Why don't B strings sound as good as Es

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Javy, Oct 12, 2001.

  1. Javy


    Sep 15, 2000
    Whenever I have the choice of playing an open E or the same note played at the fifth fret of the B string, I almost always play the open E, because it sounds cleaner and tighter---it's got that tonal quality kind of like the low notes on a concert grand piano. I don't know if it's just my Yamaha BBN5 or all 5-strings, but I noticed that any note on the B string above the second or third fret doesn't have a nice clean, tight sound. It's sort of flabby.

    At first I thought maybe it was because I have a bass with 34" scale length, and maybe a 35" bass would have a better sounding B string (I'm sure it would since the the strings are under more tension). But then I realized that I've heard 34" Sting Ray 5's that had tight, fat sounding Bs. I've also noticed that the strings I use don't make a difference.

    So here's my question: Why does my B string sound that way? Is this where the less obvious things start to make a big difference? Things like high grade woods, better bridges, maybe graphite reinforced necks---the kind of things that get more attention in high-end basses?
  2. my stingray 5's B is taut and punchy.. i can even slap it.
  3. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    you may have a dead spot.... maybe its time for a neck adjustment or somethin... or it could be your b string is a bit floppy and loose... in that case.. go grab yourself a stingray 5 :). i love mine :) :)
  4. chipmolter

    chipmolter Guest

    Aug 27, 2001
    Baltimore, MD
    Length of the neck can have something to do with it, but it doesn't count for everything. More likely, IMHO, what you're noticing is the difference in tone caused by the string gauges. Play an open G. Now play G on the 15th fret of your E string. You should hear a substantial difference. The E string will have a deeper tone, perhaps even muddy. Play the B string at the 20th fret and you'll notice it more.

    Check this out before you go chucking your bass! Good luck.:)
  5. eric atkinson

    eric atkinson "Is our children learning "Is our teachers teachin

    Feb 4, 2001
    :p Never had the problem with my spector american made or my warwick! But i did with my old fender a few years back. It was a cheapy model and i repalced the bridge to a badass model and it fixed most problems! You might try that!
  6. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    It all depends on the bass and how it's set up. With my basses, properly set up, playing an E on the B string sounds almost exactly as like the open E.

    They will never sound EXACTLY alike, just because the B string is thicker, and thus vibrates differently. Thinner strings sound a bit clearer, IME.
  7. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    "I don't know if it's just my Yamaha BBN5 or all 5-strings,"

    I don't know dude, those BBN5's have a pretty good rep for being tight ass hell down low...

    "I've also noticed that the strings I use don't make a difference"

    It's been my experience that strings make a huge difference down low. If you're not hearing it, mabey the rig can't reproduce it?

    It take a certain amount of horse power to keep it clean down low.

    An open string will always sound a little different than the equivalent 5th fret note due to string length and the fact that one is stopped by the nut and the other is stopped by a fret and they're different materials. (one reason for a zero fret)

    In any case it shouldn't be problematic. IMHO.
  8. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Another factor that is very VERY important is neck stiffness. A strong, stiff 34" neck will give a better B than a weak, wimpy 35" every day. Best of all worlds is a strong, stiff 35" neck, say a Zon Sonus Studio, or a Peavey G-V.

    Personally I've got 3 basses with B strings, all 3 are 34" scale basses, and they all have nice tight, thunderous sounding B's (Zon Sonus Special 5 Fretless, Guitar Factory Custom Fretted & Fretless 6's). I'd say it's because of good construction, not scale length. I also owned a MIM Fender J 5 Deluxe that had a neck like a noodle and a B to match :p.

    Of course the BEST B in my collection belongs to my NS Design CR5M, but that's a massive 3 piece neck-thru body constructon bass with a 41.375" scale length ;).
  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Guess what, although you only get 5 more notes on a 5 string, EVERYTHING from the strings you choose to the amp you plug into makes a much bigger difference.

    I shopped for a 5 string bass for many years and I still believe it's tough to get a GOOD sounding 5 under a grand new. I have yet to try the new MTD basses but I tried all the usual suspects in medium-priced basses and they all sounded lousy on the B string.

    If you can't use the B string, why have it? The ability to play in higher positions than you can on a 4 is the main reason to use a 5. I use the D and Eb notes once in a while but I actually NEVER use the last three notes.

    I ended up with a Reverend Rumblefish 5L and a G&L L-2500 which both sound good. I owned a Fender US Deluxe Jazz and dumped it, it just didn't work at all for me.

    When I hear about people buying $200 5 strings and playing them through 10 watt amps with 8" speakers, I just shake my head.

    Anyway, i would look into trying different strings first as that seems to have the biggest impact on improving the tone of a 5 with a weak B. I've heard 5s where just changing the B string to another brand was like night and day.
  10. Ibanez BTB.. tight G, tight D, tight A, tight E and.. guess what ? tight B !! :D
  11. Player


    Dec 27, 1999
    USA Cincinnati, OH
    Another consideration is the guage of the B string. A .120 will take less tension than a .135 to bring up to pitch. It could just be that you need a heavier B. If it's too light it will be floppy and sound muddy.
  12. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    What Gard is saying about scale is the same thing I've found. A 34" with high bridge density, high string-down force at the saddles, a rock solid neck, the right neck and body woods, and a tiltback headstock deisgn for better vibration transfer, can make some 35"s play the fool.

    brianrost's suggestion about strings is the most economical/realistic approach to improve that B. You might try a tapered B if you haven't already.

    Personally, I prefer conventional design but I haven't played a Yammer. They may perform better with tapers. Which design originally came on the bass? While some manufacturers don't use the best strings, they string their instruments with whichever design brings out the best in their basses, IME.
  13. jcadmus


    Apr 2, 2000
    Nothing for me to add here -- Rick-o and Gard covered everything I would have said.

    Oh...you might try a different strap...

    Nah, that wouldn't help...

  14. I have a Yamaha BB5NII, and love the sound of this bass to death. The B string is good, but, not the best as far as clarity, however I think its slight lack of focus adds to the distinctive sound of this bass. I've had 3 sets of strings on mine so far, and different brands/guages DO make a big difference all other things being equal. Right now I'm using Dean Markley Blue Steels with a 125 low B. I had D'Addarios on it with a 130 and High beams with a 120, but, to me the 125 sounds best. BTW, I noticed what you're talking about with the open E vs E on the B; I just use B, C, C# and D on mine. I can live with it.

    Mike J.
  15. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    The difference in the E note tone would be partly to do with the string gauge (B strings are heavier by it's nature) and to scale length (playing E on B at the 5th fret equals shorter scale length).

    Try a fanned fret Dingwall 5 - the B string has a 37 scale length and has been said to be the tightest B around.
  16. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    On inexpensive basses, with cheap electronics and rubbery necks, the B string does not sound as good as the E.

    On well constructed basses with stiff necks and high quality electronics, the B can sound just as good as the E.

    I have a Pedulla 5, a Zon 5, a Cirrus 6 and an Ibanez 6.

    The Pedulla and Zon have very good B's, the Cirrus has an awesome B, and the Ibanez has a so-so B.