What do you do about dead spots?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by darwin-bass, Jul 16, 2021.

  1. Ignore them

    127 vote(s)
  2. Replace strings

    5 vote(s)
  3. Replace tuners

    1 vote(s)
  4. Replace the bridge

    1 vote(s)
  5. Replace the neck

    3 vote(s)
  6. Move on to a different bass

    37 vote(s)
  7. Other (specify)

    34 vote(s)
  8. All, as needed.

    18 vote(s)
  1. Nope.

    In post 129 I ask for the scientific tests Asdfgh cites (as quoted below), hoping even for a hyperlink to a peer-reviewed scientific journal, such as those the violin maker I refer to in post 128 was involved in for years.

  2. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    There were a number of these tests done in the early part of the millennium, some on violins, and some on EBGs. None came out better than chance statistically. I'm not interested in searching for them at this time, but feel free to have at it yourself.
    I don't put any credence into your anecdote in 128. It could easily be confirmation bias, amongst others, or Clever Hans.
    -Asdfgh- likes this.
  3. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    When people say 'resonant' they tend to mean loud. In a solid-body instrument that's actually indicative of very low resonance and being able to hear the strings. Resonant means either the neck resonates a lot (lots of dead spots) or the body does (very short sustain). It would be true to say the ones that are loud (you can hear the strings due to low resonance) are likely to be the ones that sound good plugged in, but the mechanism is absolutely the opposite of what you imply.

    Essentially, a solid body doesn't tend to produce much sound as it's a relatively thick slab so there are not just flat-plate type modes of vibration but a lot within the body. You get lots of absorption of acoustic energy in the body and so little transmitted out as sound. Acoustic instruments are designed very differently, typically as essentially flat plates with simpler vibration patterns and holes in to allow sound inside the body to be projected in-phase (to some extent) out.

    So given you won't hear anything from the resonating Precision body unless you jam your ear against it, it tending to vibrate (being resonant) is not what you want. Nor the neck. It means dead spots and short sustain.

    In fact, a key illustrator is the double bass which is optimised for producing sound but typically has much shorter sustain than a solid-body instrument. It's basic physics - if it's loud enough to play in a jazz band then as energy is conserved, it's coming out of the strings and stopping them vibrating sooner.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2021
    Swamp_Ronin likes this.
  4. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    I agree, and I have two instruments that support that opinion (one Fender, one Wal). But the resonance could of course be in the neck... maybe one day I'll fabricate a Wal shape body from granite and bolt the neck on to see how it sounds.

    And while I don't want to reopen the usual can of worms, people seem to discount the fact that resonance can result in live spots as well as dead spots (i.e. constructive interference as well as destructive interference, for those of us who have studied acoustics). I'm not going to get into the body resonance does or doesn't contribute, as opinions are clearly polarised on that subject.
    GlennRH and Mili like this.
  5. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    My opinion, body is the dominant aspect in acoustic instrument and the neck and fingerboard is dominant in electric instruments. Well, after the pickups and electronics.
    birminghambass likes this.
  6. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    A whole lotta hoo-ha goin' down in this thread...I like it!

    Got no comment on what's the most important part of the bass, but try playing one without that part and see how far you get :D

    Now dead spots...I don't really think about them. I like it if they're not noticeable, but never had a problem with them even if they are. I always think of the World's Most Famous Dead Note, which is James Jamerson playing and sustaining the C# on the G string in Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On.". Never once thought about it being a dead note till someone pointed it out to me. Doesn't ruin my enjoyment of this great classic, either.
  7. JoshS

    JoshS Supporting Member

    Dec 30, 2018
    A lot of better opinions in here than mine, but I've only noticed on FSOs.
    My MiM Jazz (4 string) has one in the classic Db. Took me months to notice, but as someone else said, you can never "un-notice." I don't play this bass much, but I did tweak set-up, change strings, changed out the bridge for a BAII and even debated a new neck. As someone else said, holding the headstock against something big (wall, desk) helps, just as an experiment. It is only pronounced if you try to really hold that note. For my American Geddy (and Sadowsky), if a dead spot exists, it is beyond subtle and I can't seem to tell and believe me I've tried.

    I cannot find a dead spot on any of the Rics I've owned. YMMV, of course.
    KaraQ likes this.
  8. Life is too short to worry about them. Whilst you may notice a 'dead spot' on your bass, I doubt your audience or bandleader will.
    SLO Surfer and Mark 63 like this.
  9. Paul New

    Paul New Supporting Member

    Jun 1, 2004
    deepest alabama

    Why do people when mentioning the famous luthiers of Cremona only name the Stradivaris? What about Amati? Guarneri? In any case, in blind tests, professional violinists, soloists, can not distinguish between invaluable 300 year old instruments and well-made brand new instruments.

