LaBella flatwounds Hofner violin question

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by johntrem, Oct 27, 2011.


  1. johntrem

    johntrem

    Sep 10, 2010
    Hello all, Let me start by letting you know that I am primarily a guitar player, but last fall bought a Hofner Icon violin bass. I did a lot of research and found that generally most Hofner players use flatwounds as that is the traditional string used with Hofners for best tone and playability. I am not a pro and play at home and with friends for my own pleasure so I was in no hurry to switch out to flats from the roundwounds that came with the Hofner. I played them for about a year. Just this evening I finally switched to the flatwounds- LaBella 760HB2 for Hofner Beatle Bass, .039-.096. Everything went fine and easy, installation wise. I tuned up open string but when I went to check the intonation, things were off. As I said, I did a lot of research when I got the bass so I am well aware of the intonation problems inherent with this bass. When I first got the bass I had to do a bit of movement with the floating bridge in order to get the intonation right. I also used a method suggest by a Hofner owner where the E and G strings are tuned open string and the A and D are tuned at the 7th fret. At first I positioned the bridge with the lower side (E-A) closer to the bridge pickup. Eventually, as the strings were more and more broken in, I moved it further back (parallel with the pickup) for better intonation. It seemed that the longer the strings were on, the better the intonation. What I want to know is, do flatwounds need a breaking in period in order to intonate better? I didn't make any changes to the bass- action, truss rod, etc. when I switched to the flats every thing seemed fine. The D and G strings are okay, but the A and E register flat when fretted up the neck with the chromatic tuner. When I tune the D string to E (on the eighth fret) the A registers sharp when played open. I tried moving the bridge but it really didn't change much. I finally got to the point where I was tone deaf, tuning wise, so I just got it close and put the bass up for the night. So, do flats have a breaking in period intonation wise (as the roundwounds seemed to have)? Any advice or tips would be appreciated. Thanks,
    JOHN
     
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I haven't noticed any intonation differences from new to old with flats, but they can stretch and settle in with time, which might result in slight fluctuations. Here's the way I do violin basses if it helps:

    Intonate the G and E string, then hopefully the D and A will be close. Then tune the E, A and D string while fretting at the fifth fret, and do the G open. Intonation with violin basses isn't an exact science, nor does it really need to be. The lower strings go flat as they decay no matter what you do, so just make sure your attack is in tune, and it's close enough for rock and roll.
     
  3. rickfan63

    rickfan63

    Dec 5, 2006
    +1

    I think you will find that the LaBellas will sound even better as they break in. I use the 50-100 set on my Brice copy and the results have been great.
     
  4. johntrem

    johntrem

    Sep 10, 2010
    Thanks for your replies guys. As I said, I am well aware of the Hofner's infamous intonation issues but the (from what I've read) cheap roundwound strings that were factory installed intonated fine after awhile. What I find curious is that when I tune the D and G open, the intonation is fine. When I tune the A and E open the fretted note intonation reads flat on the electronic tuner (I've tried three electronic tuners with the same results).When I tune the fretted note intonation with the tuner, the open A and E read sharp but the notes don't sound sharp. Tuned with this method the bass sounds in tune. I've tried playing with both pickups, each seperate pickup, plucking along the string length from bridge to neck, different amp settings and volumes, same with the bass's controls. It sounds okay. The LaBella's have a much clearer tone so I can hear the pitch well. I've measured the string length of each string the D and G are equal distance from the12th fret to the bridge saddle and nut, but the E and A have 5mm more length from the 12th fret to the nut. I've moved the E and A side of the bridge closer, to the point of a slant, with the same results. As I said, I don't hear any appreciable sharpness in the open E or A. I know, "So what am I complaining about?" I just can't figure it out. I'm not new to guitar, started playing in 1968 and do setups and repairs on my guitars and others also. The only thing I'm wondering about is the number of winds on the tuning post. At first, due to the thinness of the silk covered ends of the strings I was wondering what the proper about of winds should be. The E and A have 3 winds and the D and G have 4. I can't for the life of me see that making a difference as the break over the nut seems adaquate, but who knows? I love the sound and feel of the LaBellas and the lighter gauge is great for my arthritic old fingers. So for now, I'll tune the E and A to fretted notes. Any ideas or comments?
     
