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Tip for improving string tension when detuning

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by seanlava, Oct 6, 2005.


  1. seanlava

    seanlava

    Apr 14, 2005
    I was recently perusing Gary Willis' book 101 Bass Tips, and came across an interesting idea. He describes using a nylon spacer between the back of the bridge and the ball end of his B string, to increase the scale length and tension of the string. This was of particular interest to me, since my band tunes down to D, and I've always had trouble getting a good sound and feel with all the strings being so slack. I decided to try Willis' tip. I bought four aluminum spacers at the hardware store, and installed them on my strings (see attached photo, sorry it's so dark) and sure enough, this trick greatly increased the tension. Anyone who's in the same tuning boat as me should give this a try.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    That really doesn't increase tension, because increasing tension on the vibrating part of the string would change the pitch. I think what that accomplishes is it puts the anchor point on a more relaxed area of the string that is not so close to where the wrapping and all that is, thus giving it a more stabe anchor point.
     
    Garret Graves likes this.
  3. Hookus

    Hookus

    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Yup, he is right, this is what makes tuners work in the first place. In order to increase tension, you must lengthen the distance between the nut and bridge saddle, not the nut and ball, otherwise you would prove that tuning machines don't work...of course, for thousands of years we KNEW the earth was flat.

    But like I always say, if you are happy with it, then rock on!
     
  4. seanlava

    seanlava

    Apr 14, 2005
    fine...for all the nitpickers out there, substitute "stiffness" for "tension" in my original post. The strings feel and sound tighter, so therefore in my book, they are tighter.
     
  5. phxlbrmpf

    phxlbrmpf

    Dec 27, 2002
    Germany
    Do you have more detailed instructions? I'm happy with my Low B, but when I detune to A, there's lots of flabbiness.
     
  6. seanlava

    seanlava

    Apr 14, 2005
    sure thing. I went to a hardware store and bought aluminium spacers, which are small hollow cylinders about 3/4 of an inch in length. I removed my strings, and ran a string through each of the spacers, then threaded the string through the bridge. When the string is tuned up, the ball end is pulling against the end of the spacer, rather than the bridge, which is making the string longer, and increasing the tightness. The only drawback to this is that when tuned to standard A440 tuning, the strings feel much tighter than usual. I found this calculator to provide interesting information about this phenomenon http://www.spaceagecontrol.com/calcfund.htm. Give the spacers a try, and that low A shoud clean right up!
     
  7. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    Michigan
    There's a lot of "bad science" going on in this thread. Making the "string longer" has nothing to do with the effect you are experiencing. Any percieved difference in stiffness is due to changing the way the string is loaded. Either way, the ONLY length that matters is the distance between your bridge saddle and nut. You have not changed that distance. If you DID, your frets would be entirely out of whack. Your intonation would be totally off.
     
  8. It's difficult to criticize anything from Gary Willis, but this technique defies the laws of physics.

    The vibrating length of the string does not change. The gauge of the string does not change. So the string would still require the same exact amount of tension as before to tune to a B.

    While some folks have mentioned assumptions of how this MIGHT work, no one has put forward a CONCRETE explanation of why it DOES work.
     
  9. MeYHymN

    MeYHymN Habitual User

    Nov 7, 2004
    Charleston, WV
    Ok, while all the theories on here confuse my neanderthal mind. There is one thing I'd like to point out. If what everyone says about the distance between the nut and the saddle being the defining issue (I am not here to argue that, as that's what I believe) then how do the so called "string-thru-bodies" have a tighter string tension then a regular style bridge on a 34" scale? Wouldn't adding the spacers in essence be similar to switching to a string-thru as far as effects on the strings? Now my head hurts, I'm going to go find my physics professor and hash this one out.

    --Edit--
    Ok, I think I figured it out. Now while the vibrating distance would still be the same. The tension would still be different as the points of tension are farther apart. Even though it only vibrates between the nut and the bridge, the points of tension are actually between the tuning machine and the ball. So there has to be more tension over the entire length of string, since tension is constant throughout the whole string, to maintain proper frequencies.
     
