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Tension of a bass

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Michael Case, Aug 5, 2005.

  1. Aside from the strings what are the factors that make up the tension of a bass? Are these issues that can be dealt with in set up? Or is something in the construction of the bass that isn't easily changed?

    I'm just wondering because my bass feels a bit tight and after playing lots of other basses I have noticed a difference in tension. I personally can't see any difference in the instruments that would give me a clue about tension. Anyway I'd like to bring my bass to a luthier and have it worked on to reduce the tension if it's a reasonable job.

  2. uptonbass

    uptonbass Proprietor, Upton Bass String Instrument Co.

    Oct 8, 2002
    Mystic CT
    Founder UptonBass.com
    Tonally tight :eyebrow: ? What type of bass are we dealing with here? Do you mean it doesn't feel like it working as a whole instrument....not 100 percent? Maybe not "ringing" the way you wish it would??
  3. I have a hybrid Strunal, it sounds a bit tight and doesn't have the sustain I'd like. But it feels tight too, no matter what strings I have it stills feels tight. I went from Spiro mediums, Velvet Anima, and now I'm trying Heliocore hybrids. With pizz I feel my right hand has to work too hard to pull a sound out, I have played my teachers bass (with Spiro mediums) as well as other basses and they sound and feel less tight.
    I'm sorry if my post is a little vauge, it's early and I'm not sure how to word my question.
  4. uptonbass

    uptonbass Proprietor, Upton Bass String Instrument Co.

    Oct 8, 2002
    Mystic CT
    Founder UptonBass.com
    A number of typical setup elements are going to help you pull more sound out of the bass with less effort. Take a look here for some general info on bass setup: http://www.stringrepair.com/dbsu.html

    Without seeing and playing the bass it's hard to point at one particular element of the setup. Could be post, bridge, fingerboard, nut, rehang the tp.....etc. Seeing as you have been through the string gauntlet I would be sure that the bass needs something.

    How does your string length vary from the other basses you have played?
  5. Thanks for the link! It's really informative. I haven't measured string length of the other basses I've played, but I do know they are all 3/4. My bass has an Eb neck and my teachers bass is a D neck if that makes a difference. My teacher plays a carved Romainian bass about 25 years old, not a dream bass by any means but it sounds and feels great. He also owns a Kay which is the same.

    I know that my bass isn't a great instrument, but I don't have the money to buy a new bass so I want to do what i can to get the most out of it soundwise. People like my teacher and Cameron Brown, and John Patitucci have played it and say it's a bass with potential. Cameron said a new fingerboard would make a huge difference. I hear the potential of the bass and just want to do what I can to reach it.
  6. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    The Strunals I've seen apart were all very thick in the top and the bass bar. It takes a lot of string energy to get these things moving. (i.e. you have to play harder) Getting a new fingerboard will increase your bridge height (assuming your old board is on the thin side), which will result a looser-feeling bass. Soundpost placement is also a factor... But having a little interior re-graduation (a little, not a lot) will go a long way...imho...assuming your instrument is too heavy.

    What kind of fingerboard is on the bass now?
  7. My board is ebony and is on the thin side a little short of 1/2 inch at it's thickest (it was thicker when I got the bass, but after setting it up it was brought down to it's present thinness). I've been considering a new board for a while now. When I get the cash I'm gonna bring it to my teachers luthier who has done great work on his bass and another students bass.
  8. I forgot to add that my string length is 41 1/2". I'm wondering though is it worth the cost of a new fingerboard and what ever else is needed on this bass?
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I wonder if your fingerboard has too much camber (scoop). That would cause you to squeeze tightly with your left hand. When any part of your body is tight, everything feels tight. I also think Nnick's comments are on the money.
  10. Arnold I do notice that my left hand has to work harder on my bass than when I play my teachers bass. At times I can tell I'm not stopping the string well enough to get a good sound. I can't help but wonder though is this bass one I should put more cash into or if i should do what it takes to find a new instrument. I guess I'm the only one who could make that call.
  11. if your action is really high it could make it seem more tense in some places
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Psycho-acoustics are a powerful effect as well. If the bass isn't sounding right, it'll feel like crapola.
  13. My action isn't high at all, the adjusters are as low as they can be. I get what you're saying about psycho acoustics Ray, my bass has qualities I like tone wise, but I keep thinking that I can get the sound out of the bass that I want. I just got to thinking because on a thread someone mentioned how a new bass made a huge difference for him, what he thought was him was actually the bass. I guess I have some thinking to do. :meh:
  14. pete27408


    Feb 22, 2005
    I experienced the same thing with my bass and brought it to David Gage who suggested a new fingerboard (there wasn't enough wood left for planing). Lo and behold it worked and I'm quite happy with the results. Someone mentioned it before but if there is a fairly deep scoop in the board you will work harder causing it to feel "tight". A new board isn't cheap, though. You might want to weigh it against the price of a new bass. I tried the cleveland at the ISB convention- I think it's worth checking out. Good luck
  15. A thought occured to me about this whilst playing my own bass and bemoaning the fact that it doesn't speak as easily as others and could therefore be felt to sound 'tight' - that if I had starks on and mega high tension it would actually get the bass to vibrate freely in a way that it's far too stiff to do now. Other than getting the (thickish) top re-thicknessed (its not going to happen) I guess it's what I've got. Oh it has got a luthier-to-pros set-up BTW.
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The scoop in the board has a relationship to the strings and has to be balanced right. With heavy strings you want a flatter scoop and lighter strings require a deeper scoop.
  17. I have the same bass. On my first trip to the luthier the basic set up included work on the fingerboard, nut, bridge and a new tailpiece wire. After this set up the bass was much easier to play and had a better sound too. On a second trip to the luthier the neck was deglossed and a new sound post was installed. With a new soundpost the sound was much, much better, less ‘tight’. Keep in mind that when these basses are shipped the bridge in not in place but the soundpost is. It must be a very tight fit.
  18. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    I know what you mean. I've played basses where the strings themselves just feel tight. I'd check the post first. It may sound strange, but that might be the culprit, especially if they feel tight when you're playing them open. It would be the easiest, and cheapest thing to try first.
  19. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    Please don't put a hyphen in psycho-acoustics. It tends to unnecessarily label those of us in the field. :)

    In any case, any cross-modal influence of audition over kinesthesia is not part of psychoacoustics.
  20. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    And there you go -- talking crazy right out of the gate. I think I'll leave the hyphen in.

    So, you're saying that I should not cross-dress, and definitely evacuate my bowels, before auditioning for a gig that I wouldn't be able to hack on my best day?


    Dunno -- too many big words for me.