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B-String: Tight or Floppy

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by malthumb, Dec 30, 2001.


  1. malthumb

    malthumb

    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    I don't think I've asked a truly stupid question this year and it's almost over, so I'll do it now:

    Independent of string selection, what can a LUTHIER do to make the B-string tight? Some 34" scale basses have a tighter B than some 35", so it can't ALL be in the length of the scale. From tuning peg to nut to bridge, what are the tricks a luthier can employ to make the B string as taut as can be?

    If you answered the first part, then I have two follow up questions:

    1) Then why don't they ALL do it?

    and

    2) Will the "difference" carry over through changes in string brand and / or gauge?

    I have a 5 and a 6 string bass, but on both I've always replaced with the same brand strings the bass came with, so I have no experience with the impact of string differences. But I am curious as to what the luthier can do to ensure a great B.

    Peace,

    James
     
  2. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    Given the same string, and the same scale length, I really can't conceive how anything else could make the tension different. My best guess is that the other factors involved, nut/bridge angle, nut-to-tuner length, through-body, change the other factors involved (flexibility, interaction with the neck and body), and either give the impression that the string is "tighter", or allow heavier strings to be used but still sound good.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    A stiffer neck can counter B string floppiness to some extent.
     
  4. There are many factors which can influence how "tight" the B string feels/sounds. These can range from the stability of the bridge, nut and tuning machines, to the guage of the string to the stiffness of the neck. The amount of energy which is dissipated by the body while the string vibrates is a very serious issue.

    When the string vibrates (and we'll just deal with the fundamental here) the tension of the string changes, from normal, when the string is in the equilibrium position, to maximum, when the string is at its maximum amplitude lf vibration. Now lets say that we have two different necks, a stiffer multi-lam graphite reinforced one and a flatsawn maple neck. If the maple neck "gives" or moves more as the string reaches maximum amplitude, then the string is gonna be affected, as the tension on the string will drop as the neck bends. This will cause a looser sound, less sustain (as the string will lose energy as the neck bends).

    The stability of the bridge, nut and tuning machines also comes into play similarily to neck stiffness, causing a loss of energy in the string, and adversely affecting the vibration of the string.

    Geoff
     
  5. There are many factors which can influence how "tight" the B string feels/sounds. These can range from the stability of the bridge, nut and tuning machines, to the guage of the string to the stiffness of the neck. The amount of energy which is dissipated by the body while the string vibrates is a very serious issue.

    When the string vibrates (and we'll just deal with the fundamental here) the tension of the string changes, from normal, when the string is in the equilibrium position, to maximum, when the string is at its maximum amplitude lf vibration. Now lets say that we have two different necks, a stiffer multi-lam graphite reinforced one and a flatsawn maple neck. If the maple neck "gives" or moves more as the string reaches maximum amplitude, then the string is gonna be affected, as the tension on the string will drop as the neck bends. This will cause a looser sound, less sustain (as the string will lose energy as the neck bends).

    The stability of the bridge, nut and tuning machines also comes into play similarily to neck stiffness, causing a loss of energy in the string, and adversely affecting the vibration of the string.

    Why don't all 5, 6, 7,.... string basses have stiffer necks? I would say it is production cost. Graphite reinforcement, superior quality (stability) woods, or a graphite neck, stable bridges and tuning machines all cost money. On a $300 bass, you really can't expect these things. Not everyone is prepared, or deems it necessary to pay the money necessary to get an instrument with a tighter B string.

    String guage and more specifically the linear mass density of the string can play an important role in the B string. The denser the string (over the length) the more tension required to tune the string to a given note. The more tension the tighter the string :rolleyes:.

    Hope this makes sense to you, and that it helps,
    Geoff
     
  6. alembicbones

    alembicbones

    Nov 10, 2000
    Seattle, WA
    James,

    Sorry if I'm going off topic, but I noticed that you've continued to use the same brand of strings that the bass originally shipped with. Am I to assume that you use the Alembic Compression Wounds on your Series basses exclusively?

    I've mainly used the CX-5's on my old Essence and now my Europa, but have tried Ken Smith's and Fodera's also. Each time, I've gone back to the CX-5's. Personally, I think the CX-5's match an Alembic bass very well.

    Best wishes for a very happy new year,

    Bones
     
  7. malthumb

    malthumb

    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City

    Bones,

    My 5 string Alembic has only worn Alembic CX-3's. My 6 string Hanewinckel has only worn Ken Smith Rock Masters. My other two Alembics are 4 stringers and have gone through some brand and gauge changes.

    My '87 Series I came to me with RotoSound RN66LD's. Sometimes I use those, sometimes I use CX-3's. It's wearing CX-3's now.

    My '74 Series I came with who knows what on it and has had GHS Bass Boomers, D'Addario EXL 280 Piccolo gauge strings, and is now wearing Alembic CX-3's with ADGC tuning.

    I haven't changed brands on my Alembic 5 because I like the sound and feel of the B-string and don't wanna screw up a good thing. The Hanewinckel is a different story, though. The B is tight and sounds fine on it's own. It sounds a little out of balance when mixed in with the other strings, though, if that makes any sense. It seems to have less than adequate mid response when I'm playing across strings, or at least less mid response than the E or A. It sounds boomy by comparison. I'm going to experiment with pick up height, then I may consider changing string brands.

    Peace,

    James

    And may all TBer's, and their friends, families, and bandmates have a Safe and Happy New Year!!!
     
