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Tail Wire Length / Tailpiece Position

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by robgrow, Sep 3, 2005.


  1. robgrow

    robgrow Supporting Member

    May 1, 2004
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    How is the optimum length for the tail wire and the best postion for the tailpiece determined? Does shortening the tail wire and moving the tailpiece closer to the saddle increase string tension?

    Thanks!
     
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Closer to the Bridge 'reduces' the Tension in my experience. The height and angle of the Saddle under the Tail wire also plays into this as well..
     
  3. I don't want to argue with your experience Ken but this is to me counter-intuitive. My reasoning is this:

    provided the tailpeice and the tailwire are still at the same angle between the saddle and the bridge it can't add or take away tension it exerted on the bass but - given that the whole string length is elastic both before and after the bridge, the longer the afterlength the more elasticity there must be in the string after the bridge allowing freer vibration of hte bridge. Getting optimum length is something compensated tailpeices claim to do saying this will vary for different strings. A Luthier of my acquaintence maintains this is hogwash and three humdred years of evloution can't be wrong. Many 'tune' the afterlength.

    With luck Arnold, Nick and Geoff will weigh in. Oh and Rob - Kens experience is great and extensive - respect!
     
  4. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    My experience, which includes decades of farting around with tailpiece placement, leads me to this rather dismissive and cremudgeonly statement; the length of the strings south of the tailpiece has no noticeable affect on the tension of a bass. It will, however, sometimes change the way an instrument speaks or responds, including some affect on wolf tones. Some players may interpret these effects as changes in tension, but I think that's a matter of expecting something and then convincing yourself that's what you actually feel. I think what Ken experiences (looser with the tailpiece nearer the bridge) is actually a reduction in the bass' resonance. A less resonant bass feels more even, less wolfy, and is easier to bow. This could feel like less "tension". Mike's "elasticity" hypothesis makes more sense to me, but I don't buy it. I suppose the only way to really ascertain whether tailpiece position has an actual effect on string tension is to experiment using pressure measuring devices under the bridge feet, or by measuring the resistance to bending of the strings. I think, though, that the only way to appreciably change tension is to raise or lower the tailpiece in relation to the top table, therefore changing the breakover angle at the bridge. This whole area (afterlength, tailpiece, wire, saddle, etc.), which I call the "nether region" of the bass, is a dark and foreboding place, filled with mystery and voodoo, and is ripe for self-serving practitioners of psycho-acoustics!
     
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Interesting, because I am convinced that when I lengthened my tailpiece wire, my strings loosened up. If it's just reduced resonance, then maybe I should put it back to where it was. But could they actually be looser because the tailpiece will end up raised up slightly when you lengthen the tailpiece cord?

    Not trying to question anyone here with my vast 6 months of experience over your measley decades of study and building. Just wanting to know if lengthening it ended up making me shoot myself in the foot.
     
  6. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I wish someone would explain why anything happening above the nut or below the bridge should really make such a huge difference. I would think twice about going through agony trying to find the best tailpiece wire, or even tailpiece for that matter. I'd rather make sure I have a good bridge on the bass with feet that fit flush to the top and correct placement. Have a good soundpost, fitting with no gaps at all. Good fingerboard, properly planed. A well-made nut with the right height and spacing. Then find strings that give you the kind of sound you're looking for. Beyond that... I dunno. In simple terms, why should all of this hocus pocus transform the sound of a bass?

    I read through the testimonials about the pecanic tailpiece, or the velvet tailpiece wire, and it's hard for me not to burst out laughing. "Your wire transformed my instrument, it sounds completely different now!" Umm...?
     
  7. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I would think that initially they would, but then you've got to tune them up again. :bag:
     
  8. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    It is a mystery why things happen the way they do. Ebony seems to darken and soften the sound slightly as it absorbs vibration. When you put a new ebony fingerboard on your Bass replacing the old thinner and worn one, the Bass feels smoother and sounds deeper. The neck now has more strength and the string 'floats' looseer on the neck as you play. With a thinner FB and weaker neck, the Bass feels tighter and sounds thinner.

    With a shorter tailwire the Ebony (or other type tailpiece wood) is closer to the bridge to absorb vibration from the strings. The pitch is different as well after the bridge but I have no clue what that does. Recently I lengthened the tailwire on one of my Basses and it seemed looser and deeper. Just a tiny bit but I could feel the difference. I also at the same time 're-geared' my Bass and reversed the tuners with the G lowest and the E above it. This is the Bass; http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/MartiniBass/martini_bass_2.htm

    Between these two pics, you can see the slight difference of the Tailpiece and afterlenght under the bridge. b4; http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/MartiniBass/183.jpg and after; http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/MartiniBass/martini13.jpg

    The 'after' pics shows a new bridge and FB as well BUT, I moved the Tailpiece and did the Gears 'After' I played the Bass for a while with the old Gears and Tail length so I could compare apples to apples. The Tailpiece on this Bass is NOT Ebony. It is most likely Stained Maple and is the Original Tailpiece from when the Bass was made.

