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Velvet tailpiece cord

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by rablack, Apr 10, 2002.

  1. rablack


    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    I reviewed the threads from last year about the apparently groundbreaking, "best thing that every happened to my bass," tailpiece cord made by Velvet strings. In the photo I've seen it looks like a simple woven shoestring-like cord.

    I've been meaning to replace my hard wire "tailgut" for a while now. I was leaning towards a <$4 trip to Home Depot for aircraft cable and a fastener. I'm reluctant to shell out $27 for a piece of string unless there's a really big difference. "Honest dear, this is special string... it must be, it cost me $27"

    Does anyone have any updated information or opinion on this thing?
  2. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Lots of bassists have made beautiful music before Velvet went into business. IMHO there is a fine line between hoo-doo and hooey.
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Cable is better than wire though, isn't it, Jeff?
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I just replaced the factory hardwire on my Engelhardt with 1/8" cable from the Home depot.

    It changed the string/bridge angles a little bit, but I don't think it made much difference in feel as far as tension.

    The only real change I can see is it made the bass a little louder.

    I also think it looks better.

    I wouldn't spend $27 for a tailgut unless I had a REALLY nice bass. I changed mine mainly as a excuse to tinker and grow closer to my new friend.

  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    The tailpiece wire is somewhat important to the sound and feel. Think of the tailpiece like the spring reverb unit in an old tube amp. It needs to be free to vibrate. Whack the tailpiece on a bass with a flexible wire, then on one with a solid wire. You'll probably hear a difference. That said, there are some (usually low end) basses that sound cleaner with a solid wire. I doubt that what you string the tailpiece on with makes much difference as long as it holds solid and lets the tailpiece vibrate. Of course, the tuning of the afterlength (between bridge and tailpiece) can make a difference, too, but that's a whole different subject...

  6. Enlighten us, master.
    timobee4 likes this.
  7. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    In general, my son, the closer to the saddle the tailpiece is located, the deeper the sound, and the looser the feel. But this also can aggravate wolf tones and dirty up the sound. It's very subtle. Also, there is a relationship between pitches in the afterlength and wolf tones. I think the formula died with Pythagoras, though...I personally prefer to tune the afterlength to a perfect fourth or major third. Jeff Bollbach has some really interesting thoughts on this matter, too. Jeff...
  8. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Yeah-my thoughts are why are you hornin' in on my territory here Schnitzer?? I had it nice here and now you're trampin around bein' "Master" an all that! It's not enuf you got all the good NY players and some guy named Higdon-now you gotta take over TB too! lol-----[Arnold, I know you are relatively new to conversing on the net-lol means laugh out loud]
    My theory in this regard is probably bubbameiser to some extent but it does seem that mucking about with the tailpiece equation can sometimes have a worthwhile result. I doubt much about this subject can be proved scientifically. Sometimes you just gotta go with your theory in a faith kinda way.
    My Theory-
    Ya know how when you are tuning two strings together and its just starting to get close from far away-you hear that woo woo sound of the waves clashing-not yet in sync. Any strong relationship-unison, octave, fourths, fifths, if they are just slightly off-you're gonna get that woo woo thing big time. Now if you have an above the bridge note in strong relationship with a below the bridge note the same thing can happen. The question I have is can you really tune them efficiently? If you have an adjustable tailpiece I guess it's possible but I think it has to be really dead on and I think that's kinda tough. I think it is more efficient and easier to drive the notes far apart so that they don't relate strong anymore. This seems to be what's happening with traditional wolf tone eliminators-what might have been a third or fourth is now something only dogs can hear easily. I dunno- it seems to work well during leap years.
  9. rablack


    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    Since I'm swapping out my tailpiece wire for a cord soon I have the opportunity to experiment with placement so I'm interesting in collecting all the theories. I've seen the threads on setting the "afterlength" to a 4th or a 5th. Master Schnitzer adds the major 3rd.

    So Lex Luthier, I follow you on the "woo-woo" theory (I've always heard that phenomenon referred to as "beats"). But, if you don't aim for a strong interval, how do you set the relationship to "drive the notes far apart?" In other words where do you actually set the afterlength (according to the tenets of your faith :) )?
  10. For a 41 1/2" mensure bass, a perfect 4th dead length would be 10 3/8". I doubt many basses have enough room for that. The type of wrap that most strings have at the end would probable throw off any formula - the Velvet garbos I just put on a bass have a thin plastic cord leader that differ considerably in mass from the mensure.
    FWIW, I looked at the Velvet tailpiece cords when I restrung a couple basses and researched high strength polymer cord. I'd previously used 7x19 stainless aircraft cable, but decided to use some polymer cord. Amazingly, this stuff is as strong as steel cable!
    Specifically I used 7/64 dia. Samson (trade name) cord. It is a blend of UHMPE and LCP fiber that has a tensile strength of 1,400 lbs.
    On a Kay bass with a coat hanger wire tailgut, strung with Spirocore orchestrals, the difference in volume was appreciable. The other bass, a Kay was restrung with Velvet garbos and the Samson tailgut added. These strings are quite different in character than what was on the bass, so the comparison is difficult.
    If anyone is interested, I can send them a 30" length of this cord for the cost of shipping. I bought 30' of it.
  11. Hortense&bow


    Apr 15, 2002
    Just checked the pitch of the afterlengths of the strings on my bass. It sounds like an augmented fifth. Weird eh? Could it be it was meant as a fifth and then chenged a bit to eliminate wolf tones? Or
    does my bass seriously needs a trip to the Luthier?

