be straightened in the pocket a bit.

    But if it works for you, rock it.
  10. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    you mean because of the weird sideways angle the strings take off the saddles? that's ugly but normal.

    the actual alignment of the outside strings to the edges of the neck looks fine.
  11. If you look at pictures of most Stingrays of this era, the G string is to the inside edge of the pole piece but the other strings are pretty good but also favor their position to the bass side of the body. In my estimation, the pickup needed to be moved entirely to the left by say .075" or so. This clearly is a manufacturing flaw and oversight in my estimation.

    The reason I would not want to mess with the neck and pocket union is because it is exactly as it should be straight
    down the centerline of the bass. It's a really snug fit as well. If I wanted to do some sort of invasive correction I would remove the threaded plugs that the pickup screws thread into and reposition the pickup to the bass side but the pick guard might become a factor than.

    In all honesty, the bass is playing so well and everything is so balanced across all the string's output and tonal response, I don't need to change a thing and I'm totally stoked with this bass. If the bumper next to the G string had been a factor for me, I would have used another bumper to allow for the space of the strings being offset with the shimming I did.

    I've also learned that this is a Grover Jackson made bass as he took over the production for Music Man when CLF dropped the ball on them with bad necks and straight truss rod channels. This year does not get the respect it deserves as I owned a '79 in '79 as it was my first bass. It had a horrible neck and they replaced it at Music Man but the bass could never be set up properly and I just learned about the 2,500 bad necks that Leo and Co. made around '79-'80. Those basses suck if you got one of the bad necks! This bass rocks, thanks to Grover Jackson and bailing out Tom Walker and continuing the production of the basses between 80-83 before Ernie Ball took over in "84.
    I totally scored and I'm pretty sure a so called "famous bass player" that owned this bass before me got rid of it because of the weak G string issue. His loss, my gain as this smokes the other bass I had.

    One last thing, the other thing I love about this bass is the non-epoxied preamp is totally serviceable and if anything goes wrong there it's an easy fix. I really hope this thread sheds some light on the whole issue and others can learn from this discovery. These are really awesome and iconic pieces of bass history.
    mouthmw and bdplaid like this.
  12. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    That’s after he put shims between the saddles. Remove them and back to square one. Aligning the neck will fix the problem with no need of saddle shims.
    Lownote38 likes this.
  13. I like to Shimmie, you like to do the twist. : ) To each his own I say!

    The neck and neck pocket are a fixed parameter for me. Yes, turning the neck in the pocket might yield an impact on the string placement but using your “triangle theory” the largest amount of movement would happen at the fulcrum point (the neck heal) and less at the ends of the triangle. (The nut and bridge)
    My method moves the strings independently, closest to the pickup poles as possible, where they need to be nudged. Your method would move it closer to the heal of the neck and less at the pickup, and all four strings would move the same amount. Mine is per string and is much more exacting.

    The design flaws in this bass, I believe, are a compound issue.
    The pickup pole piece spacing is wrong but it’s fixed. The pickup placement on the body is wrong but could be corrected. The bridge placement is probably wrong as well, but again, I want the least amount of surgery to be done to preserve its “vintageness” if that’s even a word.

    The last in the chain of possible design flaws, IMO, is the neck pocket and the position of the neck in the pocket. It is correctly placed on centerline of the bass body and they did a great job at making it a tight fit; which is the goal with bolt-on necks as energy is being transferred here.

    The edge of the neck and the body on the E string side is also an important line to me. The more contact the better IMO. Moving the neck away from this edge to compensate for string position, would allow less contact to be made and leave a gap. Maybe it’s my ocd, but I’m extremely particular about semetry and straightness and it would bug me to have the neck turned out leaving this gap. The shims are still the most effective and least invasive option for me.

    All I'm trying to do is make corrections on an innately flawed design that has to do with pole pieces incorrectly lining up on all four strings. Had they gotten this right in design and in implementation then I wouldn’t be writing this thread right now and the “dreaded weak G string” phenomenon wouldn’t have existed. It’s making the best of a not so great situation. Many people have sold their basses over these errors because they didn’t see the inherent issue I am doing my best to highlight. It’s totally correctable and has made the bass a diamond in the rough.

    Good luck to anyone who finds this thread helpful.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
    31HZ and dralionux like this.
  14. Oh, and by the way, the “weird sideways angles” of the strings between the bridge heal and the string saddles is another design flaw. Somebody didn’t think this one through as well. My few thousandths of an inch did little to make this problem worse. Look at any of the top load bridges on these ‘81-‘83 basses with top loaded bridges and you’ll see these weird string angles. Quality control was not one of Music Man’s stronger points it appears. Like Walter Wright said, this is normal because they were designed abnormally. If that makes sense.
    bdplaid likes this.
  15. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    That particular design flaw was addresses shortly thereafter...
    View attachment 2940518
    See how the slots are no longer central to the saddle, and the bridge itself is not symmetrical around the centre line.
  16. Nice! This must be an Ernie Ball bass? I know QC became central to EB success.

    I almost hate to ask cause it will sound a bit personal, but how is your G String?

    Alignment that is.
  17. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    That particular design flaw was addresses shortly thereafter...
    See how the slots are no longer central to the saddle, and the bridge itself is not symmetrical around the centre line.
    Steinbergerer likes this.
  18. Not bad. Still not great as far as the pickup pole piece alignment is concerned. It's probably centered enough to have decent string output. I found another '83 on reverb and the saddles are threaded to the left of the string slot and the angle is much less but the string is still not centered well over the pole piece which is my main point. The bridge is not as big of a concern to me as long as it works and can be adjusted and intonated properly. Is this an Ernie Ball?
  19. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    It's fine, but then its also fretless so the whole thing is perhaps more mid-focussed. I tend to have the bass just off min, maybe up to 1/4, and treble about 1/3 turn back from centre...
  20. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes, 1993. Don't know why there are duplicate posts - I'm sure I only hit the button once...
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Feb 27, 2021

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