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B string tightness?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Stu Rose, Nov 28, 2005.


  1. Greetings,

    This maybe best answered by the builders but all veiws are very welcome.

    How is it that on 5 string basses with 34" scales some Bs are tight and others complain they're floppy with no focus?

    Wouldn't they all be the same in theory with maybe the tension of the strings being the only factor?

    Please explain if I'm missing something?
     
  2. rdnzl@comcast.n

    rdnzl@comcast.n

    Oct 30, 2005
    WA
    Its all in how you hold your mouth.

    ;)
     
  3. bazzanderson

    bazzanderson

    Oct 7, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I think tension and the way the string feels can be two different things. The stiffer the neck (and better constructed bass) the string will feel "tighter".

    Can anyone back this up with some science?
    Bazz
     
  4. mantelclock

    mantelclock

    Jul 19, 2005
    Pitch is a function of string length, string tension, and string mass. Increase the mass, and the pitch drops. Increase the length, same thing. Increase the tension and the pitch rises. So, keeping the length constant at 34", if you use heavier strings, you will have to apply more tension on them in order to get to the appropriate pitch. There are practical limitations to all three parameters...
     
  5. There are more factors in tone than just the scale length. Also, when someone says that a string sounds floppy, what do they mean? Choked? Muddy? These things could be caused by things other than the scale length.
     
  6. MAJOR METAL

    MAJOR METAL HARVESTER OF SORROW Staff Member Supporting Member

    I dont think a 35 scale ensures automaticly a tight B string, for me Sadowsky has the best Low B i have tried on a 5 string and they are 34 inc scale. I would think neck mass and strength would be factors in a nice tight Low B.
     
  7. mantelclock

    mantelclock

    Jul 19, 2005
    All else equal, a string tuned to B on a 35" scale neck would need to have higher tension than the same note on a 34" scale neck. All else equal. Physics 101.
     
  8. +1... it's the all other things being equal that get in the way. Different brands of strings with the same spec (i.e., 125, 128, whatever) feel different and from what I understand, can actualy have different tensions tuned to the same pitch based on core design, etc..

    Also, IMO, as another mentioned above, I think different sound cues can fool the player into perceiving different B string tensions... i.e., I've found that a bass with a poor B string sound due to either electronics or the specific design or material of the bass also can result in the B string 'feeling sloppy'.... which might translate into the player believing that it has 'lower tension'.

    Most of my basses are 35" scale. My 34" scale Sadowsky's B feels just as 'taught' as my other 35" scale basses with the same strings.
     
  9. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Yep, I think these are the things that most greatly affect how "tight" the B string feels to human beings.

    Yep, proven many times. In my case, my Zons, but I know there's lots others, like Smith, Sadowsky, etc..

    I am no longer a believer that a 35" scale automatically portends a great B, or that a 34" scale automatically portends a weak one.

    Yes, but IMHO, I bet the 2.9% length difference is not going to translate to a super noticeable tension difference to a human player... especially since that extra length affects other things, like string motion.

    For example, take a telephone line that's 10 meters long, with "x" tension, and one 100 meters long with the same tension. The longer one is going to sag more and move a lot more in the wind. Now add tension to the longer wire so the frequency is the same. The size of the wave will still be larger, which might be "interpreted" as floppier, which is even a case for someone to say the opposite (longer scale is floppier), which I don't think I've ever seen. In other words, I think what we're talking about here really is human interpretation of the sound and feel of the B string, not a meausurement.

    However, getting back to the practical/applied stuff...

    In an instrument with a "softer" neck (due to either design/construction and/or materials), the B is going to seem way more "dead", which is what I think most call "floppy" or refer to has having less tension (whether it's instrumentally measurably true or not).

    The other related point I'd mention is I think we have to use a little lattitude with "tension" when used to describe what a human feels for a B string on an electric bass.
     
  10. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Making a B string "tighter" is easy: use a heavier and less flexible string or a longer scale! Its making a B sound good and sound the same as notes on the E string that seems to be the trouble.

    "Floppy" isn't usually so much a problem on basses I've tried as "dead sounding", "short sustain", "wierd overtones", "ringy", "hollow", "out of tune", "double toning", "too boomy compared to E", "too quiet compared to E", etc.
     
  11. mantelclock

    mantelclock

    Jul 19, 2005
    Vic,

    You're right on! Although I'm not sure exactly what you mean by the wave being bigger on the 100 foot wire, because the increased tension would limit the wave amplitude given an equal force applied to the two strings. Anyway, enough science here. Let's play bass!
     
  12. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    Yes. I have wondered if "better" 5 string basses typically/usually/more-often come in 35", while "worse" or "cheaper" 5 string basses typically/usually/more-often come in 34", and have wondered if this drives the 35" belief system more than head to head (pun intended) scientific comparison.

    tim99.
     
  13. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Actually, if the wire's longer and has enough tension to vibrate at the same frequency, just the fact that it's longer will mean more deviation from center in the middle of the wire, so it will move back and forth just as quickly, but cover greater distance, and require more energy to move due to the increased mass.
     
  14. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    I think it's mostly customer driven. I think people said they wanted a 35" scale for 5 string basses, IMHO primarily based on misconception, and some venders simply accomodated, while others did not... at least not across the board... Zon has at least one 35" scale instrument, but most of their most popular stuff is still 34" scale. Smith AFAIK, is strictly 34", etc.

    I've personally stood there and watched Trip Wamsley play his 32" (yes thirty TWO inch) scale EIGHT string, and he said the B was just fine on it.
     
  15. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    I think what this all boils down to, is the B string in particular really requiring a lot more from the construction and materials than the other strings to perform well, so it's the biggest tattletale if something's less than ideal. IMHO.
     
  16. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Just a few notes from left field here:

    The 35" scale zons (I had a 5/2) are very sweet, and have big, bad, bold Bs. Somewhat better than their 34" basses from what I recall of playing basic sonus 5s a few times in shops. Not that the 34" Zons are bad at all, just the 35" is a little better.

    In order to get the B string to work on the 34" Metro 5 I used to have, I had to use ONE specific string, the sadowsky .130. A couple other strings were decent. If I used my usual string, a DR high beam .125 it didn't work out well at all.

    Use that same DR string on a Modulus Quantum (35"), MTD 535 (35"), or Lakland DJ5 (35") ... and its low note heaven. I don't think its a coincidence.

    There *are* lots of basses out there with good or great B strings and 34" scales, but IME having a 35" scale gives you a little bit of extra insurance and the ability to use a wider range of strings successfully (if the windings are long enough, that is!) :bawl:
     
  17. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    +1 ... absolutely. And different basses work with different strings. Experimentation is very valuable in that regard.
     

  18. could be electronics, amps, speakers, etc......not just the bass, my spector's B is a little looser than id like it, but i blame more of the muddy sound on my amp not having a large driver to really get the full sound of a low B
     
  19. Only if you supply proportionally more energy to the longer string. With equal amounts of energy provided to each string the amplitude of vibration in the shorter (lighter) string will be larger.
     
  20. While mileage varies, I found a change in pups made a huge difference in the focus of my B. I found the harmonics of the low B are way down the scale and in my experience the better the pups the more of the strings frequency range gets picked up and amplified. Basically if the pups don't have the ability to hear the sound the string is making, the amplifier will not be able to amplify it. To my ear the new pups makes the B - same strings, guitar and hardware - sound "tight and focused" even though it is exactly the same as it was before the pup change. There's a thread on my Yamaha BB405/Q-Tuner mod somewhere in here with a link to a before and after file that I think illustrates this pretty well. It's a 34" scale guitar so in this case, scale doesn't appear to be a factor.