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Music Man neck super sensitive to temp changes

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by kbakerde, May 17, 2018.

  1. kbakerde

    kbakerde Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2012
    I was curious to know if anyone has had this issue with a Music Man neck, but the neck on my Sterling seems to be extremely sensitive to temperature. Having 10+ basses in the past I have not seen this happen before.

    A bit of backstory. I bought a used 2002 EBMM Sterling off of Reverb back in the fall, and it was certainly a player bass. Has a few dings and scratches, and ended up having a few loose wires and such. Anyway, I gave it to my good friend and luthier to look over, check out the bass and give it a set up. Cleaned the preamp, replaced the jack, re-soldered a few things that came loose and it was good to go. I got it back, and it sounded great, was reliable and the set up was perfect! I remember I used it at a gig the first weekend of Dec and it was great.

    Also remember I am in the eastern Mid-Atlantic, so we do get some extreme temp changes. January was cold. I mean freaking cold here in Delaware!! But the Sterling stayed in my office the whole time, in climate control and on a rack. later in Jan I tried using it at rehearsal and the action was jacked. The neck bowed forward and ended up being really high, like unplayable as it was hard to fret it high. Concerned, back to my Luthier it went who kept it a week, took the neck off and ran it through the paces. Neck and truss rod checked out fine, reset the action, and in the months since it's been good to go.

    In the last couple weeks, we have had some varying temps the other way. It was really hot for a while, and then it got cooler and stated to rain. I hooked up the Sterling and got a lot of fret buzz. Now the action is too low, and the strings are lying on the frets. So I am convinced that when the temp swings, the neck relief will shift fairly drastically and need a new setup, but is otherwise OK. But having several basses including Jazz, P, Warwick, Spector, Peavey, and Gibson, none have had this issue. In fact, my other bass a 2012 Gibson EB has been in the same climate and has not significantly shifted in neck relief in years.

    Is this an issue with the bass? Or just a reality I need to manage? Is this something that EBMM necks are unusually susceptible to? Or is this just this neck on this bass.

  2. mouthmw


    Jul 19, 2009
    I take it it has the oil & wax finish on the neck? That's exactly why I've always avoided those (besides them getting dirty). I have had zero issues with my old USA SUB (painted black maple neck) and have zero issues with my current Stingray BFR (gloss neck, roasted maple).

    Sometimes wood is just more susceptible to change, but I believe some sort of finish helps with stability. That said, weakest neck I've had was on one of the Flea basses I had at home, that thing would just not allow any good action.
    dralionux likes this.
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    OP: i'm sorry that i have no personal experience with the brand/model, but IMO: some instruments (necks) may need more attention than others given the temperatures and 'atmospheric changes' which you describe. i'm with you that it's disconcerting to pick up an instrument only to find that the action has changed and it's now in need of a truss adjustment. however, many instruments (IMO it's often the ones we find with the "super fast," slim neck profiles) require just that. it's not that these instruments are 'duds' --- they play beautifully after an adjustment --- but they may require more attention/adjustments than others. some do, some don't. it sounds like you are describing something which is completely normal for many instruments!

    my advice: either re-think your affinity for this instrument -or- learn how to do those adjustments yourself (carry your wrench: use it when indicated!). good luck! :thumbsup:

    example: i play fretlesses where i prefer the action real low on what some would consider "little skinny necks." all of the necks (fender, mighty mite, chinese, eden) need adjustments from time to time. some: because of seasonal weather changes. some: because of spontaneous changes in 'atmosphere' --- going from air conditioning to outside on high humidity days. i've had to adjust necks on set breaks during shows! it doesn't happen often...but it has happened and it can be expected with some necks. all of it = no biggie! it's just a part of playing on some necks...in my case: all of them!
    maxschrek likes this.
  4. It seems reasonable to me that an unfinished neck would be more susceptible to temperature and humidity changes than a finished one, but in my experience there's no rhyme, reason, or justice to it. My Stingray has the unfinished neck, which I have never treated with the oil and whatnot, and it's no more sensitive than my Pedulla, which has like a quarter inch of plastic encasing the entire bass. My Fender is right in between with a light matte-ish finish and is maybe slightly more stable than either of them. The most stable bass I've ever owned is my Rickenbacker, which can go months without needing to be tuned and once went 6 years without needing a truss rod adjustment. Anecdotally, it has made me feel that the 2 truss rod thing might have some merit.
  5. spufman


    Feb 7, 2005
    Central CT
    My Sterlings have necks that move frequently, but never extremely. But the truss adjustment is so smooth and easy, I’m fine with that. In literally 10 seconds I can get it perfect for the day which is a welcome trade-off to me. I wish all my basses were so responsive to slight truss adjustments.
    maxschrek, bdgotoh and petch like this.
  6. kbakerde

    kbakerde Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2012
    Thanks. The first time it happened freaked me out. I’d never had a guitar do that and thought the neck was busted. Now it’s like hey this happened again in the opposite direction. That’s weird.

