Out of the box Thinking Questions

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by rwyarbrough, May 3, 2005.

  1. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    I am having these strange ideas I would like to get under control. I am hoping you experienced luthiers can either put these ideas to bed or ooh & ah at them...

    The most common problem with 5 string basses is a floppy B string. Tension is the issue and some manufactures even offer up to a 36" scale neck to compensate. Its hard finding any 36" scale necks. 35" scale seems to be more readily available. I'm curious about the possibility of using a 35" scale left handed bass neck and stringing it for a right hander, meaning the E string becomes the long string and the G string becomes the shortest string. Would that give me more tension on the B string to eliminate the floppy B problem?

    I also wonder if it is feasible to take a low F# string and tension it up to a B. Would it mess up the neck terribly, or is there a way to strengthen it to handle the extra tension forced upon it? The largest gauge B I have found appears to be a .130. I *think* I've seen a .135, but even so, I imagine it would be easier finding the .130s.


    Thanks in advance.

  2. 6-3-2


    Sep 20, 2003
    I believe a further distance to the tuner will increase string tension. It has been said this isn't true because the string's "speaking length" only goes up to the nut, but I believe realisitically it makes a difference, there's been lots of threads on that topic.
    It's worth a shot i'd say.
  3. A longer distance past the nut won't make any difference to the tension of the string. It can make a difference on the elasticity of the string if it is able to slip at the nut. For some reason people have started associating longer nut to tuner distance as increasing tension. It may make a difference to the sound, but it does not make a difference to the tension.
  4. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Right. For a fixed diameter and fixed speaking length, tension and pitch are inseperable. You cannot change the tension without changing the pitch if the other 2 vairables stay constant, and they do. There may be some other effects (I doubt it, but it's possible), but increased tension will not/cannot be one of them; that's a myth.
  5. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    IMO neck rigidity and string construction will have more of an effect than a 1" increase in scale length. The Floppy feel of the B string isn't so much from it's tension since if the string is identical and the scale length is identical, the tension should therefore be equal, but 2 different 34" scale basses will have very different feels, so construction would be the only variable there.

    Also, higher tension doesn't necessarily make for better tone. I very much don't like the tension on my D & G strings on my 35" scale bass.
  6. nastyn8c


    Feb 7, 2005
    Tampa, FL
    I don't know about you, but I have a Carvin LB75, and I always thought the B was floppy, so when I got my Lakland 55-94 and it was only a little better, I thought the Lakland sucked. Well, anyway, after getting my new SR5, I realize that the B on both must have been utterly insane, because the SR5 is apparently know for it's B.

    Well, the Lakie was a 35" and the B was great.
    But the Carvin was a 34" and almost just as good, and NOT strung through the body like the Lakland.

    Just something to ponder....
  7. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    Now that I think about it, I should have known that the nut was the constant in the equation, if you pluck the string between the nut and the tuner, the pitch is extremely high, this would indicate that the tension that matters is between the nut and the bridge, not the tuner and the bridge.. I feel stupid now.

    What about the idea of using the F# string as a B?

    The reason I am after more tension is
    1) a more piano like tone and
    2) to keep the blasted B from flapping all over the fingerboard without having to raise the action to an unbearable height.

    It's just too loose for my taste. I am playing a Ken Smith Burner bass with a 34" scale neck. Yes I know, not the best choice for the style of playing I do. My usual bass is a Fender Jazz (4 string) which is in the shop, I am borrowing the Ken. If this gives you any idea how hard I play the strings, I break E strings with some regularity. G's go real quick for me. UGH Now that I have a taste of a 5 string, I want to either build my own or get one custom built where I can get some tension on that B string so I can play it as hard as I do the rest of the strings without having to worry bout the thing flopping like a fish out of water. 35" scale neck seems to be a solution. Of course why not go 36", although I am fearful that string selection for a 36" scale bass is a problem.

    Anyone experimented with using string scales that weren't meant to be... for example using a F# for a B or using a B for a E???

    To keep this in line with the Luthier's Corner, what adjustments (if any) to the neck and body would be needed if this indeed would work?

