Do I have a tuning machine issue ?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jshinal, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. jshinal


    May 28, 2013
    Raleigh, NC
    I am wondering whether I have a tuning machine problem. Frequently during live sets I have to retune. It's never off by very much, but it's enough that it needs retuned. This affects our song pacing, I don't really want a delay while I rush to retune.

    My main bass is a MIM Precision Special Deluxe from around 2003. It has the original tuning machines. I have upgraded to a Gotoh 303 type bridge and had a new nut cut. The tech who did the nut is an obsessive perfectionist, and leveled a couple of frets too. From what I can tell all his work was dead on.

    I'm somewhat heavy handed, but definitely not a thrasher. After a slap/pop tune like Take Me To The River or Standin' On Shaky Ground a retune is always needed. Strings are LaBella Flats. Age of the strings doesn't seem to change the tuning issue.

    Do I need to lighten up my right hand, or do I have tuners that are creeping slackward during use ? Will a simple tuner upgrade from the MIM midgrade originals fix this detuning and let me thump away in happy ignorance ?

    Feel free to toss out crazy suggestions.
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Try another bass?
  3. Just to be clear--does it only creep flat?
    On all strings, or just two, or one in particular?

    In my experience it's odd to have the whole bass go out, except under extreme weather condition--which don't last more than a few weeks so we can rule them out.
    With tuners, a single one being a creeper is far more likely than all four.

    Are all the tuner screws tight?
    Neck screws tight? Bridge?
    May as well check, to eliminate possible contributing factors.
    Are the bridge saddle grooves smooth?

    A sticking nut, from too-narrow slots, has always been MY biggest issue.
    Maybe the perfect nut your tech made has shrunk over time?

    The last wild idea I have is your neck.
    It may have a great setup under laboratory conditions, but your particular slice of wood could be more sensitive to heat and minor stresses than most others. Heat from your hand and tiny fluctuations in string tension from the way you play may be causing it to relax and bow a bit. Is it sharp when you come back from break?

    Forgive my asking, but how are your re-stringing skills?
    I've seen some very creepy guitars and basses (in pawn shops) that stayed in tune just fine once new strings were seated in the hole far enough (or at all) and had the proper winding technique applied. (Meaning I bought them...)

    Can you take a tuner off another bass and swap for a week, just to test?

    Good luck--hope you get it sorted out.
  4. bassclef112

    bassclef112 Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2003
    Astoria, NY
    Here's what happens with me, using Hipshot or Schaller machines.

    I walk into the club and tune up. The bass is cold. We start.
    A couple of tunes in the bass warms up, and between playing and stretching (warming) I tune up again.
    After very active songs I'll need to tweak it again.

    How many times will depend on the string type and gauge, and how new or old they are.

    I never put new strings on the day before a gig if I can help it. Always several days ahead with daily playing so they can settle down.
    Of course, being rather heavy handed myself, this doesn't equal an actual performance but it gets me closer to a steadier baseline.

    In between sets the strings cool off again and go sharp. Repeat as in first set.

    In this day and age even the cheapest machines are typically made well enough not to actually slip. You just get a lower turning ratio.
    If, after the strings have settled down and reached their "tuning point", meaning they've stretched out to stability, there should be very little
    variance with being in tune. Like you say, "not very much". I'm a bit OCD with my tuning, but the fact is these small variations are not even noticeable
    during performance. After tuning up, play something heavy handed while plugged into a tuner and see how much variation off the note you get just by fretting
    and plucking the notes.
  5. Had that problem a while back. Just on one string in a fairly new set of flats. Turned out the string was bad.