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Lightweight tailpiece + lightweight endpin...yay or nay?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Chansey, Apr 7, 2015.

  1. Chansey


    Nov 25, 2007
    Hi all,

    My teacher is proposing a couple of changes to my bass which he said will help improve the tone, including:

    1) Replacing the tailpiece (currently a heavy ebony TP) to something lighter. He mentioned a plastic tailpiece which I believe to be the Wittner Ultra.

    2) Replacing the endpin (currently a heavy steel piece) with either wood or carbon fibre assemblies instead

    I have scoured through the threads on endpins and tailpieces (a deep rabbit hole indeed!) and it seems that there have been varying experiences on individual basses. While I am also keen to give these upgrades a go (since they are pretty much reversible and not too pricey), I was wondering if a lightweight tailpiece/endpin might be "too much a good thing".

    I read from some of the posts that some players "prefer some mass" to prevent the sound from becoming too bright/brittle, and that it's best to just experiment with one component at a time. If so, I am unsure if I should work with the tailpiece or endpin first.

    If it helps any, I am currently playing an old fully carved flatback which does already have a pretty good tone for both pizz and arco. I am doing 60/40 arco/pizz, with a slight focus on classical studies to supplement my interest in jazz playing. I guess I am part of the usual "content, but looking to push things abit more" gang of tweakers.

    Hoping to draw on the collective experience of the TB crowd, many of which would have went down this well-trodden path. Thanks!

    Edit: Not sure if this should be under the "Accessories" forum instead. My apologies if I have posted this thread in the wrong forum!
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    "Improving" the tone is totally subjective. If you feel like experimenting changing out the tailpiece is
    easy. You could find a lighter weight wood or try a Marvin wire if you don't want to go Wittner. Marvin
    on one bass was unacceptably bright/nasal for me, but I've been using it on another bass for a couple of years
    now and am happy with it. Wolf tones may change pitch, going up 1/2 step on my basses with the Marvin.

    If you can find some carbon or wood rod to fit in your current endpin plug, that is a good place to start and inexpensive.
  3. MostlyBass

    MostlyBass Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Definitely 'YAY'. I have a 1998 Rumano Solano bass and replaced the ebony tailpiece with a Marvin tailpiece. Made a huge improvement - more sound and resonance and speaks easier. I've tried carbon endpins on a limited basis and have also liked what they did for the bass.
  4. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Starting with one option first is often a good way to go, because it is much easier to see if your tweak was positive or negative. If you swap out both and don't like the result, which one is to blame? Maybe one is all the change you need, maybe both sound great on their own but horrible together.

    Start with whichever one you have easier access to. You might be able to go into a shop locally and they might have a wood/carbon pin that fits your current assembly, or they might not but they have a Marvin tailpiece someone didn't want lying around.

    When experimenting with endpins, consider the different variables. Anything is going to be lighter than a solid steel pin but if it is just weight you want to eliminate, you might be able to shorten your pin. Other than players that stand with the bass very high and need the whole steel pin, many people see favourable results from trimming it down to a more appropriate length. Material can be a factor and is one of the things I am curious about experimenting with, but I have found that contact with the floor has a noticeable impact as well. If you are comparing a steel spike straight into the floor with a crutch tip on a wooden pin and a rubber ball on a carbon fibre one, that's not really apples to apples.

    Tailpiece material is a variable, as is tail gut material. Tuning the afterlengths is worth keeping in mind, and you might find adjusting that on your current tailpiece (depending on how easily that can be done) is all that you need.

    Finally, sometimes for no good reason just taking the tension off the top (as would be necessary for a new tailpiece or a new endpin assembly) and then tuning it back up again can change the sound. Sometimes this is because the soundpost shifts slightly, the bridge is repositioned/seated differently, and other times it's just voodoo magic.
  5. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    +1 to what Eric Hochberg wrote.

    Endpin experimentation might be the cheapest/quickest place to start; no unstringing the instrument, potentially damaging strings, or messing with after length tuning/tail wires/cords.

    Online metals is a place where you can dabble with varying alloys and buy small amounts until the cows come home:
    Online Metal Store | Small Quantity Metal Orders | Metal Cutting, Sales & Shipping | Buy Steel, Aluminum, Copper, Brass, Stainless | Metal Product Guides at OnlineMetals.com

    Warning: you can spend a lot of time/money on this. I have, and am back to a steel endpin and ebony tailpiece. For me, on my bass.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  6. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    I'm a tailpiece and endpin junkie, so much that I make up a new test model about once a month, mainly for my own curiosity. Having a good woodshop and a lathe helps. In most cities, you can get access to a public woodshop that has some form of monitor / instructor / help on hand for "guided self discovery" for around $10 a day shop use fee. For the price of one broken string you can make up a half dozen examples on your own. The smaller parts are pretty accessable to everyone- not too complicated and not much $$$. I encourage it.

