"Warbling" E string

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Cristo, Dec 1, 2005.

  1. I tried this in some other forums - then I noticed this one. Since you guys build these things...

    The E string on my jazz bass is a little unstable when I try to tune, even though I have a compressor in front of the tuner.

    If I tune up to E, the next time I strike the string it will be a little sharp. (that's one or two lights on a cheap LED tuner.)

    Sometimes it seems to be a little flat, then jump a little sharp, then back to flat again. So I end up trying to tune so that the "average" point is E, but I'm never really playing E.

    If I tune to E, I'm pretty much always sharp, and if I tune it a little flat, I'm flat when I hit the note before it goes to the right pitch.

    It is hard to describe. Basically, I feel like I can never quite get the E string in tune. It is not a huge difference, and if I had a better tuner I'd say how much, but I'd say it is detectable and slightly noticeable.

    I always tune up to pitch. I've stretched and pulled the string, replaced string, etc. I don't think it is the string.

    What could this be? Badass II bridge, nut, tuners...what else is there?
  2. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    possibly the cheap tuner?

    I've had a couple tuners that were more for guitar and simply did not like to grab hold on an E or B string

    All the best,

  3. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004
    Isn't this actually normal? Like when you hit the string it has to stretch to vibrate, which makes the pitch higher, and the harder you hit, the larger the vibration's amplitude, the more the string stretches, the more it goes sharp, and when you let the note decay, the amplitude of the vibrating string decreases, hence the tension decreases, so the frequency is a bit lower.

    Again, I might be wrong.
  4. Actually I think the stretched string would be longer and thus lower in pitch?

    But along those lines, yes, I imagine this does occur to some degree. In my case it is a more pronounced effect, and it actually occurs over a longer period of time, perhaps close to one second, from pitch to higher pitch then back to lower pitch.
  5. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    Since it's just that one string and you have even replaced it, I'm thinking it might be binding at the nut, or even the bridge. Try rubbing some pencil lead in the nut slot and see if the bridge saddle slot is smooth. I used to use BadAss II's and the saddles can get a burr in them. Is the slot in the nut the right size?

    Also make sure your pickups are not too close to the string.. that can sometimes make a pitch warble.

    It's true that plucking the string stretches it, but that's for a brief second. Pressing the string down to the fretboard also stretches it, and that's one of the reasons we compensate the intonation at the bridge saddle.
  6. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    I've had this happen on a lot of basses I own. It probably is mostly the tuner not being able to reliably measure a frequency as low as the low E. Try tuning the E string by using the 12th fret harmonic instead of the open string, or tune it off of your A string using harmonics. A nice analog tuner will probably have less trouble with it as well. That's all in IME, no scientific backing.

    If the problem is binding at the nut like david pointed out which is also a possibility, it can help to give the string a good stretch by hand each time you adjust the tuning, usually this will pull out any binding you have at the nut giving you more stable tuning.
  7. my cheapo Korg tuner does this all the time on ALL of my basses...you get used to using the strength of the light, harmonics and, most importantly, your ear to get things in tune... there's probably nothing wrong with your bass mate...cheap tuners just do that...they're still usable, just harder to use.
  8. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Some good points though. The harder you hit the string, the higher in pitch it will initially sound, then taper back to normal. A binding nut (mmm, sounds odd) would definitely cause this problem. But, all said and done, do your band mates complain about you being out of tune?
  9. No, no out of tune complaints. It is not an extreme amount. It is just a little annoyance that I have to fiddle with the E string longer, and can't ever seem to get it where it locks on E in a stable fashion.

    The thing is, this occurs with an analog needle tuner as well. And it is *slightly* audible if you listen closely. It is just a few cents, so it is sort of like a momentary chorus being applied. So that leads me to believe it is really happening, not just an artifact of the cheap tuner.

    Here's the situation:

    1. Strike string , needle moves up to pitch for a little while.
    2. Needle then jumps a few cents higher and stays there for a moment.
    3. Then needle returns to original position and stays.

    It always moves the same amount sharp, and otherwise it is solidly locked on both the first and second pitches. It does not waver around. Just Pitch 1> pitch 2> pitch 1.

    So, if I tune so that pitch 1 is E, then I get a little burst of sharp E.

    If I tune so that pitch 2 is E, then I get mostly flat E.

    I realize the tuner could be better, as well as the tuning machines on the bass, but I don't think it's the tuner itself - rather "something" on the bass.
  10. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    I have a Peterson Virtual Strobe Tuner VS-II and my EA iAmp 800 has a built in Sabine. With the VS-II I can check and recheck the tuning on a string and it reads out the same consistently. On the other hand with the Sabine, when I check and recheck the tuning on a string first it's right on then the next time it will show flat, on and on, etc. The tuner is certainly not the only variable but it could explain a lot.