    My Gilkes and Batchelder also have their original non-Ebony Tailpieces as well. One time, I glued a hair-line crack in the Batchelder tailpiece to repair it as it split from one of the String Slots. I felt strange about changing it from the original. Sentimental I guess but until it's 'broke' it will stay as will the one on the Gilkes and Martini. My Mystery Bass also came to me with a stained full sized wooden Tailpiece with 3-String slots and 2 extra Holes drilled out to make it into a 4 using 2 old and 2 new holes leaving the center original hole un-used. You don't see these types of things often but being that the Bass was out of commission for most of the 20th century has left a few things intact.

    It's a slight mystery but even with EBs I notice a difference with anything done concerning the 'after length' form either end..
     
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Not a huge difference, but a difference nonetheless. Here's why: Strings resonate in sympathy to notes played on an instrument. Think sitar. Strings in the afterlength will vibrate when you play certain notes or relative ones in the overtone series. This will have an effect on the sound and response of the bass. Secondly, the tailpiece is essentially a damper. It smoothes out some "wildness" that can occur when bowing strings. Changes in the tailpiece length and weight do have an effect. Interestingly, Jed (my talented assistant) and I experimented on a bass one day, stringing it up with and without a tailpiece. Without a tailpiece, we both thought the pizzicato was HUGE and deep, but the bowed sound and response was insane! With a tailpiece, the pizz was less present though more defined, and the bow sound was more even and controllable.
     
  10. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Arnold, "psychoacoustics" is not hyphenated. I take particular umbrage to your statement. While you have vast knowledge concerning lutherie, you clearly do not understand the field of psychoacoustics. It is not some voodoo subject practiced by "self-serving" individuals. Assuming your statement was made out of ignorance, let me enlighten you. The definition of psychoacoustics as put forth in a recent invited essay by myself and my colleagues is as follows:

    Psychoacoustics is the area of auditory research in which behavioral methods are used to discern and to describe how, and how well, listeners perceive sounds.

    Psychoacousticians, such as myself, are often formally trained in psychology, physics, acoustics, electrical engineering, communication theory, digital signal processing, and auditory physiology. That list isn't even exhaustive. Much of the work in psychoacoustics over the past 100+ years has been focused on understanding how the ear and brain process complex sounds that reach the ears. Objective psychophysical procedures used in state-of-the-art psychoacoustic research have been able to characterize in very formal and quantitative terms the characteristics of the auditory system itself and have done so largely free of listener bias. The complex mathematical models used today to describe the system are derived from formal commuication theory. This is not "soft" science by any means.

    There have been many reports in lay magazines by engineers and others who "studied" this or that aspect of what a panel of listeners "think" they heard. That's not psychoacoustics and perhaps your exposure to these lay reports gave rise to your statement.

    The majority of the serious work has been published in the prestigious Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (a physics journal), which began publication in 1929. If you ever take the time to look at that journal (of which I am a former Associate Editor) and what the field is really about, your jaw just might drop. You'd probably end up saying, "I had no idea."

    I hope by way of this little treatise, you and others will not again trample upon this field-- at least not without taking the time to learn what it is about.

    Lastly, whether changing tailpiece cord, etc. changes the sound of a bass IS something that could be investigated with proper psychophysical methods. One question would be whether a difference can be heard another would be whether there is actually any preference. It would be a daunting task to do this correctly. Of course, you'd need different basses, tailpieces, etc. When it comes down to it, I suspect no one will be doing it.
     
  11. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Hi DRURB.

    I can't speak for Arnold, but my understanding of psychoacoustics, as people usually use the term, is hearing something because you expect to, or because you think you should, even when the actual sound that you hear doesn't necessarily support that perception. You think that it makes sense that moving the tailpiece will change the sound, so you feel sure that you hear an effect, even if it isn't there. On the other hand, the science of psychoacoustics I thought was the study of the subjective perceptions of listeners to sound, including, but not limited to, "hearing things that might not really be there," as in the above example. I guess my working defintion of the latter might not be spot on, but I see it as being clearly different from the common use like Arnold wrote. Some good examples of what Arnold is talking about when he says "self-serving practitioners of psycho-acoustics" include things like this:
    http://www.referenceaudiomods.com/M...OB_C37_C&Category_Code=VOLUME&Product_Count=2

    and this:
    http://www.vansevers.com/pocket_rocket.html

    So it seems to me the problem is the use of the word psychoacoustics (hyphen or no) to describe the phenomena of perceiving a change in sound not because of an actual change in sound, but because you expect that change. Is there a better word you'd recommend? I use the word the same way as Arnold all the time. But I could use another one instead....

    Brent
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    DRURB, with all the things you have studied, one thing you need to work on is how to lessen your insults when you think someone knows less that you. Yes, I too jump down a few throats but I try not to outwardly insult people calling them ignorant. If you know more about something or someone has a mis-conseption then be 'our' Teacher! I will accept any explanation form Arnold no matter what his psychoacoustical knowledge is. I have seen first hand what Arnold can do with a Bass up on the Bench. We are lucky to have a great Luthier like him out here. Some say the same about me too, but that's a different subject..lol

    I know a few things myself about this subject and tailpiece movement DOES effect the sound, tension and playability. Not everyone has the same ears or senses. I play two different Basses for someone and they tell me they hear no difference while it is night and day to me.

