Problematic E - String

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by LarryR, Jan 31, 2005.

  1. LarryR

    LarryR Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Hey folks,

    I could really use some assistance on this.

    My bass is a Christopher 403 fully carved. Currently, the strings are D'Addario medium, but, the same problem occurs with Thomastik Weichs, Eurosonic, etc..
    I play all styles of music primarily pizzicato. I don't play unusually hard and have solid technique.

    an E string that vibrates to no end (buzzing). To keep it from doing so would mean playing unusually light which isn't a solution since the other 3 strings can handle my pulls & plucks. You can play moderate level G-D & A. The same pull on the E and rattle-buzz!

    I've raised and lowered the action - no change, which really surprised me since the same "solution" on any electric bass works fine. MY LUTHIER: is a pro. She's made an effort to get rid of the buzz: worked on the camber, the bridge etc. She say's the "right amount" of bow is in the fingerboard. She admits she's a bit perplexed. I suggested possibly a different E - string, but, I don't want more tension (which might fix things??). I already lean toward old skool, obligato, eurosonic, looser feel. Luthier say's nut height is fine, maybe even a tad too high but, she doesn't believe a change will make a difference. She works on top pro's instruments so again, I trust her, still, no resolve.

    Thanks in advance for any ideas. -Larry
  2. Zanc


    Dec 27, 2004
    I had a similar problem on my electric-it turned out to be a loose tuning key (the G string) that vibrated at a sympathetic frequency. Check all parts of the bass to identify the exact source of the sound.
  3. LarryR

    LarryR Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2003
    Los Angeles
    thx for the reply. 1) my problem is with an upright & 2) all h/w is fine.
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I have to make more of a playing adjustment on the E string of each new bass I play than on any other string. Part of that is the way the FB is dressed on each bass, and part is the strings (i.e. - different strings respond differently, heavier strings tend to buzz less for pizz IME), and part of it is simply the bass itself. I think that a large part of the problem is that if you play with an "across the board/through the string" pizz technique, you are at a disadvantage when playing the E because with all of the other strings, your hand has a very convenient place to stop - the next string down. On the E string, this doesn't exist, and everyone has a different method of dealing with it. My own way of playing is to continue to use my arm weight as with all of the other strings, which causes my hand to "fall" off the edge of the FB so that the large thumb knuckle actually hits the table (I have a perpetual scar there, both on the hand and on the bass). While this is a drag in some ways, it's also nice because my arm technique remains the same for all four strings, and because the string vibrates in the same plane (in relation to the FB curve) as all the other strings. When I don't do this, I am much more likely to get a "buzzy" sound on any bass.

    You might also try using a heavier gauge E string, as a higher tension string is less likely to get floppy. Even my teacher - and orchestra player - does this. If you're using weichs for the G, D, and E, try a Mittel for the E. If you're using Mittels, try a Stark E, etc. I bet this would help not only the rattle, but would also help the note speak more quickly. Good luck!
  5. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I have ended up with a stiffer E string with almost all of the sets that I have bought.

    FWIW, it doesn't seem to be as big of an issue as you might think, and the bass usually ends up with a better matched response.

    Maybe it's because you stop the E string high up the neck much less than you do the other strings, but it has never really been an issue with me and I also like a lighter feel.

    At one point I was playing Spiro solos at orch pitch with a Spiro mittel E and the feel didn't seem that odd.

    Not that I would suggest changing it, but out of curiosity, is the board rounded or beveled?
  6. LarryR

    LarryR Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Chris - thanks for the physical advice. I'll try it.
    Sam - thank you.
    Chasarms - Board is rounded. I'll reconsider a string change.
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Check your angle of attack when you play the E string. Because the board is rounded, the likelihood is that your elbow stopps coming around on its arc when you get to the A string. This will cause you to pull the E string more across, or even a little bit away from, the fingerboard.
  8. Larry,
    Can you be more specific....
    Are you talking about just the open E string or the fingered notes in the lower position on the E string or both?
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    That's what I was trying to describe. You did it in far fewer words. I think every bassist has to come to terms with this issue.
  10. LarryR

    LarryR Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2003
    Los Angeles
    To all,

    The E buzzes whether opened or fingered. Again, this happens when I play with the same pull strength as the other 3 strings, so, I'm not over-exerting on the E.

    I checked my angle of attack. Normally I bring my hand downwards as Christopher suggested. The only way to not cause the string to buzz is to release my hand (finger, knuckle whatever) at an arc starting parallel to the bass front and outwards. By doing this I fear someone in the band will see this some sort of signal. :)

    Bottom line: That damn E is just one loose wobbly mofo that don't play the same with her 3 sisters. Frustratin'!

    Maybe the solution is a stiff E. Still I was hoping a Luthier might kick in with an idea. What I don't want is for the solution to be......"play lighter man".
  11. I believe a stiffer E would help and also playing at the end of the Fingerboard ala Ray Brown does help.
    Who is your Luthier? Lisa Gass? Might I suggest that for some players a deeper scoop is needed for thier playing style and attack.Remember there is more up and down motion in the string pizz than the side by side motion of arco.That's why you have to check a freshly dressed Fingerboard pizz chromatically up and down to see if it has any inconcistancies..
    Most of the Jazzers in the Boston area come to me because of this very reason.Tell your luthier that the scoop can by fairly deep around G# on the E string and works its way to the end of the board.Jeff Bolbach uses a china marker sometimes under the string and plays the open E.It will leave a grease mark on the board where its hitting.Also, and I think this is very important,the end of the board must have no flip and although it is very difficult to get level,it can make a hugh difference on a players attack as far as clack and what I call 'Dirt Noise'.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Excellent post, Mark. I remember a nightmarish experience after buying a bass from a shop/luthier who is no longer among us. The asking price included a setup, and he had clearly very little experience setting up a board for a jazz player...every time I'd play on the E, it would buzz like crazy. He'd take it to his shop, come back in a few minutes, I'd play the E, and it would still buzz like crazy. After a while, we started to get pissy at each other, with him doing an orchestral pizz and saying, "see? it only buzzes when you play it", and me saying, "Well, since I just bought it, and since I have no intention of using an orchestral pizz stroke, this is a problem." To make a long story short, I finally said "forget it" and left with the bass, each of us thinking the other had a large "L" tattoed on his forehead. A week later took it to a luthier who knew how to set up for a jazz stroke, and I walked out an hour later with a beautiful growl on the E string and no buzz whatsoever.
  13. LarryR