    I’m no stranger to doing my own adjustments. It’ll be a first on this style neck, but not a killer. I’ll have to know I’ll need to check it every few months
  7. Bassist Jay

    Bassist Jay

    Dec 28, 2009
    Sterling, CO.
    Endorsed by K.B. Guitars, Nordstrand Audio Pickups, Von York Strings and Gallien-Krueger Amps.
    Yes, some Ernie Ball Music Man necks can be very sensitive to temperature and weather/seasonal changes. I've had a few that have given me fits to where I have had to adjust them every time the weather changes. Usually, right as summer or right as winter starts.

    What's weird is my 2 Ibanez SR 500 Soundgear basses that were both bought brand new by me in 1994 and 1995 and have toured all over the Country with me, have been in every climate imaginable from 100 plus degree heat in Arizona and Nevada to below freezing and snowing weather in Utah and Wyoming the following days. Those necks have never needed to be adjusted.

    Some Ernie Ball Music Man basses and guitars do real well but out of the 20 that I have owned, I think at least 4 or 5 had the issues of needing the necks adjusted at least twice a year. And what was weird is when summer would start, I would have to relieve tension I believe? But when winter would start, I would have to add tension. Or it was vice versa?

    When I worked at Zane Guitars, on all of our basses and guitars that we made, in addition to having a truss rod in the neck, we also had two support rods in the neck as well. One on each side of the truss rod. I forget if they were graphite, titanium or stainless steel but whatever they were, the necks on those guitars and basses were incredibly stable. I don't know how Music Man builds their necks and if they use support rods in them or not but with the Music Mans I have owned, the necks are either very stable and never need to be adjusted or without miss, when the weather changes, even though they are kept in a climate controlled room, they go out at least twice a year. With me, I live in Colorado at approximately 4,000' elevation and I have wondered if the elevation and difference in air pressure is what effects the necks that do go out. Just a theory of mine though. I don't know for sure if it is that or not?
    kbakerde likes this.
  8. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    I've got an 83' and a 96' SR
    Necks are rock solid; I can't remember the last time there was any need to adjust the truss rod.
  9. basslicks


    Dec 14, 2015
    I haven’t really noticed any difference in neck movement between my Sterling and my other basses. It’s kinda hard for me to tell though since I’m regularly making micro-adjustments on all of my basses.

    That being said, I have to say that my Sterling (American variant) has one of the smoothest and fastest necks out of all my other basses. I love the neck, and I can get the action down to where it’s super easy to play and very responsive! Only problem is my G-string tends to get lost in the mix a bit no matter what I do.
  10. jonlimo


    Jul 20, 2015
    My main player is an ebmm sterling 5 and yeah, the neck shifts more noticeably with temperature than any other bass i've owned.

    I was initially concerned that something may have been wrong. Eventually i got used to it and now i dont really think of it as an issue anymore.

    For maintenence i sand the neck down and do a wipe on wipe off of tru oil every year. Still seems to hold pretty okay in my humid oven climate.

    Though it seems the case with your sterling is pretty serious..
    Low84 likes this.
  11. HalfManHalfBass


    Jan 21, 2003
    Yes, I have had the same experience. It must be the lack of an airtight, polyurethane finish.

    My birdeye 1995 neck was so bad that everytime I picked it up the action was up or down a half millimetre and needed constant adjusting.

    I eventually sold the original necks and both now have Status Graphite ones -which never need adjustment!


  12. andruca


    Mar 31, 2004
    Madrid (Spain)
    I have 2 Stingray5s, both with "unfinished" necks. I oil them once or twice a year. I live in Madrid, where humidity is not an issue (ridiculously low) except for maybe one omth each year. But temperature can range from 40ºC most of the summer and some 0ºC days in the winter (we even get snow sometimes). I check adjustment of my basses regularly, no bass is left "unattended" for more than a couple months, 3 maximum, so I haven't really seen things go out of control really and in the case of my unfinished SR5s release is rarely altered, even at times when I've gone gigging to beach locations where I take the bass out of a case and it's sweating (literally), relief is not noticeably affected. Truth be told, the oldest one (from 1997) is the more stable of the 2, but the other is still VERY stable. Even tho' mi experience has been smooth with them it's not that I'm an unfinished neck nazi at all, a satin finish (no sticky gloss) provides almost the same fast rub sensation these "unfinished" Musicman necks have to them and is probably more effective in protecting wood from the elements.

