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Shortscale: Tone & String Tension Opinions

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ::::BASSIST::::, Sep 11, 2005.


What's your opinion?

Poll closed Sep 18, 2005.
  1. shortscale basses tend to be muddy because of low string tension.

    16.4%
  2. shortscale basses are not usually muddy.

    20.9%
  3. string thru body design will increase tension and therefore eliminate the muddyness.

    11.9%
  4. string thru body design will not increase tension

    26.9%
  5. Other (something I missed?)

    23.9%
  1. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    Well, I am getting quite a bit of conflicting opinions about shortscale basses. Some say they tend to have a muddy sound because their string tension is low. Others say yes, they tend to be muddy but its not because of string tension as their tension is the same as a full scale 34". Still others say they dont have a muddy sound at all and give me a long list of quality shortscale basses.

    To remedy the problematic muddyness some say mod the bass to String Thru Body. This will clear up the muddyness because string thru body design gives more tension because of the break-point of the strings.

    Other say no, no, no string tension is determined by the measurement of the length of the strings contact point to contact point. String thru body will not increase tension and overall STB is useless.

    Please pick numbers of the corresponding option you believe to be correct. Maybe give a few reasons too?

    1. shortscale basses tend to be muddy because of low string tension.

    2. shortscale basses are not usually muddy.

    3. string thru body design will increase tension and therefore eliminate the muddyness.

    4. string thru body design will not increase tension.

    5. Other (something I missed?)

    I am using an SX shortscale p-bass with SPB3 sd quarter pounders. I just bought these pups so I am going to have to make them work. The rig I play thru is: sansamp para driver as preamp (yes blend is off) >> AI SA Focus >> GK410B (this is the rehearsal studio's cab, but it is what I am using at practices and therefore for comparison purposes.)

    If you have any other tips as how to reduce muddyness / increase clarity I am all ears.
     
  2. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    The only effect string-thru body has is changing the break angle over the bridge saddles. A sharper break angle *might* provide better tone *if* the break angle on the top-load setting is too shallow, resulting in a poor witness point.

    If a string's tension changes, then its pitch would change. You don't want to play out of tune, do you? ;) In other words: no, tension will not change.
     
  3. For my experience, I tried a 32' SC luthier's bass (Morch) and despite of 32 the tension of strings were great....

    Vince
     
  4. strummer

    strummer

    Jul 27, 2005
    Sweden
    I played shortscale Fenders at really small gigs (!) and I just strung them with real heavy strings: 55-75-90-105.
    A 30" sounds very different from a 34", but not muddy as a rule.
     
  5. One man's 'muddy' is another man's 'mellow'. What sort of tone are you going for?

    String-choice is also a factor in the sound of your bass. Stainless steel roundwounds (if you're not using them already) will add more treble to your sound.

    One thought: have you wired up the pickups correctly? Using the wrong wiring/ pots can affect your tone in all sorts of ways.

    Last thought: The Seymour Duncan website describes these pups as "fat, full, punchy sound with tremendous mid-range presence". It sounds to me , like these puppies are doing their job!
     
  6. A9X

    A9X

    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    Agree to both.
    However, I find construction and materials make a proportionately bigger sonic difference on shortscales, and to a lesser extent medium scale. Doesn't have to be anything special, just well done and woods and hardware selected for the application. Anything that for a longscale is descibed as warm, mellow, round etc, I'd avoid on a shorty and tend to go for a 'brighter' construction recipe. I'd also experiment a LOT with pickups (including some guitar models) and placement. For example, I wouldn't have selected a SD 1/4 P on an alder bodied shorty.

    FTR, I'm a big short/medium scale fan and own several, including a 'ho' I'm building out of a shortscale neck and an ash Strat body. Also hoping to have another shorty made to my specs soon.
     
  7. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2004
    Millbury Ma.
    I think part of short scale bass's rep for being muddy comes from the old EB series Gibson basses with their way over wound humbuckers (I like them BTW) which sounded very muddy. I don't believe that string through body does anything to change tension. if you want a clearer short scale bass put on heavy gauge strings and I also don't believe that round wounds are inherantly any less muddy than flatwounds, in fact they can be worse as their fundimental isn't as strong as flat wounds, I use them all the time and get a very clear sound from a 33 1/4" scale bass, it depends more on the pickup selection and where they are placed on the bass and the string tension. I would use single coil pickups and high tension strings. I have an old semi-hollow EKO violin bass with 30" scale, it has single coils and heavy gauge flatwounds on it, it is not muddy at all, in fact it has a very cutting sound, very opposite of the real thing and the biggest differences are the strings and the pickups.
     
