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Must B-string technique be different?

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by bassin4him, Jun 21, 2002.

  1. bassin4him


    Apr 29, 2002
    Tulsa, OK
    Just got a Cirrus 5 today (my first 5-string) and have been playing around with it, trying to get famaliar with it and using the B string.

    What I've noticed is that when the B is plucked anywhere from D down to B, the intonation is objectionably flat for the first second or so, then (of course) it comes back into tune.

    Can you just not "dig-in" as hard with the B string on the low notes as with the other strings? Is an all around lighter touch required? Is this just common technique that's required with a 5-string?

    (Tried this post on technique forum; got no answers.)

    Thank you Michael.
  2. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    I have found, all too often that intonation problems are either a problem with the setup or the strings (not usually the guitar). When you set the intonation you should do it on the initial attack of the string - not the decayed sound. The first step that I would take is to intonate the bass from scratch. If that doesn't help, I would try a different brand of strings - do a complete setup and after the strings settled in a bit I would intonate the bass again. I used to endorse a string company that I had the hardest time finding strings that would play in tune up and down the entire neck (that is why I USED to endorse them).

    Digging in would usually cause the note to be sharp not flat as you would be stretching the strings.

    Since I've started playing basses with the BFTS (Buzz Feiten Tuning System) I have become extremely particular about the intonation of the bass. I've tried a few brands/models of strings to find the best compromise of tone and intonation. I've been using the Thomastik Powerbass for the past week or so and find the intonation to be pretty good. The signal is way too hot for the kind of playing that I do. I am about to put on a set of the Thomastik Jazz bass Rounds. If they intonate as well with a little less signal, I will be very, very happy

  3. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    I think you will find TI Jazz Rounds much more to your liking. They have a much "lighter" signal (PB's are VERY hot; I find I only really can use them for my group-playing bass. For chording and dynamic playing they throw a bit much).
    The light gauge and low tension are great for chordal playing... it also produces a more pronounced, yet very sweet, midrange (with a lot of clarity)...they also use a narrow final wrap which keeps the finger noise to a minimum.
    Yes, they are every bit as balanced as PB's...in fact all the TIs are wonderfully balanced, and I find they intonate very well.
    I have been using them for my solo stuff on a Godin A4 semi-acoustic. They intonate very good there, even with the fixed bridge...and sound great even thru the piezos (no chirp!)

    Let me know how those work for you....
  4. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    B strings are, in my experience, difficult beasts. The increased thickness affects the tonal quality and they can seem to be more obviously bent of tune by the action of pressing them against a fret. Both are problems with the fundamental laws of physics so are unlikely to change in the near future :rolleyes:

    I've been very pleased with the LaBella strings that came with my recently acquired Sei six string. The tone is much closer to that of the E string and the intonation much better. I'm comparing it with the strings on my previous six string bass, which were Status Medium Gauge Flatwounds. These are Light Gauge Roundwounds with a taper on the B string as it crosses the bridge (meaning the string is relatively much thinner at that point).

    While I'm not an expert on strings, I'm likely to look for a tapered B when it comes to getting my next set for this bass - something has made a significant difference, and I think the taper is a large part of the equation. Hopefully that will help bassin4him dealing with the new Cirrus; personally, I'd be interested to hear if other peoples experiences with tapercore strings echo my own.

  5. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    I used the taper cores for a while and was unimpressed. Granted it was only from 1 manufacturer but I found that the were dificult to find ones that intonated well, they broke at the saddle -I just got too fed up. Lately I've tried the Thomastik Powerbass and Jaxx Bass Rounds. Both I find inotnate very well, sound great (although each has very different characteristics). So far I'm digging the Jazz Bass Rounds for my purposes. I'll give them a few weeks and let you know.

  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    When you say they didn't "intonate well", do you mean in general across the entire range, or specifically higher up on the neck? I just got my first 6-string (a Smith), and the overtones coming out of the taperwounds on the B and E strings are just downright bizarre, especially the higher up the neck you go. Other than that, the bass sounds beautiful, but I'm wondering if it might be the strings that are causing this.
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999

    I'm primarily talking about up the neck. I do a lot of chordal work and melodies in octaves. I need a bass/strings that intonate really well. Since getting a bass with the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, I am even more aware of the anomilies of certain sets of strings. So far, I am really liking the way the TI JazzRounds intonate up the neck.

    One thing we have to keep inmind is that many of the private label strings are made by one company, additionally, string makers in the US are all drawing from the same source materials. You might actually buy 2 sets of strings from different companies that are exactly the same string.

    Getting great strings makes a huge difference. Finding the ones that work best on your bass is a challange.

  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Thanks for the quick reply! two further questions:

    1) What is the "Buzz Feiten Tuning System"; and

    2) Did you have to replace or alter your bridge saddles when replacing the tapercores with roundwounds? Smith recommends doing this if you decide not to use tapercores, while steadfastly maintaining that tapercores intonate better than anything else.

    Thanks in advance.
  9. I can answer this: not on most basses. All that's necessary is lowering the saddle to compensate for increased thickness of the string passing over the bridge.

    Now, I've never studied a Smith bridge up close, because I've never played a Smith bass that I really dug. (String spacing, neck shape, tone--none of these things were to my liking.) Looking at the picture of the bass on the package of Smith strings that I have sitting around that sound like crap, it looks like the bridge can handle a non-tapered B or E without too much trouble. Apart from Warwick, I don't know of any manufacturers whose bridges require modification to use non-tapered strings. I suspect that Smith is trying to sell you on lucrative replacement parts. (Any stock analyst knows that the best-performing companies are those that can lock in continued revenues by requiring that the customers purchase replacement parts and "upgrades.") Of course, KS will probably try to come in here and do some "enforcement" if I say that :rolleyes:

    FWIW, I refuse to use taperwound strings because of the weird overtone problem. If I can't use my low B above the 9th fret, what good does it do me if it intonates a little bit better on notes that a lot of people can barely hear?
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm really, REALLY glad to hear you say this. I just read a couple of threads in the Strings forum in which quite a number of people (JT included) swore that the tapercore strings gave them BETTER intonation. This has not been my experience at all to date. My biggest relief, though, was that the problem isn't the bass. I read through one of the Cello suites on it recently and really liked the sound (except of course for the weird overtones), and I'd like to learn to grow into the axe with a smile on my face. Right now, it always makes me feel like I'm playing out of tune when I go up higher, and those overtones really put a dark cloud around anything I'm trying to play up there.

    Probably what I should do is check out some Thomastics, since I absolutely swear by their DB strings, and wouldn't put anything else on my doghouse. I wasn't even aware they made BG strings until recently. I'll try them without messing with the saddles first, and only worry about having to tweak them if the problem arises.

    Thanks for the advice. It's especially helpful because when you get right down to it, I really know very little about Slabs ( :) ), having never had one before that I wasn't trying to get to sound like a DB. I obviously have a lot to learn. Keep 'em coming!
  11. Chris: do yourself a favor and check out Fodera strings. I adore them.

    I just got done with one of my patented Total Fretboard Workouts (arpeggios, all 12 melodic minor scales and their modes, descending major thirds going chromatically from nut position, et al) and the .130 Fodera serving as my FBB's low B sounded right all the way up to the 24th fret. No dead notes, no double-tones.
  12. Chris

    You can have a read here:

    I would try and paraphrase it but.......it's too hard!

  13. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Banned

    Dec 11, 1999
    I would add a kudo for the Fodera Strings. I took them off to put on the Thomastiks. Both are really good. I am preferring the Thomastiks right now. They just fit my style of playing better


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