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basses (and many other instruments) have too much tension

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Wiremessiah, Feb 10, 2019.

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  1. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    There are some universal truths to be had though. Such as higher tension= more problems for acoustic instruments, the reason for such high tension is sort of a historical "loudness/brightness war" (which continues on today in different forms) and that popular formats are often arbitrary and less than ideal. Also that personal preferences are also often arbitrary and based on practical issues/circumstances, including popular formats.

    And that less tension is easier on the fingers, allows more speed, (at least some kinds of )control, and endurance, when acclimated to of course.
    mikewalker likes this.
  2. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    who the hell doesn't?
  3. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Not really. It all depends on your goals. Competition runners want long lean muscle, endurance, and not a lot of weight on their bodies. So the last thing they want is to bulk up on muscle. Which is why you won’t see them using running weights. Boxers or footballers or athletes in similar sports where mass and short muscle strength are important may run with weights for that very reason.

    But the sports analogy (like all analogies) breaks down once you look at conditioning beyond a superfical level. Music performance is not an athletic activity. It’s a performance art. And it’s goals are very different than those of athletes. With music, the important thing is to maintain good overall health and avoid injury. Because music performance means playing the long game to better ensure a shot at success. Successful art careers can span multiple decades. Athletic careers rarely exceed a single decade. Successful athlete’s careers often last even less than that.
  4. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Some do without pushing their agenda.
    soulman969, jonlimo, bradd and 7 others like this.
  5. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    not really about hofners, it's about string tension. But yeah, I can play much faster than i could on the last long scale normal tension bass i had, granted that was a long time ago, but I just bought another short scale bass also tuned down a half step, with la bella flats rather than TI, and I am slowed down considerably. Will have to sell it or get TI's for it
  6. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    Agenda? Yeah, you got me, I have an evil plan for lower string tension to take over the world. Mwahahaha.
    Drama queen.
    Uncle K, TrustRod and Son of Wobble like this.
  7. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Well, you just went back and forth with one board member who told you his preference with but, but, but, so...
  8. Eminor3rd

    Eminor3rd BLAAAAARRGGHH!!

    Feb 10, 2008
    I mean, YMMV. When I've played "lower tension" instruments/strings (or at least what I perceive to be lower tension), I've felt that when I really dig in, it feels almost like I'm "dragging" the string upward a bit out of place. I can avoid this by playing lighter or at a more downward angle, but I don't like the inconsistency and feeling like my techniques are limited. RE: intonation, I noticed that, particularly in the lower registers, I would inadvertently bend notes out when hammering/pulling off quickly. Maybe the tension is a crutch in that case? But it's a significant effect, and I just prefer consistent feel across my instruments.

    As far as the volume/necessity stuff you're talking about -- I have no reason to doubt you, and it makes sense. But I think the "feel" stuff is subjective. I don't think you can reasonably say it's "just better."
  9. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    well thanks for adding to the discussion
  10. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    I never mind telling the truth.
    soulman969, AndyPanda, hintz and 3 others like this.
  11. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    As I said in an earlier post, it seems to me that it's exactly the other way around. Taut strings don't need much room to vibrate, so you can set the action very low with little relief in the neck. With the strings so close to the fretboard, they barely move out of a straight line when you fret notes. What am I missing?
  12. shaggy45

    shaggy45 Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2009
    I sense some tension in this thread.

    I’ll show my self out :D
    soulman969, Plake, ituobrey and 22 others like this.
  13. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    100%. It's like trying to convince people to give up the qwerty keyboard for a "better" version. Feel is as important as anything. I just think that the paradigm of feel is pretty arbitrary, and being exposed to lower tension instruments such as baroque strings and my hofner with TI flats tuned down has given me a point of reference, having played the standard 34" scale with "normal" tension strings for a long time, that many might not have. It's one thing to just say "those don't feel right" and dismiss it, but another to be forced to play at very low tension for years. I think lower tension is more natural, less choked, and just allows better dexterity/articulation.

    Again, with the similar bass i just bought, even with just la bellas vs TI's, the difference is night and day. I can do things that are just not possible for extended periods even on a reduced tension short scale tuned down but with stiffer/more tense strings.
    Eminor3rd and jd56hawk like this.
  14. If you were chatting with leo like 80 years ago maybe basses would be different, but what's been established is probably not going to change anytime soon. Some kind of tension revolution is what u call for?

    People are enjoying short scales lately myself included
  15. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA

    If you need low tension strings downtuned for endurance, either your bass is NOT set up correctly or you are using way too much force on the strings. I also play mostly 30" basses and for me downtuning is not something I like at all due to the low tension. I feel it makes me slow and sloppy.
  16. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    I just don't think it's an issue, but I may be missing something. The fact that i have as straight a fretboard almost as possible with extremely low tension and zero tension on the truss rod tells me it's not, but maybe it's just the bass/setup.

    Just checked the relief on the hof, and it's 9-10 thousandths on the 7th and 8-9 thousandths on the 8th fret. Zero buzz. That's probably a little low, I completely loosened the rod a couple weeks ago, it was about 13-14 thousandths, but there was little to no tension anyway on it, but maybe it's the cold or maybe that little bit did affect it.
  17. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    This is an extremely interesting subject.

    I am obsessed with "lowest possible action with no fret buzz" but on the other hand I love being able to bend strings. And I certainly do not like the feel of having a lot of neck relief, but what can ya do? A vibrating string has a certain amount of "amplitude excursion", and that's just Physics®!

    I can only play 'so soft' with fingers before the tone starts to suffer, and I use a mix of 'soft pad', 'hard callous', fingernail, and location adjustment (from way over the fretboard right up to within three millimeters of the bridge saddles).

    Still looking for that magical golden bullet unicorn :)
  18. If you've got an instrument with a nice stiff neck you don't really need high tension.
    I've lost count of how many players I know who insist on high tension strings so that when they down-tune they don't get too floppy.
    If they had better necks they could use smaller diameter strings.

    Balanced tension sets help also.
    on average sets the 4th string goes floppy sooner than the rest
    especially if you're doing a Drop D or Drop C tuning
    ghostinthemach likes this.
  19. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    Well i downtune for other reasons, mostly due to my drum tuning (I tune drum kit to true notes, which makes it sound amazing, but everything has to be tuned around them for it to work). But with the TI's it's very very low tension, but still not flabby or sloppy. More sustain, which is cool because while the sustain on the hof if fairly short, that kind of adds to it's character, and just a little bit more than normal is perfect. The endurance part is just low tension in general, and the half step does make a difference, I think several pounds per string if I am not mistaken. If it sounded worse in any way, i'd get rid of downtuning, maybe use a capo or something, but it sounds amazing. My freakin digital mixer just broke, otherwise i'd upload a sample.
  20. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Stiffness and tension are two different things. Which are you talking about? Flexibility or lbs of pull to reach pitch?
    Also, what gauges are you using? Just specifying brand is meaningless to a real discussion of tension.
    soulman969 likes this.

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