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What Is a Witness Point and How Do I "Set" It?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by selowitch, Aug 12, 2012.


  1. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    I gather that "witness points" are bends in the string at the tuning post, nut, and saddle, but as far as I have even known, they occur whenever you add new strings without doing anything special. Seems to me the witness points establish themselves in the course of stringing up your instrument, is that right? Or do you have to consciously bend/stretch the strings at those points?

    Personally, I've never heard of a witness point except here on these forums, and I've been playing for almost 30 years. That doesn't mean, of course, that they don't exist; it probably means there's a gap in my knowledge.
     
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  2. GK Growl

    GK Growl Banned

    Dec 31, 2011
    You are correct in your descriptions of witness points. Setting them involves pushing the strings down in front of them (in the speaking length of the string) to stress relieve the string. This helps greatly with establishing more accurate intonation and in my experience with roundwound strings, it helps vibration and brightness.
     
  3. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    Okay, so I know I'm on the right track. What's the procedure, step-by-step? Is it somewhere in these forums, perhaps?
     
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  4. GK Growl

    GK Growl Banned

    Dec 31, 2011
    Witness point number 1: The nut.

    Take your thumb and press the string down on the 1st fret side of the nut. Do not press so hard that the string contacts the fingerboard but hard enough to stress relieve the string. Repeat with all strings.

    Witness point number 2: The bridge.

    Take your thumb and press the string down on the pickup side of the bridge. This is the more important witness point IMO and you should actually see that the string bends smoothly over the witness point now instead of in an arc. Repeat with all strings.

    When doing this, the strings will all go slightly flat so be sure to re tune.

    Take your thumb
     
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  5. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    ..and then what?
     
  6. GK Growl

    GK Growl Banned

    Dec 31, 2011
    And then your witness points are set!! I normally do mine with every string change. Like I said earlier, I get more accurate intonation and better brightness (especially on lower strings) when I do this. I got this info from luthier Rick Turner in an old bass player mag from years ago.
     
  7. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    So you do it just at the nut and at the bridge, not at the tuning peg?
     
  8. GK Growl

    GK Growl Banned

    Dec 31, 2011
    There is no need for that. Anything outside of the speaking length of the string (between the nut and bridge) have no effect.
     
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  9. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    Great! Thank you!
     
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  10. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    alpha-music.com
    nuh-uh!

    any place the string is curved instead of dead-straight needs to be corrected!

    straightening the string at all contact points (nut, saddle, string tree, tuners) will make for more stable tuning; 90% of string "stretching" is just getting rid of the stored slack potential in these curved sections.

    (it's true that for action and intonation, all that matters is losing the curves at the actual vibration witness points, the nut and saddle.)
     
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  11. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    So, walterw, what are your how-to steps to accomplish this?
     
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  12. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    alpha-music.com
    there's nothing to it;

    push on the string right on either side of each point of contact, enough to eliminate the curve, creating a definite angle and leaving the string going dead-straight.

    it's really obvious on the fatter strings, but do it to all of them. (i do it to guitar strings, too.)
     
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  13. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    Minnesota
    what walter said ... I press on both sides of the nut and saddle to help create a nice crease ... if I only press on one side of the saddle/nut, I cannot get as clean of a bend ... JMHO

    .. I will install strings, tune to pitch and play a bit ... then slightly lift strings as to stretch them some, then retune ... maybe play a bit to make sure there are no twists, etc with the strings, then with two fingers (one to each side) press at nut and saddle with objective to create a 'sharp angle' instead of a 'round hump' at each point ... retune, and then stay off the classifieds at TalkBass long enough to enjoy what you are playing before gas pains set in again for something new ...
     
  14. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    This is all good advice, but it you'd like to be covered against any intonation disasters at gigs, I strongly recommend you invest in a Witness Point Protection Program. Of course in order for it to work properly you'll have to change your headstock decal.

    :D
     
  15. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Guitarists change strings, bassists install them.

    In addition to setting the witness points at the nut and bridge, I'll use my index finger to promote the bend at the tuning post while tuning to pitch (new strings) as this is one more spot where a "lazy loop" is likely to form.

    This has been addressed in several threads: never allow the outer wrap of any string to reach the tuning post. It becomes particularly troublesome when the B or E tuner sits < 1.5" away from the nut. Doesn't leave much room for error...or string choices!

    Riis
     
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  16. Pablo770

    Pablo770

    Aug 22, 2011
    Poland
    But when should we set the intonation on the bridge saddles? Before setting the witness points or after? Moving the saddle back or forward changes the contact point, so I assume that first we should set the intonation of the string, and then set the witness point. It would be strange to set the intonation after we made the string bend over the bridge saddle - then we could risk having a bend on the vibrating part of the string... On the other hand - doesn't setting the witness point change the intonation of the string?

    And one more thing - is setting the witness point acceptable on the round core strings?
     
  17. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    Don't you mean that while's it's okay for the colored, thread-wrapped portion of the string to go around the post, we should avoid wrapping the thicker, colored portion of the string the diameter of which is the same as the body of the string?
     
  18. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    On the larger strings, yes.

    mech
     
  19. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    I guess some folks cut the big strings too short!
     
  20. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    This is the question I've just been asking myself. If setting the witness point affects intonation, then that would involve adjusting the saddle, which then changes where the witness point should be.

    It's all a bit circular and is making my brain ache. Any enlightenment available?
     

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