  8. I heard that somebody once converted his old Carvin five string to string-thru, and it made a huge difference in the tension. I've also heard that the angle of the string when it is stretched over the nut makes a difference.
     
  9. The string angle over the bridge makes sense, as the string applies more pressure on the nut, and thus less energy is transmitted past the nut to the non-vibrating (theoretically) string. Changing the length of the string that is not vibrating such as at the headstock end of the bass, does not make a difference in the overall tension of the string as some people may think. Although the length of the string is extended, which WOULD require the string to have more tension to vibrate at a given note, the scale length, or vibrating length of the string is not changed. Physically the frequency of vibration is dependent only on the tension and length of a given string. If lengthening the non-vibrating length of the string required more tension to bring a string to tune then fretting a note would accomplish nothing, and the string would only be able to produce one note along all its length (you may have to think about that statement for a minute, but it really does make sense).

    The string through body system, as I had on my fender, increased the break angle over the saddle, as opposed to if I used the bridge to attach the strings. The reason the string sounds different is due to the increased break angle, and thus increased down pressure, and the fact that the body is more stable than the bridge for mounting the string. The string through body method doesn't require any more tension to bring the string up to a certain note.

    Hope this is useful/interesting to someone,
    Geoff
     
  10. The core wire has a lot to do with the tension. For example, the Thomastik-Infeld flatwound strings are known for being super loose and sloppy. The opposite end of the spectrum is the Rotosound, which are very high tension. Both on the same 34" scale bass. DR Lo-Riders are more stiff then DR Hi-Beams in the same sizes due to different cores.

    The T-I Jazz Flat B (0.136") has a published tension of 34.8 pounds. The D'Addario XL160 B string (0.135") is 36.1 pounds tension. Yet, the T-I are much looser than the D'Addario.

    I run GHS Progressives with a 0.135" B on my RB5 and find it both articulate and non-sloppy. This is a 35.1 pound tension according to the GHS tension computer on their site.
     
  11. malthumb

    malthumb

    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    Hey guys,

    Thanx for all the replies to what I thought was a stupid question. I'm learning quite a bit from the responses that have been posted so far. I'll have to take the string core wire impact into consideration if I decide to try different strings on my 6 string.

    The string angle info sounds logical, but alas, my 6 string is the one bass I have WITHOUT an adjustable nut. I don't think I'll go the route of drilling to make it a string through. I like the bass a lot and the unevenness of the B to the other strings is not totally objectionable. If I can't solve it through string choices, I know I can get some improvement through EQ. I just lose the ability to switch basses in a set w/o some knob tweakin'.

    Peace,

    James
     
  12. nanook

    nanook

    Feb 9, 2000
    Alaska
    Why would you want a "tight" B string?

    My theory is that all strings on a bass should be as loose as possible without hitting (vibrating against) something; i.e. frets, pickups or fingerboard.

    The looser the string the better the growl and the more bassie it sounds. That is our business, right?

    That is why short scale basses sound so much better on the D and G string than their long scaled cousins.

    A good 34" will provide a tight enough B string and still do justice to the D string but with only a marginal G.

    A 35"....well forget the G string, might as well cut it off and the D is getting pretty dirty.

    Keep um loose!
     
  13. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    So if you like loose strings, why not use lighter guages? I think there's more to it than that.
     
  14. Agreed!!

    Geoff
     
  15. nanook

    nanook

    Feb 9, 2000
    Alaska
    That is kind of self defeating. Bigger strings have a better gut bustin low end sound. Thin gauge strings have always had kind of a wuss sound to me.

    The bass sound is what we are after.

    Actually, Dingwall got it right, agreed?
     
  16. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    So do you totally hate the sound of an upright? What about 42" scale electric uprights?
     
  17. This is a great question, and some good answers so far. I've always wondered this myself. I have two 34" scale 5 strings, a Carvin and a Stingray 5. The difference in B string tone, sustain, punch etc. is nothing short of amazing.

    Using the exact same brand and gauge of string, the Carvin B is average in tone when plucked with a light touch. Any agressive style played on it causes the tone to bottom out, losing most of the fundamental. In order to produce any kind of tight, punchy tone, I need to roll off the neck pickup completely.

    The Music Man, OTOH, has a crisp, clear, punchyu as hell B string. Sounds great no matter how hard or light I play. In fact, it sounds better the harder I pluck.

    The tension on each B feels the same to me. One doesn't feel tighter or looser than the other.

    The Carvin has a graphite enforced maple neck, ebony board, angled back headstock. Bridge, nut and tuners are stable. Music man has Maple/maple, straight headstock. Bridge, nut and tuners are stable.

    Although the explanations given do explain a lot, it seems like there's something else at work here accounting for superior B strings. Malthumb, this is very mysterious!
     
  18. nanook

    nanook

    Feb 9, 2000
    Alaska
    Absolutely, I despise the sound of an upright.

    To each their own, and I don't say it to stir up any hard feelings, I just find the sound repulsive.

    I don't own one right now but I think the very best (4 string) bass sound comes from a 32" hollow body fretted bass with heavy gauge flat wound strings.
     
  19. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I know this may be controversial but I was given this answer back in 1974*, before low B's became commonplace. I, too wondered aloud at this mystery. It's actually almost too simple.

    Elfin magic.


    See?


    *okay, the brownies may have had something to do with it.
     
  20. [​IMG]

    I knew those little f***ers had something to do with it...