Intonation frustration (Stingray)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bgx, Sep 7, 2018.

  1. bgx


    Jul 24, 2015
    Hi everyone

    So here's the deal. 3 years ago our bassist left the band and I stepped in as temporary replacement, switching from guitar to bass. I guess I caught the virus - it's been all about bass since then.

    I first got a CV Precision 50's, then a Taurus T24, to stay on the cheap side - despite 25 years + of guitar playing I truly was a beginner at bass after all. But after a bit of saving I decided to get a Stingray.

    Now for the problem. The Stingray (brand new 2017 model, 4 strings, 3 band eq, maple neck & fingerboard) is obviously great. BUT I'm having this huge frustration on intonation. We have quite a bit of songs in drop D, and some parts played pretty high up the neck - and beyond the 12th fret the E string is desperately flat, sufficiently to hear it. I actually changed some parts in my lines, couldn't stand what I was hearing.

    I believe I know how to make a proper setup and I spent time on the Stingray. In standard tuning, no problemo. Intonation is spot on pretty much everywhere, really. Neck relief is fine. First 3, even 5 frets are perfectly intonated. So it's not the nut either.
    I changed the factory strings (45-100) for DR Lo Riders (105-45), went through another setup, to no avail.

    Should I settle on this? My Stingray will not take drop D?

    On a side note, my two other (much cheaper) basses do not have this problem.

    I'm stumped. Any thoughts?

    Last edited: Sep 7, 2018
  2. If it's flat at 12th then shorten string length with counter clockwise turn with Phillips screwdriver that should do it unless there is an issue with the nut or bridge saddle, if the neck is Ok and there are no fret issues.
    Aqualung60 likes this.
  3. NicJimBass

    NicJimBass Flossin'? I thought your name was Munson!

    Nov 22, 2004
    Lancaster, OH
    What kind of tuner are you intonating with? Most off-the-shelf units are only accurate within a somewhat wide margin, which could account for the problem you're having. Use a strobe tuner, if at all possible. I use a Sonic Research Turbo Tuner, and it is deadly accurate.

    If you don't want to spend that kind of cash, take it to a local tech, and tell him about your different tunings. There may be a way to split the difference, so that neither are exactly intonated, but they're both more intonated than they are now.

    Also, different strings intonate differently, so maybe try another set?
  4. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Sounds very frustrating. The thing is that 'correct' intonation is only correct for a given combination of string tension (gauge and pitch), relief and action. By detuning you reduce the tension. Consequently, the change in tension associated with stopping in note also changes - remember that this is what your intonation setting is intended to compensate for and that this change is greater for higher action and deeper relief. The reduction in tension from dropping the tuning may actually cause a decrease in relief and action (because it allows the truss rod to pull back more), which would in turn reduce the tension increase caused by stopping a note,whuch in turn will lead to flat intonation. This effect will be more pronounced with a big fat stiff 105 - because your truss rod will need to be tighter to start with - and will be more apparent at the dusty end...

    Is the neck particularly whippy?
    How was it with the lighter strings?

    I have a fretless bass (not my StingRay) with very low action and almost 0 relief. This bass cannot take drop tuning because it makes the strings sit flat against the fingerboard due to the resultant backbow. For drop D I use a Warwick Corvette which has a very stiff Ovankol/Ebony neck that can take the change without moving.

  5. HalfManHalfBass


    Jan 21, 2003
    Sometimes the huge pole pieces in Stingray pickups affect the vibrations of the larger strings -especially higher up the neck and with lower tensions (ie drop tuning).

    Try lowering your pickup(s).

    On 5 string basses with Musicman pickups I find this phenomena / problem to be almost unbearable and it's practically impossible to get a solid, steady note to check against the best tuners on the market along the E and B strings past the 12th fret!
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2018
    cataract, wvbass, xnewyorka and 3 others like this.


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    Speaking of tuners, my clip on Planet Waves reads the E string as an F when tuned to standard pitch. This is with tapewounds on my kit Jazz bass. My Korg portable tuner reads true! Never had this before on any of my basses including 5 and 6 string. Go figure.


