Dead Spots - Please Explain

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BulbousMoses, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. I looked for a sticky on this but couldn't find one. Can someone please explain dead spots to me. How to detect them and what, if anything, you can do about them? How common are they and should I be concerned? I'm shopping for a new bass and I want to be able to detect dead spots and return the instrument if need be.
  2. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    If you can't hear them, don't worry about it.

    If it's bad enough you'll probably hear it somewhere around the 4-7 frets on the G string.

    If I notice a deadspot I don't buy the bass. I've found that shortscale basses are much better at controlling deadspots, that's one reason why I play mostly shortscales.
  3. Here is a simple test to determine dead spots. Start on the G string at the first fret. Pick or pluck the note normally and give it a one-mississippi, two-mississippi, three-mississippi and see if it is still sustaining when you reach 4. Move up a fret at a time and test every note. Then do the other strings.

    I guess I am an oddball, but I need a four count whole note here and there, it is important to me. Yes, dead spots do matter to me. Big Time.

    Good luck with finding a honey.

  4. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    If you can find a "Fat Finger" buy it. They do work, kinda. It's a couple of ounces of metal that will clamp on the headstock. They do lessen the dead spot, but they won't eliminate it, just move it. I have the usual dead spot on the G string on 'C'. One Fat Finger will put over the trademark lable (Fender style headstock) will clear up the 'C' but moves the dead spot to 'B-Bb', but it's less. Various places have slightly different effects. But of course you're adding weight to the headstock and that can get into neck dive.

    For me, newer strings have less dead spot sound, but that doesn't last long. Probably the best answer is to realize that unless your note is in a very exposed setting very few people will notice it. Probably nobody in the band will, unless you talk about it. Know your neck and move the notes to better sounding places the best you can.
  5. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    When testing a bass, although you may want to play fluidly and quickly to assess its' feel, take the time to slowly pluck every single note. If a note dies out much more quickly than the others you will hear it as "dead". You will also be sure to find any undue fret buzz.
  6. I'm with BassHappy on this one; the "Mississippi" test is a must, *at least* through a four-count. I started playing in '65 and by mid-'69 was ready to chuck it all, solely due to frustration because of dead spots. A music store owner in N'awlins talked me out of it and a couple of months later I found my fourth bass -- a first-generation EB-2 with the center block -- and . . . no dead spots!

    My mid-sixties self has learned a few tricks to combat dead spots -- FatFinger/FatHead is not the only one -- regarding which my teen-aged self was oblivious, and now a dead spot on a bass no longer is an absolute deal-breaker. But I probably am beyond buying basses now; I'm set.

    I distinguish between three types of dead spots:

    1) the REALLY dead spot where the note just vanishes and the string stops vibrating almost as soon as it is struck;
    2) the string continues to ring, but after a couple of beats the fundamental drops out and only the higher harmonics can be heard;
    3) the note continues to ring and the entire harmonic spectrum is present, but the note sounds "pinched" or timbrally "different" from its neighbors.

    The other discussions of deadspots I've seen on TB seem to lump all these types under a single rubric. I don't see it that way.
    Camaro likes this.
  7. I must have played close to 300 basses or more since starting and I can't say I've ever noticed a dead spot in that range of the neck that didn't have something to do with a high fret or a twist in the string somewhere.
    gebass6 likes this.
  8. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007

    Do you mean the 4-7 fret in the G string? I have owned around 60 basses, from top luthiers to cheap mass produced, and I can say that all of them have some level of dead note in that range, and I am sure that the dead spot had nothing to do with the strings or fret level
  9. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    From personal experience, bolt on necks seem to suffer most, and neck-throughs and set necks less, but there is almost always some dampening in that area of the neck.
    Short scales seem to have none or very little tendency to have dampened zones, but I've only played a few of them.
    I did play a Kramer aluminum necked bass once and I remember it had no dead spot at all.

    My older Ricks have barely perceptible or no noticeable dead spots, my 2010 4003 has a slight one, my VM Jazz has a bit more.

    The Peavey Millennium BXP I have has very little, a MIJ P bass I had had the usual Fender dead spot, the '71 Tele bass I had had the same as the P, as did all the P basses I have played.
    Not extreme, but pretty noticeable.