  8. CrazyArcher

    CrazyArcher

    Aug 5, 2004
    Israel
    Yeah, that's what I wanted to say too: what's the problem with heavier strings? :bassist:
    This is the best solution IMO, however heavy strings will probably cause some discomfort for younger players (they tend to use mostly shortscale basses)
     
  9. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    Hey, thanks for your comments. :)

    What exactly do you mean when you say they sound very different? My bass is a 30.5 inch scale with maple neck.

    Here are some things I am thinking of doing to my bass to clear up some of the muddyness:

    1. eliminate the tone pot and capacitor
    2. change the vol. pot to 500k (if I eliminate the vol. pot as well this will increase the signal strength but it wont get any brighter, correct?)

    If these changes dont help enough I am going to add a Jazz bridge pickup to be bass.


    If none of these solve the problem, but I really dont see how adding the jazz bridge pup wont do it, I will go with heavy strings. This is really not what I want to do though as this directly affects the playability of the bass.
     
  10. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    Oh, uh one other thing. I am hearing that the SPB3 quater pounders are not the best choice for this application. I still have some time left to return the pickups thru SD's "real world" exchange policy.

    Which pickups that Seymour Duncan makes would be right for this bass for a similar price?
     
  11. EMG active pickups will give a cleaner/brighter sound.
     
  12. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    The short scale Fender Musicmaster I owned was also the brightest bass I have ever owned. Highest output too. I always strung it with lower tension strings than my long scale basses.

    I strung my short/medium scale basses with D'Addario chromes 45 to 100. On my long scales I prefer 50 to 105.

    Note I did not use short-scale strings. I bought long scale and cut them down to fit.
     

  13. I'm going to have to *tentatively* disagree here... and once again bring out my favourite formula...

    T = 4L^2 x P x f^2

    T = Tension, L = Scale length, P = mass per unit length, F = frequency...

    Going on the fact that all relations in that formula are directly proportional, the formula states (not just me) that decreasing your scale length WILL decrease your tension when you tune to the same frequency, on the same set of strings as a long scale bass....

    UNLESS of course, there are specialised strings for a short scale bass that have a much higher mass per unit length... In which case, excuse my ignorance...

    But, seanm just said he strung a short scale bass with 45-100 (regular guages)...
    Does that mean you noticed a lower string tension?
     
  14. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Yes there is lower tension on the short scale. The chromes are high tension string so it makes up for it.

    As an example: the chromes on the musicmaster did not feel as low tension as TIs on a P bass.
     
  15. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Seattle
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    There ya go - physics wins.

    Feel is one thing and actual tension is another and here is where the waters might be muddied, so to speak.

    Chromes/flatwounds are inherently less flexible and will feel as though there is greater tension but physically may not actually be so on a short scale. Thicker gauges will bring more harmonic content to the string as this is what happens with a tighter, well constructed string. The result is a brighter sound.

    And yes, there can be a difference in string mass - the low string on a Bass VI set is between a .090 and a .095 on the low E depending on the source, but are wound similarly to a guitar string. Using finer wire allows more metal per diameter. It has a guitar-ish flavor to it because it has a higher tension than a similarly wound bass string.

    FWIW, the difference in thickness of strings on a short scale to bring to a similar tension on a 34" scale will not be radical and should not feel all that different from what a standard gauged set feels like.
     
  16. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Oh, certainly: changing scale length will change tension. I was only addressing the difference between string-thru-body and top-load on the same bass. With string-thru you have a longer string length from ball-end to tuning peg, but you do NOT have longer scale length: the "L" in your formula applies to speaking-length only.

    Extending the non-speaking string length (via string-thru-body, or extended pegheads) will have no effect on static tension. It might have other effects (possibly on flexibility or feel).

     
  17. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
  18. A9X

    A9X

    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
  19. That's the ones...they're a little more updated than the 1990 vintage EMG-P's that I put in my P-bass copy, with the "quik connect" thing and all, but that's them...

    some people don't like them, because they don't sound particularly "vintage"...but I think they're great for brightening up the sound of a P-bass (or prototype thereof)

    I see that you can get them for around $100...that's a decent price for what you get IMO.
     
  20. Edword

    Edword

    Jun 23, 2005
    Detroitish
    My 30" Mustang bass never sounded muddy IMO, but compared to a longer scale bass, the strings felt too loose. I couldn't play it as fast as a 34".