knowing when your strings are dead?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by robotriot, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. robotriot


    Jan 8, 2013
    Hey guys..

    pretty new here and fairly new to bass.. I just bought a lined fretless and I played it for an hour at the music shop before I bought it, and I totally dug it. I'm noticing some weird overtones sometimes and I'm wondering if that has anything to do with the strings being dead because it is a used bass, and the strings kinda feel sticky. It could also be that i'm not used to the fretless and i'm not hitting the note RIGHT on, but even when i'm tuning it seems to ring a little out, does this have anything to do with string life and not weird intonation or string tension?

    btw it's a stingray fretless :help:
  2. Andyman001

    Andyman001 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2010
    Have you set it up?
  3. Get it set up with a new set of strings. Remember how the current set of strings sounds and compare that to the new set. Maybe record the bass both before and after the setup and dont change the settings to compare the difference in sound.
    Dead strings have a thumpy klunk instead of a ringing klang.
  4. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Dead strings don't hold tuning as well and are harder to set up(intonate at the bridge end.), I recon.
  5. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I agree with the others: Get the instrument set up, with a fresh set of strings - whether you think it might need it or not (since you really can't tell anyway). At least that way you'll know what a fresh set of strings sounds and performs you'll be able to discern when they begin to go dead.

    IMO, this should be a standard course of action for any player to follow, with any new instrument... :meh:

  6. roundwound strings are "dead" to me when they sound like rubber bands. they lose their trebly ring zing and the low end doesnt sound well either.

    flatwound strings dont go dead in sound. but after years they are difficult to intonate. im sure this would also happen to roundwound strings but ive never kept them on for more than 4 or 5 months

    +1 on the set up. life changing
  7. Good info above, and if you change stings gages, etc you should have the bass re-setup for those strings, and if you have lines on your fretless, be sure to play “on the lines” instead of behind them like you would on a fretted neck. FWIW - my strings last me about a month, and I like them best after they lose some zing and before their completely dead - but, I always use new strings when recording (I put them on the day before).
  8. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    How do you know when strings are dead? When they're on a floor model! ;) If that bass has been at the store for more than a week chances are the strings have had it. And if the bass is second hand it probably arrived at the shop with the strings already dead. Are you getting the weird overtone thing on every string? Could be the pickup is too close to the strings.
  9. robotriot


    Jan 8, 2013
    directly on the lines? really? maybe thats my problem then.. lol! But, from the sounds of it, new strings do sound like a good idea, this bass has been in the store for over a month (began stalking it beginning of december) and i'm sure the person who owned it hasn't changed the strings in quite awhile, they just feel weird.

    i'd like avoid setting it up as a dropped a bit to get this babe, and I'm too afraid of fudging it up because i've never really done that sort of thing successfully before. it also FEELS really great to me, and i'm afraid of loosing that :\. Is there a sure fire way to determine what gauge the strings are? I suppose I could bring it into a store and ask?

    EDIT: thanks everybody for the help, I guess i've just been playing wrong this whole time!
  10. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    If it concerns flatwounds and you aren't used to them, you may experience them as sticky. Cleaning with alcohol may help a bit. Beware not to spill alcohol on the finger board. The overtones may be caused by not being used to mute about every string not in use. If strings generate harmonics very easily, they usually aren't dead.
    Of course, a good setup doesn't harm any bass, nor its player. :)
    Good luck with your newly acquired fretless.
  11. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Yes, really! :eyebrow:

    Dude, have the set-up performed by a competent guitar tech or luthier - somebody who really knows what he's doing. Yes, it's worth the extra expense. And no, he will not screw it up. Not if he knows what he's doing.

    Just do it. It'll be easier for you to simply have it done, then gradually learn for yourself in retrospect why it was so important...than it will be for us to continue to try to explain things to you that you're clearly not yet ready to understand in the abstract.

    Sometimes you just have to learn by doing, y'know? :eyebrow:

  12. BruceRichardson


    Dec 31, 2008
    I've gotta chime in...YES get it set up, by a good tech that knows how to tweak in a fretless. Hopefully someone who will let you hang out and ask questions to understand what he's doing. You'll thank yourself for that, because on a fretless your tone is even more dependent on a good setup than with frets. Pickup height, even, has an exaggerated effect on fretless tone...and conversely, you can change the personality of a fretless quite a bit by the way you set it up.

