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EB/MM Sterling neck issues?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Subculture13, Apr 21, 2006.

  1. Subculture13

    Subculture13 Jamming Econo

    Apr 9, 2003
    Toronto, Ont. Canada
    I used to work for a band (guitar/bass tech) and the bassist used Sterlings. A few years ago, when they still had birdseye maple fretboards.

    The necks ALWAYS needed the truss adjusted, sometimes twice during the course of a whole day. I know venue changes and all that climate stuff, I am no newbie, but still, even when sitting around the space with it on tour breaks, the thing ALWAYS needed tweaking. So much so that the owner insisted that I keep an allen key in my pocket so I can adjust it on the fly at anytime, anywhere.

    I bought a Sterling last year, brand new custom ordered for me. It doesn't have the birdseye maple fretboard and I hadn't (at the time) heard anything about this problem from anywhere else, so I assumed it was a thing of the past, or limited tothe birdseye somehow. Well, no, my bass does it too, the neck is in a constant state of change... and it never leaves my bedroom!!!

    Am I alone with this problem? Is there a fix that I may not know about? I need to give it a full fret dress as is (see my comments #3 here: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=244261Is ) among other things, so if I'm taking the time to fix all it's problems, why not that too?
  2. I find that the tuning on mine goes off slightly, fairly often. Not nearly as bad as my formed Godin BG4 though, which could be out by as much as 1/2 a semi-tone within a song or two.

    I don't know if I can attribute that to the truss-rod, but the simple cure is to re-tune for me.

    Perhaps its the way I play. (I don't have a birds-eye maple).

    - Andrew Shirley
  3. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Ive never had this problem, the only thing i can think of is that you are over compensating when you are adjusting the neck, and not giving it time to settle.

    Also, my sterling stays in tune for days, a week, even weeks at a time. No neck movement there.

    Does the humidity fluctuate in the room in which it is kept? Is there any source of heat or air conditioning that may be ventilating near to the bass?
  4. Subculture13

    Subculture13 Jamming Econo

    Apr 9, 2003
    Toronto, Ont. Canada
    I've wracked my brain on it... There is no reason I can think of, including everything you mention here that could casue it... Not over compensation or anything. It stays in tune (close enough anyway) it just slowly "spoons" or flattens. Can the heat from my hands cause the neck to heat so much as to relax or tighten this much? It does it even when stationary. I'm sure climate is the key factor to blame, it's just SO sensitive I am unused to any bass being so sensitive to changes.
  5. Subculture13

    Subculture13 Jamming Econo

    Apr 9, 2003
    Toronto, Ont. Canada
    The seasons are changing, but I am talking about issues that are year round, daily.

    My first guess, and may well be true, but.... I've seen this occur before, but here I am talking unfinished fret ends, and only in a certain area (upper register). I think it may have been a Friday afternoon bass, to look at it they dont even LOOK the same as the others, rough ends, plain and simple. I'm not talking a little wood has shrunk exposing just a tip, I'm talking these frets are rough with sharp edges and unclean corners. Are rare moment of vulernability from EB/MM, I know their reputation preceeds them (that is good).

    Honestly, what would EB/MM do? Tell me to send it back so they can finish installing the frets? It would be cheaper to have it done locally than ship it 4000 miles.
  6. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    I had a MMSR5 with a birdseye maple neck and fingerboard. That neck literally needed adjustment every week. Since then, I've heard necks made entirely from birdseye aren't as stable or reliable as more plain woods. Logic suggests that the knots and figuring take away from the overall strength and solidity of the wood.

    That said, every other EB/MM bass I've owned displayed no such problems at all and were exemplary in every way.
  7. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Its also been said that the birdseye thing is a myth, its not any weaker. And based on the fact that that comment came from Sterling Ball himself, I believe him. My birdsyee Sterling neck only needs to be adjusted once or twice a year.
  8. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    Must be something in the air in your neck of the woods. I have no problem with all of mine (and I've had a total of four).
  9. Chinguschild


    Apr 17, 2006
    Chico, Cali
    I also havent had any problems. Ever contact Ernie Ball about it?
  10. Mike


    Sep 7, 2000
    i've owned probably 10 sterlings and have 2 currently and have never had any problems with the necks at all. i lived in NY for quite a few years with pretty drastic climate changes and none of them ever budged. strange.
  11. HMZ