    The conditioning of wood with vibes is simply mumbo jumbo. It's been disproven in actual peer reviewed studies. Google it.
    -Asdfgh- and joelns like this.
  10. KaraQ


    Apr 19, 2020
    Sacramento, CA
    Just as a follow-up....I did check most of my Thunderbirds. The three that are neck-through (one's a 5-string), and two of the three bolt-ons.
    I couldn't find any dead-spots, on any of the strings or at any fret, on any of them.

    Assuming I was checking correctly, of course. :unsure:
    DJ Dru likes this.
  11. Sparuto


    Sep 12, 2018
    South Africa
    I can’t stand dead notes, so I did my own DIY fix that flattened the dead note towards the headstock and ‘off’ of the fretboard.:D
  12. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    ^^ If that's C4, I have have the problem permanently solved in a few moments. You may want to get your dog out of the room though, so we don't create another dead Spot.
    SDC1-ClickClack and KaraQ like this.
  13. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    I tried adding car wheel balancing weights (quite a few) to the back of the headstock and it didn't help. This was after a Fat Finger also failed.
  14. Billyzoom

    Billyzoom Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2011
    Bay Area
    I’ve only had luck with swapping necks, though once I removed the neck, reinstalled it, and it was magically gone.
  15. Play them with power and doom for them to awake from the dead
  16. TJL


    Oct 22, 2013
    Dead spots often are hard to fix due to voids in the fingerboard glueing, variance in the particular piece of wood in the neck, or truss rod issues. If you have exhausted the other possibilities such as a bad string, a high fret, or pickup pole extreme magnetism, then your problem is going to be one of construction or materials. At that point, consider the bass a lemon, and move on.
  17. JackG39


    Nov 12, 2019
    Fat Finger works for me. The dead spot on a Fender are the C note @ the 5th fret on the G string. I don't seem to have the problem on neck thrus.
  18. Bassically Doug

    Bassically Doug

    Jul 4, 2018
    I spoke with my luthier, Keith Roscoe. I have 6 of his basses and they are magnificent. Keith inserts graphite rods on each side of the truss rod to help add sustain. My Mahogany body bass with Hard Rock Maple neck will sustain for days, and the neck is a bolt-on. Keith said that the graphite rods can help offset dead spots as well.

    Dead spots can be caused by hardware issues but dead spots can also be the result of the combination of woods used to make the body and the neck. The more dense woods will tend to have more sustain, especially with a Hard Rock Maple neck, and even more so with the graphite rods on each side of the truss rod.

    Keith says that a slight rotation of the truss rod, tighten or loosen, might help with a dead spot, but it will most likely not completely remedy the problem. The issue of dead spots is usually related to wood choices.

    I wanted my Roscoe Classic 4-string P-bass style bass to be as light weight as reasonably possible. I chose a Swamp Ash body that had very little grain in it. The chunk of wood was so light it almost reminded me of Balsa wood. The neck is Maple and there are two graphite rods. That particular bass, because of the light piece of Swamp Ash that I chose, has two slight dead spots, at frets 15 and 16 of the G string. The graphite rods are a must with a bass this light. I really shouldn’t call these dead spots. The notes at these frets can still last long enough to be a whole note for the music I play. It’s just that the notes at other points on the neck can sustain somewhat longer. I have never played a song and said to myself, I sure wish my high Bb had more sustain. If I’m playing with a pick, mimicking a Carol Kaye style, I like less sustain. I have a piece of foam that I place under the strings, next to the bridge.

    Keith Roscoe says that the wood I chose probably reacts with a sympathetic resonance at the frequencies of the high Bb and B notes I play on the G string of my bass. But the sympathetic resonance can be out of phase enough to cause a slight bit of cancellation, resulting in diminished sustain. This is similar something known as comb filtering, which can happen with a live sound reinforcement system. Phase cancellation results from the sound arriving at your ear sooner from one speaker and milliseconds later from another speaker.

    Keith Roscoe uses a Plek machine to ensure that the necks on his basses are as perfect as can be. He pleks the basses twice. The first Plek is to ensure that the fingerboard is perfectly planed. This can be especially important for a fretless neck. The second Plek is for the frets. Note that Keith will Plek any brand of bass if you send it to him. The price is slightly higher for a non-Roscoe bass.

    Keep on keeping it low,

  19. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Looking for dead spots is the go-to thing when checking out a potential purchase. Best to avoid if possible.
    Fat Fingers do work. Adding to the mass somewhere on the neck is probably the best bang for the buck experiment. No silver bullet here.
    Before you buy, check for dead spots, check for neck dive.
  20. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    If you tap the neck, do you get a B/Bb note? I usually tap the neck, but it's too short to get a tuner to identify it, so I tap and hum the note and then play the note along the G string to find the actual note.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jul 30, 2021

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