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D and G string higher tension than E and A

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Sam Dingle, Apr 4, 2018.


  1. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    Just had a new bridge put on my plywood and the two high strings are much higher tension than the two low strings. (I'm using Spirocore Lights and I added a medium E today that only helped a little)

    My luiter just made the bridge and its a quality job. The hight at the nut is as low as it could go and I just had him mess with the sound post but the D and G strings feel like spiro mediums on my carved bass. the A is floppy. Any thoughts?

    Could this be a case where I should just put a medium tension EA with a light D G or is there something else I can do?
     
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    According to many conversations with master Lluthier Nnick Lloyd, the real issue with bass setups - and I'm paraphrasing here - is not so much about real tension, but rather about perceived tension, especially when playing pizzicato. The real tension of a string never actually changes when the height off the fingerboard changes. What does change is the tension the player perceives because of the amount the player will be able to get under the string. From the article, which was recorded and transcribed from a phone conversation:

    "...when the string is close to the board, the right hand finger glances off of the string when plucking, whereas at a higher height, the finger gets deeper under the string when plucking, usually resulting in more mass or surface of the finger contacting the string, which creates a bigger draw on the string, producing a greater excursion of the string when the finger releases it. What this means for the player is that the quantifiable tension of the string itself is only a part of the story; what’s really important to the player is the amount of resistance he or she wants to feel when playing. A high-tension string set low to the board may give the feeling of very little resistance to the player, and a low- tension string set high off of the board may feel like a lot of resistance. This gives the player a lot of tonal options to experiment with between string types and setup. "

    My guess is that your new bridge cut is a little higher on the D and G - or a little lower on the A and E... take your pick - than you are used to. This makes it feel like the tension is screwy. Your choices, based on Nnick's assessment of things above, would be (in order):

    - Put on a heavier A and E to make things feel like you're used to.
    - Put on a lighter D and G to make it feel like you're used to.
    - Give it a month and recalibrate your physical expectations while trying not to think too much about it. :D

    I'm kind of kidding about the third one, but it's exactly what Nnick would say, and he's not wrong most of the time.

    My solution has always been to throw a spiro stark on the bottom and get used to the A string; this gives me the balance that I've gotten accustomed to and lets me slam the E with impunity when I feel like it.
     
    Sam Dingle likes this.
  3. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    ah ok. damn. weich d and g feel high. so i may try a medium A string...
     
  4. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Are these the 3/4 Lights? I'm using this set currently and the D and G feel thin, but not especially light.

    - Steve
     
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    To be fair, I also had Nnick cut my bridge exactly the way I like it years ago, so I’ve been a little spoiled.
     
  6. Measuring tape time. Something is off. With a full set of Weichs, they should all feel floppy. :p
     
    HateyMcAmp likes this.
  7. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    What do I measure-tape? I agree they should feel floppy and that was the point. I want to use this on my 4+ hour gigs, but honestly my carved bass with mittles is easer to play.
     
  8. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    Not sure. But its a full set. The E and A feel like lights but the D and G are pushing mediums tension.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Others can speak to the sound post placement and how it could affect things, but what are your string heights at the bottom of the board from the bottom of the string to the board? And what is the distance from the nut to the bridge?
     
  10. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    How tall is your bridge? Just asking because, even if it's cut correctly, the bridge may be so tall as to throw off the balance/tension of the instrument.

    My hybrid German bass's D and G strings always felt pretty tight, no matter the string combination I used. I felt it was more an issue of how the bass itself was put together that made it feel tight overall. I eventually had Keiran O'Hara install a new neck (the old one had been repaired with metal bolts/dowels and the cracks would just keep opening up about twice per year.. huge pain). He adjusted a few different things, including overstand angle (or is it break angle? so many angles) by making it so that the bridge wasn't as tall (even with strings at a low-medium height for orchestra/arco use), and now the bass itself feels a lot looser. Anyway, just my .2 cents.
     
  11. IF D and G are not buzzing, or feel too low, I would definitely add having them lowered slightly. To me, the height difference across the strings is a very delicate balance. Allthough you should not experiment too much, getting it right goes a long way in getting a uniform, working balance/feel across strings.
     
  12. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    Ok so here is something interesting:

    I picked up the bass and wanted to figure out what I could do to the D and G string to get the tension to feel even across all 4 strings.

    What I did was lowered the D and G down a half step and still felt uneven with the E and A. One more step down and it was perfect! This is a spiro 4/4 weich D and G tuned down a full step with a sprio 4/4 weich A and 4/4 Medium E.
     
  13. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    I guess you could try Spiro solo E and A tuned down to D and G.
     
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The other thing you could do is to shim the E and A at the bridge with some cardboard and see if the added height gives you more of the feel you are looking for. Sometimes, as Nnick mentions in my earlier reply, it's all about perceived tension. Shimming up the bottom 2 strings would be easy, practically free, and might help you figure out what's going on.
     
  15. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    Slight opposite. The bridge is a little high so I'm going to lower it but this has always plagued this bass. I had guts on the high 2 strings since I got it and always felt steels to be too high tension. I thought it was a bridge problem but its still there.

    I'm considering either lowering the DG side of the bridge, or just making it a gut bass again...it felt really good with guts on it. Not sure why...
     
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    No adjusters? In N.O.? That's brave. :D
     
  17. Steel strings have a higher resistance when pressend down than gut strings since the steel core needs more force to get stretched by the same amount than a gut or synthetic core.
    Also the area of the string that makes contact with the finger of the left hand is rather small for the higher strings compared to the lower ones. That might lead to get the impression that the higher strings are higher tension. They are not, but are harder to the hand to be pressed down.

    Lowering the higher strings will give you an easier feel for the steel core strings (but keep the arch of the bridge, put it down on paper first and then keep the position of the E-groove and lower toward the G and put that arch back onto the bridge for reshaping).

    Adjusters might get you back to height if this doesn't work for you. And you can get back a bit of bridge height that way too. If needed the bass side could be lowered again to get back where you have been before if you don't like the higher bass strings.

    For real string tensions have a look at my Excel file in my Dropbox (link in signature).
     
  18. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Isn't this the bass you are selling? Aren't you also selling your stash of gut strings? Didn't someone (me) just buy your LaBella gut D&G?

    - Steve
     
  19. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    Yes and yes. I still have a gut d and g, and I'm selling cuz I'm not happy with the bass. Good bass and good sound but the tension keeps me away from it so I'm looking for ways to either keep it or make it better for someone else to play. I may try what doublemidi suggests and lower the height.
     
  20. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I hope you get it sorted out. As someone who lives in a similar climate, I think having a sturdy plywood or hybrid bass for outdoor gigs makes a lot of sense.

    - Steve