String tuned and intonated correctly but overtones flat?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Jamvan, Aug 11, 2018.

  1. Jamvan

    Jamvan The Bassist Formerly Known As Meh Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2014
    Ok, weird question. I've been playing my recently acquired Fender Pro P bass and I'm noticing when the tone control is turned down, notes fretted on the A-string sound flat to my ear but intonation and tuning all check out and are to pitch (A=440Hz). When I open up the tone all the way, it sounds fine. I initially thought I may be pressing too hard on the tall narrow frets but that would make the note sharp not flat.

    Is it possible for a string/note to be tuned to pitch while the overtones are either sharp or flat when it's intonated correctly? It's happening with both the original set of roundwound strings and a new set of flatwounds.
  2. Hey bassist formerly known as Meh, perhaps you have to say ickyickyickyptangnnnnneeeeeeeeewop to it. LOL (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

    That couldn't be related to the addition of Fender's "greasebucket" circuitry, eh? Not seeing how but wondering.
    Jamvan likes this.
  3. LowEndOperative

    LowEndOperative ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ Supporting Member

    Oct 8, 2013
    If by overtones you mean unfretted harmonics (specifically the octave), I think it’s impossible for them to be out of tune. Tuning, I think, should be done with the tone you intend to use.
  4. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    check it with a tuner. It sounds like psycho-acoustics at play to me. AFAIK correct intonation is making that scenario impossible.
    edit: String height and travel to fretboard aren't an issue?
    RedJag likes this.
  5. RedJag


    Mar 2, 2016
    San Jose, CA
    If it’s intonated correctly your harmonics should match your fretted notes. Did you check the 12th fret harmonic against the 12th fretted note? They should be identical, neither sharp nor flat relative to each other.

    Keep in mind your roundwounds and flatwounds likely require slightly different intonation depending on the gauges
    Bassbeater likes this.
  6. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    If the tuner says the note is on pitch and it sounds flat to your ear, it's probably your ear. Try another tuner just to be sure it's not flaky.

    I've noticed a lot of circumstances where heavily treble-cut notes sound off-pitch, especially in certain rooms. Human ears are pretty remarkable, but not infallible.
    96tbird and RedJag like this.
  7. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    The pickups might be too close to the strings. The magnetic pull of the pickups can add 'wolf tones' which manifest themselves as choked or detuned-sounding harmonic overtones. In Stratocaster guitars this is called 'Strat-itus', but it happens in basses as well!
    96tbird, MCF, RedJag and 1 other person like this.
  8. tubedude

    tubedude Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2015
    I think the OP meant the overtones of the plucked note relative to the fundamental, not harmonics separately triggered at the octave etc.
    If that's the case it sounds like a bad, or twisted string. Hard to believe that 8 strings would get wound twisted though. And if it sounds fine with the tone dimed, the strings must be fine. I wind my treble wide open on passives anyway.
  9. wheelsup247

    wheelsup247 Wherever You Go, There You Are. Wear it low. Gold Supporting Member

    Please describe “wolf tones” a bit more. My bass is properly intonated and my fretting and plucking hand technique are good enough to not produce these unwanted overtones (using headphones) on one bass, but the other is like a harmonic 1st root then 3rd note. It does kind of sound like a wolf howl.
  10. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    so just the A string sounds weird compared to the rest?

    check that the string is wrapped on the tuner correctly, meaning with lots of winds going down to the peghead face so that you get a decent angle over the nut. if that's OK then you might have a bad string, especially if these are the strings that were on the bass when you got it.
  11. Jamvan

    Jamvan The Bassist Formerly Known As Meh Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2014
    OP here. My apologies as I've been away most of the weekend. To address the general suggestions, yes, intonation is correct. Open, fretted 12th, and open 12th harmonic all tune to pitch. I've gotten the suggestion on pickup height and wolf tones/weird overtones which I hadn't checked but I just did and it is set to standard Fender suggested height as well. I've already changed strings so I can't imagine both A strings on each set would be twisted or bad. Switching from rounds to flats did require a small tweak of the neck but nothing crazy.

    At this point, I'm going to chalk it up to hearing anomalies and roll with it until I can get it into someone else's hands and have them check it out with me. I appreciate all the input and suggestions! Thank you!
    Bassbeater likes this.
  12. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    When it sounds out of tune to you what does the digital tuner say? This will tell you if it's coming from the bass.
    Connect the digital tuner to a microphone (if it doesn't have one) and do the same.
    This way you will truly solve the mystery.
    Good luck!
  13. Jamvan

    Jamvan The Bassist Formerly Known As Meh Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2014
    Ignore the noise; AC is running. Intonation using:

    Bass => Volume Pedal => Tuner

    E A D G
    1. Open string
    2. 12th fret
    3. 12th fret harmonic

    Bassbeater likes this.
  14. TNCreature

    TNCreature Jinkies! Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Philadelphia Burbs
    I have had a similar experience recently, but I am convinced that it is my ears/brain perception of the tone.
    BEING out of tune at one volume/tone setting, and in tune at another is not really possible, but SOUNDING that way is my ears. Checks out on my tuner.
    It's odd when you have learned to trust your ears.
    Have you had your hearing checked? I have hearing loss in my left ear which affects particular frequencies rather than overall volume. I now second guess my ear(s)!
    Could be another reason, but I don't know.
  15. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    It doesn't sound well intonated to me. It's hard to say from a video though.
    Maybe you should record what you just played into a DAW or even transfer the audio from your phone, and then use a stroboscopic sotware tuner and see if the result is different. Sometimes hardware tuners are not so accurate when they have too much signal. Also you seem to have a fairly hyped "thick" tone, so it could be emphasized harmonics playing tricks too.
    Maybe something like this for your phone would be simpler if you have no DAW tuner
    VSTPLANET - VST Plugins Free - Virtual instruments and effects
  16. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Sounds OK to me except the open G string which has a nasty buzz and the fretted G octave which has a lesser buzz.
  17. crobasster


    Jun 16, 2009
    Very little but it's off .Try some other tuner and correct the bridge .
    Bassbeater likes this.
  18. Could be amp/cab strangeness...

    In the shop we have a Nemesis combo. I set up a Hofner Beatle type bass with new flats....

    For some reason, through the Nemesis, the E had weird overtones. Strange. Other basses did not exhibit that. Weird. I dropped by the studio, grabbed a DI and went into console/ProTools and back out with zero knobbery, sounded good through the Yamaha monitors... Weird...
  19. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 13, 2021

Share This Page