Ken Smith headstock: 3+2 or 2+3

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JRBrown, Oct 7, 2004.

  1. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    Ken Smith headstock: 3+2 or 2+3

    I've been sitting on this question for some time. Ken Smith 5-string basses are available in two different headstock configurations: 3+2 or 2+3. I read that the 2+3 configuration results in a tighter B-string. If so, then why bother with the 3+2 config? If not, then why not stick with the 2+3 configuration anyway?
  2. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    3+2 looks better.
  3. KenToby


    Aug 15, 2002
    I posted my philosophy about how to tighten the B string on a bass a while ago and have since accepted that I was misled. This is what I learned and now believe to be true:

    (I'll use the "E" string as an example because I don't know the frequency of a "B" string without consulting my tuner).

    JR, the only way to tighten the tention of the strings on a bass and keep them ringing their respective tones is to lengthen the scale between the saddle and the nut. What is done prior to the saddles or after the nut are irrelevant. I'll try to explain. What makes an "E" string ring an "E" note is the fact that it vibrates at 440hz. If you physicaly tighten the string it will no longer vibrate at 440hz and therefore you will not be hearing an "E" note. The only way to add tention to a string and still have it play in tune is to add length to the scale - The length between the saddles and the nut. This is why they offer 35, 36 and 37 inch scale instruments as a means of adding tension. This is why "short scale" instruments have such floppy strings; In order to get the "E" to ring at its required 440hz it has to be quite loose.
    Anything else you may be hearing or reading may be nothing more than gimmics.
    I'd like to read what other have to say on the matter.

    Thanks JB,


  4. Tim__x


    Aug 13, 2002
    Alberta, Canada
    Actually E is around 41hrtz, 440 is an A three octaves above your A string.

    Oh and by the way you can also increase tension by using a heavier string.
    Other than those small oversights you're quite right, there is no advantage to 2+3 over 3+2.
  5. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    The 3+2 looks way better to me than the 2+3, and that would be reason enough for me to opt for that headstock configuration. I have to agree about all this hype about the reverse headstock 2+3 design and all other gimmicks that claim to add tension to strings, but in reality, they really don't do anything. A wise guitar tech basiclly broke down to me the exact same way that you just did KT...if you want more tension, go longer scale length or more easily, go with a heavier guage string. The truth is that I played two Fbasses that one had the 2+3 and the other was a 3+2, and I couldn't really tell a difference, even though in this case I decided to go with the 2+3 becuase psychosematicly, people perceive to be a difference in that configuration which will make it easier to sell when I decide it's time to let it go.
  6. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    As stated, the tension is dependent on the speaking length, the weight, and the pitch, so what happens past the nut makes no difference in that respect.

    The 2+3 configuration does give you some minor benefit of giving you a thinner, past-the-taper part of the B string to wind onto the tuner.
  7. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA

    Yeah, but it's not the tension that necessarily matters. This topic has been discussed to death in dozens of TB threads, just search the forums and you'll find them.

    I can't speak for the theory, it's all way too complex for my simple mind. All I can share is my experience, which is completely consistent: the longer B string IS better. It's tighter sounding and more consistent in terms of string balance. I've recently verified this experience with yet another F bass. If given the choice, I'll go with the 2+3 every time.
  8. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Is one a lefty?
  9. Joelc73

    Joelc73 Supporting Member

    Nov 13, 2000
    New York
    Since I own the two basses used in your example I thought I would chime in. I can tell you that there is absolutely no noticable difference in the quality of the B strings on these two basses. The tension and tone are dead equals.

    Personally, I usually go for a 2+3 when I have the choice though - but I'm a creature of habit!

    Hope that helps.
  10. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Joel, that helps tremendously!

  11. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina

    The 2+3 looks better on headstocks designed around that configuration (MTD, Dingwall, etc.) IMO, the 3+2 looks better on Smith basses. And seeing as how the extra inch may not make a difference...
  12. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I played a Fodera 6 the other day with a 36" scale and there was no discernable difference between that and my Smith 5
  13. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Well, since the 3+2 design places 3 of the tuners further away from the earth, technically there will be less gravitational pull on them, thus less neck dive.

    So the choice is obvious.


    But might want to consider the layout of the keys looking at the back of the headstock, in case you might want to put a hipshot x-tender on the B or E string. I'd really like to put one on the E string of my Dingwall AB1, but there's just no room for it.
  14. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Interesting point- if you spaced things correctly, you could put an extender on both the E and B strings, giving you drop tuning choices of both AEADG and ADADG.
  15. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Sure. Also consider that you could set up either string/x-tender to have the normal low note when it's "flipped" - i.e., since the x-tender can just as easily detune 1.5 steps as 1 step, you could set up your B string to be tuned to either B (flipped) or D (un-flipped), giving you an open D while keeping "normal" tuning on your main 4 strings. It's not necessarily just a DE-tuner, more like a RE-tuner.
  16. Ducksual


    May 19, 2003
    I think if you go into the equation for tension relating to length you'll find that the tension should increase proportionally to the square of the length (assuming all other factors such as string density remain constant). So I can't see why 36" would seemingly make no difference. I'm not sure about the extra length past the nut, It'd be interesting to look at the mechanics of it.

    I may, however, be completely wrong.

  17. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Yes, tension is proprortional to the square of the length, given the same pitch and same string weight. This is why with a 35" vs. a 34", the 35" is 3% longer, but it is 6% higher in tension (roughly).

    So the 36" would certainly be tighter - at rest. In the real world, the feel of tightness while plucking is also affected by other factors including the stiffness of the neck, the length of string beyond the nut and bridge (but only if the string is free to slide over!), and the preconceptions of the player. Plus other things in the mechanics of the hand, for example, if you rest your thumb on an object on the body (such as a pickup shell), the string will feel different, perhaps easier, to pluck if the rest point is closer to the string than if it is farther.
  18. Jaye


    Jan 30, 2004
    Portland, OR
    This is not a dig to the original poster so please noone take it that way, but my feelings on the issue is that it is much like how a sugar pill will cure a headache if you are told it is aspirin.

    We as bass players have been told for so long that it makes a difference we hear it even when it isn't there.
  19. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    When you make the string longer, isn't gravity affecting the 'flop' of the string?. Why is a shorter stick stiffer than a longer stick but with strings you guys think it's the opposite?

    Why has every shorter String(scale) length Double Bass(upright) felt tighter to me than longer ones in my 40 years of playing? Why do Violin-Bass Luthiers adjust the tension of the strings by moving the tail piece towards the bridge(looser) or away(tighter) from it.

    Answer these simple questions and then ask why are some Basses are better than others.........

    The Electric Bass commercially is about 50+ years old. The Violin Family instruments are about 500 years old.

    Physics are as old as time. No, actually older........

    When you apply a formula, be sure all the ingredients are included or the soup won't taste right !!