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Tuning afterlength to 6th?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Matthijs, Jul 17, 2017.


  1. Matthijs

    Matthijs

    Jul 3, 2006
    Amsterdam
    The ancient tailpiece wire on my 30's Czech hybrid snapped last week. I replaced it with a multistrand steel wire. That was a great improvement, I think the tailwire has been slipping for some time without me noticing.

    I tuned the afterlength to 5ths, because the length of the tailpiece won't allow for 4ths. The tailpiece almost reaches the saddle. The first try at the correct length for the wire resulted in a near perfect tuning in major 6th. That actually sounded quite good: a very fresh, bright sound. It made me wonder if people sometimes use other tunings because 4th and 5th tuning or no tuning at all. Even though I'm not sure if that sound was caused by the 6th tuning, could it also have been the longer tailwire?
     
  2. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I like 5ths, personally. But, if 6ths sound good on your bass, why not stick with that? There are recommendations about this, but no actual laws:)
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
    RSBBass likes this.
  3. Matthijs

    Matthijs

    Jul 3, 2006
    Amsterdam
    Now that I have it tuned on 5ths, I'm not planning on going back. Certainly without knowledge of possible drawbacks. Who knows, I might not be allowed to play minor scales ever again?
     
  4. Matthijs

    Matthijs

    Jul 3, 2006
    Amsterdam
    I'm confused about how tuning the afterlengths works anyway. I know that it does from experience, but how it is possible this has an effect on the whole tonal range beats me.
     
  5. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    im not sure it does have an equal effect on the whole tonal range, but perhaps by tuning the after length to a known pitch or harmonic thereof, if there's an opportunity for a harmonic to ring in sympathy with a stopped note, it will.

    on the other hand I think if you tune the after length and then proceed to play out of tune, you might hear less of an improvement!
     
  6. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I think you have two effects running concurrently. One is sympathetic support, in which the afterlength tuning will help some pitches and keys, at the expense of others. The second is the mass and proximity of the tailpiece to the bridge. The closer and heavier it is, the more damping, etc.
     
    Matthew Tucker likes this.
  7. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I would agree with this observation. My bass's feel and sound improved after (deliberately) increasing the afterlength length.
    My $0.03.
     
  8. Matthijs

    Matthijs

    Jul 3, 2006
    Amsterdam
    O.k. thanks guys.
     
  9. I have always wondered, because the pitch ratio is only true in relation to the open string pitches. So my gut feeling has always been that the difference in sound has more to do with afterlength, and tail gut length and perhaps relation between the two. Perhaps that is blasphemy.
     
  10. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    There is plenty of mystery surrounding stringed instruments, sound quality, projection, play-in, optimum adjustment, etc. Part of that is because such things are largely subjective. Part of it is simply because there are so many variables and the results of small changes are so difficult to quantify--yet most everyone can hear them.

    One of my teachers told me, "Hey, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!"

    Maybe the mystery is a good thing. There is joy in the wondering.
     
    Povl Carstensen likes this.
  11. In the olden days of thick brass or coat hanger wire there was very definitely too much stiffness.Steel multistrand cable is a great improvement. Because there are so many variables between bass dimensions, string brands and stop lengths and tailpieces (materials, lengths, weights and shapes) I am not sure if there is a formula for setting up the tailwire and tailpiece. A luthier's experience would count here in sorting out what is best. I have always been more concerned that there is sufficient length of wire cable between the saddle and the holes/cut off by the tailpiece for there to be some moderate flexibility of movement (tested by twisting the tailpiece after tensioning the strings). For me this is about 1 - 1 1/2 inches. I have Chuck Traeger's book but haven't had the opportunity to fully test his ideas. I will try them while renovating an old German trade bass circa 1910 soon.
     
  12. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Speaking of the "afterlength" - I am seriously considering twisting my braided (nylon?) tailpiece cord (sold by Velvet), into a single braided strand, in hopes of seeing/hearing if this would allow for the tailpiece and bridge to move more freely. Wouldn't minimizing the torsional stiffness in the bridge/afterlength/tailpiece/tailpiece cord system be a worthwhile experiment?
    Something like this:
    IMG_3350.JPG
     
  13. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    UK
    But the afterlengths have their own harmonic series and can potentially still be driven note you are playing, or its partials. If you go with a typical 2 octave + 5th, when you play B, for example, that will drive the E string afterlength, as will F# because that is a partial of B. Likewise, playing C# could drive the D string afterlength - tuned to A of which C# is a partial. What you don't want is to have them not quite in tune - close enough to vibrate but far enough off to sound bad.
     
  14. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Not sure about this. If you are playing a note in tune, but moving it slightly off pitch can actually increase the resonance, wouldn't that encourage your animal brain to make you play less in tune? OTOH, if you tune the afterlengths perfectly, then your bass might sound really good in D Major, but terrible in Ab Major. Maybe the best thing is to have some kind of lever, where you can change the afterlength from pure fifths for your Dittersdorf, to something completely off pitch for your Hindemith.
     
    RSBBass likes this.
  15. SteveCS

    SteveCS

    Nov 19, 2014
    UK
    No, I'm not sure either, but applying the principle that 'fixing anything that might interfere with the top vibrating in a desirable manner' is a worthy task, I stand by my post. For sure it's a compromise, as is playing with horns and an even-tempered piano...
     
  16. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Get the $12 braided steel wire cable and adjustable ferrule kit from Lemur and try it out in a few different places. While I have my own opinions, when a customer makes a request for something like this, I always do it live with them sitting there. A lot of them have spend countless hours reading up on internet voodoo about the subject. Sometimes they pick the most awful dissonant ear damage things ( to me), but since it is their choice and not mine, they take ownership of it and they get to see and hear the range of possibilities on that particular bass. We usually spend about two hours while the clock is running, similar to a soundpost neurosis session.
     
  17. Matthijs

    Matthijs

    Jul 3, 2006
    Amsterdam
    Soundpost neurosis session :)
     
  18. Matthijs

    Matthijs

    Jul 3, 2006
    Amsterdam
    I made my own adjustable wire with hardwarestore stuff. There's only so much to adjust. 5ths are basically the only viable option. The adjustment is mainly a choice for what strings will not exactly match 5ths.

    This is only a temporary diy situation untill my luthier returns from his holiday. When we're both back I'll book a full setup neurosis session and see if he approves of my tailwire.
     
  19. robobass

    robobass

    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I said fifths before, but now that I think about it I prefer fourths. It's been over 20 years since I bought my two current basses. I messed around with them quite a bit at the time, but since then I just play them, or not...
     
  20. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    not-sure-if-better-or-worse.
     
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