Muddy low B?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by stradivarius151, Jan 13, 2015.

  1. stradivarius151


    Jan 18, 2014
    Hey guys, quick question (from a relative beginner to bass, but not to music). This turned into more of a story than I had hoped, but anyways, here it is:

    I am subbing in a contemporary church band, with a nice balance of electric and acoustic instruments, not a very loud group. Some weeks, they need me on keyboards, and some weeks on bass (depending on who else is available). This is one of those bass weeks. I am playing their Peavey Grind NTB 5-string bass, which I absolutely love (it feels so much better than my Lyon P-Bass stencil, and I can't sufficiently describe all the reasons why this is so. There are many, but I can't put some of them in words yet). Aside from being better or worse, it is very different from the Lyon in even more ways. I am not finely in-tune with the bass yet, I can't fully tell what to adjust (tone knobs, pickup volume knobs, amp EQ?) to reach the sounds I hear in my head. One thing that has been bugging me is the very general muddiness of the Low B string. The notes everywhere on the fretboard on this string are duller, thuddier, and lack a lot of clarity compared to the other four, with pretty much every setting I have tried, the only time they sound decent is with a ton of bridge pickup dialed in, which makes me sound like Jaco on the rest of the bass. That's not what I'm going for. I have heard many other bassists on 5-strings, with much better sound down there. Although I am young and new to the bass, I use low notes very conservatively, but would love for them to have more of an impact when I do choose to use them. This is why I would appreciate your wisdom. How can I clean up the low register?
  2. No experience with that particular bass, but it gets very good reviews on a few sites. With that in mind I would look to putting a new set of strings, and a general set up including neck relief/truss rod adjustment if necessary, and pickup height adjustment as well.

    From most companies, factory specs are available as a starting point including string recommendation. If you are not confident with these adjustments take it to a reputable bass tech.

    The other place to look for fine tuning your sound would be your amp. Have you played any other 5 strings through that set up? What amp and speakers are you running?
  3. stradivarius151


    Jan 18, 2014
    I'll add here that I'm a college student, pretty far away from home, and pretty new to the church.

    Come to think of it, the strings are pretty old. I don't know what they are, but in the case there is a set of already-used Peavey Cirrus strings (the ends are curled, perhaps they came on it). That is quite possibly the only string change it has ever had (I'm the only one who plays it, so the church tech guys don't really look after it). I may put those on tonight and see what happens. Since it isn't mine, I don't think I could have anything done to it (and I wouldn't be able to buy strings for it), but I have done action and intonation adjustments on the Lyon. I just don't have all the tools up here with me.

    The amp is my roommate's Peavey 15-watt amp. No idea what model. He has a 5-string Schecter, left-handed, but I've never heard him play it. Maybe if I clean the bathroom tonight, he'd let me try....? Lol. No, I don't know much about the amp, and have not played anything else through it. At church, instead of an amp onstage, there is just a cord that says 'bass' on it, which goes into their sound system. I have no idea what it goes through, but have never been able to play by myself there anyway.

    Thanks for your suggestions (note my signature)!
  4. Before you spring for a set of strings - on the church's bass. Loosen The B string. Then pull it up, way up, now let go. Let it "wack" a couple of times. This may let loose some of the dirt and crud it has collected and improve the sound enough to where the problem is not as bad. Yes to new strings if that does not work.
    pacojas likes this.
  5. stradivarius151


    Jan 18, 2014
    I will try that. I am not able to buy strings, especially for a bass that isn't mine, but the Peavey strings I mentioned had been sitting there in the case. Sorry if I wasn't clear enough on that.
  6. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012

    I'm fairly new to a 5 string (5 months) but I'm a complete convert. So much so I've sold all of my 4's. If you go to the TB sub forum titled "Strings" you'll find lots of discussion about this very issue.
    With that said, please note my personal experience related to flats;
    -The instrument = Alembic Rogue V 34" - tuned BEADG - pro setup
    -Installed a new set of Pyramid Gold Nickel Flats - The B (.120 or .126 gauge - I can't remember) didn't even sound like to was from the same set of strings. Best described as dead when compared to the other 4 strings. I lived with this for a few months just to see what happened since Pyramids are known to "mature" over time and of course they are pretty expensive strings.
    -I found on the "Strings" sub forum that I wasn't alone. After reading;
    -First I was able to get an immediate improvement from the string by double checking the install. My B had about a 1/4+ turn twist in it. Once this twisting tension was relieved the sound, resonance appeared. However, still not like I wanted.
    -Second I became convinced I needed more mass - meaning more linear tension from nut to bridge saddle. I went on a hunt for a heavier gauge B string.
    Knowing this was going to be an exercise of trial and error and being a real cheap ass, I opted to experiment with single B's vs whole sets.
    -After a bit of research I installed a B from D'Addario CB132 Flat Chrome @ .132 gauge. The good news = fixed my problem with the original string - completely! Of course installed correctly with no twisting tension. I personally believed it's entirely due to the heavier gauge - until*. However, the B now sounds more resonate and clear when compared to the other 4 so I'm kinda back to having a unmatched sounding set again. Who's to say it's not related to the difference between manufactures* - might be. Secondly, I'm not a fan of the Chrome vs the Nickel. Specifically the Pyramid Nickel is just slippery as hell and I love them. The Chrome feels sticky to me. For me both of these issues are livable for a while as in a live setting I really can't hear this difference (I don't do any studio work) so I only hear it when playing alone.
    -The last thing I can offer is to insure your pups are set up correctly if you do it yourself.

