Wolf tone (ringing string) on an electric bass?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by RBrownBass, Dec 18, 2004.

  1. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    I'm getting a LOUD sympathetic ringing of the A string when I play an E on the G string 9th fret. The ringing is an E as well. There's a small amount of ringing when I make the same note on the D string 14th fret, but not nearly as much. This was not happening before I disassembled the bass, but I haven't changed out any of the components yet. Same strings, bridge, tuners, retainer, pups, pots- everything. I've pointed the amp in different directions, tried with the tone knob wide open, fully closed, half volume, full volume. The pup is a reasonable distance from the strings, so I don't think that's the problem. What is going on here? I've never had this kind of problem with any of my basses before, electric, acoustic, or upright. I hope someone here can help.
  2. Hmmm.

    Did you re-intonate the bass after you assembled it?
  3. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    No, I'd just put it back together and was about to when I discovered the ringing. Because of this problem, I still haven't done it yet. I'm really concerned. I've never had anything like this happen before. I mean, the note rings pretty loudly, almost as if I'd plucked it (about half the volume of the played Gstring E that causes it). I thought about microphonic pups for a minute, but it ain't feedback- it only really happens when I play that one note in that one place on the fingerboard. I mean, I've gotten sympathetic ringing with acoustic instruments before, but never with a P-bass.
  4. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    Why did you disassemble the bass and what was done to it - refinish, whatever?
  5. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    I bought it to be part of a dual P project- I really planned on using only the body, pickguard and hardware. My plan is/was to replace the P neck with a Jazz neck, have a rout done for a bridge P pup. The Mighty Mite J-neck arrived Wednesday, and I disassembled the bass to attach it. The idea was that I'd drill the holes myself, attach the neck and play the bass like that while I decided on better pups. Once I decided on the pups, I'd buy them, along with better pots (probably concentric knob) and let a professional do the routing for the bridge pup. Well, the neck doesn't drop in like it should- the pocket needs to be routed about 2 mm on either side (see my rant in my "P + P" thread in this same forum). So I reassembled the bass again so I could play.

    Almost forgot. Once the new neck didn't fit, I knew I'd be using the stock neck until I could part with the bass long enough to have the new neck installed. So while I had the neck off, I reshaped the headstock a bit so it wouldn't look so cheap and refinished it with clear gloss. I can't imagine that would make any difference, tho.

    If I knew the new neck would solve the problem, I'd have no problem, but if it doesn't, I'll be out the cost of the bass, the neck, and the luthier's labor fee for a project I'm not happy with. What do you suggest?

    BTW, the bass is an "Austin", so I figured the stock neck wasn't worth keeping. I had no plans to use anything but the parts I mentioned above. Besides, it has a P-neck, and I want this project to have a J-neck. But the body's great- a nice transparent dark blue and well-made. The bass (used, like new) was less than an Essex, and in the color I wanted. That's why I bought it.
  6. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    LOL. Sounds like the typical progress incountered in a project.

    Off the cuff, I'd look into 3 things: I'd PM or email Hambone for feedback; probably give a real hard look at the setup on it and try the intonation suggested for kicks and grins cause harmonics do wierd things sometimes and it's cheap and quick; then post in the lutheirs forum (if Hambone doesn't have a fix) cuase this thread is more likely to get a constructive response there and really fits it better. If you email Hambone and get no fix you might also see if he'll just shift this thread to the luthier forum for you cause it's a no no to double post.

    This is not something I jack with except as required so not much experience and really just read the thread to see what the answer was. I've read post about strings with dings or nuts choking strings doing wierd things but this doesn't ring a bell. I swapped necks out on a couple of like basses and I can't think of anything that would have resulted in somethng like this from what was done. If Hambone doesn't have a clue, may be a problem.

    One thing I will mention is that I'm of the opinion that pratically all of the acoustic tone of a bass is in the neck. So the tone of your bass may change drastically with the neck swap or you may not even be able to tell the difference. You won't know till you do it. I posted a thread to this effect in the luthiers forum and got concensus - though in varying degress.
  7. Hmmm.

    Frankly I think it's an intonation problem because you get this when you fret. The only question I'd have now is if you get the same ringing problem with the bass unplugged. If you do then it's definitely an intonation problem. If you don't then it might be a combination of pup height and/or intonation.

    But I think it's just intonation. I'd suggest intonating the bass and then checking the entire neck, and all the strings, for any problems in ringing.
  8. HMZ

    HMZ Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2003
    Wolf tones can be created when the pickups are too close to the string. The magnetic pull on the string actually pulls the sting closer to the pickup and it will vibrate and make the wolf tones or like an echo of the note played.
  9. This is kind of a tough nut to crack. Intonation could be the problem but when you said that you altered the headstock, a big red flag popped up. Headstock mass is a big deal. That's why Fender thickened their headstocks in 1996 and that's why people buy "Fatheads", to increase the headstock mass. I'd try the intonation and see if that helps. It is kind of a moot point given that you're planning to replace that neck anyway.

    As far as the replacement Mighty Mite Jazz neck is concerned, that shouldn't be a problem IF the luthier knows what he's doing (given that he has to do a little routing and neck pocket shaping). The Jazz neck on a P body is a common mod and Mighty Mite sells tons of replacement necks.