Dead spots on the fretboard

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Rockin John, Feb 5, 2001.

  1. My thread on the strings board suggests this problem is more common than might be first thought.

    My Squier Affinity P-Bass suffers, a few frets either side of 4th on the G string. Frankly, the lower end of the G string is unusable. But the same notes played on D seem to be OK. Odd.

    Even having built basses I've no idea why or how the combination of woods and fittings can conspire to absorb the string's vibrations in this way.

    I doubt there's any cure for the Squier but I'm interested to know why it happens.

    Any help, please.

    Rockin John
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    It is a common problem with Precision basses and is mentioned in a interview with Don Rendall who worked on the original Fender designs in the 50s, in the Bass Book (p24) :

    "We had a problem with a deadspot on the first string around the seventh fret. A lot of people never found that out (he laughs)but some of the better players did. We worked to try to overcome that and enlarging the headstock helped some. I think we determined that the resonance of the body, neck and head with the seventh fret position acted like a shock absorber, it kind of snubbed the tone. The mass of the body and of the head and the stiffness of the neck all had an effect on the problem, but we never did solve it completely."

    I think the accepted wisdom with P basses is that you never lost this problem and could only shift it around the neck - if you were lucky it was to a place higher than where you played most of the time. Like most P-bass players never wanted to go above the 12th fret.

    Rendall mentions the crucial thing about the stiffness of the neck and reinforcing with graphite helps this - so the more expensive Fenders all now have graphite reinforced necks and are less prone to deadspots - my Fender RB5 had no deadspots at all.

    I think that the people who stick with vintage instruments accept that to get that exact vintage tone you have to make some compromises.

    [Edited by Bruce Lindfield on 02-05-2001 at 06:05 AM]
  3. Good afternoon, Bruce, and thanks for your trouble.

    Yes, I kinda suspected that it is a resonance problem. And Mr Rendall's description is dead right. The instrument certainly does act like a shock absorber: more like an acoustic sponge, I would have said in this case.

    My problem with that idea is that if you hit something with a pitch at it's resonant frequecy, you'd expect the object to do the exact opposite: to reinforce to pitch, not soak it up. Having said all that I must say that it's just a gut feeling because I'm no expert on mechanics and vibrating bodies.

    It's more like the bass has a dip in it's response, not a peak.

    And, yes, I now appreciate that Precisions suffered. In some ways I count myself lucky that it's only a Squier, not a "real" Fender. I'd be well brassed off if I'd spent £££s on one only to find it'd got that problem.

    Does this apply to the Jazz and it's clones, do you know?



  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well, as I mentioned, those with graphite reinforced necks seem to be less prone to deadspots. I know that Jazz basses can suffer from this, but I've tried quite a few recently without any deadspots, but these were probably graphite necks.

    I know that when I was playing in the early 80s, almost all of the Fenders I tried had "floppy" necks and were prone to deadspots. I think that finally, towards the end of the 90s, Fender started to get their act together on quality control and have been able to refine their production processes and get back to the standards they set in the 60s.

    The Roscoe Beck signature is a fine bass and close to boutique bass standards and you can pretty much guarantee with one of these, that you will be getting an instrument that has none of the problems that dogged Fender throughout the 70s and 80s.
  5. the theory is that the supported ends of the string should not move at all- ie. be nodes, or at least move as little as possible for the string to sustain properly.
    therefore if the neck vibrates too, sustain is lost as energy from the string gets dissipated in the neck and body of the bass- since the neck will vibrate the most at its resonant frequency the deadspot results.
    the vibration of the neck may also be out of phase with that of the string and cause cancellation too.

    you could argue that the Jazz bass (before graphite reinforcement was introduced) could be more prone to deadspots than the Precision as the neck is narrower and presumably less rigid as a result.

    my explanation for why say a C# on the 6th fret of the G string is a deadspot, yet the same note sustains properly on the 11th fret of the D string is that the neck is less free to resonate further towards the neck block, as the length of wood is shorter- much the same explanation for why all the notes generally sound fatter further up the neck (together with the strings being moved closer to the pickups).
    check out this thread for more on the subject;

    [Edited by The Mock Turtle Regulator on 02-05-2001 at 01:09 PM]
  6. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    I have a '92 MIM Jazz, (soon to be silenced for a month), a '97 MIA Precision, and a chessy Hondo P copy...All have the C# dead spot. The MIA Precision has graphtie reinforcement, but no change...

    There is a device on the market that is essentially a brass clamp that you can attach to the headstock to remove the deadspot...looks goofy as all get-out, but surprisingly enough, it works! I forget the name, but I don't need the note badly enough to subject my basses to this humiliation!

    BTW, not to nit-pick, but the correct person is Don Randall, a marketing guy who eventually went on to found the Randall Amp company, (Wow...remember those?!?!?)

  7. I remember the Fathead, a brass plate about the size of the headstock. The idea was to mount it on the back of the headstock of your Fender bass and get rid of dead spots. The large piece of brass also ruins the balance of the bass BTW.

  8. My '97 American Precision has deadspots at the 15th fret on the D string and the 17th fret on the G. I hardly use those notes, but I'd still like to get it fixed. Will adjusting the truss rod or bridge effect these spots? The pickguard on my bass blocks the truss rod and I'm wondering if that would help it.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well that's right, but I only got one letter wrong and I thought I'd done pretty well, typing all that stuff out of the Bass Book - and I get criticised for one wrong letter! :rolleyes:
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I remember reading a lot about this on boards like this one plus the Fender forum and this is what I was referring to in my previous posts. A lot of people said that it didn't really get rid of the dead spot - just moved it higher up the neck to somewhere beyond the 12th fret, where it wasn't so much of a problem.
  11. Just to say a big THANKS for all your trouble.

    Thanks again.

    Rockin John