New midtier bass de-tuning too often: bad technique, bad machine tuners?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by ulvs, Jan 18, 2019.

  1. ulvs


    Aug 7, 2004
    I have a bit of a problem. My relatively new (I own it for few months) Marcus Miller P7 4 string is having problems staying in tune. Actually, my old bass 4 string Fender Precision Special (MIM) also didn't stay in tune well, but I wrote it off at the age and the suffering the instrument has gone through. Don't know, maybe it's my playing (to keep it simple, I hit strings hard). In fact I have developed a rather bad habit of checking every string after each song. It's not like the bass de-tunes after every song, but after every second, maybe every third it does, so it's better to go safe then to play a song with a de-tuned instrument (been there, done that, it's horrible).

    About my playing, well, I try not to be biased about it - maybe my bad technique is the reason of this de-tuning. I'm one of those players who breaks strings on his bass guitar quite regularly (3-5 times a year). In fact, I broke the G string last rehearsal even tho I didn't use it (that tells a lot about my possibly a bit too chaotic right hand movement). BUT playing hard is a must to get the tone I'm going for. You really can't get that attack without hitting that string hard. To illustrate my point, here's a clip from a gig I played in few weeks ago (I put it on 4m39s where I play a part with hitting strings hard, but it's best to listen from start) -

    I'm sorry that I have to give you such example of my playing as it's not the best/sharpest in this example - I'm off time too many times. Btw, something had bitten my left arm near the wrist (the spot where watches usually are), it was swollen hard for 3 days. It was a bit uncomfortable and painful to play. But I've played in a lot worse states (Can't stand? Then sit or lie down!) and the show must go on!

    Anyway, what's your opinion on this? Maybe I should get new tuners?

    Been looking at set of Gotoh GB10 for 60-70 USD in Ebay. They look nice (good reviews), also cheaper then Hipshot by quite a lot (at least a 1/4th).
  2. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    Sure, go ahead. Spending money for new tuners you don't need is the remedy to fix poor technique, improper maintenance on you bass, and is generally a panacea for all you ills.
    RSBBass, Bolsyo, lz4005 and 2 others like this.
  3. ulvs


    Aug 7, 2004
    Tnx for reply. So can you tell me more about which part of my improper technique could be responsible for the de-tuning?
  4. String binding in the nut perhaps?
    lokikallas likes this.
  5. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    We're probably dealing with a bad string install and/or questionable set-up.

    PSPookie likes this.
  6. PSPookie


    Aug 13, 2006
    Albuquerque, NM
    FWIW, I didn't hear anything in that clip that couldn't be accomplished with a softer touch and different settings.
    Bolsyo likes this.
  7. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    First, I really liked the music. Rock may be dead in America but its always nice to see that the other hemisphere still likes it and is always making it new.

    You mentioned the age of your old bass causing it to go out of tune. Load of poop.

    What catches my suspicions is that you say you’re always tuning. I have to ask if you always tune UP TO PITCH, never down. Meaning if you’re sharp you loosen the string down below pitch: tuning the E: drop down to F# or lower and then back up to E.

    Also, if you could post a pic of how your strings are wound on the machines it would be helpful.

    The others are right though that if you break a lot of strings, you can find better ways to do your thing without kicking the crap out of your strings. You would be able to play lighter, and achieve the same results.
    lokikallas likes this.
  8. ulvs


    Aug 7, 2004
    Thanks for the replies. I've googled a bit about string setups and checked my bass today, and yes, it seems that the last time I changed strings (day before the gig), I didn't wind up the E string correctly (without making an angle).

    And I actually understand that one can get the tone I'm going after without that chaotic hitting of strings, e.g., you can approach the first sway of the hand more lightly, but still dig in hard with the pick at the end. I guess that in the end I have no excuse to keep doing what I'm doing as it's impacting my performance in a bad way (wrote this sentence instead of the first thought that came in my mind about how It's so natural for me to approach my playing in a bit of an over-the-top manner).

    @96bird, thanks for the kind words. They mean a lot for us as we're doing this mostly for the fun of it, but still someday would like to go on a tour to US/Canada/etc. But, yeah, the language barrier is real. We don't sing in English mainly because it's so easy to sound cheesy as an Eastern European singing in English. Anyway, sadly I agree with you about rock being dead in US (also UK/West Europe), but here on the outskirts of known civilization (Latvia and other countries nearby) we sure do appreciate all the history of rock music (thanks US/UK), but we see no need to replicate something already heard. So we mix it up a bit. And I myself also like the result. Too bad it's so hard to export this kind of material.

    And you're right, it seems that lately I haven't been paying attention to the way how I tune strings. I actually remember that once I ALWAYS did as you're writing, e.g., going from low to high, not from high to low. Thanks for the reminder.

    Conclusion: need get to rid of bad tuning habits and restring the instrument correctly, no need for new machine tuners.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2019
    RSBBass and 96tbird like this.
  9. WIFI


    May 20, 2012
    Hola , la desafinacion continúa seguro que es por una mala instalación de las cuerdas y tu manera de tocar , ya que si las llegas a romper es porque las estiras demasiado .
    Prueba diferentes materiales en tus puas ( picks), ya que estos influyen mucho en el tono y seguramente encontrarás una que te de lo que buscas .
  10. Geri O

    Geri O Endorsing Artist, Mike Lull Guitars and Basses Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Don’t rule anything out, but this is the most practical place to start. Fixing habits doesn’t cost money. If you’ve earnestly addresses those issues with no results, then look at tuners and such.

    Not long ago, a guy walked into a gig I was playing with a newly-acquired used Squier jazz bass that he wanted me to play. I took it out of the gigbag and right away, felt the neck creak from ever-so-slightly loose neck screws. We ran out to my truck, got a screwdriver, and tightened the neck bolts, and all was well. That was really odd, the first and only time I had ever seen neck screws that loose, and a long shot that’s worth checking on your basses.

    (And that Squier bass turned out to be quite decent, although it needed new strings. I played it an entire set)
  11. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    if you can post a close-up photo of your headstock showing the string windings, we might be able to see if there is a problem there :)

    at a guess, if one or more strings are not seated properly on the tuning pegs, there might be some movement causing tuning issues? especially if you play with a heavy plucking technique.
  12. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    Do you practice without an amp (acoustically)? I used to break strings, but my technique improved when I started practicing with my iPad, and amp sim setup.
  13. guts


    Aug 13, 2018
    The point of technique is not to deny you ways to make sound, but rather to help you keep your body healthy and undamaged no matter how you choose to make sound.

    I don't see a good enough shot of your playing to really be able to analyze your technique, so I can't tell you if your technique is opening you up to the possibility of damaging your body. But I can tell you that if you want to hit your strings as hard as possible that's not inherently bad technique. You can do whatever you want to get the sound you want, just don't hurt yourself. Make sure your body and especially your hands stay relaxed and don't unnecessarily or inefficiently contort them.

    As for the tuning and frequent broken strings, that definitely sounds like your instrument isn't being strung properly. It doesn't look like you're doing anything to your strings that should cause them to break under normal conditions. I seriously doubt the way you're playing would be enough to cause you to break so many strings without there being some other more significant contributing factor.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019