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Music Man Stingray Compensated Nut

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Geri O, Apr 6, 2014.

  1. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Recently, I bought a 1998 5-string Stingray that is the most awesome bass. However...

    I'm having an issue with the first-fret tuning on the A string. I could tell the nut had been replaced on this bass when it arrived. The string spacing wasn't even, so I had it replaced. Then I noticed the tuning issue and I was advised that the nut might be cut too high, which is known to cause this issue. This time, I had the locally-highly-recommended guitar luthier check the replacement nut and he agreed, lowering the A slot slightly. He set the nut A slot to a recommended height. It helped the problem a lot, but it's still just a couple of cents sharp at the first fret. However, this guy set up the bass, noting my preference for a slightly higher action with medium-gauge strings (.050, .070, .085, .105, .135) and it plays sooooooo nice. It's perfect! But I need to figure out this tuning thing.

    I've recently seen some pics of a "compensating" nut on some Music Man basses. Might the lack of this nut be the cause of my tuning problem? Can a replacement be bought from Music Man?

    Geri O
  2. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    Make sure there is no curve where the strings go over the top nut on the fret board side. The extra height would make the string be noticeably sharp in the first few frets (depending on the amount of the curve). This is called setting the witness point and should be done wherever the strings make a curve. Both sides of the bridge, top nut and where the strings come off the tuner post. Setting the witness points at the bridge and top nut are critical for consistent action height and intonation for new strings. Overall it helps tuning stabilize in a shorter period of time since the string would naturally straighten the curves gradually and go flat.

  3. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    If it is just 2 cent sharp, most would consider that in tune for that note (about 58 Hz).
    A beat note, if you were comparing the note to a tone standard, would be over 10 sec.

  4. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    I am with megafiddle, all fretted instruments are a bit of a compromise on intonation. The first fret is usually the worst offender. Two cents of is not bad. A compensated nut can help but hey restrict you in terms of changing strings and other setup issues more than a regular nut.
  5. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    Play fretless! Problem solved :)
    Suncat likes this.
  6. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Yes, I'm aware of the tolerance factors there, Megafiddle. I've wondered if the 2 cents sharp figure is accurate, since I'm using a Boss pedal tuner to check the tuning with. I have a $400 program for my iPad that's used by pro piano tuners (having been one in a previous life and about to be again. Just haven't had a chance to check it by the iPad...)

    I fully well may be splitting hairs, no doubt. The only time it sticks out is during quiet moments when our worship director/pianist and I play together and alone. The Bb on the A string sticks out just a little sharp to us (so the obvious answer is to not do moments in Bb!...:D). And it may very well be that we are hearing the partials of both instruments working against each other. And it may be that I have to tell him we're being too picky. Otherwise, it's his favorite bass of all my basses and the basses played by the other bassists.

    I have seen it written that Music Man made the compensated nut just for this reason and I want to exhaust all the possibilities before I decide to live with the tuning. It's certainly not a deal-breaker.

  7. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    I like the way you think!! :D
  8. I don't think 90s Stingrays came with compensated nuts but I could be wrong.
  9. shastaband

    shastaband Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2006
    I have 10 Stingrays, 1992 to 2008 (4 and 5 string, fretted and fretless, maple and rosewood fretboards). From 1992-2005: NO compensated nut. From 2006 on: compensated nut. And according to Ernie Ball customer service, a compensated nut can NOT be fitted to earlier basses which were not originally so equipped. Hope this helps . . .
    Suncat likes this.
  10. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Thanx, Shasta, I learned that today. The compensated nut is a lot broader than a regular nut.

    Looks like we'll have to live with the little bit of dissonance for that situation. We'll manage...:D

    Take care, all...
  11. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Does the Bb sound noticebly sharp whereas the open A does not sound sharp? The Bb and open A
    would have to be in equivalent musical contexts, eg, bass A under a piano A chord, bass Bb under a
    piano Bb chord. In that case, I would suspect that it was a bit more than 2 cent sharp.

    It could be the partials you are hearing. I tune my basses completely by ear, including intonation. I adjust
    intonation so both open and 12th fret sound correct under chords on a well tuned keyboard. In a band, I
    tune to the keyboard, or else whatever main chord playing instrument is there. So I end up with a slight
    flattening of the lowest notes, a form of stretch tuning.

    If the piano is stretch tuned, you may very well sound sharp in relation to piano bass notes. Also, could
    the piano be slightly flat?

