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Tailgut change fears & questions

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Tim Skaggs, Oct 6, 2002.

  1. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    After reading several posts about the subject, I have decided to change out the tail gut on my bass from the formed steel bracket type, to a nylon or stranded wire flexible cable.
    My current tailpiece is a factory Englehardt (my bass is an EM-1). The tailpiece has the holes coming through the top, or outside surface, with two cap nuts on each end of the formed steel bracket “tailgut” that comes through the tailpiece. If I put a nylon or stranded steel cable tailgut on my bass, the ends would have to make a 90 degree turn at the point where they go through the tailpiece. The steel bracket is shaped in a 90 degree angle and doesn’t have the same stress as a flexible cable. Will a nylon or stranded steel cable tailgut withstand the stress at the point it they make this 90 degree turn? I’ve been leaning toward the nylon due to price and availability. Is nylon as likely to withstand the 90 degree angle as well as the stranded wire type, or the is the stranded wire type recommended? Suggestions??

  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I have the Sacconi nylon on my bass and it makes all the twists and turns without a problem. It's been on there for years. However a lot of my DB friends here at TalkBass seem to prefer the wire cable. Either one should work fine.
  3. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    Cheap Bob's Economy Steel Tailgut (as on my Kay, below, this photo is from one of the Bulgarian basses I sell):


    Visit the hardware store and have them lop off a short piece of aircraft cable for you, and buy a cable clamp to fit - you may want to pre-measure and have it cut to the precise length as this stuff doesn't cut easily if you don't have the right tools.

    Visit a Sears hardware store/dept. and buy a pack of black shrink wrap from the electrical department, sized slightly larger than the cable.

    You can put a piece of shrink wrap on the part of the cable that will feed through the tailpiece if you want, to make it less obvious- in fact, you can use some on much of the cable if you want.

    You'll also want to put a piece of shrink wrap on the ends, so the cable's wires won't snag your case or make holes in the tips of your fingers. Electrical tape could also be used in a pinch, but the shrink wrap is usually better.

    After determining the length you want, use the cable clamp to secure the tailgut.

    Kay, showing through-tailpiece use; I originally had one of the cable clamps that you crush, but I didn't trust it and added the cable clamps:

  4. I agree with Bob about not trusting the aluminum crush clamps commonly sold in hardware stores for garage door cable. I've never seen one fail, but it just doesn't look secure. However, there is a similar but far better product sold for joining aircraft control cables. These are sold under the trade name Nicopress by aircraft and some boating supply shops. The Nicopress clamps for stainless steel cable are made of a copper alloy and are nickel plated. A special crimping tool is required, but it results in a very compact cylindrical joint with very little offset between the two ends.

  5. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Very interesting!
    Do you use those nicopress jobs, Bob? Whats the cost on those? I have been using the little clamps that have the two allen set screws-at Mr. Schnitzel's reccomendation. Mainly cuz they are adjustable. But they are expensive and in truth I have only rarely adjusted them. Mebbe I should use both-the adjustables at a customers request and the nicos for general.
  6. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    Thanks for the tips, Bob & Bob. I have access to a Nicopress tool at work (telephone co), but the sleeves I've seen are for solid wire only. I see from the web link there are stranded wire sleeves available. It looks like the cable clamp Bob G. shows would be simple and effective. Would the tension on this tail gut be the combined tension of all strings tuned to pitch?
  7. Yes Jeff, I do use them. The clamps themselves are very inexpensive if you buy them in quantity. Wilks Aircraft Supply sells them mailorder.

    The expensive part is the crimping tool. The genuine Nicopress tool is pretty expensive, but I notice that Home Depot has a cheaper tool for about $25-$30. The only problem with the cheaper tool is that you have to make 3 crimps on each nicopress clamp. Not a real problem, but it takes a little more time. Wilks also sells several different types of aircraft grade stainless steel cable in all the usual diameters. It is generally a better grade of cable than you find in the typical hardware store.
  8. in a slightly related topic regarding tailpiece wires, I was once told to widen the span between the two strands where they pass over the saddle, before tightening the strings up. I do this by spreading them with a wine cork jammed in end to end (these are readily avaliable around my house), which I can remove once everything's under tension.

    it appears by the photos above that Bob G's Kay has been set up this way. Bob or anyone else ('specially you luthier types) ever heard of this trick, and anyone have a view on whether it really makes a difference? Though I usually do it, frankly I'm not convinced it makes a meaningful sonic impact.
  9. jimclark68


