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Quick question about wimpy B-strings

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Keef, Nov 28, 2005.

  1. Keef


    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    I've never owned a fiver, and very seldom have I even played one. Here's my question:

    Does the dreaded wimpy B phenomenon occur only on the OPEN B, or on ALL notes below E?


    ~ k
  2. Keef


    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    Anybody – pretty please?
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Depends on the bass. Some have no wimpy notes at all while others are nothing but wimp.
  4. Keef


    Jul 3, 2003
    Hollywood, CA
    Thanks, Jimmy. I think what you're saying is that if a bass has a wimpy B... it will have a wimpy C, etc, too?
  5. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Now, are you sure you don't mean the floppy B?
  6. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    No, I'm not saying that. Sometimes fretting a note will sound much better than playing an open note. Like my 5 string. The B sounds kind of bleh, but the fretted notes sound OK until you get past the E note. Then it sounds bleh again. Fortunately I almost never play 5 string so it's not an issue.
  7. bill7122


    Feb 23, 2003
    Albany NY area
    For a tight punchy B, with a couple exceptions (like my Warwick Corvette) ya gotta get a bass that has the 35" scale. I have a Lakland Skyline 55-02 Deluxe to go with that '99 wenge neck Corvette I just picked up. The Lakland has a super tight, articulate B. It gives me 2 octave range with minimal movement. Especially good while singing.
  8. bannedwit


    May 9, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    yeah definately a good B string occurs with 35" necks.

    I have had four 5 strings and "had" one 6 in my time and came accross that:

    Warwick 5 strings are TIGHT... at 34" they do the job. My thumb 5 b/o (sold it :crying: ) and Streamer Stage 2 (just got it) were / are awesome sounding basses...

    Ibanez basses on the other hand:
    BTB-405 (sold) - fairly tight B string for 34" lost its mojo though
    SR-406 (6 stringer) - horrible B string. Crappy bass all together. I did that saddle extender thing (i posted it on here. Search for flappy b string fix) on it as a last ditch effort to make out the notes on the B string. It worked but i never use it in my metal band
    SRX-505 - not only is it great for the B string, i have it tuned down to A where it is STILL Awesome.

    As long as the bass is made well and is hopefully 35" you should be all set. Dont trust the crummy manufacturers basses.
  9. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    This is an often discussed, often wrong info given topic. You do not need a 35" scale to have a tight B-string. You need a rigid neck, solid contruction techniques and materials. That is all. Lots of shorter scale basses with tight, perfectly playable, clear sounding B-strings. Lots of longer scale ones that dont have an articulate, tight B as well.

    As for those whose B-strings sound muddy above the E, it could very well be tension, rigidity of the neck, setup, or possibly your amplification, allthough just about any amp can produce a reasonably clear B. It may not have much tone, but you should be able to hear the note.

    I thought BTB's were 35" scale. Maybe that was a change made at some point during their production though. I know current ones are all 35" scale.
  10. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    35" scale does provide a tighter B, but in my experience a fresh set of strings and proper setup will almost always correct floppy B syndrome (or wimpy as the case may be).

    I've owned 35" fivers in the past and have one on the way in, but right now I own 34" only. The Sadowsky B kills, but I also love the B on my passive Fender RB5... sounds great even when I tune down a half step. Again, the secret IMO is setup, especially intonation. The only time I'm unhappy is when the strings go dead.
  11. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    Rigid neck and solid construction are incredibly important, but so is scale length. A 35" neck is going to be tighter than a 34" neck of the same construction quality.

    By the way, BTB's and Warwick both have a 35" scale.

  12. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Scale does play a factor, but it is not the largest factor, nor is a long scale necessary for a tight, good sounding, B-string. I should have been more precise in my wording above.
  13. rojo412

    rojo412 Walnut is fun! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    If you have the floppy B problem, do what I do... grind up some Viagra and rub it on the fingerboard, it will make the neck stif... oh, this could get way too dirty. Nevermind.

    There are different horses for different courses:

    If a bass suffers from a somewhat dull or floppy B, it isn't always a bad thing. You can play higher registers and get a boomier, almost upright sound. My US J Dlx is a prime candidate for such a thing. The open B, not great, but better than 90% of other 5 strings.

    If you are in a nu-metal band and you just have to have a grindy, tight open B because the guitarists are too loud, then a 35" scale, fat necked bass is your beast. My Moduli were great for that.

    Fingers hurt too much for the 35? Get a Warwick, Status, Musicman (in my personal experience). Clear B, not as clear as a 35, but darn close. I traded my Modulus for a Status Empathy 5 and never looked back.

    Also, these theories can be modded in various ways to help out the feel. You see, you are dealing with physics with the strings, but we can focus on the B. It's fat and when it needs to be tight, there needs to be structure. A wussy neck will flex too much and reduce sustain.
    So a strong neck is the great basis for good B.
    Next in line is the bridge. It also needs to be firmly rooted, but that's more common. A string through body has a great way to hold a B firmly. A fat brass bridge is good too. A chintzy folded piece of pot metal... not so good, but not common either in a 5.