  10. seanlava

    seanlava

    Apr 14, 2005
    You're right, most of the replies on this thread have confused increasing the tunable length of the string (nut to bridge saddle) with increasing the tensioned length of string (tuning gear to ball end), but you hit it on the head: This is the same principle that gives neck-thru and long scale basses their increased string tension. By adding these spacers, the intonation points (bridge and nut) are the same distance apart, but the length of string under tension is now longer, so to make it vibrate at specific frequency, it must be made tighter. Check out the calculator I linked in my last post: it shows that as you increase the length of a string under tension, you must increase the tension to produce a vibration of specific frequency.

    More importantly, if detuning is an issue for you, you should just TRY this solution. The spacers should cost less than $3 at your local hardware store, and the increased tightness of the strings is noticeable.
     
    Garret Graves likes this.
  11. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I'll try an make a clean and concise explanation:

    This modification does not increase tension, nor does it extend the length of the string vibration, but it does change where the string is "anchored" to the body. Near the bridge end of the string is some twists and wraps that keep the ball end on. This area is not a good point for the string to be resting on the bridge. Stringing through the body or adding these extensions will make the anchor point rest on a different area of the string, where the core wire is a single strand with its normal compliment of wraps. This is generally a more stable area of the string. This tends to change the feel and sound of the string. But the difference between string thru body and these extensions is also the ange at which the strings rest on the bridge piece. This can change the sound as well.
     
  12. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    Michigan
    This is INCORRECT. The tension will be identical, as the ONLY length that matters is the vibrating length. Why would increasing the length outside the nut and bridge require a higher tension. Pitch is dependent on three things...Unit mass (the mass per length of string), vibrating length (distance between nut and bridge saddle) and tension. Without changing string unit masses, or changing the distance between nut and bridge saddle, tension will remain constant.

    The only thing Garry Willis's technique, or string-through-body stringing can change is break angle or, as suggested above, where on the wraps the string breaks over the bridge.
     
  13. seanlava

    seanlava

    Apr 14, 2005
    Thanks for the link, Louie. I didn't realize that this had been discussed before. It's good to read other players accounts of how well this mod works.
     
  14. Those who want to believe will believe, without the pesky facts getting in the way.

    And you have to wonder why no bridge manufacturers offer this simple solution and why bass builders went to 35" scales to increase tension on the B string. I guess they're just a little slow on the uptake.
     
  15. Hookus

    Hookus

    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    I find rubbing snake oil on my strings increases tension. I have some I will gladly sell you...
     
  16. Trevorus

    Trevorus

    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Ahh. People, this does work. Now the reasons why it works is what the confusion is about. But it does change the sound. Okay?
     
  17. my thoughts on the subject are thus...

    same pitch and scale length = same tension, period

    HOWEVER...with the ferrules installed the string tension on the BACK side of the witness point is now significantly decreased (judging from the length by around a factor of 2).

    I feel that this probably aids in allowing the witness point to function better in that it doesn't have to break as much tension across it.

    (For you process engineering types, it is much like a pressure valve not having to drop as much pressure through its body and hence increasing its performance)

    I think the result (ESPECIALLY for the larger-diameter, less flexible strings) is a stronger fundimental which rings out better with less work having to be done by the player (not having to play as hard)...the result is an increase in perceived tension...

    but, definitely an increase in sound quality

    These are just my thoughts, and may be disputed...but there's definitely something positive going on here...

    Where are all the physicists when you need them?
     
  18. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    What's so difficult to understand ?

    You have TENSION and STIFFNESS.
    TENSION doesn't change. It has no reason to.
    STIFFNESS is affected. That's what makes the string feel tighter. It's a very important parameter, otherwise builders wouldn't bother with making stiff neck.

    No magic, no audiophile blabber in sight.
    As for taking advantage of this, Fodera did. It's also what you do when you anchor strings through the body on a Fender bridge.
     
  19. slapcracklepop

    slapcracklepop

    Jun 28, 2005
    Boston, MA
    Maybe its just the placebo effect :)