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Interesting Tailpiece Wire Experience

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by arnoldschnitzer, May 28, 2005.


  1. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I recently set up my newest handmade bass, and it sounded good but a little dull. The tailpiece wire was a spliced piece of vectran, a very strong thin synthetic rope. When I knocked on the tailpiece, it sounded damped, and did not ring the way I like to hear. (I want it to sound like a Twin Reverb amp that's been kicked.) I replaced the wire with my usual 3/32" braided stainless steel and everything changed. The instrument became more live, focused and brighter, all qualities I was looking to enhance. So I think the rope could be useful for basses that are too bright or live, where one wants to darken things up a bit, and maybe deaden somewhat. But of course this is only one experience with one particular instrument, and by no means scientifically valid. That said, I think all the claims about thin rope tailpiece cord may be overblown or inaccurate. I'm interested in hearing about other people's experiences with tailpiece cord/wire.
     
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    In the for what it's worth column, I had a similar experience with my Shen hybrid.

    Nick set up the bass with the standard ebony TP and steel rope, probably @ 1/8" or so. (maybe the same stuff you use)

    I was happy with the bass, but I always felt it was was bright. About four months ago, I swapped out the TP and cable for a MPM claro walnut compensated TP and one of his ropes.

    It it imediately had more bottom and a bit stronger E which I guess one may attribute to the TP, but also the tone is more round throughout and less shrill. The arco tone is especially more mature and warm. And that's even with me playing flat chromesteels.

    Perhaps, it is just the TP or even psychoacoustic, but the difference seems quite obvious to me. I like the tone much better.
     
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Well, if you change both the Tailpiece and the Wire it is hard to tell what is doing what. FWIW, the Walnut is brighter than the Ebony. This I know for a fact. Also the metal Strand wire for TPs will help the Harminics out a bit.

    Several of the Basses I have and used in the last couple of years on both Symphony and Jazz type gigs have non-Ebony Tailpieces. They are the Originals used when the Bass was made. They are stained Black but are Maple or Pear. I am not 100% certain what they are and will not try to find out but they are solid and strong. Ebony Tailpesces for Bass is mostly a 20th century thing. One is Early American, one Italian and one Olde English. I also have a 3-string stained full sized tailpiece from a Bass I got 2 years ago.

    I was recently told by an un-named Luthier (not a TBer) that the strings between the Bridge and Tailpiece should be tuned two octaves and a forth above the note. How many of you out there go by this rule, listen for this or even believe in it?
     
  4. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Some say a fourth, some say a fifth. I believe the Pecanic tailpiece is actually designed to achieve an approximation of this tuning.
     
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    With a standard-type tailpiece, I generally go for the fourth. the Pecanic-type produces different pitch relationships on each string.
     
  6. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Oh... didn't realize that.
     
  7. Tom Hutton

    Tom Hutton

    Nov 22, 2004
    Indiana
    That's roughly how mine is tuned - the G is perfectly tuned to two octaves and a fourth, the others are out by varying degrees. Presumably a compensated/adjustable tailpiece would alleviate this?
     
  8. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    That's interesting. What's the theory behind the tailpiece tuning? I would have guessed that you would want to avoid any harminic relationship betwene the section of the string behind the bridge and the main part of the string as resonances might compound problems with wolf tones.
     
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    That's a good point. But sometimes creating a strong resonance between the wolf note and afterlength actually reduces the wolf. There are lots of theories about afterlength tuning, and none really explain everything. Ken, why is walnut brighter than ebony?
     
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Take a piece of each kind of wood and drop it on the Floor. The Ebony being what is is will absorb more sound. The Walnut being more Brittle sounding sounde brighter with more upper midrange.

    The Sky is Blue, The ocean is wet, the birds fly and the dogs bark.. Same basic reason... I don't know why I just know what IS.
     
  11. Mr. Traeger talks about tap tuning tailpieces in his book.
    He also maintains that the distance between the tailwires where they cross the saddle makes a difference. Makes sense- the greater the distance between the wires, the more resistant the tailpiece is to twisting.
     
  12. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    I am surely glad to hear Mr. Traeger's book getting good reviews, here--I bought it on the strenght of Henry Strobel having published it, and it _seemed_ good, but being a newbie on all things bass, I could never be sure. It is nice to hear more experienced people referring to it in positive terms.
     
  13. 1st Bass, welcome aboard the good ship TalkBass. You'll find it a civil, entertaining sort of vessel. Lotsa good folks, lots to learn. And some nuttiness...
    If you do a search you'll find there's been a fair bit of discussion of Charles Traeger's book. I bought it, I think it's worth the investment.
     
  14. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    I think so, too-- to all of the above. :)

    Incidentally, I have already found myself laughing aloud over the friendly banter and antics that sometime takes place.

