Overtones and Short-Scale Basses

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Squixter, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. Squixter


    Dec 19, 2017
    Grundy, VA
    So, I'm seeing a lot of information online suggesting that short-scale basses tend to have problems with overtones (as described in the articles, the sound of two notes playing at once). I've run into a couple articles suggesting balanced tension strings to line out the issue. (Here's one: Adventures with strings on a short scale bass guitar) Both of them recommend La Bella Deep Talkin' Flats, though I have an existing preference for roundwounds (alternating between Ernie Ball and RotoSound strings).

    I've already tried adjusting the bridge saddles and truss rod, but I keep running into this problem on my E, D and/or G strings (pending the adjustments I make). Can anyone vouch for this? I've never been a fan of flats, but I want to be able to use this bass (mainly because I bought a set of TV Jones Thunder'Mags to go in it). I would be tempted to buy a set just to see if it fixes the problem. I have RotoSound Swing Bass 66 Short Scale strings on as of now, and I am working with a Gretsch Electromatic Junior Jet 2220 bass.
  2. Well... I have the Squier Jag SS and the Junior Jet 2220 and I haven’t noticed the “problem” that I’m hearing in the video. The Squier has had Roto 77s, D’A Chromes and D’A Tapes. The Gretsch had the flats on it when I bought it. I think they are Chromes.

    I can’t help but wonder if playing technique has anything to do with it. Maybe strumming the string before fully fretting it? He’s playing rather fast. Timing between left and right hand may be off a hair? I actually thought it sounded kind of cool and wish I could make that happen on demand. I just can’t play that fast.

    Or if it’s about a string manufacturer trying to sell ice to Eskimos? Probably not. This is a highly reputable company, not some snake oil peddler. It’s just my nature to be wary of someone trying to sell me on a problem I don’t know I have.

    I also found it odd re: the comment about Fender 34 scale basses always sounding good.
    Can you say dead spot? Yes. I thought you could.

    But now that I’ve re-read the story I’m confused... Is the video before or after the change to balanced strings? And if after, why don’t they post a video of the before strings. How do I know what problem I am supposed to have if they don’t show me?
    If I have a problem with my shorties I sure wish they’d enlighten me as to what that might be.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
  3. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    There are plenty of balanced sets out there. I've never noticed the problem though. I started on a short scale (Hofner 500/1 w/Labellas.) I have a Gibson SG on order and think I'll get the GHS Brite Flats for it eventually. A balanced set that can be tuned BEAD or EADG.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
  4. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    From the article, it appears the snake oil is Fenders, not Labella strings.
    Old Garage-Bander likes this.
  5. JKos

    JKos Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    Torrance, CA
    This sounds like a pharmaceutical company trying to sell you a drug for a condition you never knew existed nor "have." Can anyone on TB corroborate this overtone issue?

    - John
    Old Garage-Bander likes this.
  6. Squixter


    Dec 19, 2017
    Grundy, VA
    I could definitely tell his blog had a pro-Fender slant about it. :laugh: I'll agree that I thought that aggressive sound he got out of those was pretty cool.

    In the video he linked, though, I didn't hear the issue he was describing because I know what it sounds like. I wish he would have uploaded a video of the actual problem. (I'd do it myself, but it's too late for me to want to record something.) The only way I know to describe it is that it sounds like the string is playing two tones at once--one in-tune, one usually sharp of in-tune. It's horribly off-putting, but I don't seem to be having this problem on my Jazz bass. I know folks who use flats on the forums swear by LaBella, so I have thought about giving them a go.
  7. Squixter


    Dec 19, 2017
    Grundy, VA
    He seems to have described what I was referring to in the article, as well:

    "The specific overtone I'm talking about is when you fret a single note, and it sounds like two notes are being played at the same time, with one being slightly off key."

