The truth about dead spots?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bassdr, Apr 19, 2003.

  1. I'm just wondering what the talkbass crowd thinks about dead spots. For newbies a "dead spot" is a place on the neck that when played is more "dead" (less sustain). I've had a Fender MIM jazz fretless with a bad one at the fifth fret, a musicman stingray four with one at the sixth fret and now, everyone hold your breath..........

    My new (pre-owned) Sadowsky that I just bought has one!!!! It's a Standard 5, ash body, quilt top, morado board, built in 97. It's got a pretty significant one at fret 6. I contacted Roger when I discovered it and got a pretty matter of fact answer that these just happen on 34" scale bolt-on basses and to try a fat finger.

    Are dead spots just something to be dealt with or can they be remedied? I e-mailed Roger tonight about changing out the neck for a 35" scale neck, don't know if that is an option or will help.

    What do others think about dead spots? Are there any remedies out there? Do I need to just suck it up and live with it or should my quest for the "perfect" bass continue?
  2. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Cure: carbon fiber/graphite/ synthetic necks. Zon, Modulus, Status, G. Gould (sp?), Moses, Curbow, Basslab.

    Not using wood has thus far really been the only successfull cure for dead spots.
  3. How and why do deadspots occur? I've known what they are, but I don't know why or how they are... if that makes any sense...

    Is it just due to weakness in woods?

    Why do they happen in certain spots more often than others?
  4. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    It's caused by a few different things, like an imperfection inside a board, usually out of sight; it can the be the way certain stresses are put on the wood when the strings are bought up to tension, causing a reaction to a wood that might have a different density in one place, but no where else.

    Things of that nature, but I'm no dead spot expert
  5. I haven't found any dead spots in my Modulus Q5
  6. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I have, among others, a MIM Jazz, that when I bought it, it had a terrible dead spot on the B of the G string. I took it to a local repair shop for some unrelated work and they told me they could fix it by leveling and crowning the frets. In fact, they said it was under warranty and that Fender would have to pay for it.:eek:

    Well, a week later, I was virtually dead-spot free on my Fender!:D

    The interesting thing was, there was never any fret buzz in the region of the dead spot, which is why I was skeptical, at first. I figured it was due to the wood's resonant frequency, and all that crap. But, they insisted it was due to frets not being level, and that it was fixable.

    I'm not saying that everything that appears to be a dead spot can be fixed with proper leveling and crowning of frets, but it should be considered as a possible cause, if it hasn't already been.
  7. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    It has most to do with the natural resonances of the instrument. There's bound to be one frequency (or set of them, harmonics of a fundamental) where the phase relationship between the string and the body vibrations will cause the vibrations to work against one another.

    With wood-necked instruments, this usually happens to cause problems (dead spots) around the middle of the instrument's range. Making the neck stiffer will increase the frequency of its resonances, potentially moving them up to a region where they won't affect the fundamental of notes played. This is the trick with composite necks.

    Using steel or graphite stiffening rods in a wood neck can help a bit, too I think. (Do Sadowskys have any stiffening rods? I don't think so). Some manufacturers do this, other's don't because the weight / tonal changes aren't worth it to them.

    My Hanewinckel has an all-wood neck (bubinga and wenge, pretty stiff woods, but nowhere near graphite), and one dead spot. I found it when I first got the bass, explicitly searching for them. I've never, ever (not once! :) ) noticed it while playing.
  8. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE

    Right on Geshel. Most of dead spots are in fact related to the natural resonant frequency of the mechanical system, ie the bass itself here :D

    You likely to find a deadspot when the note you play iscentered on this particular natural resonant frequency. When you play it, you excite the system and its vibration counteracts the one of the string >>> dead spot.

    This frequency is determined by the mechanical properties of tha bass. A stiffer neck (choose, right woods, construction, graphite...) moves the resonant frequencie up.

    Anyone ever tried a headless bass?? Hard to find a deadspot on them!! Removing "dead" mass at the end of the neck helps a lot finding a resonant frequencie that will be out of our regular bass fingerboard range :D

    Guess who invented the headless bass and why? look


    Peace, JP
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Presumably this is also why through-neck basses with multiple-piece necks were invented - I've had a few of these and tried more, which have had no hint of dead spots - so you don't have to go the graphite or non-wood route.

