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Buzz Feiten

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Funkateer, Nov 16, 2003.

  1. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I recently played a Suhr, and although there was a lot to like about this bass, the thing that really blew my mind was the intonation.

    Is there a downside to the Buzz Feiten system?
    Are the retrofits as good as the new instruments with BF?
    Why isn't it more popular?
  2. Just what is the Buzz Feiten Tuning System?

    My Washburn 6er says it has it, but the bridge and nut look like a regular bass, and I can't get the C intonated properly. Have I just got a bad example of it?

  3. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    Here a link to the official site:


    In a nutshell, the traditional guitar/bass intonation system is what is called even temperment. Buzz Feiten is well temperment. Unless there are some negative side effects to BF, I am really surprised that it has taken the guitar world 200+ years to catch up to the keyboard world. If I recall corrrectly, Bach's Well Tempered Clavier was written, at least in part, to demonstrate the superiority of well temperment. Even temperment on keyboard instruments produces a situation where some keys sound absolutely fantastic, while others sound like $hit. Harpsichord and clavier players had to retune their instruments for diffferent keys. If memory serves, the Well Tempered Clavier consists of 24 pieces, one in each of the major/minor keys, and was Bach's way of demonstrating that well temperment works.

    I don't know why a 6 string bass would have problems that a 6 string BF guitar wouldn't have, but I look forward to learning here whether BF has a downside, or whether it is just tradition that has kept fretted instrument makers from more adopting it more generally.
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Sorry, telemark, you've got it wrong, at least in the nomenclature.

    Just temperament is the pre-Bach system that sounds very good in one key only, and gets progressively worse as you move around the circle of fifths.

    Equal temperament is the "most well-tempered" of the well-temperaments, which allow you to play in any key, and sound equally good/bad in any of them. All modern instruments (except a very few oddballs) are set up as 12-tone equal temper (TTET).

    The BF system is also based on equal temper. He does use a compensated nut, and there is some other small adjustment that I'm not clear on. But if it weren't based on equal temper, you couldn't play in any key.

    Parrot, when tuning a BF instrument, you can use any tuner. But to set the intonation, you need a special Korg tuner that has BF offset tables built-in. I believe that the tuner spec, and the special intonation-setting instructions, can be found on the BF website. This should fix your intonation-setting problems.

    Here is a decent discussion of it. Skip down to the section, "The Evolution of the Equal Tempered Scale."

    Here is another one.
  5. i'm almost positive the tunings are a bit off too. just by a few cents, so it's possible to set with a tuner that displays cents, but it's still not standard tuning.
  6. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    I think you're right, that the tunings are off, but not in an other-than-equal-temperament way. I think it's more of a stretch tuning, as is done on piano. This would retain the trait of being good in all keys. Stretch tuning is described in the first article cited in my earlier post.
  7. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I was about to say that the open string tunings are standard, just the intonation was different. However, looking at the link on his website of how to tune:

    It says with a normal tuner, tune the high E to standard. Then, each of the other strings is tuned relative to that open E, using either fretted notes or harmonics, until the beat frequency is zero.

    The resulting intervals used to tune are all either unison/octaves, fourths, or fifths. The result is a slight shifting on some of the strings away from standard (a real perfect fourth/fifth is a couple cents off from 12tet).


    edit: the low E is tuned w/ a unison (4th harmonic <-> high E), but this will result in a "stretch" as the harmonic is probably a bit sharp (the reason pianos are stretch tuned, due to the imperfectness of the strings). I'm guessing his method has similar effects on the other strings.

    Glad I found that page - it's told me more about how the system actually works than anything else ever has.
  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Tuning this way does result in a stretch on all strings, centered about the high E, and going flatter as you go bassier.

    On a piano, the stretch is both flat as you go towards the bass, and sharp as you go toward the treble. First the twelve notes from f below middle c to e above middle c are tuned; this is called (IIRC) the "temperament octave." Then the rest of the piano is tuned to minimize beating with these notes. And it's not even that simple; since different harmonics are sharp by different amounts, the tuner must make a choice of whether to, for example, make the fundamental of g'' match the third harmonic of c', or make the 2nd harmonic of g'' match the fifth harmonic of c'.

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