    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    Remus - I made the same upgrade on my Engelhardt, it was a very easy swap. I got the kit from Lemur music, but I also tried a piece of cable from the hardware store when experimenting with the placement of the tailpiece, and it appeared to be the same quality as the cable from Lemur. There was an improvment in my sound, not huge but certainly noticeable. While you're at it, you should toss the lousy endpin and have a luthier install a better one.
  10. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    You can't get stuff like this at 2xBasslist, folks.
  11. My advise would be to do the opposite. You want the tailpiece to move on it's axis as easily as possible. Widening the spacing would tend to increase the resistance. I would tend to move the strands closer rather that farther apart. I have an experimental single strand tailpiece hanger on my 7/8 Rodier. Dave Wilson at Hammond Ashley came up with the idea. It looks wierd, but it does free up the tailpiece.
  12. This is a very interesting topic that I'd really like to see some good quantative analysis on, much like the bridge adjuster study. I've found this area of the bass to be critical to defining a bass' tone and projection, with a bearing on those amorphous tone terms such as boxiness, flabbiness, tightness, punch, wolfiness (any more?).
    Some variables might be tailwire material, spacing, tailpiece length, mass, material, etc.
    Thanks for bringing this up, Bob.
  13. Pete,
    I don't know of any studies that have been done specifically on doublebass, but there has been some excellent research done on violin tailpieces by Dennis Braun. I've tried his methods of tailpiece tuning and it seems to work on basses as well as on violins. The results were published a couple of years ago in the Catgut Acoustical Society Journal. Contact me by email if you don't have access to the CAS journals.
  14. Bob - the logic of your suggestion is appealing, I'd like to read more also. You or someone else (Arnold?) in an eailier thread here on tailpieces decribed them as analogous to the spring reverb thingie in old Fender amps. This whole area seems like a place where one can make a real impact on the instrument's sound. I have a copy of the big, two volume collected papers of CAS - I'll look to see what tailpiece stuff I can find in there.

    meanwhile, absent the sort of study Pete mentions, any subjective impressions of the response of your Rodier to the single wire mod ?
  15. There is a short (1993) article by Carleen Hutchens in Vol. 1 of the set, but that was not the one I was thinking about. I believe that the Braun article was published sometime after 1996. It was written as a scientific paper and it is a bit technical, but it is well worth reading. If I can find the article I'll let you know which issue it is in.

    It would be hard for me to claim any quantitative improvement as a result of the experimental single strand tailpiece hanger. I made that modification at the same time I performed A0 - B0 matching, and I believe I also tuned the tailpiece to 1/2 of the A0 frequency at the same time. I may switch it back to a conventional 2 strand hanger in the future just to see if there is any UN-improvement. The goal is to get the body, neck and tailpiece to all be vibrating together as a unit. Any differences will cause a loss of energy and therefore the overall sound of the instrument will suffer.
  16. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    Well, I made it to the hardware store and bought about two feet of 1/8" steel cable and a cable clamp for $1.60. I installed it in place of the solid steel bracket tailpiece. It did change the "clarity" of each string, both open and "fretted" (no frets, how do you describe, noted, fingered ??). There isn't an appreciable volume increase, but there is a "clarity" or "focus" of each note that is improved. There is also a difference in the "feel" of the strings above the bridge. They felt as though they were higher, but I used the same bridge in exactly the same location. I can't describe the change in the feel exactly, but I like it. Now I purchase new strings, but I haven't decided on whether I want to go with a loud, clear, bright string such as Helicores or Spirocores, or go with a deeper softer feel string like Obligoto's. I lean toward the Obligoto's for the softer feel and deeper tone, but I don't want to sacrafice volume. Still open to opinion / suggestion.

  17. jimclark68


    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC

    My experience with my new Engelhardt has been that it repsonds better to higher-tension strings, such as Spirocores. I tried Corellis first, they had a nice feel, but lower volume. I then tried Spiro Weichs, which was an improvement, and have settled on Spiro Mediums. Due to their higher tension, you can set the action much lower without sacrificing volume. I think they would suit the kind of music your bands are playing.
  18. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    i was looking through the forum and came upon this thread. i have the one-strand tailpiece wire on one of my basses too (courtesy of the hammond ashley shop) and have been wondering about its effectiveness. the last time i was at hammond ashley bryce told me that the shop has moved away from the single-wire style, asserting that the less the tailpiece vibrates, the more energy is going into moving the top (less is 'wasted' vibrating the tailpiece), making a more rigid two-wire setup superior tone- and volume-wise.

    thoughts, anyone?

    bob - have you experimented further with your rodier's setup in this regard?

    sean p
  19. No, I have not done any further experimenting with the single stand tailpiece hanger. I still have it on my Rodier and have no intention of changing it any time soon.

    I think Bryce is absolutely wrong about "wasted vibrating" theory. I would have to hear it from David Wilson, one of the owners, before I would believe that is "the shop's" opinion.
  20. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    i didn't ask bryce his thoughts on the stiffer tailpiece wires that come standard on some cheap basses (from what i understand) and why changing these to flexible wires reportedly produces better tone (or perhaps just playability?)...

    i've met david wilson but haven't talked with him about this particular issue. bryce did tell me that the shop was regularly installing 'double' wires now, having moved away from the single.

    sean p

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