    But, given that you like the way it feels, it may not be crazy out of whack. If it were terrible, you'd hate it...a bad fretless setup sucks the life out of you. You might want to play in a gig/rehearsal setting a few times, to understand if it's getting through the mix the way it's set up. That will give you some information to pass on to the tech, some direction at least...whether to set you up with a more compressed tone or a more open tone, etc. And at a point, you'll have to get handy with your trussrod to keep the tone exactly where you want it.

    For the maximum articulation, you get the bass set up as low and board flat as it will play with good integrity, then start dialing in just the very slightest relief. There is usually a point on most fretless basses where the tone will dramatically open up with tiny little relief and string height adjustments. The flatter/lower you go, the more of that mwaa character you'll get, but you have to play with a lot of articulation control in that kind of setup, or the sound will be everywhere. Digging in with that kind of setup will get bright and farty, generally. That little "magic point" I mentioned is where it will open up sufficiently that you can control the mwaa factor with attack placement and intensity, just off flat and potentially even a tiny bit of string height boost. The trick is to open it up enough where you can get some attack and buttmeat out of digging in, but not so much that you lose the ability to get a controlled "mwaa" articulation.

    A tech is going to balance it out where he feels it and based on what you'll tell him about the tone you want (or what's good and bad about it in a gig context). If it's out of whack, it will literally feel like a different bass when you get it back. If you get into setting up your own basses, a nice dial caliper is a great tool for documenting setups that really work for you (and for that matter, those which don't).
  13. BruceRichardson


    Dec 31, 2008
    By the way, how does it sound? I have never gotten to play a Stingray fretless. Is it a coated maple neck?
  14. robotriot


    Jan 8, 2013
    haha ok! i'll look into it, I just have no idea where to go (in brooklyn)! I know some places, but I'm not sure if they're good or not, ya know? I suppose i can ask around though..

    it sounds lovely! I'm not really sure of the details of it, but I can post some pics later if ya want! :hyper:
  15. You're welcome - have fun. :)
  16. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I picked this post to quote, not because of the author or any specifics, just because it assumes something that I strongly disagree with.

    Many players directly disagree with the sentiments above - I'm one of them. Many of us prefer strings that have been installed for months or years, and dislike the sound of new strings.

    If you find the sound good now, it's fine to have a setup done and new strings installed, but you may or may not like the sound. In a few months the new strings will age and settle down to the point where (to me) they sound much if you don't like the really bright sound of new strings, be patient.

    If you like a 60's or Motown sound, chances are that you will like older strings better then newer ones. The strings on my basses vary from one year to 40 years old and the guys in my band agree with me that the oldest ones sound fantastic.

    Short response: to me, strings are no good UNTIL they are "dead".
  17. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    Well, yes, sort of!

    The fretlines are where the fret would be on a fretted bass, and since that distance of the 'fret' to the bridge sets the speaking length of the string, and therefore it's pitch that's where you should finger the note on a theory.

    In practise you will find that if you set the intonation of the bass up as you would with a fretted bass (by making the 12th 'Fret' harmonic equal to the pitch when you play right on the 12th line) the notes in the lower positions will be a bit flat when you finger on the line and you have to play just 'sharp' of the line to be in tune. As you move up the neck the amount that you'll have to play 'sharp' of the line will decrease until you get to the 12th position when it will be dead on.. As you move beyond the 12th position you'll find all the notes on the line start to become increasingly 'sharp' as you go higher up the string when played on the line so you have to finger a bit flat.

    Short story is that the lines are only an approximate guide to where the correct note have to use your ears - a lot.
  18. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    I'd put new strings on right away, if for no other reason than that you'll know exactly, from that point onward, how old they are. No guessing, & now you'll have a frame of reference.

    Everybody has a different preference, & I don't know yours. Mine is for new, "crisp" strings. If they start feeling floppy/sloppy, it's time for a change. That's usually 5-6 weeks.
  19. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Geez, you're in New York? Why didn't you say so? And why does it have to be in Brooklyn? :eyebrow:

    Go to Rudy's Music Stop on West 48th Street in Manhattan. Walk up the stairs to the fourth floor, and speak with Jeremy in the repair shop. Jeremy is a total pro, and will do a great job for you - trust me. Tell him, "Michael sent me".

  20. zfunkman


    Dec 18, 2012
    Most definitely get yourself a new set of strings. I would also suggest flatwounds. I played fretted and frettles and switched to flatwounds on my fretless years ago; I liked the flats so much that I ended up putting them on my fretted bass too. I found better control over my tone and found it easier to play and I no longer had to get the fretboard on my frettless dressed every year. I was worried about how the flats would react to slapping but they ended up sound awsome while slapping. Going to flats was one of the smartest things I ever did.