Tailpeice affecting tone

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by heymrbassman, May 28, 2003.

  1. I have been noticing some pretty strange sounds coming out of my bass for a while. They sound like wolf notes and on some notes there is even a sympathetic vibration. I first thought it could be the endpin but I have one of those aluminium tube things that does not vibrate or rattle.

    I have now tried holding the tailpeice while playing. This seems to get rid of the nasty sounds and leaves a clear sound. i would have guessed that doing this would have made the sound worse but it seems to get better.

    I cannot hold the tailpiece with my foot all the time as I tend to lose my balance.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. The mose common tailpiece upgrade is exchanging the "coat hanger" wire found on most them with a piece of lightweight stranded airline cable. Maybe this would help get rid of the weird sound.

    It might also be that the sound is coming from somewhere else in the bass, the putting pressure on the tailpiece is dampening this.

    Luthiers, is the sound he describes indicative of a bass bar problem?
  3. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I replaced the coat hanger on my bass. I used the regular small cable from the hardware store and covered it with heat shrinking wire insulator. Cost about $5 or so. I got the heatshrink idea from (all hail) Bob Gollihur.

    Looks great. Works great. It is also easy to do.

  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    You've probably already tried this, but I've found that wrapping some dampening material around the afterlength of the strings can help this problem quite a bit. I use piano felt, but I've seen lots of different materials used to get the same effect. BTW, this works best for pizz playing as far as I know....for arco, you'd be killing a lot of the overtones that make the sound rich and full by doing this. Good luck.
  5. I had the tailpeice changed a while back from wood to an ebony one. There used to be a plastic covered cable now it has a stranded cable with no covering.

    I could try covering the cable but am also tempted to try my old tailpeice. The reason I changed was because it was a little too long. i.e it looked to long to me and I was told that the length of string between tail and bridge makes a difference to the sound.

    It is currently 8" (approx)from fingerboard to bridge with 7 1/4" from bridge to tailpeice.

    If I put the old tail back on it will reduce to 6" of string length. I would have to pay to get this done as the cable used is fixed and would need totally replacing.

    I will see what dampening the strings at the tailpeice does. I reckon maybe using a velcro cable tie on each pair of strings?

    Thanks for the advice
  6. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    If you have the type of tailpiece where the wire comes out of two holes in the bottom end (and there's no visible wire, looking from the front), that could be the problem. Sometimes a rattle occurs where the wire leaves the tailpiece there. The cure is to stuff some leather wedges in there with the wires. Or, you could rig up a leg extension which would allow you to stand while still exerting pressure on the tailpiece. However, this has been proved to destroy eigenmodes and thereby, tone.
  7. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    ChrissF wrote:
    I resorted to this kind of trick a couple of weeks ago, with a wide and flat shoe string woven several times between the strings, in order to mute undesired resonance like I'MYERBESTMAN says. I lift this damping device near the bridge for amped/pizz, and I can slide it down near the tailpiece for acoustic/arco studies.

    I don't know if this is a definitive fix. Long story short: used to have a piezo cell jammed in the wing, with a rather thumpy sound, had sound post shortened a bit, then switched to STAT B, new sound post with previous length. Currently wondering if bridge is too thin or what...

    Meanwhile, all this annoyance and tweaking around is taking up precious time from actual practicing. My best tip: don't be too perfectionist here. In other words: don't try too hard to fix things that ain't broke.:meh:
  8. I was wondering where you were getting the eigenmodes for your Eigenmode Parmigiana. Now we know!
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Well spoken. I love it when free advice includes multiple options for maximun flexibility.
  10. I have now found that stuffing a small cushion behind the tailpeice works great. This leaves me with some rather technical decisions to make

    Which would be better

    1) Standing on one leg, using the aforementioned leg extention, while holding the tailpiece with my free foot.

    2) Stuffing a bright orange cushion behind the tailpiece and standing on both feet as per normal.

    3) Trying my old tailpice out even if it isn't ebony and is all scratched up
  11. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    There is a school of thought that says ebony is not always the best choice for a tailpiece. I wouldn't venture a guess as to whether or not this is true, but Ray Brown was known to have ebony tailpieces taken off his bass and replaced with lighter ones.

  12. Absolutely right! For many basses, a lighter tailpiece works much better for pizz. The same is not true for arco. For arco most players prefer a good heavy ebony tailpiece. One theory is that pizz requires a fast reponse and the lighter tailpiece requires less energy to get it in motion. For arco the mass of the heavier tailpiece makes for a more constant motion which is desirable for smooth arco.
  13. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Anyone recommend a certain light tailpiece?
  14. I just got out my gram scales and weighed a couple of new tailpieces. One was ebony and weighed 335 grams. A similar tailpiece in Boxwood weighed only 174 grams. I like to look and weight of the elegant Boxwood "Hill Style" tailpieces, but after reading the posts from Arnold and Jeff about the Mike Pecanic tailpieces that might be something for you to seriously consider. I'm sure Mike could provide approx. weights for the ones he makes. I've seen some new Boxwood tailpieces on eBay at pretty reasonable prices.
  15. I put my old tailpeice back on a couple of days ago and it is like the bass' tone has been opened up. Its all clear, ringing tone. A big reduction in dead sounding notes and inconsistencies in volume.

    The ebony tailpeice was smaller but a lot more dense. The one I have now is a little too big and has reduced the string length between tailpeice and bridge.

    i like the idea of getting one of the other ones discussed as the one I have looks bad. But i am really looking forward to just playing a responsive bass and not worrying about tone.

    Another bonus is the strings all sound really cool due to being taken off and cleaned.

    Thanks for all the advice

  16. I've been thinking lately about putting my not so impressive wood working skills to the task of making a new tailpiece. I think it'd be interesting to make it out of some nifty looking exotic wood; any ideas on what might provide a better mass than ebony? It'll be going on a beefy 7/8 bass that gets about 95 percent orchestra/ solo playing if it matters. But I was thinking something a bit lighter might free up the sound a little, because being a new instrument (about five years) it's not super open sounding. waddya think?
  17. If you are playing 95% arco, a lighter tailpiece is probably not going to do you any good.
  18. So any suggestions of woods that are of an equal or slightly lighter (for the sake of experimentation ;) ) mass as ebony? How about cocobolo, I've always thought it was a rather nice looking wood.
  19. Sorry if this is not at all helpful. I am just interested.

    Has anyone ever tried an aluminium tailpeice or maybe titanium?

    There is not the same need for wood as there is in say a bridge and it would be pretty strong, lightweight and would look really cool.
  20. Finding woods that are equal or nearly equal to the density of ebony is not going to be easy. The only ones close would be Greenheart, European Boxwood, and Lignum-vatae (which is heavier). Using a substantially lighter wood for a tailpiece could actually harm the response for arco playing.