Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Playing the B String

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by pkeeg, Sep 4, 2000.


  1. Has anyone got any ideas or comments on how to deal with the WAVEY almost pulsating sound produced on my Stingray 5. It sounds like the B string is to loose but it's very taught.I changed the string and battery to be sure. It sounds worst when I use fingers compared to playing with a pick (more defined tone). Thank you.
     
  2. Well, I only play 4-string, but I've messed around with enough 5's to know that you have to play that B with a lighter touch to get the proper tone out of it. If you're using the same touch on the B as on the other strings, it's not going to sound good.
     
  3. theJello

    theJello

    Apr 12, 2000
    Yes, you do need a lighter touch on the B string.
    Dave, I have todisagree with what you said about playing lighter on the other strings though. I play the entire bass lightly and it really improves tone. If you let your amp do its job you dont have to pluck hard. Assuming you have a good amp and bass.

    Now, some guys like to pluck hard and thats fine. Everybody is different. But to say that plucking light on the other strings wont sound good is misleading. There are many benefits to playing lightly. For one your tone is better and you relax more. The more relaxed you are the easier playing becomes.
    Gary Willis talks about the advantages of light touch on his web site. His tone and playing speak for themselves.
    Amazing.
    I wish I had this information when I first started playing 12 years ago.
     
  4. Actually, my experience with the Music Man 5 string is that the more attack I use on the B string, the BETTER it sounds! (this obviously depends on setup).

    If it sounds fine with a pick, you may want to actually try plucking harder with your fingers. Fortunately this troubleshooting Dave and I are suggesting won't cost you anything!

    Otherwise, it could be your setup (high action, pickup too close to strings...?), OR the amp you're using isn't able to handle the frequencies produced by that low string.
     
  5. Jello,
    You misunderstood me. I didn't say anything about playing lighter on the other strings. I said something about playing hard on the B. That's what I mean when I said it won't sound good if you use the same touch on the B string as on the other strings.
     
  6. theJello

    theJello

    Apr 12, 2000
    I see what your saying Dave. I read it wrong.
     
  7. It's all good, man. I'm just a 4-stringer anyway!
     
  8. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    I really hate to say this, because it's likely to be read as an attempt to start an argument. It's not. I swear!! :D

    The B string is a funny little guy. On one bass, it'll be nice and tight, sound great no matter how you attack it, on another, it will be all floppy and sloppy.

    Sometimes the difference is the string, try a heavier string, more mass (thicker guage) will require more tension to reach the same pitch, that may help the tone.

    But the single biggest factor to me is the bass itself. There are so many variables though, it's impossible to nail it down to one thing. Just can't be done. Some will tell you "get a 35" scale length, the 34"s just won't cut it". Yeah, that may help, but explain my 34" bass' THUNDEROUS B string, which I don't need to "baby" in any way - and I'm using a .126 B string, which is fairly light for a B.

    I firmly believe that there is something to how my bass is made that makes the B on it so good. Wood choice? Construction method? Scale length? String choice? Yes, to all of them.

    Is there one thing that's best? No. My bass is a maple/wenge neck (mostly maple, with 2 wenge "stripes" for added stiffness), with maple/koa body (maple with koa top, hollowed out tone chambers in both body wings), neck-thru, 34" scale length, and I'm using a .126 B string. I've played some single piece 34" maple bolt-on neck basses that also had great B's. And I've played some neck-thru wenge 35" basses that had wimpy B's.

    There's some kind of combination tht makes it all work. I think if you really want a good solid B that you don't have to baby, check out some custom makers that make 5's and 6's, play SEVERAL examples of their work with B strings, and find someone that is consistently making a good feeling/playing/sounding B on their bass. Then, get them to make you one, and LISTEN to what they say, because they have broke the code, somehow. It'll cost you, but you'll get what you're looking for. A lighter touch on the B isn't necessary, with the right combination.
     
