My quest for improved B string performance

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Klonk, Jul 19, 2013.

  1. Klonk


    Apr 28, 2011
    (Posted earlier under Hardware & Repair, think it fits better here).

    Hi all, first off, apologies if it's already covered, I have searched, and found some of these tips, but not one post that gathered them all.

    I just wanted to share the different things I've learned whilst trying to get my B string to sound as good as possible. Hopefully, it can save people in the same situation some time looking for a solution.

    It had been bothering me alot that on three different, good-quality basses (one MIM Fender Jazz, one Sandberg TM5 and one Sandberg VS5), and using four different string sets (TI flats, Sadowsky flats, Chromes and Sandberg steel roundwounds), I could hear that the B string sounded "deader" and weaker than the other strings. This is what I found to be most helpful so far:

    1. Truss rod - especially for new basses (?)

    My Sandberg VS 5 bass came with a brochure that I didn't read fully at first. It said that from the factory, the truss rod wasn't "set" so you had to turn it before playing. I guess this impacted my poor B string response quite a lot, due to the neck not being as rigid as it could have been.

    Is this common for new basses, anyone know?

    2. As much as possible of the saddles being in contact with the bridge

    On my Sandbergs, there are three small vertically placed screws on each saddle. These are used for adjusting the height of the saddle, and thus the action. On my Sandberg TM5, one of these screws weren't in contact with the bridge.

    Could this impact the sound/resonance? I felt like it improved when I corrected it, maybe the string was more stable in its track, I don't know.

    3. Setting a witness point, both at the nut/slope going into the tuner peg, and at the bridge

    Pressing the B string down with your thumb, to ensure a "break" in the angle of the string where it passes the bridge saddle, and going into the tuning peg, helped a bit on intonation and overall B string feel. This was fairly easy to find out here on TB, but mentioning it still.

    4. Tapered vs non-tapered B string - and corresponding setup consequences

    I tested several string sets, and found that for my Sandberg VS5, the Sadowsky light flats worked best. It has a tapered B string at .125 as far as I remember. I then read about the things you need to do setup-wise if you use a tapered string, and moved the B string saddle closer to the neck, and it sounded pretty good!

    I know others have equally good experience with non-tapered strings, so feel free to chime in on that.

    5. Overall setup.

    Little or no curve in the neck, as low action as your playing style allows, and correct distance to the pickups all helped as well. I used TB search for this, and amongst other found a thread with Roger Sadowsky's setup tips.

    Feel free to comment, and add more things to the list us sorry five string bass players can try out for better B string performance!
  2. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    A helpful roundup. Thanks!

    I've found it sometimes helps to raise the bridge saddle of the B string just a bit higher than the other strings--maybe 1/64th higher than the G. Guessing perhaps that big ol' string tends to just "kiss" the frets enough to deaden the tone a little, without overtly sounding like buzzing.

    I switched to Circle K balanced tension sets a while back. They have a lighter G and a heavier B than traditional sets. The biggest benefit is the even string tension, for me--but the B string sounds better. I've used these strings on a Carvin SB5000 and a Sadowsky Metro MV-5.
  3. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    +1 for good results with Circle K (with a .136 B). I'm going to try a similar gauge from Daddario next to see if it's the gauge or the string that makes the difference.
  4. mmbongo

    mmbongo I have too many basses. Supporting Member

    Likewise, I've not had any luck with anything smaller than a .135. I've had smaller ones that sounded okay and would probably work for most people, but I'm very particular about my B strings.
  5. Klonk


    Apr 28, 2011
    Thanks guys. I have looked at Circle K, but I prefer flats, and they only make rounds, right?
  6. ChiefHoghead


    Jan 20, 2013
    Have you tried any 35 scale basses? A longer scale will tighten up the B and it will come Alive again😃
  7. okcrum

    okcrum in your chest

    Oct 5, 2009
    Verde Valley, AZ
    RIP Dark Horse strings
    I use a .130-.135 tapered B at 34" to tighten things up. I like that scale length, so thicker is worth trying.
  8. Not necessarily or always true. I have mutiple 34 scale basses with Bs every bit as good as my 35s were. But I have had some 34s thats were stinkers....

    Another big thumbs up for Circle K 136s.

    As far as flats, I love the tone of LaBellas and Sadowsky flats, but IMHO, Chromes have the best B string of the lot....
  9. Nice collection of info. I would add - for the benefit of the uninitiated - that truss rod adjustment has a very specific purpose and it is not to simply make the neck more rigid. Tightening your truss rod nut does not correlate directly to a better B string. It's easy to get your bass out of whack and maybe even broken if you don't have a complete understanding of what is at play. Take it to a tech or research the subject very well.
  10. I use a 4 string 35" scale bass with Rotosound Drop Zones (.130 on the B string), and i had a shop put em on and set it up so it plays in BEAD like a standard tuned bass. I can never go back to standard on it again without changing the strings, but the B string is a thick, mean, low-end machine. Love the sound i get from it