    It gets progressively worse beyond the twelfth fret, and I can't seem to even get it to go away with a ludicrously-high action.
  8. I would have no problem trying the LaBellas.
    To be honest I’m also confused by the description of the string two tones at once.
    Strings play many tones at once, many harmonics at once, it’s the nature of a vibrating string to do so. if they didn’t your sound would be very boring. This is why I wish they would show me, so I can hear the problem both of my basses have.
    And I might question them calling out the Hofner... Seems those had all sorts of issues. I seem to recall Sir Mac complaining about his.
    Again, I am probably being overly skeptical given my propensity to...
    1. Not automatically take everything I read at face value, especially on the internet.
    2. That this comes from a source that might have a bit of a bias towards their own product.
  9. Weird. I’ve just never noticed that in either of my shorties.
    I obviously would do better at IDing this if I could hear an example.

    I really hate having to decipher sounds from descriptive words.
    It kind of grinds on me even though I do a lot of work in audio.
  10. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    short-scale instruments and overtones which are sharp (#) --- coincidence? i don't think so. :laugh:
  11. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I currently own and play regularly 4 short scale basses. I've owned several others. I never noticed this issue. I agree with @JKos Big Pharma theory. Someone has got their marketing team working overtime.
    salcott likes this.
  12. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    here are some things he says in that article that I would think are misleading or just plain wrong:

    EDIT: this one may be true, I don't know! Sounds like a pretty bold claim to me.

    (just to be clear on this one – the strings are .45/.65/.85/.105 - doesn't sound like a balanced tension set to me)

    So I'm going to guess that while the guy may have fixed his problem by using those strings, with the best will in the world it sounds like he doesn't really know what he's talking about.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  13. Squixter


    Dec 19, 2017
    Grundy, VA
    Here's a soundbyte for the issue. If the intonation is out, it probably is. I can't get it tuned correctly because of the chorusy noise you'll here when I jump to the frets high on the neck (when I start the bass line for "If I Needed Someone" for example. It sounds awful.)

    I have been working on saddle height, neck relief and string length trying to get rid of this, but no matter what I do, it keeps sounding like the top frets are totally dead and have that weird chorus to them. I've been trying to get the intonation set on it, so if it's off, my current situation is not helping at all.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  14. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    Have you tried lowering the height of the pickups? I got a chorus-y type warble on my Squier J when the pickups were very close to the strings, fixed by dropping them down a bit. Might not be the cure, but you never know.
    Pilgrim and erhovey like this.
  15. Squixter


    Dec 19, 2017
    Grundy, VA
    I have. I might have to play with it more when I get home from work, but I don't remember it having any noticeable effect. I am rather curious as to if this is the cause of the problem. The magnets on these new pickups seem to be rather strong.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
    knumbskull likes this.
  16. My thought would be to overdo it and lower the pickups WAY down to check.

    FWIW I was also thinking pickups when reading this.
    Pilgrim and knumbskull like this.
  17. Ack! Won’t play for me. Will have to try it at work. Thanks for posting it though.
  18. Squixter


    Dec 19, 2017
    Grundy, VA
    I am willing to believe I am maybe one of two people that's actually taken the time to post a soundbyte of this somewhere. The other person has chosen to remain anonymous and has yet to be located.
  19. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    I've never run into this problem with my three SS basses. Not saying it doesn't happen, but it's certainly not universal in short scales.

    I'm not understanding the physics that would make this disappear with a balanced set of strings. That just sounds like BS.
    sissy kathy likes this.
  20. Oberst


    Oct 1, 2018
    My only non short scale is my Rick which has TI flats. My others are several Hofners which have either original or LaBella flats on them. My Jag SS I made into fretless and has Ernie Ball flats. My SG has rounds and is the only bass where I liked rounds. Never had an issue like you describe. I think each bass has a certain string that works best for the combination of bass and player so, in other words, what someone else says is a universal issue is their universal issue but may not be anyone else’s issue.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Dec 1, 2021

Share This Page