    My old POS short scale from the 1970s had none.
  10. Jefff


    Aug 14, 2013
    I have found most dead spots are not really dead, just a little under the weather.

    I have yet to own a bass that had a spot that changed my playing or note selection.
  11. I am completely dazed and confused about the opposite extremes mentioned by and between awilkie84 and pedroims.

    Wow, could these experiences be any more in direct conflict with each other?

    In my history - I only had one bass - a 1972 Fender Jazz - which had dead spots and I mean HORRIBLY DEAD, dead spots on frets 4-7 on both the G and D strings, so I can't be of much help on this. My experience was of number (1 above. I mean, just zero sustain, they died out completely and immediately.

    I did move to medium scale basses and have never had another problem though. Maybe I just got lucky. I WILL say though, unless you are really focused on the four count test - or you are playing a passage that demands a sustained whole note, it is easy to let this particular defect slip by you. 90% of the time, you probably won't notice it. In my experience, particularly bad on "vintage" full-scale Fenders from the 60's and 70's.

  12. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    Maybe they're just pining for the fjords! :D
    skydogg likes this.
  13. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    Right now I have a Fender P MIA 2008, a Stingray 2013 and a Lakland DJ 2003. All of them have a slight but noticeable note decay in that range, nothing to worry about but it is there for sure. I have noticed the same with all basses I have owned: Fender, Yamaha, Sadowsky, Dingwall, Roscoe, Valenti, Squiere , Lakland, etc. As other TB mentioned, dead spots came in different grades but they are there.
    One Drop likes this.
  14. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    My Fenders have the dead spots but, it's rare that I need those notes to sustain for an extended period.

    It's kinda funny to point them out but of the bass is an overall player, well, I'm playin' it.
  15. elBandito


    Dec 3, 2008
    Rotten Apple
    Most people concentrate on playing fast, so dead notes go unnoticed for a while. Every bass I owned has/had them in varying degrees. They're there. If you haven't noticed, don't go around looking for them.
  16. All bolt-ons?

    As mentioned above, short scale and neck thru seem to have fewer issues. YMMV
  17. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    Decay is a good test, but on a bad dead spot you'll get more of a "thud" than a clear tone.

    Play a few basses and just fret your way up on each string. Don't drive yourself nuts or expect perfection, but look for an obvious flaw. If there's nothng really wrong and you still like the bass, maybe you can have it "tuned up" before you buy it by a guitar tech. etc. SOMETIMES that can make a big difference.....not always.
  18. The true litmus test is whether -- dead spot or not -- the fret gives you a "useable note." If the bass gets me through the legato passages of Jefferson Airplane's "Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon" I'm good with it; I won't need more sustain than that.

    My second and third basses were a Vox Cougar (bolt-on) and an Epiphone Newport (set neck) -- both 30" scale -- and both had Type 1 dead spots, the Vox in particular. The only medium-scale (32") bass I've owned is a first-generation Oscar Schmidt ABG and
    I've noodled a few Aria Cardinal basses (also 32") and discerned dead spots on NONE of them; and I was looking.

    We get different results because we all have a different research sample. Before posting
    I did some Snark-tuning and "dead-tested" the following basses (all long-scale):

    Daion Power Mark X (neck-through)
    Danelectro '63 (bolt-on)
    Epiphone Embassy Deluxe (set neck)
    Martin EB-18 (set neck)
    Martin EB-18 fretless (set neck)
    Multivox Marvel (bolt-on)

    The Dano and the Martins had just a hint of the Type 2 dead spot, but you had to be listening for it. The Daion, Epi, and Multivox all got a clean slate. So it is possible to find a dead-spot free bass.
  19. As previously mentioned, of course they are there.....

    Especially if you are playing a full 34" scale Fender.

    Please don't generalize if you don't have any experience with medium scales or non full-scale Fenders.

    You are doing everyone here a dis-service, by perpetuating a myth....

  20. elBandito


    Dec 3, 2008
    Rotten Apple
    Fair enough. I was talking about 34" basses. Non-fenders do have dead spots, and that's not a myth.