  5. shrimpchowmein

    shrimpchowmein Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2007
    Blaine, WA
    I just ordered an icon club bass and a set of TI jazz rounds for it, can't wait to do the setup and share. In the mean time however,

    I think you should trust your ears on this one. If you can tune it and it sounds good to your ears and especially if you can play it with other people, then who gives a rip what a tuner says? Though believe me, I get the obsession. I also know that I've felt relief when finally taking someones advice to let it ride.

    Something I've grown to love about Hofners (this will be my first one) is how they fit into a lineage with acoustic instruments. I've never noticed intonation problems with finely made acoustic guitars that have a single bone saddle on a fixed bridge, and the best classical guitars in history have straight saddles! Doesn't seem to be a problem for people.

    Another thing is that the frets of a guitar or bass, which is a well tempered (I hope that is the correct term) are not perfectly spaced. (not sure if electronic tuners account for this or not) I believe every note is made slightly sharp and this is what allows us to play in any key. Try tuning two strings to a perfect 5th by ear and then playing a 3rd, it'll sound off. I wonder if anyone has ever done a buzz feiten setup on a hofner?

    I think sometimes these helpful devices like tuners or gauges to measure string height can hold us back in a way, and separate us from the sensory joy of hearing and feeling our instruments come into "perfection".
     
  6. shrimpchowmein

    shrimpchowmein Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2007
    Blaine, WA
    Oh and one more thing to ACTUALLY be helpful.

    Did you check the height of the A and E strings? If they are different gauges than the old ones then it could be string height throwing off the intonation.

    Mordechai
     
  7. johntrem

    johntrem

    Sep 10, 2010
    Mordechai, thanks for your reply and advice. I admit that I am obsessive about tuning and intonation. Since the advent of electronic tuners I've become even more so. As for trusting my ears, you are right as, because electronic tuners allow us to adjust our instruments as close to perfect as possible, I'm very sensitive to slight imperfections in tuning in guitars. I now hear if a guitar is out of tune in older recordings from the Sixties; early Dylan comes to mind. I've become quite sensitive to it. So your point is right on the money-the bass SOUNDS in tune even though the tuner registers sharp on the open E and A. Amplified and acoustically. And yes, I did measure the string height and it is the same. My understanding is that flatwounds exert more tension than roundwounds so I thought I might have to tweak the truss rod but not so. The gauges seem fairly close. So I guess I'll repress my obsessive tendencies and just enjoy the bass. McCartney said that his Hofner never played in tune above the third fret until he had Mandolin Bros. work on it in the Nineties. You sure can't hear that in any recordings and we know that he played it way up on the neck.
    By the way, when my wife was young, her father was transferred around a lot by his job and she lived for a few years in Portland. She always said it was her favorite out of everywhere she lived. We visited there about three summers ago and I loved it. Hope to go back again.
     
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Well fortunately they're very forgiving basses for out of tuneness thanks to the way the notes decay. I've heard of dudes tweaking them perfectly, though. You can take those little fret pieces out of the bridge and move them around in the different slots if you want to get all persnickety about it.
     
  9. shrimpchowmein

    shrimpchowmein Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2007
    Blaine, WA
    I'm curious how the strings in question sound playing harmonies with the other strings?
     
  10. johntrem

    johntrem

    Sep 10, 2010
    I briefly considered doing the bit with the fret pieces in the bridge but decided to let well enough alone. And yes, the strings are in tune with each other when playing harmonies.
     
  11. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    One thing I pick out of your posts - if the strings SOUNDS in tune, and it plays well, it's OK. Turn off the tuner and declare it intonated. Basses with floating bridges are often best intonated with the rule of "close enough to sound good".

    Don't be a slave to a tuner. Trust your ears.
     
  12. MR PC

    MR PC Inactive

    Dec 1, 2007
    +1. and those hofner style bridges do give the bass unique sound, i recently installed an Allparts six string version on an old mij bass vi, and it works very well.

    be sure that your pickups aren't to close to the E and A strings, that can definitely cause some wacky overtones as you fret up the neck (strings are closer to the pu magnets and harmonics get pulled) though some folks like that sound......
     
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