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Bass goes out of tune at one particular song

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BryanM, Mar 31, 2014.

  1. BryanM


    Dec 15, 2007
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I recently put together a parts bass, HWY1 p-bass body, fretless MIM jazz neck and tuners with a 62 pickup. It sounds phenomenal and holds tune for the most part. My band has one song that the guitarists both capo at 2 for, and the last 3 or 4 times we've played it, I've noticed I was off by almost exactly 1/2 step on the A and E strings, so I'll correct my playing to match sonically. At first I thought it was just the capos on the guitars throwing them off, but I decided at our last rehearsal to actually tune after the song, lo and behold I was exactly 1/2 step flat on those two strings, with the G and D strings still being right on. I'm planning on upgrading the tuners to some ultralights as soon as fortune smiles on me a bit, but for the life of me I can't figure out what is causing it to be thrown off at that exact time. I do use a bit of vibrato on the A string during the song that could account for that string going out, but I play pretty straight on the E, and usually use slide vibrato instead of bend-vibrato. Any insight?
  2. Are your strings binding in the string nut? That, or sloppy tuners are my guess.
    It could also be a combination of poorly intonated guitars & your bass having an issue.
  3. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Watch for those capos to be a little TOO tight, especially the spring loaded-ones, causing the guitars to go SHARP.
  4. elBandito


    Dec 3, 2008
    Rotten Apple
    That's strange. 1/2 step is alot. You have to turn the tuning peg quite a bit for 1/2 step.
  5. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Phillipsburg, NJ
    There's many possibilities here. Any chance the strings are slipping on the tuners?
  6. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Have you tried fretted bass? :bag:
  7. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    The tight nut slot theory seems like the most likely culprit to me. Does it gradually go out? or does it do it in one or three jumps?
  8. Fat Steve

    Fat Steve The poodle bites, the poodle chews it.

    Did you properly stretch the slack out of the strings after installing them. I notice all too often that this is a problem when folks are having tuning and intonation issues.
  9. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Let's get this straight...

    As soon as the capos are put on at the SECOND fret, of the guitars, your E & A Strings go flat a half-step to Eb & Ab.


    You do know that the capo'd guitars are going to sound a up a Whole-Step, if the guitarists use the same chord-shapes? If they are in standard tuning and place a capo at the 2nd fret, the "open" strings will sound F#, B, E, A, C#, F#. When they finger what LOOKS like an open E-chord, it sounds an F#-chord.

    All you need to do, assuming that the song has simply modulated up a Whole-Step, is play whatever you were before, up two half-steps (or frets if you played a fretted bass).
  10. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains

    This is exactly how I'm reading this as well.
  11. No, he said that by the end of that song, his E and A strings are 1/2 step flat, as measured on his tuner. And, only his E and A strings.

    IF IF IF he has correctly described the phenomenon, I think the guitar capos are a red herring.
  12. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    That's how I read it too. Also, it was only the 2 lower strings that suffered this. My best guess is the nut slot is grabbing the strings, and then giving, due to whatever activity happens on those strings during that song. But even that is so strange to jump that far. I might guess it's a string defect, but I'd expect that would happen universally, and not on a particular song.

  13. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    The exact time the capos are put on?

  14. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Seriously. It's clear that it's a problem with the capo and the guitarists to me.

    If it were the bass why wouldn't it happen at any other time?
  15. wvbass


    Mar 1, 2004
    Maybe to OP plays a lot more aggressively on this song. With a pick and lots of hard down strokes - something like that.

    And yes, I successfully stayed on topic AND used the words "hard" and "strokes" in the same post. :cool:
  16. Helaskold

    Helaskold 100% Mediocre

    Jul 22, 2012
    Austin, TX
    Haha... you said "strokes"...
  17. Try playing the song sooner (1 st? ) after initial tuning of the bass, before playing other numbers just to see if this will happen then.
  18. And the band has worked so hard on this song .
  19. BryanM


    Dec 15, 2007
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I figured it's either the tuners slipping or the nut binding the strings. The strings are RotoSound flats 45-105. When I built the bass I did have to install new bushings on the tuners, and the A string tuner has a bit of rattle to it, so that's probably where my issue lies. I just find it curious that it seems to only happen on this particular song, especially since it's probably one of our least aggressive songs. I have some spare tuners that I could put on there but it's not drilled for them, it does have screw holes for ultra-lites, so I'm gonna get those when I have the money and just drill out and dowel the Fender tuner holes.
  20. i would suggest not playing that song, but, what do I know! :)