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I tune my bass slightly flat when recording. Is that wrong?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Santol, Mar 20, 2017.


  1. I noticed that the fretted notes on my J Bass are slightly sharp. I understand this happens because by pressing on the string I increase the tension - especially with my high-action set up. It's still strange that this doesn't occur at the 12th string. Notes up here aren't sharp at all after I fixed the set-up and intonation. But well before that, the first few positions, all the fretted notes are slightly sharp when the bass is tuned perfectly.

    Anyway, to get around this issue, I decided to tune the bass slightly flat so that the fretted notes are perfect. I do this only when recording; especially on songs which don't require open strings. Has anyone else been doing the same?
     
    Michael Schreiber and dpaul like this.
  2. Callused Finger

    Callused Finger

    Feb 22, 2007
    New York
    That must be some high action. If it's high enough to cause your tuning to be sharp when fretted I'd want my bass setup better.
    Maybe tuning using fretted notes rather than open strings would alleviate the difference in tuning.
     
  3. Rabidhamster

    Rabidhamster

    Jan 15, 2014


    If it's only happening this way in the frets near the nut and not above 12 then its because your nut slots are too high from the tops of the frets- pretty easy fix
     
  4. rufus.K

    rufus.K

    Oct 18, 2015
    SoCal
    Tune on the 5th fret, or file nut slots
     
  5. It's a 70s J bass and maybe the neck has been deformed over the years or something... The action is high and can't be lowered since I have heavy flats on it and the tension must be really high on this old neck. It sting gives me nice Jamerson thumps on it and I love the sound.

    But regardless of the condition of my bass, isn't it the case with every instrument that the fretted notes are slightly higher? Isn't it worth it to tune a little flat to compensate for it anyway?
     
    amphlett7 likes this.
  6. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I don't think so. That's why the frets are there in the first place. You may need to compensate for your excessively high action but a bass that's setup "normally" should have each and every note, fretted or open, be in tune....as far as I know.
     
  7. rufus.K

    rufus.K

    Oct 18, 2015
    SoCal
    Not every instrument acts this way.
    When I have that issue, I tune on the 5th fret (not open) and everything is fine
     
    Michael Schreiber likes this.
  8. Your bass needs a setup so fretted notes aren't sharp in relationship to the open strings. I guarantee you, somewhere in the world is a luthier who knows how to set up an old Fender with flats.

    Even a perfectly set up bass won't be exactly 100% in tune on all notes. But it sounds like yours still has room for improvement. :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
    climber, bebi, squidtastic and 9 others like this.
  9. 12BitSlab

    12BitSlab

    Nov 28, 2016
    70's Jazz basses came from the factory with flats. There are PLENTY of luthiers who understand how to set up a Jazz with flats.
     
    bobyoung53 and superdick2112 like this.
  10. I'm a big DIY guy and don't believe in getting others to do things for me if I can invest a reasonably short time and learn how to do it myself. That said, I don't understand what a luthier could do here if it's well intonated at the 12th fret already. The bridge looks fine too. The strings are old vintage flats I took out of unsealed envelopes... The problem might be with them.

    I don't have another bass here at the moment, to check. Are you guys saying your instruments are pitch perfect on the open strings and on all the other fretted notes?
     
  11. Saetia

    Saetia

    Mar 27, 2003
    Wisconsin
    If when fretting your notes they go sharp, it's your actions fault you are going sharp. Not a lot you can do but lower your action if you are indeed intonated at the 12th.
     
    gebass6 likes this.
  12. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2004
    Millbury Ma.
    Close enough, I have flats on a 96 J bass and it plays in tune up the neck including near the nut, I think as others have said your nut is probably cut for smaller diameter strings, the closer you play to the nut the more you stretch the string with consequent sharp pitch which will straighten out the farther you get up the neck away from the nut. I have light gauge Labella deep talkin flats on mine.
     
    Santol and Saetia like this.
  13. MYLOWFREQ

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    New York
    If you do that, then youur open strins are going to be flat. It sounds like your bass needs a good setup that might require nut and bridge adjustment, and fret leveleing. I would not record with that bass untill it is setup well.
     
  14. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Spector-Dingwall-Aguilar-DR-Tech 21-Darkglass
    Nope.

    The only time I've ever tuned flat on a session was when an artist wanted a very aggressive right hand attack, which will pull the notes slightly sharp.

    Playing normally, every note should be in tune if the bass is set up and intonated properly.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
  15. Just pay for a setup. Gee whiz.
     
    D.M.N., Thisguy, wncBass and 14 others like this.
  16. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Maybe find some low tension flats that work with the neck? Better yet, take it to someone qualified and see if they can get the neck straightened out.
     
    smogg likes this.
  17. lz4005

    lz4005

    Oct 22, 2013
    Yes.
     
  18. 12BitSlab

    12BitSlab

    Nov 28, 2016
    I can certainly understand wanting to enter the world of DIY. I don't do that since tools and me -- well -- we don't get along too well.

    I have a '75 Jazz that I bought new. Played it for 8 years almost full time until I "retired" in '83. It had its first adjustment 3 years ago by a VERY good tech who works at GC. It is darn near pitch perfect on every fret and on open strings.

    I can't give you advice on where to start (e.g., nut, frets, bridge, etc.) because that is not my area of expertise. One thing you might want to do is to take it to a good tech, but don't just drop it off. Ask the tech if you can be there when it is being worked on. I would venture a guess that would be a great learning experience for you and subsequently put you on the right road to DIY setups.

    Good luck!
     
    Santol likes this.
  19. socialleper

    socialleper Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    As long as it doesn't bother you or sound like @$$ when you record, it doesn't matter.
     
    TRichardsbass, RBrownBass and twinjet like this.
  20. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I think it's a reasonable idea for a quick fix if you notice a problem and need to make it through a studio session, but after that I think the professional thing to do is to try to fix the underlying issue so you don't have it occur again.
     
    Santol likes this.