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Bad Sustain

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by SwagAttack, Jan 11, 2012.

  1. SwagAttack


    Sep 14, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    So I recently took apart and put back together and modded a bass. Before, the sustain wasn't too bad, but now it seems to be a lot worse. Whenever I play a note (mostly on the E string), it will resonate for a few seconds, then quickly drop off into blandness. What are the most common problems that spur poor sustain?
  2. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    Twist in the string, old string or string with outer wrap loose on the core.

  3. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Did you replace the pups? If so Id suspect the replacement pups have poor sustain char to them. I can think of some, even highly regarded pups by some folks, that have this to me defect. The note decay is uneven, jagged, overly fast and sudden final note fade out. Fix for that is diff pups.

    If the neck pocket contact isnt as good as before, that could also decrease sustain. But thats ussually a decrease in length of note fade out rather then it becoming sudden or jagged/uneven note fade out.
  4. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    pickups won't affect sustain other than by being too close and pulling on the string with their magnets.

    check for a good neck pocket seating by loosening the neck screws a little with it still strung to pitch, pushing and pulling the neck until it's centered under the outside strings, then re-tightening. this trick lets the strings pull the neck down hard into the pocket, and can improve neck/body coupling, improving tone and sustain. (it's in the old G&L factory setup guide.)

    after that, yeah, it's likely a bad/twisted string.

    ultimately, some instruments ring longer than others; how much sustain do you really need on a bass?
  5. Growly Lytes

    Growly Lytes

    Dec 4, 2009
    Downunder Oz
    Bass player
    First are you sure or is it just your imagination ?
    Second check the neck pocket,unscrew it & do it again.
    Dont think the strings would do this but it could be them !
  6. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Nonsense about pups not affecting sustain. Played to many with the bad sustain char consistently to many times then replaced them and of course sustain improves conciderrably. Gibson pupswould be top of my list for poor sustain with jagged and sudden note fall off. Jackson and Epiphone stock pups also suffer from this problem along with poor bass content. Fender pups also have overly fast note fade out compared to P and J pups I like better.
  7. Craig_S

    Craig_S Banned

    Oct 15, 2008
    Metro Detroit
    I really like to hear an expert chime in on this. I've never experienced it.
  8. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Dimarzio pickup company has recognized this basic since the 70's. Its why some of their pups are specifically labelled for long sustain. Also their clear desriptions like "just the right amount of distortion and sustain".

    Ok, so why would some pups have poor sustain char? Id say the number one reason is poor ability for the pup to read low level signal as the note passes from intial sustained volume had right after the peak of transient attack. And starts fading out. With a lot of gibson pups the pup just cant read weak signals well. So it gets sputtery/jagged and then suddenly just drops out even though string is still vibrating. Dimazrio invented the super distortion and some of their other early paf pups to fix this problem.

    The same thing occurs with some mics. They pick up loud signals fine. The attack and initial sustain of a note. But arent able to pick up the weaker sound of the notes following release.

    Note formation from synth ADSR section. Attack is the time it takes a sound to reach peak volume. Decay is the following drop to a given volume which then Sustains for awhile. Release then happens as note fades out over a period of time. This release part is where some pups fail to be able to sense the strings vibration well. Becoming jagged and with sudden drop out. Rather then continuing to provide pickup of the actual strings vibration slowly descending to stillness.

    Pups with bad sustain char lack low level signal reading ability and accuracy. Its something easilly heard. Instead of slowly dropping off to unhearable, one gets uneven and sudden cut off of the sound. You could still hear the note, it wasnt beciming hard to hear yet. Then suddenly no more sound. Better pups continue to read the signal. So that it becomes harder to hear the faint note but its still there hearable as it goes even lower in volume evenly.

    But yeah go read up on Dimarzio pup design and how they make some of their pups to have longer sustain then some of their other pups. As a expert source for very long time well respected pup mfg.
  9. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    Wow, steaming discussions about pups bringing sustain. :cool: Let's break it up in two items.
    1) The construction with the strings. No matter if a pup is mounted, if the string is strummed, it will take a certain time to halve the amplitude. No matter how hard it is hit, it'll take the same time to decay to half the original amplitude.
    2) The pickup. If a pickup is very sensitive (hot) it produces a larger output signal than if it's less sensitive. If the pup produces more output than the amp needs, the signal may be limited within the first amp stage. If the string vibration decays there is still enough output to drive the amp to produce an audible sound. With a less sensitive pup the output reaches the level of audibility earlier. It seems to bring less sustain.

    Note: a very strong magnet could affect the mechanical sustain of a string theoretically, but this is beyond the scope of the actual situation.

    Trying to be helpful, Jay
  10. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    there it is.

    a louder pickup may compress the input of the signal chain a little more, which will come across as more sustain, dimarzio's marketing-brochure-speak aside. (not knocking dimarzio, they make great stuff.)

    otherwise, no.
  11. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Pickups do not have to be high output for great sustain. Some of the best sustain char pups are actually low output. They are just very sensitive to weak signals. If the strings still vibrating, even just a little bit, better pups pick this up.
  12. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Well, to put it into simple terms, differing pickups can make more of the inherent sustain of the instrument audible, but it can't ADD sustain.

    I vote for string problems, check for twisted first. Common, common problem. Check sustain un plugged and if its fine, maybe then its P'ups. Also check that the neck is making good contact with the pocket if you had them apart.
  13. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL

    Hit the string open , if it resonates and sustains normally, its a construction or string issue. If it dies very quickly open, its a pickup or pot issue (bad solder joint, improper install, bad component)

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