    If it is in fact +2 cent off, it may be incidental. It could sound sharp for other reasons, and just happen to
    be 2 cent sharp also. In other words, lowering the pitch by 2 cent to zero might not fix it. Or it might be just
    enough. Generally, it just takes a bit more than that to be noticable. 5 cent seems to be a common value
    for the limit of pitch perception. That's unless you are comparing two tones simultaneously where you can
    hear beat notes. And of course acuity varies from person to person.

    Have you tried lowering the tuning a tiny bit, just enough to put the Bb in tune?

    Ultimately, your ears are the final judge. If it sounds out of tune, it is out of tune.

  12. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Megafiddle, your insight is detailed and your interest in certainly appreciated.

    To answer the first question, yes, the open A sounds in tune and the Bb sounds just slightly sharp, enough that it gets my attention. Like we've said, it could be the partials. I have a lot of piano tuning experience by ear and my pianist/director has excellent ears (I'm 55 and he's 35, so I tend to take his word about tuning under considerable advisement).

    We use a Yamaha Motif of some version, a Motif 8, I think. It has a very clean, and accurate piano sound and the player/director is an outstanding player and very acute to what other instruments are being played, which I greatly appreciate and benefit from. We enjoy the "moments" we come up with (these are usually very quiet underscores with the pastor or other worship leader). I think I will tune that Bb to his Bb and see how that works. I'm beginning to be a little suspect of the Boss tuner, but I think I can use it along with some tuning by ear to make the situation work. We both love the sound of the bass and I have no plans to not use it.

    Again, Mega, thanx for the interest. I have this week off and mixing the Wednesday night service, but I think I"ll take my MM and sit at his keyboard, trying various things with the tuning. You have given me a lot to think about and I appreciate that!

    Take care...
  13. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    You might want to have a look at the height of the nut. if the nut slots are too high you will drive the note slightly sharp when fretting at the first fret due to the amount of stretch it takes to get the string to meet the fret. In the case of a high nut, the problem is less pronounced at the second fret and almost gone at the third.

    Surprising how many basses come from the factory with the nut too high.
  14. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Hope it helps.
    It certainly sounds like the A string 1st fret is indeed too sharp.
    Is this the same nut you were referring to?


    Same picture here, post #16


    Interestly enough, it's not only fretless, but unlined.

    There is something unusual about your particular problem. As with intonation adjustments at the saddles,
    the nut requires more compensation with the heavier strings. The nut slots move progressively closer to
    the frets as the strings get heavier. So with an uncompensated nut, the E and B strings should be even worse
    (sharper) at the 1st fret than the A string. If the E and B are good at the 1st fret, a compensated nut that fixed the
    Bb on the A string, would cause the low F and C notes to go flat. Or at least with the nut shown in the photos
    that would be the case.
    Hope that makes sense.

    mech mentioned setting the witness point. Also check the bottom of the nut slot.. The highest point should
    be at the fretboard edge. In other words, the slot bottom should slant downward towards the tuning post. so that
    the string rests on the fretboard end of the slot.

    The term "compensated" nut is the standard accepted term for nuts with individual string compensation. Same is
    true for saddles on acoustic guitar. The straight saddles are uncompensated, and the compensated saddles
    have offsets along the crown for each string.

    Actually, the placement of straight nuts, and the angled orientation of steel string acoustic saddles, is compensation.
    It's just not as fine. Properly done, it splits the differences (errors) among the strings so no one string has an excessive
    error. The "compensated" nuts and saddles just take it one step further.
    Suppose the 1st fret errors look like this:
    G	+0 cent
    D	+1 cent
    A	+3 cent
    E	+5 cent	<- too much
    B	+7 cent	<- too much
    You move the uncompensated saddle in bit and now you get this:
    G	-3 cent	<- all acceptable
    D	-2 cent	<-
    A	+0 cent	<-
    E	+2 cent	<-
    B	+4 cent	<-
    A similar thing can be done with tuning. Instead of a perfect A and +5 cent Bb, you lower the tuning by a couple cents
    and you have an A and Bb that are well within the pitch perception inaudibility "window". And the lowest tones can also
    benefit from being a tiny bit flat (stretch tuned).

    Your concerns are valid. Good tuning is very important. I believe that correct tuning can transform the tone of an instrument
    playing chords. Many tuners, with their "go, no-go" indicators are not good enough. While they can tune individual notes
    to within an acceptable error, they can also tune one string acceptably sharp and another string acceptably flat. But if the
    instrument is chord playing, the error difference between the two might now be too great (and audible).
    The strobe tuners with their 0.1 cent resolution are essential for piano tuning, but let us look too closely at things like bass,
    I think.