    So, what can you contribute about THIS tailpiece/tailwire subject? Teach us, Please.....
     
  13. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    DRURB, I had no idea there was an actual field of study called "Psychoacoustics". I thought I made it up. So you are right, I was ignorant. And now we need a new word to use. How about "expectational hearing"? Nah, that bites. Guys?
     
  14. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    How about Accoustic mirage?
     
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Self-fulfilling acoustics?

    Psychotic acoustics?

    Or my perennial fave: mind games.
     
  16. I thought psycho accoustics happened in shower. :)

    Oh and them Pocket Rocket thingies are now 'advertised' if that's the right word, in three threads.

    OK, joking aside I've just looked through 6 pages of Google hits and in comparison, the misuse of the term is here is nothing to what the wider world is floging including a two channel psychoaccoustics processor - http://theprodigy.info/equipment/Behringer_Ultrafex_2.shtml

    Now *** does this do I wonder? And I never even bothered with the psychoaccoustic accupuncture.

    Perhaps its all got too much for Duurb. He could always get his own back and ask how much it costs for a luthier to lower his action. :D
     
  17. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Well sir, from my post you can see that your use of the word is entirely incorrect. Psychoacoustics is a field of study and does not refer to a phenomenon or phenomena.

    Psychoacoustics, as a science, is not simply the study of subjective phenomena at all. That is actually a small subset of the field. Let me give some examples of how this field has impacted your life:


    1) Around the 1940's and 1950's, seminal work was conducted at Bell laboratories by Dr. Harvey Fletcher and his group. They studied masking, speech intelligibility, and loudness to name just a few areas. Much of this was in service to that ubiquitous device we call the telephone. They targeted some important issues such as what bandwidth was necessary to transmit perceptible speech and what aspects of the waveform needed to be preserved. I'd say they did a fine job!


    2) Like using an iPod? Like mp3's? The ability to severely compress the size of digital audio files centers around an area called "perceptual coding." Basically, this coding devotes bits moment-to-moment only to those frequency channels that contain information that is not masked by other channels or which is at a level that is not inaudible. That is, bits are assigned only to the frequency channels containing information that is audible. That work has a direct line back to the work described in my first example. It all works remarkably well! You can thank psychoacousticians for that.

    3) Like surround sound? In order to create a three-dimensional auditory space with a small number of speakers requires knowledge of the workings of the binaural (two-eared) auditory system. In this case, you want to "fool" the system into believing there are many sources of sound in the room that can lie between and beyond the actual physical sources of sound. This requires understanding the operation of the binaural system which can resolve differences in timing across the ears of a handful of microseconds (yes, I said microseconds) and differences of intensity across the ears of a fraction of a decibel. It is these changes that the binaural system and the brain use to derive auditory space. By the way, this is the particular area in which I do research.

    4) The recent advances in digital auditory protheses including hearing aids and cochlear implants that bring hearing back to those who have lost it are-- you guessed it-- the work of psychoacousticians.

    I could go on and on. I think you get the idea of what the field actually is. The unfounded claims made by those in the examples you site are scoffed at, not endorsed by, true psychoacousticians.
     
  18. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    Ken, please climb down off the high horse long enough to understand that I did not insult Arnold. I did not label Arnold as ignorant. I surmised that his statement was made out of ignorance. I used the word quite appropriately and I was correct! So please don't tell me what I need to "work on."

    Please see my post just prior to this one. I hope that's the kind of teaching you like. By the way, my first post, to which you objected, had a fair amount of teaching in it about the field.
     
  19. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    Arnold--

    Thank you for your reply and for understanding that I did not label you as ignorant (see my reply to KS). The appropriate word for the phenomena of which you speak is "bias." In fact, that is the formal term within psychoacoustics and signal detection theory. If you move a tailpiece and claim to hear a difference, a psychoacoustician would say that it could be the result of an actual difference or of listener bias. Objective psychophysical procedures in use today are remarkably successful in separating bias from what is called "sensitivity."

    I can give you all another term. There are those who claim to hear differences who will not to submit to objective tests. There are those who submit to such testing and when it reveals that they cannot objectively detect any difference, they claim that the science simply isn't good enough to reveal what they KNOW they hear. We call these folks "golden ears" as they claim to hear what no other humans can.

    Finally, there are the charlatans. These are the folks who profit by making all sorts of whacky claims that they, themselves, and scientists KNOW are baseless and false. They can also be "golden ears." Some examples are "directional" speaker wire, isolating feet for your CD player, or the examples Brent gave above. I especially like the special wooden knobs for your amplifier controls.


    So there you have it. "Listener bias," "golden ears," and "charlatans."

    (Ken, how am I doing?)
     
  20. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004


    Well, here's a place on the web where you'll get just a snapshot of the real field of psychoacoustics:

    http://scitation.aip.org/dbt/dbt.jsp?KEY=JASMAN&Volume=CURVOL&Issue=CURISS#MAJOR21