    LarryR Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Yes, my luthier is Lisa. She's a sweety.
    Maybe I'll email her your post re: scoop. I'm 90% sure she and another luthier (John@House of Strings in Long Beach) said I don't have a helluva lot of ebony left. I'd already had the neck shaved to remove the E-bevel a year ago. Maybe that was a mistake in hindsight.

    For now, my solution has been to pull away from the bass and not downward - opposite of the advice on this thread - to stop the buzzing. Or... try a stiffer E.

    Thanks again to you all. You're the best! -L
  14. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Hmmm Well I gave this a go for the hell of it ... but it doesn't make sense. You mean that every time you pluck the E string you drop yo thumb so it hits the table? That's a drop of three inches at least!

    Or do you mean that you pluck the E string with your thumb resting on the table instead of behind the fingerboard?
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    To clarify, I intentionally pluck the E string with the same "Across the fingerboard and through the string" motion as happens on the other strings. This motion, if left unchecked, causes the hand to "fall" off of the end of the FB and hit the table at the joint where the thumb joins the hand. For low volume situations, the thumb doesn't really have to move all the way to the table, but when you want some serious juice, yes, the thumb joint (not the thumb) drops all the way to the table. It sounds crazy, but makes sense when you see's all about keeping a consistent angle of attack.
  16. Larry,
    I had the same problem with an M-1 Englehardt and the problem turned out to be that the E string was seated too deeply in the nut. Not much but just enough to drive you crazy trying to find it. My solution was simple, I fixed it and sold it. The next problem was a carved Juzek with a low volume E string by the thread of the same name. Chris, Mark, Ray and Chasarms walked me through the paces that solved that problem. My solution has been to correct the problem per suggestions (and they worked) and to put the Juzek up for sale under auspices of the motto " ..if the dog don't hunt, shoot it". Mark and Chasarms suggestion of a stiffer E not only fixed the Juzek but also improved my new Cleveland (the solution to the Juzek), and I liked the transition so much that I have a stark A on the both of them now. So now we're down to the N.S. Cleveland and it developes a light buzz on the E string. Now I play 99% pizz and am in love with the sound of this Cleveland. Additionally, the main reason I play the bass is for that E string, open or fingered, and if the bass won't let it growl it might as well be used for firewood. (I think it was Ray Brown that had a similar view towards the E string?). This is the part where Chris and Ray Parker helped out. The angle of attack was my problem. The solution has come in form of a type of perpetual calloused bruise on the lower thumb knuckle of my right hand as opposed to the scar on Chris hand. Result, no more E string buzz, whether playing lightly or digging in. (Possible new thread, "TB scar comparisons"). Try applying the suggestions that these guys recommend, they have been a tremendous help to me, and since I'm old, I don't have a lot of time to fart around with stuff that doesn't work. Keep the faith.
  17. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    You mentioned that the nut might be a bit high. This can cause the closed notes in lower positions to buzz, as the thick string resists bending down to the fingerboard and then back up. Try lowering the nut. Alas, I fear Mark C. is correct and you need more camber for the way you play. Did I see you use the word "action"?!?!?!?!
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    You have a gift for words: "Calloused Bruise" is a perfect description. But as soon as you said "scar comparison", all I could think of is that wonderful scene from JAWS where there is a serious scar comparison going on in the cabin of Quint's boat and Roy Scheider is contemplating showing the results of his appendectomy. :D
  19. LarryR

    LarryR Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Thanks for the post. I do appreciate your time and am happy your "situation" got worked out.

    No offense to anyone, but, if I thought my technique were the problem I'd have posted in another category. Regarding the recurring solution "angle of attack", judging by the bruised callous knuckle effect, wouldn't it be better to describe this as "angle or velocity of release"? Regardless, I've spent *some* time with the mechanics suggested and it simply doesn't help.

    Aside from a luthier's expertise (extra camber 'round G#) and a relook at that nut (thank you Arnold) my other choice seems to be a stiffer string, which brings up a question that I should post under "Strings" but, any suggestions out there for a complementary E to say..... Obligato Pirastro's, Thomastik Weichs, Eurosonic, or even (yeah I'm thinking of going this route) La Bella Deep Talkin' would be appreciated. I know, I'm all over the map here with choices, but, the more responses, the possibility others might benefit as well. Thanks again gents.

    Mi respectum tu mui Grande.
    Oy. I did it didn't I? Crossed the line & over the cliff taking the sanctity of "Luthiers millenia" with me. So, like, it aint called "action"? :)
  20. LarryR

    LarryR Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Reporting back on my buzzing E-string.
    I'd mentioned I had put D'Addario Helicore's on the bass. I never really liked them, but, I bought him (never again) and figured I'd just stay with them for 6 months or so as it might be good for this 2 year newbie to learn to "deal" with a challenging situation.

    Well, 6 months were up and I bought Obligato's. Put 'em on last night...... No buzz. Relief!