    What I NEVER do with my unfinished Rays is neglect the oiling to the point where the neck feels rough/grainy. It's still very smooth when I oil it. I apply one coat of linseed oil with some cloth, wait a couple hours for it to get sucked (most of it does) and apply another coat, wait for a couple more hours and wipe the excess.
    bassomane likes this.
  13. Low84

    Low84 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    My 1990 SR5 (rosewood board) moved around more than any bass I've ever owned. For multiple reasons, it's no longer in the stable.

    I wonder if experiences like this led to Flea's comment in a guitar/bass magazine around the time of the launch of his Modulus that "the necks [on Music Man basses] tend to warp on me." Flea's words, not mine.
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
  14. kbakerde

    kbakerde Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2012
    How do you know if this neck is unfinished?
  15. Hi. I've got a number of these basses with both the oil and wax finish and lacquered finish. This is not an issue I've particularly noticed but we do not have the extreme level of temperature change you've described (ours is more like a max range of about 45 degrees C). However I have noticed that if I run the action very low indeed, the truss rod does need a slight tweak at the beginning of winter and summer. However this is a very simple two minute job on a Musicman because of the excellent wheel truss rod system.

    I don't run super low action because I find it stops me from digging in at all without clank.

    It might be worth you checking the bass is set up to factory specifications as a starting point (the data is on their website). Musicman sell a shim kit if there is a need to change the neck angle marginally to get the lowest action possible - however if you do intend to run very low action be prepared to do a minor truss rod adjustment (say 1/8 turn) when the temperature swings majorly.

    In summary I think the difference in performance between a painted/lacquered/oil and wax MM neck in respect of this, across four and five string basses, in my experience is marginal if any. On the other hand many people love EBMM necks for their super playability.
  16. FirewalZ


    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    I have to adjust nearly all my bass's to some degree when the summer humidity kicks in or when it dries out in the winter. It's somewhat expected though and normal. I can make all the adjustments myself and don't see t as an issue.
  17. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    NJ Bayou Country
    I bought 3 new Ball Family Reserve Stingray HH's around 2010. One with a soild rosewood neck, one roasted maple, and one regular maple. They required such frequent adjustment that I was worried. Everyone that I talked to said is was normal. But...

    I live in a state which has rapid and drastic temp and humidity changes, and I keep a Precision and Thunderbird in non climate controlled areas, and neither budge. I sold the Stingrays.

    Had they been stellar in some way to me, then I'd have kept them though, and just adjusted as needed. They just weren't for me, but the neck issue never sat well with me.
  18. I have had several Stingrays and traveled weekly all over the southern US with them. They did require lots of tweaks to the truss rods but never anything drastic. I bought 1 Sterling and it was a much different story. The neck not only moved much more but also started developing a twist. Could have been bad luck on that particular bass but I stopped traveling with it.
  19. pasmithy


    Jul 7, 2011
    SE PA
    I live right across the border in PA and I don't think it's the temperature as much as the humidity affecting it. The Luthier I use is a stickler for me storing my basses in a hardcase with humidipacks, when I'm not playing them. I keep a humidity gauge in the living room so I can monitor it out of curiosity. When the heat or the AC is on, the humidity in the house will go down to 30%. Right now as I'm typing this it is at 80%, in this weather. I have a Stingray with an unfinished neck that I pulled out to use last night, that I hadn't seen in two months. Neck was perfect and I might have had to tweek tuning on one string...
    kbakerde likes this.
  20. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    I have a US EBMM SUB with the painted neck and have to say it's one of the more stable necks of the basses I own- doesn't budge in the Michigan winters or humid summers. Out of the 80 or so basses I've owned in the past 5 years, the worst were two Ibanez SR300 basses I had - I found it odd that both had the same problem. They were of the same year, one with a rosewood fretboard, the other maple- both seemed to need constant truss rod tweaks with even slight temperature/humidity changes . These were earlier SR300 models which had the 3 piece necks, later versions had the 5 piece necks and were more stable.

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