    I also did some measurements: the "playable" length of the string is 42"; the distance bridge-saddle taken along the strings and tailpiece is 21".
    Is it a rule to have this 1/2 ratio?

  12. rablack


    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    First of all a big thank you to Monte. After I started this thread he sent me (at no charge!) a Mike Pecanic tailpiece cord which he had gotten as a free sample. You're a real standup guy Monte - thanks.

    I finally had a spare moment to make the swap. My day-glo orange Strunal hybrid had a wire tailpiece and was it ever rigid. After wrestling the thing out of the tailpiece with pliers I dug back into the dim recesses of my mind for my old Boy Scout knot training and tied everything back together with the new cord. I was shooting for a 4th which is what the bass had pre-switch. Soon I was more concerned with just trying to keep the bridge lined up as I brought the strings up to tension. I've never had all the strings off at the same time - what a pain. I didn't measure the exact interval after everything stretched out (it was way too late last night) but it's somewhere between a 3rd and a 4th. I'll experiment with intervals some other time.

    How does it sound? I immediately noticed more volume. It breathes a bit better and the tension seems lower. I'm doing a short gig Monday so I'll be able to road test the new setup. All in all a highly recommended modification.

    Thanks again to Monte and to all of you for your ideas.
  13. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    rabble act:
    Now that the horse is out of the barn, may I recommend BEFORE removing strings:
    1. Measure distance from nut to bridge and write it down, because you'll forget.
    2. With a straight edge and very soft lead pencil, being careful not to crack the varnish, draw the corners of the bridge feet on the bass top.
    3. Put the bass on its back and gently place weight on the top to keep the sound post from falling. Arnold Schnitzer uses cloth bags filled with buckshot, which I imagine you Texas guys always have handy.
  14. rablack


    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    Thanks Don

    Based on prior info I picked up at this wonderful site I did all of the above. (Well I didn't use buckshot - I'm a 5th generation Texas who doesn't own a gun :eek: )

    My issue with the interval was that as the tension came up, my knots tightened up and stretched out a bit.
  15. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
  16. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    "If anyone is interested, I can send them a 30" length of this cord for the cost of shipping. I bought 30' of it." [Peter O'leary]

    I took advantage of Petes generous offer and replaced the wire on my Englehardt with the tailpeice cord.

    The first thing I noticed was an "opening up" of the sound and a slight increase in volume. Not earth shaking but definitely noticeable.

    A side benefit was an improvement in the tailpeice alignment. The wire became bent some time ago and I never could get the thing straightened out to my satisfaction.

    Due to the low quality of the bass, I doubt that I'll do any experimenting with the tailpeice length. I just maintained the original length.

    A significant improvement for the effort and price.

    I would like to thank Pete for his generosity. He is definitely an asset to the forum.

  17. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I've been reading all of this with great interest, as I love to tinker with my basses. I have an old Kay with hard wire at the tailpiece. Is there a decent set of instructions somewhere for replacing this with cable or cord?

    Jim Dombrowski
  18. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Jim, the procedure is so simple that a set of instructions really aren't needed.

    Just replace the existing wire with the cord.

    The only thing that's the least bit off the wall is the knot that Samson recommends. They call for a "carrick bend" knot. It's a common knot among boaters and fishermen. A quick search should yield tying instructions.

    The cord is extremely flexible so I'm pretty sure that most knots would hold OK. I didn't use the recommended knot. I just used an overhand knot on each end of the cord that snubs down against the top side of the tailpeice. Seems to work just fine but would be harder to untie for tailpeice tuning.

    As has been mentioned in an earlier post, a weight of some sort on the top to keep the sound post from falling over is a good idea.

    I didn't have a sack of lead shot for the weight but a cast iron frying pan full of potatoes, padded with a towel worked just fine. :)

  19. I have two adjustable tailpieces, one on one bass and one waiting for inspiration and a free weekend to put on another. But as a way to improve the overall tone of the instrument, frankly, I'm skeptical. Never done any A-B testing on my basses.

    Wonder what Jeff Bollbach and other advocates might say about the following.

    Seems to me that tuning the afterlength to some primary interval relative to the mensur would only make a meaningful impact on open strings or pitches closely related to it. (so it might help with wolves that come out aound the A first octave). Hard for me to see how such careful tuning could impact the sound at pitches less closely related to the four afterlength pitches, or, in general, across most of the range.

    On the other hand, the idea of the entire weight of the tailpiece being allowed to vibrate more or less freely, by having it suspended further from or closer to the saddle, or by connecting it at the end with something less stiff, seems to ring more true with me.

    BTW, to the bloke with the skillet full of potatoes on his bass, well, if you got a bit hungry, you could just put a bit of kindling wood through the f-hole, and then . . , no, better cancel that idea. :(
  20. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    This past Saturday I replaced the wire (ridiged) tail gut with a flexable steel cable. Huge diffrece the bass is louder and has a darker tone. The Bass seams to have opened up.

    The particlars 1/8 inch stainless steel cable 1/8 inch al. crimp. Time about 30 mins. Difficulty rating easy.

    The cost was $2.00 - exclusing the crimp tool I purchased. Vice Grips could have done the crip job just fine I think,

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