    Mr. Traeger's book seems as though it will be helpful-- but I have little to which to compare it, as there are none like it, that I know of, and I am not a trained luthier, to say, "Oh, see, this is wrong..."

    It seems good to me, and I am glad to find it well thought of, here. I know Henry Strobel, and the fact that HE thought it good enough to publish convinced me to buy it.
     
  15. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Yet another post morphs into a discussion of the Traeger book... :meh:
     
  16. I have always thought odd the view that the afterlength can help the bass's response if it is pitched to some interval of the open strings. It seems to me this would only have a significant impact when playing notes at the pitch of an open string, or some closely related pitch. Since there are plenty of other pitches to be played on the bass, wouldn't some other arbitrary afterlength tuning have the same salutory effect with other pitches ?

    Instead, I kinda suspect that for afterlength pitch to have a good effect, it should be in some relationship to the other main inherent tones on the bass, such as the cavity resonance or the neck/scroll taptone, etc. (The A0, B1, etc - I can never remember which is which among all these).

    I think the reason many people find the afterlength to help overall response if it is in some relationship to the open string pitch is actually because sometimes the open string pitch, in turn, happens to be in a relationship to these other tones in the bass. In other words, the open string pitch is just a coincidence; the key relationship is between the pitches of the afterlength and these other inherent tones.

    But what the heck do I know? I am certainly no luthier or expert; I just play the damned things.

    In a related point, though I don't want to drag this thread back to a debate on Traeger's book, I do like his basic contention that every part of the bass is in some way helping (or hindering) every other part to vibrate. In a way, I suppose, this is obvious, but I liked the way Traeger brings so many issues discussed in his book back to this basic principle (though there are some views in his book that I am not sure I agree with).
     
  17. Ken Smith:
    A fellow named Bill Graham asked how to do this in another thread. I recommended an adjustable Mike Pecanic TP. I believe if those afterlengths are tuned, they will sympathetically resonate with related pitches. It ain't no leap of faith. Rule as to what they are tuned to?- I've heard conflicting suggestions.

    Arnold Schnitzer:
    There are two (at least) Pecanic designs, one that has fixed compensated lengths and another that allows individual tuning of each note.

    Arnold Schnitzer:
    And no amount of moanin' will put that genie back in the bottle. He didn't discuss tuning afterlengths, just tailgut so maybe we can regain this thread since he has nothing to contribute to it.

    myrick:
    Anything that will vibrate sympathetically within the instrument will add character to a note. Whether it does a "good thing" or not is sort of a moralistic approach if not a poor way to discuss this. Whether it does something "constructive" is the issue. The lower resonances (A0, B0, etc.) help out because almost every tone on the bass will be a harmonic or partial of one or the other of those resonances. There are probably different ways to affect the sound depending on what you tune the afterlength to, but the important concept is that these notes are going to be way above the lower body and air resonances. It is likely that there will be some harmonic relationship anyway since eventually high notes are partials of low notes, but what you are really going for is constructive sympathetic resonance to the higher notes. If you have four different pitches related to the open strings harmonically, a different one will sympathize depending on the pitch of the note.

    The more strings you have, the more sympathetic vibrations there are to add character to the notes. On my new fiver I have had to get used to having much stronger B notes because no matter what register the "B" note is in it excites the open BB string now. Logically, the F# also gets a good boost. Of course I can always damp the other strings if I want, but I'm loving that extra reverb.
     
  18. tsolo

    tsolo

    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    Is this important? Should it resist twisting or not?
     
  19. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Interesting question. The more the tailpiece twists, the freer it is to vibrate. Some guys (John Beal, NYC) have dispensed with the tailpiece altogether or strung it with a single wire. I can't comment from personal experience on that, though it would make sense that a single wire would be the most free. Whether or not this affects the tone positively would be in the ears of the beholder. I generally set the wires apart the same distance at the saddle that they originate from the tailpiece. On my newest bass I made the decision to drill the mounting holes closer together than usual. It sounds good, but I doubt this made an audible difference. On another note (bad pun intended), I first played this bass with a graphite endpin rod. Then I put a steel rod in and liked the tone better...light weight may not always sound best...
     
  20. From the limited dabbling I've done with tailwire lengths, it seems to me that the pitch of the afterlength is not itself a great determining factor in the sound of the bass. Rather, it's more a means of positioning the tailpiece in relation to the bridge. Muting afterlengths seems to have little effect. Moving the tailpiece closer to the bridge seems to have more of an overall muting effect, as does stiffening the tailpiece/ afterlength assembly, as with a solid tailwire. What frequencies are enhanced or muted, and whether it has a good or bad effect on sound seems to vary from bass to bass, and "sounds good" is always a subjective judgement.

    (Notice how I cleverly avoided any reference to 'the book'.)