    *Final word = I recently picked up a 09 Fender PV (AMR- STD) 34" on TB. I don't for certain know the string gauge or manufacture however, my guess is
    they are a full set of the D'addario flat chromes (B @ .132) about a year old (by the color of the end wrapping material and feel). Sound great and consistent between each string.
  7. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    Peavey imports have some of the worst, floppiest, muddiest sounding B strings in my experience. I thought all B strings sucked when I owned my Fury VI, I learned it was just the bass.

    You could try running a massive gauge on it to see if it helps but the muddiness is in the pickup too.
  8. stradivarius151


    Jan 18, 2014
    I just tried this, and was actually in disbelief at how well it worked. It cleared up the sound of the B string a lot, so much so that I proceeded to do it to the other 4 as well. Whatever they are, they are pretty bright strings. I played the piano-esque line from Boston's "Foreplay" with much greater ease, and it sounded closer to the original, too. Also, the sustain improved tremendously across the board. The high G string rings out with a really loud 'F' harmonic, in particular, which is nearly three octaves above the fundamental.

    While it did improve greatly, the B string still lags behind the others in terms of clarity and resonance. I may put on the Peavey B string, if not all the others, too, just to see what happens. I noticed, after looking closer, that the strings on the bass now are downright nasty: they still look like they have "stuff"- dirt, who knows what- all over them, and the outer coating is worn away in many places, so a brown inside is showing. The Peaveys look brand new, so they probably sound even better.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015
  9. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    play closer to the bridge on the B
    Mushroo likes this.
  10. stradivarius151


    Jan 18, 2014
    I have tried that, and I do know about the effect on tone the placement of your plucking/picking has. I gravitate towards neck-pickup heavy, far-from bridge plucking, because I started out immersed in Jamerson and Babbitt. I haven't made it much farther out from there than (older) classic rock, where tone isn't very different. On this bass, I add the bridge pickup (because I have it!) to add a little clarity to the tone, but if there is a better way to achieve this without compromising the huge, darker core sound, then please let me know. As I said, I am not yet to the point of knowing where to adjust to change the sound.
  11. Try boiling the strings. It cleans them and restores the brightness for a little longer.
  12. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    One trick I learned many years ago with one of my bass teacher at college was to play diagonaly ( is it a word ? ) which take care of floppy or muddy low B ... Like you play the B string very close to the bridge, E a little closer to the bridge pickup, A maybe over the brdige pickup etc etc etc
    Mushroo likes this.
  13. Groove Master

    Groove Master Commercial User

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    The Gary Willis's trick can be the answer.

    In one of his books, he suggest using some sort of hollow metal device (found like in hardware store) to extend the low B past the bridge. I'll try to find a link to that. I tried it on a 34" scale and it works really well :thumbsup:
  14. Get a new stainless steel B string. Order it individually from one of the online string shops and get the fatest low B you can find. They run about $15 for the one string by itself. I recommend one of the .145's. Here is a list of B strings in higher gauges I put together for a different forum once upon a time:

    I've read through a lot of data on a popular guitar string website to find the most massive low B strings available. I will list brand and size available for all strings I could find that were .135 or larger.
    Dean Markley SR2000, .140
    DR DDT, .135, .145
    D'addario Pro Steel .145
    Rotosound SS Swing .135
    Rotosound Trubass black nylon flatwound .135
    La Bella Black Nylon Tapewound Deep Talkin Bass.135
    La Bella Hard Rockin bass SS .135
    La Bella Deep Talkin Bass round wound .135
    Ken Smith Roundwound SS .145
    Just Strings SS round wound .135
    Just Strings Nickel Plated Round Wound .135
    From experience I can tell you that a .145 makes a B string much less floppy on a 34 inch scale bass.
  15. stradivarius151


    Jan 18, 2014
    Follow up for anyone interested: I just put on the Peavey strings, which showed signs of a little use, but not nearly as much as the old ones, whatever they were. First of all, very bright and punchy. The slaps are huge and vibrant, like nothing I've ever experienced before. But most of all, the B string doesn't sound like dirt. It sounds amazing, as well as all other four.

    Problem: old, yucky strings. Thanks guys!

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