    Is there another building technique or parameter to look for in buying a production bass that would accomidate for my rather hard playing and my desire to have a tight B string? I don't really want to learn how to play all over again, I've been plucking strings rather hard for many years now (and quite frankly, I like playing that way)

    LajoieT - Maybe that would work for your 35" scale D & G (in reverse of course - using a thinner gauge string - high C string for a G and a G string for a D?)
  8. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I play VERY hard at times as well and I have not broken a string in many years. Often times broken strings can be a result of burrs(rough spots) on bridge saddles and other "set-up" problems. If you are certain that you have none of these issues and are breaking strings regularly due to aggro technique than you may indeed need to consider a technique modification. Back when I was breaking strings quite regularly I had no idea that it was due to a combination of Bass/set-up problems and questionable technique, I figured it was a fact of life. I have not broken a string at least 10 years now and I am playing harder than ever!!
  9. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    If you up the gauge you are upping the tension, no doubt about it. I think if you try to put a super-heavy gauge string at B you are going to be putting a lot of tension on the neck and you will be more likely to get a string to break as well as inviting set up problems.
  10. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    lowphatbass.... Now that you mention it, I haven't broken any since I started playing the Ken Smith several months ago, by now I would have already broken one on my Fender... Looking at my Fender, your absolutley correct. The bridge saddles are prime candidates for burrs. I've never seen a saddle quite like that before. There are three small grooves (parallel to the strings) for the string to rest in. (why havent I paid more attention to this before?) I assume its to obtain a better gripping action on the string, but it looks to me that it is just inviting burrs. Time for a new bridge on my 4 string!
  11. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    Thanks for that info FBB Custom.

    As a luthier, how would you go about insuring that the neck is sturdy enough to support the extra tension?

    Also since I like the sound of a bolt on neck, I would have to have at least 6 if not 8 screws attaching the neck wouldn't I?

    How much area would I need on the body for the neck to "sit" in to make that happen or are there other techniques that would work better?

    Thanks in advance...
  12. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    There are alternative methods to bolts for attaching necks, see some threads here for more info on the T-Nuts and other ideas people have used. As for getting a rigid neck, you might want something that is multi laminant, with maybe ebony or purple heart stringers or something else equally sturdy, or graphite reinforcement rods or something like that to increase the strength of your neck. Multiple Truss Rods is a way to go as well.

    Also consider the downside to having a 36" scale bass across the board. Your G string will be VERY tight feeling at this length Id think, and your likely more prone to breaking them. I think at 35" you'll be happier with the overall tone from all strings than at 36".

    Just an opinion from someone with no luthier experience, but done a lot of homework before purchasing my Dingwall.
  13. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Or, like me, use douglas fir. ;)
  14. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    That too, many woods will hold up as a single piece, or even multi laminant of the same woods. My Dingwall is actually a one piece Flatsawn Maple, but its plenty strong. Sometimes you gotta be carefull though as some of the stronger woods tend to also be fairly heavy, IPE comes to mind hehe.
  15. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    I have always been intrigued by the Dingwall...And Yes; I would think the G would be a little toooo tight on a 36” scale bass. The concept behind the Dingwall seems to eliminate that as a best of both worlds approach.

    How hard was it for you to adjust to the slanted frets?
  16. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    Marcus Willett - douglas fir... hmmm thats an idea... is there a noticable sound or tonal difference using douglas fir versus a multi laminant or other woods? (sorry if this is covered elsewhere) I have read on a website that offers exotic woods for bass builders listing the qualities of each, but I don't remember seeing douglas fir...
  17. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    About 5 minutes, if that :) Its way more of a visual distraction than a physical one. If you dont look, your fingers already know where to go, and typically, its a more comfortable playing position.
  18. rwyarbrough


    May 24, 2004
    Man you replied fast!

    Just noticed you're in Dallas... I'm in Mesquite so maybe that bass of yours might accidentally find some way of showing up Sunday morning at the church I play at in Rowlett for a test run. :D

    That is if you don't mind your strings getting the steel plucked out of them!
  19. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Oh Im at work, so where else would I be but sitting on talkbass LOL!

    Not likely, as Im not a church person, but your more than welcome to come over any time and put it through its paces :)

    You wouldnt be the first, and probably not the last, but it never bothers me in the least to show off the wonderful quality and design execution that is my Dingwall.

    Shoot me a PM and we can discuss so we dont derail the thread further, and I appologize for derailing it already!
  20. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings

    Not really necessary IME. I have several instruments with one piece necks with excellent B strings. Some aren't even 35" scale. Sometimes you just need to use a good piece of wood and a better than average trussrod..