    HMZ Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2003
    Unfortunately I think this is normal for Musicman guitars and basses. I use to play a MM Sterling, which I loved but I would always have to adjust the neck. I live on Long Island and it gets very humid here during the summer, which I’m sure contributed to the neck issues. The good thing is with the wheel type truss rod adjuster it makes it very easy to make corrections fast. I final sold the musicman Sterling and bought a Modulus Flea and never had to mess with neck adjustments again.
  12. hasbeen

    hasbeen Commercial User

    Sep 23, 2004
    Vice President, KMC Music. Warwick U.S. distribution, Ampeg distribution
    a couple of things-
    * Birdseye isn't the best material to meck a neck out of. It is fine for separate finger boards but not the entire neck. For the neck, the tighter and straighter the grain, the better. I'm not sure why Sterling would say otherwise.
    * But, this is not a birdseye issue anyway (as long as the neck isn't twisting). This is an issue becaue of the gun-stock oil finish. This finish feels great on the hands but it lets moisture in and out of the neck.
    * On my MM's, I rubbed in (and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed) Butcher's Wax. This goes into the pores of the wood and actually takes a set like a varnish kind of "sealing" the wood. It still retains the nice gun-stock feel too. It greatly reduces the amount of tweaking I've had to do on my "un-finished" necks.

    A couple of points-
    * this is not a MM quality issue......just the nature of au-natural necks.
    * If you use Butcher's wax, there are two- one that takes on a sheen and one that is satin. Just makes sure you put it on sparingly and real give it some elbow grease. If you don't, it will get tacky when it gets humid out.

    I hope this helps. I love MM necks and it helped me.
  13. joelb79


    Mar 22, 2006
    Lansing, Michigan
    Mine sits fine... now.

    I used to have problems with it needing a little adjustment here and there before the show, but its very easy to do with my bass. A screwdriver will work.

    when i re-string, i usualy let it settle, then check it again. most times (9/10) i dont adjust because it doesnt need it. This may have something to do with me changing one string at a time, keeping the tension consistant.
  14. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    I had a 1990 EB MM with a rosewood fingerboard and I lived in Toronto. Yes, I had a lot of problems with humidity causing changes in the neck relief. Once in tune though, it would stay that way all night.

    I once too k the bass with me on a one month trip to Oklahoma. That was in May and when I left Toronto the neck relief was perfect. The air in my house was still very dry because the heat was still on. I got to Oklahoma where it was about 90 F and very high humidity. In two days the neck had backbowed so much the strings were flat against the fingerboard. I adjusted the relief and made it playable. Two days after I arrived back in Toronto the neck had bowed the other way and the strings were 3/16" off the fingerboard.

    Other than that the bass was fine and I had no other issues. My Fender P with maple fingerboard does it to a lesser degree. My Carvin with ebony fingerboard hardly changes at all. My Danelectro with rosewood fingerboard changes a lot with humidity and my Ibanez with rosewood fingerboard is about like my Fender.

    There doesn't seem to be much in common to say that one fingerboard wood does it less than another. I've talked to a couple MM players who had the same problem and others who didn't.
  15. hasbeen

    hasbeen Commercial User

    Sep 23, 2004
    Vice President, KMC Music. Warwick U.S. distribution, Ampeg distribution
    correct...that's what I mentioned in my post above. It isn't the fingerboard, it is the oil finished neck.
  16. Assumer


    Mar 26, 2003
    I had a sterling and never experienced this problem. Played it for three years. I Live in Arkansas and the bass flew with me to China and Brazil without an adjustment. It required one truss rod tweak in the 4 years I owned it. My MM guitars never need tweaks and they have great action with no buzz. (they do stay home though)
  17. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    You may be on to something there. On my ebony fingerboard Carvin and my Ibanez I finished the fingerboard with a good soaking of a sealer. The Fender has a factory lacquered maple fingerboard. The back of the necks were all finished with varnish or factory lacquer. The MMs neck looked like it was well finished. It didn't look like a tung oil type finish, but may have been.
  18. hasbeen

    hasbeen Commercial User

    Sep 23, 2004
    Vice President, KMC Music. Warwick U.S. distribution, Ampeg distribution
    pre Ernie Ball MM's were laquer......EB's are "gunstock oil"..according to their site. Same type of finish that is on my Lakland's too. I have the same issue with Lakland but not as bad. Probably due to four things:
    * The graphite bar in the Lakland.
    * Lakland also uses a separate fingerboard on maple necks where MM's uses a one-piece.
    * Lakland uses quarter-sawn maple.
    * I keep all my basses in a room with a humidifier.
  19. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    Right. My Fender with maple fingerboard is a seperate piece and finished.
  20. After a couple of years of having my Sterling, I have really noticed the bow of the neck change, as quickly as a single night.

    I used to store it in a case inside my closet so it was only used sparingly. I didn't think about the action much, although I did notice it change from time to time.

    I have been doing Music Dojo's "Mastering left/right hand technique" course so its been in my hands every day - I have really noticed the wild swings in bow/action.

    Hopefully the OP is still reading this - I'm wondering if you tried the suggestions here with the wax and if it helped?

    - Andrew

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