    It is generally one-piece, bolt-on necks which suffer from deadspots - but this is also the recipe for the classic Fender bass sound which so many people want - so I can undertand Roger Sadowsky saying you have to live with it - you want the vintage Fender sound, then you have to put up with the disadvantages, as well as the advantages.

    If you don't care about "that" sound then the problems can be remedied, but of course it will also affect the overall tone - personally, I'm happy with multi-piece,through-necks, but some people aren't - you pay your money and take your choice!! ;)
  10. My Hohner B2A (headless, 3pc maple thru-neck) does have deadspots- only that they're in odd places-

    12th fret G on the G string, open D string, B and C on the E and A strings.
    they're not very noticeable though.

    Roger Sadowsky said that he experimented with graphite reinforcement in his necks, but found they had deadspots too.

    the stiffness of the neck is affected by its thickness- 5 and 6 string (and upwards) wood-necked basses with graphite reinforcement shouldn't really have deadspots.
  11. Killdar


    Dec 16, 2002
    Portland Maine
    I played a Warwick Thumb bolt on at a GC once......had a dead spot, but I forget where. Probably around the 7th fret I think. Even though it had a 3 piece neck, there was a dead spot, and warwick necks are quite chunky and stiff. I don't think I have noticed a significant dead spot on any other warwicks I have played, so it must have just been a defect or something.
  12. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    We think dead spots really blow. Out of my nine basses only two have noticeable dead spots. My '93 Fender American Deluxe Precision Plus has one at the sixth fret on the G string. It had it before I changed the neck, and it has it now. The luthier said pretty much the same thing Roger said.

    My Stingray 5 has one too. It's called the G string.

    My Zon has that plastic neck, and it DEFINITELY (note correct spelling) has no dead spots.

  13. the Status 3000, Musicman Stingray Cutlass1(graphite neck by Modulus) and Musicman stingray special edition(graphite neck by Status) I tried had no deadspots whatsoever (all graphite-neck bolt-ons).

    however, an SKC bogart 5-string with a bolt-on graphite neck had a deadspot at the 6th fret of the G string.
  14. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
  15. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    This could be a defect, but I doubt it. It's most likely due to either inferior wood grades (possible) or due to uneven frets, like I experienced with my MIM Jazz.

    BTW: I only called it "inferior" wood grades in the case where you noticed it wasn't a consistent issue across all Warwicks as you'd mentioned.
  16. JOME77

    JOME77 Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    I've only had one bass that had a very noticable dead spot (3rd fret G string). It was a 1977 Fender Jazz. I did own an old 1978 Stingray that had a D (G string 7th fret) that was much louder than the rest of the notes. That can be as annoying as a dead spot!
    The thing that impressed me the most about the Moses neck that I installed on an old Warmoth body was the eveness of all the notes on the fingerboard.:)
  17. Billdog


    Feb 27, 2003
    Austin, Texas
    Basically, as was said above, the woods resonant frequency, and occasionally other flaws, are what cause dead spots. But those same characteristics of wood (a natural, flawed material) are what give basses certain sounds. If you don't like a really bright sound (heavier/denser woods, composites, etc.) then you're pretty much going to have to put up with them. What is actually happening is your bass, due to its construction type and materials, has a "resonant frequency" which causes it to vibrate when exposed to said frequency. Whatever note that is will not be allowed because when you play it, some of your plucking energy will be robbed by the vibrating bass. The pickups don't "pick up" the vibrations of the body, so the note just seems dead. But, like I and many others said, these same characteristics of wood are what give many people the tone they like.
  18. in response to the frequency theory: can someone please explain to me why, for example, the note C# is "dead" on a G string, but that same pitch in the same octave sounds fine when played on any of the other strings?

    i've owned more fenders and musicmans and other wood necked basses then i can remember over the years. and they pretty much all had dead spots around the B-D area of the G string to some degree.

    the only wood 4 string necks that i've had luck with are certain warmouth necks. however those necks tend to be heavy. i swapped it out because of the neck dive it caused with the lighter body of the bass.
  19. C# on the D string or on the A or E strings sustains fine because the neck is less free to resonate (is stiffer) at that point ie. much closer to the neck-body joint, than at C# on the G string.
    imagine a ruler or pencil held over a table edge- it's easier to bend it/set it in vibration at the end than nearer the table edge.
  20. ahhh yes. thank you. that makes perfect sense.