Building for less sustain?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Xanaptabil, Dec 31, 2005.

  1. Xanaptabil


    Jul 18, 2005
    Tempe, AZ
    Hello eveyone,
    Is anyone familiar with building methods that would cut sustain from a bass? Does a heavier body reduce sustain? I am looking to replicate the decay from a DB without foam or anything electronic.

    Things I have tried:
    Wood saddles
    Fretless rosewood fingerboard

    The only thing left I can think of to reduce sustain is to increase the weight of the body... my thinking is that the strings will disperse more energy with more mass to vibrate. Is this true?

  2. Scott French

    Scott French Dude Supporting Member

    May 12, 2004
    Grass Valley, CA
    More weight can increase sustain. Think about getting something heavy to roll. Once you have it going its harder to stop than a lighter object. The same can be true for instruments. Lighter instruments respond faster but sustain less. A heavy one will respond slower to player input but sustain longer.
  3. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Just thinking out loud here I don't know for sure but have you tried different woods for the saddles? I would think that using a light Mahogany would give less sustain than Ebony for instance :eyebrow:
  4. I don't mean to tell you to 'improve your technique' or something here, but when I got my Stambaugh 6(a neck-through), I found I had to mute much more than w/any other bass. The thing just oozes w/sustain. After awhile, I got to where I can kill the sustain when I want to, but at the same time it's still there(in b**loads)if I want. The thing is, if a bass little or no sustain, you can't really add it through technique or effects- at least not convincingly in my little world :rolleyes: - but if it has the tone you're after, sustain is something you should be able to control your self. Sorry- that ended up sounding a bit 'preachey', but I don't know how else to say it. Um, try dead strings...
  5. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    Paint your strings with poly...hehe.
  6. Xanaptabil


    Jul 18, 2005
    Tempe, AZ
    Muting is one of my best skills, actually. Jaco turned me onto that. I can dampen a string with controlled pressure but you can tell it's being muffled out as opposed to natural decay.

    I've thought about different saddle woods. Right now they are made of wood I found in the backyard. I have no idea what it is. Apparently the bridges of DB's are constructed from maple, which I understand to be bright, so I am still confused. I was thinking of using rosewood.
  7. Have you ever played a DB? They actually have pretty good sustain when set up decently(and played fairly well)- at least mine does. Beyond that, the sustain, or any other aspect of how a DB in particular functions, is dependant on so many factors that I'm not sure you're going to find what you're looking for(or NOT looking for ;) )by focusing on simply the building material(s). Personally- & not to dispute your muting skills- I'd work on making your muting sound more like poor sustain/DB/insert your holy grail here; I can do it, & I'm no pro...
  8. parttimeluthier


    May 7, 2005
    Try just a simple spongy piece of foam(like used in seat cushions) under the strings up against the bridge. It cuts the sustain, and mutes the strings slightly.
    The best part is it costs pennies and works well.
  9. pnchad

    pnchad Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2005
  10. pnchad

    pnchad Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2005
    but, the reason many older (and some newer) DB players had that dud thump tone was because of gut strings and very high action, it wasn't by choice.
    Nowadays with metal strings DBs can be made easy to play. My Juzek takes much less effort than most DBs, sustains beautifully but can thump with the best via technique. ;)
  11. Xanaptabil


    Jul 18, 2005
    Tempe, AZ
    You know I completely forgot about the action. Damn that's a tough decision. :meh:
  12. parttimeluthier


    May 7, 2005
    "Raise your strings"

    Everything I have read about the way James Jamerson's bass was set up was that the action was unbelieveably high and that his neck had alot of relief. This was said he liked it that way because he was used to playing uprights and digging in to get a good thump.
    When I think of Jamersons tone sustain definately does'nt come to mind. But nothing can move people to dance like a great Jamerson Motown bass line! So the high action, limited sustain way of playing is certainly in good company. :)
  13. What about placing something soft under the bridge? Depending on what you use, you should be able to vary the amount of vibration transfered to the body. I'm thinking either several pieces of fabric or a thin piece of something like neoprene.
  14. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    I think the exact opposite would be better: a (semi)-hollow-body. The body wood also influences sustain and tone.
    Other than that, light bridge with less contact points to the body, flats, high action, etc...
    These are just educated guesses, however.
  15. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    First: make the neck-body joint weak.
    Then a soft body will have a major influence, i.e. rather flexible lengthwise and with an elastic sufrace under the bridge. A hollowbody with a rather thin top, or a masonite top, should work.
    I assume that a loose wooden bridge and a "jazz box" tailpiece should add some, too.

    Then use the simplest electronics there are, and you'll come as colse as you can! One lipstick pup between the so called hot spots, and passive tone control with a rather huge damping cap....or something.
  16. replace your frets and fretboard with rubber?
  17. EXACTLY!
    here's a design that just might work :D

  18. I could make a comment about the fellow on the left...but I just can't seem to rise to the challenge.
  19. Biagio139

    Biagio139 Dealer: Hipshot Products, Inc.

    Dec 23, 2005
    Ithaca N.Y.
    what your trying to do is stop the string from vibrating so long or transfer the nrg of the string somewhere else. the more rigid the point between where the string is attatched and the bridge is, the more sustain youll have. You would need to transfer the nrg somewhere else. when you fret some of the nrg obviously is tranfered to the fret board. I know in the past there has been experiences with different size headstocks, it was proven, a the more masive a head stock is the better the sustain. the old sustainiac systems from the eighties were attatched to the headstock this was the original version not the one liscesed by kramer guitars or was that hammer or maybe seymour duncan I cant remeber the 80s r blurry. I would think a wood with less density and a thinner headstock would do this but Iam guessing "and this dosent account for stienbirgers success". so a bass of greater mass and rigidity will be harder to vibrate which means it will be more harder to transfer the nrg from the string to the bass. anyone else have any idea or am I completely wrong here.
    Iam hoping this message isnt to hard to read I was called an idiot earlier in december for my garbled incoherant english