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Mass at one end and not the other?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Michael Yuhas, Aug 14, 2012.


  1. Michael Yuhas

    Michael Yuhas

    Aug 14, 2012
    A lot of bass manufacturers design basses with lightweight tuners and heavy bridges. Light tuners are supposed to prevent neck dive. Heavy bridges are supposed to promote sustain.

    But it seems like mass at both ends of the string would be desirable for sustain because the string vibrates between two points. If you had a string anchored by a block of lead at one end and a block of styrofoam at the other, you wouldn't get much sustain. They make gizmos like Fat Fingers to increase the mass at the head, so it seems like heavier tuners would be good for sustain.

    Fender replaced the cast Shaller tuners on the first American Standard Basses with lightweigt tuners in later models because everyone was complaining about the weight of the cast Shaller tuners causing neck dive. The cast Shallers have more metal at the back of the headstock, but the actual tuning posts are narrower and lighter than the posts on an old Fullerton-made Fender, and no one ever complained about neck dive on those. Maybe the cast Shallers only look heavier.

    So, I did an experiment I balanced my old heavy ash Fullerton 70's P-bass on my finger. The balancing point was in the middle of the neck plate. Then I balanced an early alder American Standard Jazz bass with cast Shallers across my finger, and the balancing point was at the same place, give or take a quarter of an inch. You would think the jazz would be neck heavy with the lighter alder wood and cast tuners. Two different types of bass, but I was only concerned with overall balance relating to neck dive.

    To be more accurate, I could have removed the tuners from each bass and weighed them to see whether the Shallers are heavier, but I don't have a good scale and don't feel like taking apart my basses. Has anyone else compared the weight of old Fender tuners and the cast Shallers with the "F" on the back?
     
  2. mindwave_21

    mindwave_21

    Oct 18, 2007
    Seems to me like the nut is the actual point at which the string vibrates, not all the way to the tuner. The nut will vibrate the neck, so the mass is in the neck and to a lesser extent, the body on the bridge end.

    A high mass bridge would promote better coupling to the body, and the string actually does vibrate at the saddles on the bridge.
     
  3. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Actually, styrofoam has interesting resonant properties, and it would be a mistake to assume it would have a negative impact on sustain.

    Additionally, while you are quite right that people buy high-mass bridges in order to increase sustain, there is really not much evidence that it actually gives that result. Most of the anecdotes people report are very unscientific, and not everyone says they got the same result.
     
  4. gigslut

    gigslut

    Dec 13, 2011
    St Louis, Mo

    Or whichever fret you are pressing the string against.
     
  5. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I put a Hipshot high mass bridge on my Deluxe Jazz and I got a lot nicer looking bridge, which is all I wanted. I didn't measure the sustain carefully before and after with my digital oscilloscope and I would have needed to have done that to tell any difference because there is no obvious increase (or decrease ;) ) in sustain.

    Ken
     
  6. mongo2

    mongo2

    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    My Hofners sustain much longer than I need.
     
  7. IMO, people only use light weight tuners because they are light in weight. Ideally you would want a lot of mass on both ends, but it's not worth the headstock weight for everyone, which is why some players like full size tuners and others like light weights.
     
  8. Lee H

    Lee H

    Nov 30, 2011
    Redding CA
    I have seen some actual scoped evidence that more mass does increase sustain, but I am wondering if this is a moot point. How much sustain do you really need? How often do you really stretch a note until it dies, and then feel that you needed just one more second?
     
  9. dannylectro

    dannylectro

    Aug 2, 2010
    Yonkers, NY
    "But it goes to eleven..."
     
  10. itchy

    itchy

    Jan 3, 2009
    Bay Area
    I replaced some heavy vintage tuners for some lightweight ResOLite tuners on one of my basses. The result was slightly less sustain, slightly less low end, and added more upper-mid frequency content (which was most evident when slapping...more open string play perhaps?)
    The difference was perceivable enough for me to put the heavy tuners back on.
     
  11. superdick2112

    superdick2112 Mile High Bassist Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2010
    The Centennial State
    You really don't need any mass beyond the nut. Just look at the original Steinberger - sustain for days, and no peghead at all.
     
  12. bassbenj

    bassbenj

    Aug 11, 2009
    Which shows you that it's not just a matter of mass but also of neck stiffness (which carbon fiber gives you).
     
  13. superdick2112

    superdick2112 Mile High Bassist Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2010
    The Centennial State
    +1
     
  14. Sustain is for guitars and the 1980's:D
     
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Considering I've never played a Steinberger that didn't sustain like a mofo, I don't think I buy into the mass thing. And count me in the "how much sustain do you need" camp, too. Most long scale solidbodies have plenty.
     
  16. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    If you want infinite sustain, play a synthesizer. Or get an upright bass and a bow.
     
  17. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    All I need is to get more sustain where I have a dead spot, on C# on the G-string, mid-neck. I put a small c-clamp on the headstock and the dead spot moved from C# to C natural. Still there, just in a different spot. I swear, it's like trying to kill fire ants.:meh:
     
  18. lug

    lug

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Instead of "sustain", the argument should be about effecting the decay of a note.
     
  19. mongo2

    mongo2

    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    And...what do you think?
     
  20. Michael Yuhas

    Michael Yuhas

    Aug 14, 2012
    I don't think sustain is a bad thing. My heavy ash 70s P-bass rings like bell. It has a rich tone. I can easily tune using harmonics because the notes ring for a long time. I can sustain a note and play pedal point on another string against the drone.

    Once I bought a cheap lightweight bass because I though I could spend more time practicing before the weight got to me. But it had no sustain. I won't say what brand or what kind of wood it was made out of because I don't want to open that hornet's nest. But all I could get out of it was a dull thump, which works for a lot of bass lines. Guess which one I ended up practicing the with the most.

    The dull thump couldn't keep my interest, so I kept using the heavy ash P-bass because of it's rich tone. You can always get rid of sustain if you don't like it by muting it, but you can't really add sustain to a bass that isn't capable of it without modifying the bass.
     

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