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my vintage Gibson EB-3L

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by whitespike, Apr 22, 2009.

  1. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    When I was a teenager a family friend gave me his old Gibson EB-3L as a gift, telling me to never sell it. Problem was, I had to put in quite a lot of work/money into it to get it to work properly. I finally hit a roadblock I couldn't seem to solve and around 800 dollars later I still don't really use it. It's out of state at my parents house, but I am getting it back and I hope someone here can solve the last piece of the puzzle.

    Things I had done:

    1. The neck was very badly bowed so I had it heat pressed.
    2. The pickups sounded puny and horrible, so I got Lindy Fralin to rewind them.
    3. The frets were crap so I got it refretted.
    4. It was a transitional year where Gibson experiemented with 0% neck pitch, and I thought it might be causing the problem that I will describe, so I got the neck reset.

    After all this the problem still exists. The problem is that the E string seems to have less volume. Most especially from the 4th fret down to the open E. After all this the luthier said that it must be a dead spot in the wood and there is nothing that can be done further.

    What the hell?! What can I do about this? It's a cool sounding bass otherwise, and aesthetically is in beautiful shape. And, as I mentioned, I can't sell it. I would love to use it, but the low end just loses out.

    Anyone have this problem before???? How can this be solved?
  2. bassclef112

    bassclef112 Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2003
    New York City, NY
    You've clearly gone to great lengths to make everything happen correctly for this bass and it looks like you've covered every aspect. The one thing you cannot correct are the inherent resonances in the wood. It's a living thing and even with careful selection and craftsmanship, you won't know how it'll all come together until it's done. It sounds like your luthier called it right since you've done all that work and it's still there.

    I've had very expensive basses with these issues and I've had relative POS's that played even on every string, every fret. The reality is each piece of wood has it's own sonic properties. I have a 2006 Fender MIA with steel in the neck and it still has "low-volume" spots in non-traditional locations. The steel just moved them around but didn't eliminate them.

    I've found the easiest thing to do when I come across this is just get a different bass. I understand your desire to make this thing work due to the sentimental value, but I believe you've done all you can - keep it for what it is.
  3. Split headstock?
  4. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Dang, I was hoping this wasn't the case. See, I hate to hold onto it bc I have so much time/money in it. It isn't as simple as getting another. There's nothing I can do? Is it the whole neck or is it the fretboard? COuld I resurface the fretboard?
  5. bassclef112

    bassclef112 Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2003
    New York City, NY
    You could but it won't change the resonant frequency of the neck itself. That's not good news, I know. You have spent a whole lot of money trying to do the right thing and you've had it evaluated by a pro. You could try bringing it to someone else, but I doubt you'd get a different answer. Still, wouldn't hurt to get a second opinion - are you sure there are no splits or cracks in the neck?

    I understand your position and I realize it's not as simple as getting another bass. I only said that because when I get a bass with no easy solution it's the path of least resistance. If after a setup and fret leveling etc it's still an issue I know I'm done with it. There are clearly other factors in play for you.

    This kind of thing doesn't happen often, but it does happen. I'm a huge fan of early BC Rich basses, particularly Eagles. I've had 3 from the "golden years" ('77, '78, '81) at no small cost. Gorgeous neck-thru hand finished instruments in both figured maple and koa. Each one had the same issue as your EB3 to one degree or another, but all had it enough to make me let them go because there was no amount of fretwork or setup that would change it short of a different neck. Tough to do on a neck-thru. Meanwhile I have an '80 Mockingbird that is what you dream about for playability. Same types of wood, same craftsmen, same era. It's the wood - these pieces are structurally correct for the resonance imposed.

    It's a bitter pill man. But when you've tried everything you have very few options left. Good luck with your decision - I know it's a tough spot to be in.
  6. jgsbass


    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    The volume problem happens acoustically as well? Its the woods. Probably the neck, but could be the body as well. As all the other posters are pointing towards the same conclusion: its the bass. Everything else that was changed out did not solve the problem. Nothing left to change out.
    Boosting up the EQ at around 40 to 50 hz should even it out in an amp.
  7. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    So maybe a boss bass eq pedal?
  8. Peppacone


    Jul 24, 2008
    You try raising the pickups?
  9. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Get a good compressor/compression pedal and experiment with strings/setup/pickups and playing technique used with the compression.
    Ghastly likes this.
  10. I wonder if adding mass to the headstock might help it at all. Like a metal clamp first just to test the theory, and then if it does help, maybe bolt a piece of metal to the headstock.

    How many different gauges/manufacturers of strings have you tried?
  11. That's what I was getting at...

    Does it have a split headstock?

    Not a cracked headstock like my broken piece, the slotted headstock like a classical guitar?


    They used to make those "Fatfinger" things, from what I recall, people said they really worked. There's also a "Fathead," but that wouldn't be applicable in any Gibson headstock design.
  12. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
  13. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I have tried several. Roundwound and now flats. I am thinking about putting tapewounds...
  14. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    It is the slotted headstock design. I kind of remember those.... maybe I'll look into that as well. .
  15. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Years ago ('79, I think), I bought an EB-3L off the wall at Spotto's Hardware and Music (kid you not!) in Connellsville, PA. Had to heat-treat the neck, replace the rotary switch, and replaced the god-awful bridge with a Badass. Hated the thing so I gave it to my brother who lived in Western Australia. Probably still out there somewhere.

    Bottom-line: it was what it was. Despite the repairs / mods, the EB-3L still projected a "sea 'o mud" vibe. Compensate with EQ, compressors, whatever you can.

  16. Fly Guitars

    Fly Guitars

    Dec 29, 2008
    Yeah, one varitone position is a sea of mud, but you should be able to get some pretty bright tones out of the bridge pickup.

    I use a slotted headstock EB3L live quite a lot - different rigs seem to throw out a different sound - seemingly unpredictably. I suspect these old EB basses react to different shaped rooms. Sometimes the mud is instantly lost in the mix, sometimes it is clear as you want.

    Sometimes the bridge pickup sounds perfect on it's own, sometimes just crassly over-bright.

    but whatever, I can always find a sound that is right using one of the settings.

    I chose my settings at the sound check rather than the rehearsals previously
  17. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I find the individual pickups to be useless. The only way I can get a cool sound is with both, and at that, it's still a one trick pony. But it does have this nice midrange snubby sound that's kind of neat...
  18. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Has anyone else used a Fatfinger to good results?
  19. Barkless Dog

    Barkless Dog Barkless to a point

    Jan 19, 2007
    Mine was a slothead, but added a RioGrande Pitbull and it sounds very much like a Yamaha Attitude. Growly & mean.

    Mudbucker really come to life with a bit of overdrive or distortion. It really is an amazing bass. It is limited, but what it does it does what no other bass can.
  20. It might be an amp issue. If your amp and/or speakers can't reproduce the loud, low fundamental of the lowest notes on the E string, those frequencies won't be as loud as higher frequencies.

    I had similar issues with a '69 EB-3 I owned, and installing a Badass 1 bridge cleaned up the super-lows enough to make the E string usable. Remember, that bass was made in the era of tube heads and big speakers. Try it with an 18" before you go further.

    Gibson's indifferent construction is a separate issue.

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