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I totally agree with Gard on everything he says in this post - this is one of the things about buying a 5 string, I often find good basses except for the B, this can be the one thing that means you don't buy that bass.

    But is this really relevant, as we already know what bass is being used in this case - Stingray 5 ? So the poster isn't asking about choosing a new bass, but rather how he can improve the sound of the B on the bass he actually has now.

    I think that setup or changing strings are the areas to consider. It might be an idea to get a few sets with different gauges and see which type minimises or maximises the problem. Or it might be better to take the bass back to where it was purchased or a qualified guitar/bass tech/ luthier and ask them to set it up to make the B sound better.
     
  10. theJello

    theJello

    Apr 12, 2000
    Gard.
    I agree. 35 inch scale is a bunch a crap.
    I dont like them. I hate the increased tension on the strings. The notes dont breath as much.

    One thing I have noticed is that taper wound strings really help. I know this is subjective but my experience has been tapers wound have much more focus and clarity.

    I have been using elixer strings for awhile because how long they last. The B isnt the greatest though. Not bad but I wish they would offer a taper wound one.
     
  11. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    Iowa
    Looks like "you da man" on this one, Gard. :) A fuuny thing that I have experienced with B strings...is that two identical basses with have B strings that sound totally different. It just is a further indicator, that every bass..
    has it's own "personality". :)
     
  12. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Bruce -

    Yes, I know I went out in "left field" a bit, but I did make one recommmendation that would have been directly applicable to the situation: try a heavier string. After that, I was waxing philosophical (sorry, I'm sure I should probably not do that as I'm underqualified :D). My apologies if I was responsible for going "off topic", it is apparantly some genetic defect, which has led to my present moderator status :eek:.

    Jello -

    I actually disagree with you here about scale length. I've played some 35"s that didn't impress me, but over all, I've played some that were really incredible as well. I REALLY like the Peavey Cirrus and G basses, which are all (including the 4's) 35". I like the tightness on the B, and don't have a complaint about the lack of "breathing". Of course, if they don't fly for you, then so be it, don't get one. The over-all absolute best B I've ever heard/played was on a Dingwall Voodoo, which had a 37" B, amazing tone.

    On the other hand, I agree completely about the taperwound/contact core/whatevayawannacallit strings. I was using DR Hi-Beams for a good while when I first got my 6, and couldn't get happy with the tone of the B and E. Went to the guys that built the bass, talked to them about what I wasn't happy with, and they recommended switching to a taperwound string. Put a set of GHS SuperSteel Contact Core strings on, and BAM, perfect E and B.

    Matter of fact, now that it's come up, I was having a similar experience to pkeeg, a distinct "warbling" sound and the intonation would not be accurate. Both of these effects would become more pronounced as I moved up the neck on the B. Possibly a move to a set with at least a tapered B would help solve his problem?

    Of course, in the end the biggest factor will STILL be the bass itself. But you can learn to work with it's personality, hopefully :).
     
  13. theJello

    theJello

    Apr 12, 2000
    Another trick that I learned. I havent tried it yet but heard it works really well. You use aluminum pc board spacers between your your bridge and the ball end of the string. This increases the scale length. You really only need to do it on the B and E.

    Im not trying to say all 35 inch scale basses suck.
    But if you can find 34 inch scale bass that sounds just as good or better, why not go with that?

    I have heard that dingwall has a really good B.
    Isnt that fan fret design kinda of weird though?
    Let alone ugly. Seems a little strange to me.
    Fretless would be really hard:)
     
  14. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Jello -

    I dunno about the spacer idea, that whole "make the string longer and it'll sound better" line of thought sounds like so much voodoo to me personally. Of course I could be dead wrong, but I've never noticed a MAJOR difference when able to string a bass both ways.

    You're dead on right about the scale length thing, if it works, it works. If you like it, use it. Don't spend too much time overthinking how long the speaking length of the string is. If it sounds, good it IS good.