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    Doesn't the O P's bass have the Buzz Feighten nut?
    lethargytartare likes this.
  8. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Ah yes, the solution for people that can't be bothered to cut a nut slot to the correct depth...

    Edit: IMHO...

    Edit 2: All joking aside, yes, the 2017 StingRay (non-classic) will probably have that (daft) compensated nut.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2018
    TrustRod and lethargytartare like this.
  9. HalfManHalfBass


    Jan 21, 2003
    The staggered / compensated nuts that Musicman use nowadays still need to have each string's slot filed / cut to the correct height and break angle, it's just that each string has its own portion of nut material slightly staggered - a bit like mini bridge saddles.

    It could be argued that due to this system there is less material to file away on certain strings but it must still be considered as a real nut with all the attention that it would usually require when being set up properly.

    My money is still on the huge magnetic pull of those giant pickup slugs on the larger mass strings.... I have experienced it on all my Musicmans and they can't ALL have been defective.
    GonzoBfiddy and Jabba the bass like this.
  10. I always check open, 3rd, 5th, 12th, and 15th when intonating an instrument.
  11. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    So you're doing a setup on your bass in standard tuning, and you're expecting the intonation to be spot on after you downtune? Is this correct?
  12. bgx


    Jul 24, 2015
    Thanks to all for the help!

    In answer to the questions :
    - I’m actually using a pod hd (the bean variety) as tuner, I’ve always found it quite accurate although there’s certainly better, dedicated tuners out there.

    - The 12th fret on the offending string (E) is dead on, in standard tuning - less so in drop D but acceptable. But in drop d intonation deteriorates badly when you go higher up the neck - the F (in drop D so 15th fret) is flat and quite a bit.

    It didn’t occur to me that the pull from the pickup pole pieces could have such an effect... that a great idea I’ll try lowering the pickup!
  13. bgx


    Jul 24, 2015
    Correct - on the (probably misguided) assumption that a full step is not that much of a detuning, and that my other cheapo basses handle this pretty well.
  14. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    The pull would have to be strong to deflect the string enough to affect tuning, and whilst possible, I would expect any additional deflection to pull pitch sharp, not cause flatness...
  15. I would not expect the intonation on any bass to stay the same from standard to drop tunings, especially as you go higher up the neck, because the tension on the neck changes. I’d probably try learning my parts around the 7-9th fret on the A-string rather than that high on the de-tuned E string. Or as someone else suggested try splitting the difference on intonation between standard and drop tuning.

    I also would recommend an accurate strobe tuner for accurate setup work. Peterson strobostomp or sonic research labs turbo tuner are great for this. They can be used on a luthiers work bench or on a pedal board. I don’t know anything about the POD tuner other than POD is a jack of all trades and master of none.

    Edit: have you tried setting the intonation in drop D and then checked what it sounds like when put back to standard tuning?
  16. leonard


    Jul 31, 2001
    I don't know if this is any help but is it possible to play the songs with the bass in standard tuning even though the guitarists have drop tuning? I guess the drop tuning is there to make the guitars sound tougher. Bass might not benefit from it. Anyway I do realise that some riffs might need that low D on bass.
    alaskaleftybass likes this.
  17. Why not play those high notes on another string - like the A string? I rarely play the E string above the 12 fret - it always sounds weaker than the same note further down the neck.
    retslock and Steadfast like this.
  18. bgx


    Jul 24, 2015
    Guess I’m in the market for a strobe tuner then!
    Yes I have tried intonating in drop D and back in standard - same. As I said in drop D intonation is okay until the 12 fret..
  19. bgx


    Jul 24, 2015
    Unfortunately I need the big D : /
    leonard likes this.
  20. bgx


    Jul 24, 2015
    True - I actually changed all I could in my lines. But there are quite a few songs in the set list for which I cannot think of a workaround.. I need the low D, and this F on the dropped E string.
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