    So let's say you have a good enough neck and bridge, the string is next. Best cheat for a better B: taper core string(s). They reduce the amount of contact on the saddle of the bridge, allowing better movement of the rest of the string and therefore, more sustain. I recommend Ken Smith, they are the best, but I'm sure others will chime in with more.
    On the other side of the coin, if you want a softer B on a really clear bass, go with a standard string.
    A lighter set of strings can also help. Going from a .130 down to a .120 can make a world of difference. You could even just do the 1 string.
    Finally, a setup is always good. On EVERY instrument I've played that sounded like a pile of salty garbage, I set it up properly (adjusted the neck, bridge, intonation, changed or boiled the strings, correct pickup height) and it was a whole new sound. Every time, the owner telling me "This is AWESOME!"

    If you have a solid neck, great bridge, taper strings, the bass feels great and is set up nicely... you plug in and get a wimpy B... your amp sucks. You need a lot of power to run a good B. I should say, you need a rig that is designed to handle a low B. It needs a lot of air to be moved to sound best. That's a whole nuther can of worms. If you want to make sure it isn't the bass at this point, find someone with a great rig who plays a 5 and plug in for a minute. You may find the amp is the culprit.

    As a strictly 5 player, I know that a floppy, poopy b is the pits, but as a guitar tech as well, I know that there is usually a trick to stop it. Most of the time, there is no reason to abandon a 5 for just the B. They have designed most of them recently to handle the pressure. Not all, but most.
  14. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    I have to take a few issues with the above post.

    Every Warwick 5 stringers that I've played is a 35" scale.

    Also, why would using a lighter guage string make the B string sound better? That would reduce the tension. Or did I misunderstand you?
  15. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Actually, it's been my experience that too thick a B string cuts down on the vibrations, which is what makes a B string sound wimpy or floppy. Thin it out a little and it can vibrate a little better.
  16. I think this "35 is better" stuff is best treated as one of those "urban myths." I have a 30" 6er with a low B that rules. As discussed in a separate thread - it appears pup's, string guage, body composition [hollow vs. solid], etc. have a much more immediate impact on the focus of the low B than an extra inch in the length of the neck. As a case in point, search for a thread on my Yamaha/Q-Tuner mod where you'll find a link to a "before and after" mp3. All that was changed were the pups, yet I found the B which had been muddy before, became dynamic, articulate and focused with a good/great set of pickups.

    The only way to really tell for sure whether 35 is really better than 34 is to the same type of experiment - that is take a guitar and the only thing you change is the neck scle and do an A/B comparison. This may prove you right, but until I hear it I'll remain on the fence.
  17. The strings are certainly a part of it. Some strings are high tension and others are low for the same tuning. For example, from my experience, the D'Addario's are tight, high tension with respect to Ernie Ball's that are loose, low tension.

    Paul Mac
  18. rojo412

    rojo412 Walnut is fun! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Well, if you never played their basses made before 2002, that may be true. If you've never played a really nice, neck thru warwick, that may be true as well. But I can assure you, most Warwick 5's have a 34 with great tension due to the fat, solid neck and somewhat extreme break angle over the saddle, thanks to Warwick's patented bridge design.

    Lighter string tension requires less force to be in tune. The string is thinner, but can be tuned to the same note without pulling as hard on the neck.

    ***WARNING: I'm about to get way too technical here, viewer discretion is advised***
    As far as urban myths, it's not really like that. It's more like saying "A Fodera is better than a Sadowsky". Everyone's opinion differs a bit on something like that.
    The physics, once again, point to the answer. If you were to have a fretless bass in your hand with your finger at the A position on the E string, then hit it, it would ring a true A. If you moved it back exactly 1 inch, it wouldn't be an A anymore. You'd have to... INCREASE STRING TENSION to tune it up to an A. Get it?
    Open string, 34" scale tuned to E has less string tension than a 35" scale tuned to E, using the same string gauge. That is how 35" scale remains slightly tighter feeling.

    If you wish to have a similar feeling string tension as a 35" scale on a 30" scale, you could always drop string gauges mathematically somehow to achieve the exact same feel. But by that token, it would be... to scale, no pun intended. So let's see:

    30/35=.86 (approx)
    130*.86= 111.8

    So if you had a bass that was 35" and another bass that was 30", with all dimensions EXACTLY .86x the other bass (neck thickness, width, etc), in theory, a .112 B string on the 30" would feel almost exactly the same as a .130 B on the 35".

    Wow... this is way too complicated. I just wanted to play bass!

    It all boils down to what you like in the end anyway, so what's up with all the drama?
  19. Ian Perge

    Ian Perge Supporting Member

    May 11, 2001
    Evansville, Indiana
    There was a 34" scale BTB300 series with J/Js (not the current model) for more of a traditional J-bass sound - however, I don't believe they ever caught on and were only produced for one year.

    As for "whimpy" B-strings, my '92 Fender Jazz Plus V doesn't have the strongest of Bs, and I notice that the C-D range can be described as inarticulate for lack of a better term. Not that it's an awful bass by far - it works very well on mellower material and physically has the most comfortable string spacing of all my instruments, I just know not to use it on B-heavy songs.
  20. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    The scale length of a bass has very little to do with a poor B string. Its all about the bass and who designed it and put it together. Period