    On the Dingwall (speaking of Voodoo.... ;) ), yes it has an amazing B, and surprisingly, it wasn't that hard to get used to the fanned frets. The big trick for me was NOT looking at my hands too much. It felt natural, completely comfortable, but man....when you LOOKED, it was just plain odd. I found it strange looking but in a good way, it was different, and the rest of the bass was beautiful. I wouldn't put too much weight on how the fingerboard looked, I'd be more interested in the sound. I've got no idea if Sheldon D. makes a fretless Voodoo, but I'm sure that if you had one, it would be something that you could adjust to pretty quickly.
     
  15. theJello

    theJello

    Apr 12, 2000
    I actually learned about the spacer thing from Gary
    Willis. He uses them on his B and E strings.
    I havent actually tried it yet but he says it works really well. I would be hard pressed not to believe him. He da man.

    You said you use GHS super steels.
    I have been meaning to get some of those. Are they abrasive?
    Do they last awhile?
    I really like taper wounds. I used those Carvin strings for awhile but they just dont last long.
     
  16. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Jello -

    Well, if Gary says it works....I may have to give it a whirl.

    This is now threatening to move from it's intended topic, but I'll answer you question here anyhow. I've heard some say that the GHS SuperSteels are a bit rough, but I don't seem to have any problems with them, I even use them on my fretless without what I consider to be major troubles. They ARE stainless steel, so they're pretty bright, particularly when they're new. I don't really care for them until I've beat them up for a good week or so. Then they sound great and last well too. I usually get 4 - 6 months of heavy use out of a set before they're too dull and won't intonate properly. Hope that helps.
     
  17. I think the bass has something to do with it. My washburn sounds amazing. The only time it wavers is when I octave tune and the B is out. Could that be it? Maybe its badly outta tune. That doesn't sound so stupid it happened to me once before I learnt how to tune it using Harmonics/octaves.

    Hey Gard. We agree on something! lolol? :D

    Merls
     
  18. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Well, there's a first time for everything ;)....

    ...now, which one of us is in need of psychatric assistance???? :eek:
     
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    As we've got onto this - I do agree that the bass itself is the most important factor and that some 5 strings I've tried, the intonation on the B string has been out and it seemed impossible to intonate it above the 12th fret.

    Generally the trend is the more expensive the bass, the better the B is whether it's 34" , 35" or whatever, but not always. The whole design of the Voodoo bass and fan frets is to improve intonation and I think this might have something to do with the "warbling" - if the B is out of tune with the rest of the strings then it is going to resonate in some strange ways.

    As a digression on fan frets, I saw/heard the "California Guitar Trio" in the local Boarders and it was the most amazing experience. All three had almost identical acoustic guitars with fan frets and played together so tightly that it sounded at times like one big instrument rather than three separate ones. This was apparently due to improved intonation - normnally tuning on any fretted instrument is very much a compromise and it is impossible to be in tune on every note - the fan frets get round this problem and so the guitars can intonate perfectly.
     
  20. Bass Hound

    Bass Hound

    Aug 17, 2000
    I'll have to agree with Gard for the most part. However, and I may have missed a post here, there is the 'electronics factor'. All the way from the pick-up to the speaker, anywhere along the line, you can loose the B.
    I have an older Carvin LB75 and I play flat-wounds. I use the pick-up volume controls sort of like an EQ to get a relativly level output. Having the bass for 8 years, I know my settings well and how to change the sound with the controls. But, then comes the amp. The EQ, if it has one, and the 'attack', 'sustain', 'compression' and 'thresh hold' all have to be right for all strings to sound equal in 'tone-warmth' or 'color'.
    One place I play runs me through a direct box to the board. A new sound man can really mess things up until I help him with all the settings.
    One reason I stick with the Carvin is my familiarity with it. I can hear and feel when it's not right and either compensate with my playing, adjust the controls or wait for a break to correct the sound system.
    :)