    I get asked this question every week. The simple answer is that it really depends upon the individual player, bass, and components. Another easy solution for your scenario would be to find a luthier who has a variety of different tailpieces, et cetera in stock and rent out a few hours of bench time. This is one of those "sixpack projects". Bring over a nice six pack of your favorite beverage to share. Unwind strings, swap out new part, wind strings up, play bass. Repeat until you have answered the question for yourself. By the time said sixpack is over, the answer is known. I do this a couple of times a month with folks (most of the time sixpackless). It clears the air from all of the snakeoil and lets them make the decision based on their own perception, not on a salespitch or lab analysis or someone else's opinion of what you need. Paying for a couple of hours time is a lot better than spending a year trying out $2000 worth of parts one at a time, and you'll likely learn a bit during the process. You can rule out the heavier tailpiece option by simply attaching a small and then medium sized C clamp to the tailpiece. Good luck.

    Last edited: Apr 15, 2015
    MIKMAN, Mr Ralph and Jake deVilliers like this.
  7. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    James, you aren't alone. With endpins, I experimented with:
    - Titanium
    - Steel and aluminum tubes, with and with carbon and wood cores, epoxied in place
    - Different carbon content steels, ranging from tool steel to a medium carbon content
    - Various copper alloys including (but not limited to) nickel silver, bronze, brass
    - Stainless steel
    - Solid carbon fiber
    - A few wood species

    On my bass, plain medium-carbon steel or titanium are my favorites; steel for the full, blooming, "organ like" low end and easy bow response on the E and A strings, titanium for the clarity and louder upper register.

    99 times out of 100, I use the plain steel endpin :).

    The Marvin tailpiece that was great on one bass is horrid on my current bass; I sold it, to someone who loves it.

    The other part for me is that it gets crazy-making trying to hear/feel the differences, especially if I change stuff quickly. Plus, the instrument takes time to adjust to whatever changes we make.

    Oh, and taking strings off and putting them back on can change them, too. So, basically, an infinite number of variables, as far as I can tell.

    I am better off practicing more and fussing less. That is just for me, on my bass...
  8. etorg


    Jan 27, 2015
    I know this is a late entry, but I just threw together a $5 oak endpin with hardware store parts. It is 100 grams, which is 150 grams lighter than my steel endpin with the screw-on manufacturer crutch tip. It definitely has changed the resonance and overtones of my Chrissy DB302T hybrid with orchestral heliocores. When I first got the bass, an under-diameter cello endpin weighing 125 grams was mounted and I loved the response and sound of the bass (Mozart Magic Flute opera rehearsal trial.) The next two rehearsals, I had my old heavy 10mm 250 gram setup in and the bass was duller and less responsive. I've also ordered 10mm solid CF stock from ebay and that will be my next experiment before choosing a professionally-made endpin. The next thing will be a Marvin tailpiece to get more elasticity in the strings (hopefully it will be able to play easier and longer.)

    Attached Files:

  9. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    i was very suspicious of this type of stuff, but when i changed my endpin from a heavy metal one to a new harmony carbon fiber one, there was definitely a noticeable difference for the better. this was on an old carved flatback.

    i would imagine the tailpiece would be a similar step in the same direction. for what its worth, from a functional standpoint, the NH endpin was an excellent investment on its own merits, nevermind the sound difference. definitely worth the money.
  10. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I've used the Marvin on two basses and I can't say it changed the feel of the strings. Brightened up the sound on one bass and raised the wolf tone on both 1/2 step, though.
  11. This is definitely something you have to experiment with. Switching to a light tailpiece and and a low mass endpin will likely be a huge change. IME, the strings will have a softer feel and the sound will become more 'airy'.
    For some basses this could be a positive change, for others, you will lose too much 'wood' sound. I like to think of it as finding the right balance between 'air' and 'wood' because that's what it sounds like to me.
  12. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    A talented luthier would be a good start. I suggest that you take your bass to one who you trust. While experimenting is fun and you may wish to do it anyway, a good luthier can often point the way to which changes might be beneficial or not given your particular bass and your particular preferences.

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