Building the Perfect "B"

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by capnsandwich, Jun 23, 2008.

  1. Ok, I know there are tons of threads on this subject and I'm not trying to raise a dead subject here, but I'm wondering what exactly causes a B string to be tighter on some basses. I know some say it's scale length and others would argue that it's construction and even others argue about strings. I tend to side with the construction being the biggest factor, but what about the construction makes it tighter? What specific aspect of the construction process makes a better, tighter B string? I figured I'd put this in the Luthier's Corner and get some actual builder's opinions on this, since they would know the answer more so than just a lowly player such as myself.
  2. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    In my opinion, the main reason there's any debate on this is that there is variation in how "tightness" is interpreted/misinterpreted/etc. So, my challenge, to help you get the right answer to your question, is:

    Define "tighter." You might be referring to:

    - measurably higher tension in the string?
    - tighter feel when plucking?
    - "tighter" sound?
    - unconscious illusion of it feeling tighter because it sounds the way one expects a tight string to sound?
    - improperly interpreted feeling of the string being at higher tension, due to a high action making it more difficult to fret?
    [ edit - added item ]
    - improperly interpreted feeling of the string being at lower tension, due to a low action making it buzz more against the frets?

    Once you decide which of these you mean, you can work it down to physics, audiology, or psychology.
  3. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
  4. I think that's the most important part, having a string that sounds focused and not mucky.
  5. Wootsticks

    Wootsticks Guest

    Jul 26, 2007
    Houston, TX
    I dunno, a tighter feel when plucking is one of the first I notice when playing five strings.
  6. I'm talking about tighter tension and a tighter feel, as opposed to being floppy. I know it's not scale length, since I own a 34" scale bass that has a nice B on it. Scale length may be somewhat of an issue but it's not the main one.
  7. Gone

    Gone Guest

    Mar 21, 2006
    Cape Town
    Jayda custom basses, builder
    If you want a tighter tension (for a low B) then you have two options:
    - increase the scale length
    - increase the mass of the string (the gauge)
    (full stop)

    If you want a tighter feel, then you've entered the realm of subjectivity. What makes a string feel tight?

    +1 to what pilotjones said :)
  8. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    TO me, the tighter feel comes from the fact that the string is not buzzing all over the neck while your playing. Carefull attention to fret work can get you there. It's subjective to the player, a B thats tight to my playing may not be tight to others.
  9. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    I hadn't thought of that one. Added it to the list.
  10. Thanks for the replies. I'm still not sure if my question has been fully answered yet though. Let me rephrase it. Is there something in the construction of the neck/body of a bass that would make the string tension tighter on a 34" scale bass like string-through body, 3/2 tuner layout on headstock, higher mass bridge, dual graphite rod reinforced neck, etc.???

    Maybe that will make it a little easier to understand my question.
  11. radii


    Feb 16, 2007
    Whoever truly knows the answer, will most likely not want to share it. That's like sitting on a gold mine ...
  12. The Quest for the Holy Grail of Low Strings it is.
  13. taking it down to physics, a higher gauge will lower the frequency (note) of the open string plucking, lets say for example to a B flat or even A or lower...
    SOOO, you will need to tune up (tighten up the string) until you get B on the open string plucking. There you have a string with more TENSION. Strictly talking about tension in pounds or kilograms, whatever you like the most.

    That procedure require you to buy another B string with a higher gauge. And the result will be more tension, and most likely you will have more higher harmonics and naturally, more volume.

    Is it possible that (IN THEORY) you will reduce the volume of the fundamental frequency, BUT since it's like 30Hz, this reduction will be hardly perceptible to our ears and we may think that the fundamental hasn't been changed at all. Remember that amps and cabs are working closer to their physical limits at that frequency.

    Concluding: HIGHER GAUGE: more higher harmonics, almost the same fundamental, more tension => RESULT: more phisical energy, that means more wave power.

    in MY PERCEPTION (and I mean TO MY EARS) this is exactly what I call TIGHTER SOUND.

    too bad I don't have enough money to try several different gauges and test this for myself, only thing I have to share is this physics and soundwaves theory from the books.
  14. adam.beauchene

    adam.beauchene Commercial User

    Dec 31, 2007
    Product Engineer at NS Design
    Perfect basses only have 4 strings. :smug:
  15. Well being a fan of fan fret design I will say it's scale that makes the difference as well as string size and what I will dub Taughtness. And I see by spell check that isn't really a word, oh well. :)
  16. Human Bass

    Human Bass

    Aug 26, 2005
    I think the dude wants to know, for example, how MM Stingray 5s always have a very good B string, even being a 34". Well, I think that a bass made with care and good materials always help. And maybe the sweet spot of the MM pup helps to bring the definition.
  17. (playing devils advocate) But, wont that make the b string sound out of balance with the rest of the strings?
  18. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    I would make an addendum to his statement that maybe you should buy a heavier 5 or 6 string SET.

    That having been said, if the B string already sounds out of balance in the wrong direction (wooly, muffled, unclear, not as loud, less sustain), upping the gauge might resolve that issue as well...
  19. Here's another example of what I'm asking. OK, I usedto have an old Tobias Toby Pro that I used Sadowsky SS .130's hexcores on and the B what still a tad loose. Then I got a Tobias Renegade and the B was better. Now, I just got a Valenti J5 and the B is perfect. All these basses are 34" and they were all strung with the same strings, Sadowsky hexcore Blue Label .130's. What makes the difference as far as build quality is concerned? What about the Valenti makes it have a better B string?
  20. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    All three had different woods. At least two different general construction methods. Two body shapes similar, but all three at least somewhat different. All three had different construction details. Made on two different continents. All three had different hardware. All three had different pickups. All three had different electronics. And finally, with all three, you had different unconscious expectations of how they would sound, which could manifest itself not only in how you interpret what you hear, but even in how you play it in the first place.

    So, who's to say what is the cause of the difference?

    It could be due to the fact that Nino builds in an area of the country with far superior pizza. ;)