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does tuner hole placement affect tone?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by John Ruiz, Apr 10, 2002.


  1. John Ruiz

    John Ruiz

    Oct 9, 2000
    Plano, Tx
    I am building a bass and I was wondering what, if any difference does tuner hole placement make to the tone of the instrument. Anyone have any ideas? The bass I am building is a 6 string and I ordered a custom neck with a 3 and 3 configuration. This is what I see most often, so I ASSumed it was the best... :D
     
  2. behold my life-motto : assumption is the mother of all XXXX-ups ( XXXX can be either " mess " , " screw " or " **** ".. just pick the one that suits you best ;) )

    In a way.. everything you put on your bass affects the tone, because it changes the resonation of the bass.. the material of your bridge, tuners, nut and frets alter your sound a little.. but some of these differences are so subtile, that they're inaudible to human ears..

    so the answer to your question would be :

    theory : yes
    practice : no

    ;)
     
  3. barroso

    barroso

    Aug 16, 2000
    Italia
    great answer!;)
     
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    there are some here who would present the argument that it does effect the tone/performance of some basses.

    I have seen Fodera basses and a few other customs that design the peghead so that the lower B string can be strung with the longest length of string past the nut rather than the higher strings as you traditionally see. Of course on the 3+3, the A and D strings would have the longest length past the nut.

    It does make some sense that this design would improve tension and thus tone, but I have never had the opportunity to A/B to offer any real observations.

    A little searching around on the site should find that string.

    Chas
     
  5. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    The main advantage to 2 or 3 on a side tuners is that if designed properly, you can have a bass with a tilt back headstock and a nearly straight string angle from the nut to the tuner, and eliminate string trees.

    All of those should, in theory, eliminate tuning problems caused by friction between the nut and the strings.

    Not that it is that big of a problem, IMO.
     
  6. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    The length of the string past the witness points (bridge, nut, or fret)- that is, past the vibrating portion of the string- do not have any effect on the string's tension. Whether they affect the tonality is open to debate. But they do not increase the string tension.
     
  7. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Well I see which side you are on. I am not really sure about myself, but I know there are some who would disagree.

    I was simply stating that there was thread a while back that discussed this at length.

    And I still think it makes sense that it could improve the tension of the string.

    If you have any experience with double bass, you know that changing the length of the tailgut can certainly affect the tension of the strings. How is this unlike the length of the string past the nut? Each is on the other side of the witness points.

    I really don't want to open up this can of worms, as it has been discussed ad nauseam, but I can't let your statement stand in this record as a matter of fact, because my experiences are that there is at least some reason to believe otherwise.

    Chas
     
  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    The equation:

    T = UW x (2 x L x F)squared / 386.4

    T = tension in string, lbs.
    UW = unit weight of string, lbs. per linear inch (lbs/in)
    L = speaking length of string, inches
    F = vibration frequency of string, cycles/sec (Hz)

    Any part of a string that is beyond the speaking portion plays no part in determining the resonant frequency.

    Think of it this way-

    Fret the E string at the 5th fret. Clamp the tail of the string at the nut, and cut off the remainder of the string. You now have an unspeaking length 5 frets long. Play it. It is an A, at a certain tension.

    Now put a second clamp on the 1st fret. (String tension does not change.) Cut the string past the new clamp, and remove the old nut-position clamp. Throw away the 1-fret-long piece of string. Fret the string at the 5th fret. You now have have an unspeaking length 4 frets long. Play it. It is an A, at the same tension.

    Now put a clamp on the 2nd fret. (String tension does not change.) Cut the string past the new clamp, and remove the old 1st-fret clamp. Throw away the 1-fret-long piece of string. Fret the string at the 5th fret. You now have have an unspeaking length 3 frets long. Play it. It is an A, at the same tension.

    Now put a clamp on the 3rd fret. (String tension does not change.) Cut the string past the new clamp, and remove the old 2nd-fret clamp. Throw away the 1-fret-long piece of string. Fret the string at the 5th fret. You now have have an unspeaking length 2 frets long. Play it. It is an A, at the same tension.

    Now put a clamp on the 4th fret. (String tension does not change.) Cut the string past the new clamp, and remove the old 3rd-fret clamp. Throw away the 1-fret-long piece of string. Fret the string at the 5th fret. You now have have an unspeaking length 1 fret long. Play it. It is an A, at the same tension.

    Now put a clamp right on the 5th fret. (String tension does not change.) Cut the string past the new clamp, and remove the old 4th-fret clamp. Throw away the 1-fret-long piece of string. You now have zero unspeaking length. Play it. It is an A, at the same tension.

    Dig? In each case, despite a different unspeaking length, the speaking length was the same, the tension was the same, the unit weight was the same, and the pitch was the same.

    I have had to deal with this in my work, engineering belt drive systems. I could put this in engineering/physics terms also, if you'd like.

    There's a lot of theory, and string unit weight info, at the D'Addario site here. Thanks to D'Addario for the info and to Alan Medina for the link.

    Regards
    Pete
     
  9. John Ruiz

    John Ruiz

    Oct 9, 2000
    Plano, Tx
    Cool! Thanks for the info! I think that the 3+3 will be fine, and I am having the headstock tilted back (as stated earlier to eliminate the necessity of string trees, etc.) Thanks!
     
  10. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    Pilotjones is right, tension is not effected by post-nut string length. It is a matter of fact.

    Flexibility, on the other hand, may be. That, I think, is where the difference is made.
     
  11. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    I can certainly imagine that while the length of gut past the bridge on an upright would not affect the basic tension of the string, it could make the string feel more flexible because when plucking, the bridge momentarily gives a little- and would give more with a longer gut length.
     
  12. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    If you think about it, the only thing that allows you to bend a string, causing it to vibrate, is that it can stretch lenthwise (curve is longer than a straight line). Assuming that the friction at the nut is low (not necessarily the case, of course), if you had a huge nut-tuner length, you'd get a lot more stretch (since only the part between the nut and bridge is moving side-to-side).

    Now, why this could make the string seem *tighter*, beats the heck out of me. :)

    And there's still the issue of headless basses with great B strings !
    :confused:
     
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    I think the assumption is that the string has enough friction that it is not moving over the nut. If this were happening, it would a) change the behavior of the string, and b) sap energy from the part of the string we are listening to. So, ideally, there would be no movement over the nut, or over the fret if fretting.
    This idea to me is bourne out by three examples:
    1. your sound is better when you press your finger right behind the fret, rather than halfway between the frets, thus reducing the distance between witness point and fixed point;
    2. headless basses, with the fixed point close the nut (witness point), are often held to have clear tone and long sustain; and
    3. guitars with a locking nut, with the fixed point at the nut (witness point), are often held to have clear tone and long sustain.
      [/list=1]
     
  14. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I suppose I never really thought about tension as far as the science was concerned.

    To me I have always thought of tension as simply how taut the strings feel. I am not completely off base if you look at the dictionary.

    1. noun: the action of stretching something tight.

    2. noun: (physics) a stress that produces an elongation of an elastic physical body.

    3. noun: a balance between and interplay of opposing elements or tendencies (especially in art or literature).

    4. noun: a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense.

    5. noun: the physical condition of being stretched or strained.

    6. noun: feelings of hostility that are not manifest.


    I think you were thinking #2 and I was a #1 all along.


    But, I do understand that there is some science behind your explanation, and until someone from MIT posts a rebuttal, it sure looks good to me.

    So are we settled on whether or not the long nut-to-post length helps the "tautness" of a string?

    Is tautness a word?


    Chas