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String length, pocket screws, and other fancy stuff.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Flux Jetson, Aug 11, 2012.

  1. I've been attempting to learn more about the electric bass. I'm so not a wood guy - metalwork has been my forte since I was 12 when my stepdad taught me how to light an oxy-acet torch and braze my motorcycle frame in 1973. But I am learning about woodwork, and I am learning about --- (insert dramtic reverb here) ~The Bass Guitar~ DUN Dun dunnn..... (heheh..)

    So I'm learning more about string length and how it affects perceived string tension. I had a Dean 5 string with a 35.5" scale - boy was that B string nice and taut. So I sortof ~get~ the idea and how a longer string will be tighter when tuned to the same pitch as a shorter one. But I'm having a little trouble with some aspects.

    ** When we say "longer string" - does that mean the total length? If so .. "how total"?
    ** I mean does the length that actually affects tension mean the absolute length? Like including all of the string that is wrapped around the tuning machine's peg?
    ** Or does it mean from nut to saddle only (scale length)?
    ** Or does it mean from nut to the ball at the other end?
    ** Or does it mean from the tuning peg to the ball?

    If it means from the peg to the ball, would using a 4-in-a-row tuning peg arrangment with the thickest string being the longest one be the best setup?

    For instance, I own a 4 string Jazz bass. If I wanted to use the "Ultra Bass" setup (B-E-A-D) would it be better done with a reversed lefty neck (that is to say with the head inverted so the longest string is the fattest string)?

    OK ... so there's that issue. Now on to my next set of questions. Same topic, different subtopic.

    If the part of "string length" that affects tension is in fact from peg to ball, then would this idea be of any good?

    Imagine running the strings through a standard "rear loading" bridge. But continue their length out of the bridge, and around most of the back of the bass's body. On the back of the body some "pocket-screw" holes have been drilled through the bottom and exiting out the tail edge. so the strings have to wrap around the tail end of the body and thread through holes that are on the tail edge. They terminate in pocket-screw-drilled holes in the bottom that are located as far forward on the back of the body as practically possible. This would add several inches (five? six?) to the peg-to-ball length of each string. The actual position of the pocket-screw holes would have to comply with available string lengths to that the pegs don't have the "wrong" part of the string wrapped around them (if there is a "wrong" part at all - I'm not well versed on this stuff so give me a little room on that one).

    Do you see what I'm describing here? "Through body" stringing, but instead of the strings just going through the body right under the bridge, they would go all the way to the tail end of the body, wrap around a little of it until they ended up threading through holes back there that would terminate further forward on the bottom of the body through the use of pocket-screw-holes (holes drilled at very obtuse angles). The tail part of the bass would have to be cut/trimmed perpendicular to the string line so thy have a "square" surface to wrap around, but that's a tiny issue.

    So let me leave it there and I'll try to explain it better if I didn't get through with what I've said so far.

    Thanks ... just sharing what's been on my mind lately. I'll try to sketch out a crayon-drawing of what I'm picturing and post it here in a few minutes.

    And .. thanks once more. :)
  2. Drawing comin' right up ....
  3. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    String tension is affected by:

    Vibrating length (so, saddle to nut)
    String mass
    Vibrating frequency

    Increasing the vibrating length (longer scale), increasing string mass (larger gauge or more massive material), or increasing vibrating frequency (tune up) will increase perceived tension. Or any combination of the above.

    Increasing the non-vibrating length of the string does not affect tension, but there is some contention about other intangibles, such as sustain, harmonic content, and tuning stability.
  4. Ok - so when I read of people talking about how a string through bass has "more string length" it only affects intangibles - suddenly it makes sense now. I'm no physicist but the idea of any string length outside of vibrating length actually increasing tension didn't make much solid traction with me.

    I suppose that is why something like a Steinberger doesn't have strings that hang from it like clothes lines. I mean, if "total" length had anything to do with tension a Steiny's strings would be loose as granny's triceps.

    Ok ... cool. This negates the need to post my stupid Flintstone drawings of the "tail wrap" string-through idea I had. :)

    So -- the only way you're gonna get a tighter B-string is by "Increasing the vibrating length (longer scale), increasing string mass (larger gauge or more massive material), or increasing vibrating frequency (tune up) will increase perceived tension. Or any combination of the above.".

    Got it.

    Thanks! :) I feel less tense (ugh ... sorry) about it now.

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