Wolf tones/buzz

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Sundance, Feb 13, 2005.

  1. Sundance


    Jul 24, 2004
    I play a Peavey Cirrus 5 string fretless with the fret markers, owned it for about 2 years I think, bought it used but in really new condition. Lately, I've been getting lots of dead tones isolated to the upper part of my bass, around the 15th fret, but present in a lot more places further up, especially on the D and A strings, where problems occur all the way up to the end of the neck in at least 3 other locations higher than the 15th fret. There isn't much trouble on the outside B and G strings, but more on the middle three, with the most trouble, like I said, on the D and A. The room where I keep the bass in has very low (below 30%, my stat doesn't go read lower than that and it's winter here in Maryland) humidity; I think the problem started getting noticable a few weeks ago, which was coincidentally when I moved the bass from a more humid environment.

    Anyway, I asked a few reputable people where I could go to get the problem diagnosed, but most of the people I know sadly didn't know many places besides the bigger music stores in the area (not just Guitar Center, but nothing I didn't know about before). The exception to this was a college jazz guitar teacher who had been in the area for five years and heavily recommended a guy who was a short distance away. So I called the guy after calling the music stores and having them tell me they would take a few days on fixing the problem even if it was a little problem, and he said he would look at the bass and be able to fix it in a day if it wasn't too challenging a problem. I took the bass to him, he looked at it, seemed pretty knowledgeable about the setup and wood used to build it, could identify the fretboard wood by smell etc, said he'd built some fretless basses before. He diagnosed the problem as the wood at the end of the neck having risen a few thousandths of an inch for some reason, as well as the fret markers sticking out a little. He sanded the marker problem off with a nail file, since they're just plastic, and said that he'd need a day to sand it with a heavy sander more since the fretboard is hard rosewood. The nail file sanding did seem to help the buzzes.

    I took the bass home with me that day because I had a jam session that night that I needed it for a jam session and told the guy I'd bring it back to him the next day, but the next day he called and said that he couldn't get around to it after all and I should bring it in next week (which is now this week). On hearing this, I decided to check my other options, so I called the better music retail repair shop in the area (which isn't a light reputation, given the area I'm in is Baltimore, but of course that means it is a fairly commercial shop as well). The repair guy over the phone said that it would take him a few days to set the bass up otherwise, and when I told him about the other guy's diagnosis, the repair guy said that sanding the bass was a horrible idea and that he could fix the problem, whatever it was, or no one could at all. This was still over the phone, btw. However, my car decided that that day was a good day have a coolant leaking problem and now I can't easily get to anyone who can fix the bass, and haven't had the retail repair shop take a look at it yet. I'm pretty much out of options, I used up all of the sources that I trust for getting information, so those two repairer people I mentioned are about all I'm left with. So what are you peoples' opinions? Like I said, I live near Baltimore (Towson to be precise) and wouldn't mind driving to southern Pennsylvania or Washington, DC at the farthest to get the bass fixed if anyone knows any good technicians in that area. Time is an issue here too, mostly because I hate to be away from my bass for even more than a few hours, but it doesn't look like I have a whole lot of choice there. Thanks


    PS I haven't tried fiddling with the truss rod yet, but everyone I've asked said that that isn't the problem.

    (I posted this in the Misc thread too, mostly because I didn't know at first glance if this was a setup or repairman-bull****ting problem.)
  2. Sundance


    Jul 24, 2004
    Nothing wrong with the general setup; the truss rod verily doesn't need adjustment; I even gave it a little turn just to be sure, and it didn't seem to have any effect on the problem. It may be the action if anything, though the nature and placement of the problem, the "spots" on the neck that affect the inner strings at very similar intervals, suggest that height isn't the problem. One of the high, like 19th or so, fret markers is also very loose, so that I can practically remove it from the bass.
  3. Sundance


    Jul 24, 2004
    It's a neck thru. I gave the truss rod about a 1/5 tightening turn last night, and it hasn't had any effect on the problematic areas. The fret markers are placed in, and one of them is coming out. They are very likely stopping notes from ringing as well, because I can feel the markers rising a little above the surface of the neck in the upper region of the fretboard. Nothing has been changed in the last few months, except about two weeks ago (when the problem was just getting unbearable) when I changed the strings from some Blue Steels to thicker GHS boomers (.130 circ on the B string), which did help the buzzing a little bit, but the problem was and still is present, even a little more so now that those new strings are settling in and aren't quite as live.

    I'll check the relief on the neck today. It'll be hard for me to adjust the string height of those strings because I'd need a small metric tool to tighten them, which I don't have currently; I'll look into getting one, though.
  4. Being a great repairman or woman doesn't neccesarily mean anything when your problem is a fretless board. Some guys who work wonders with guitars aren't much use when we walk through the door, because the physics and the magic are different on the different instruments. When the bass is a fretless, it compounds the problem, because most "guitar" repairmen don't get enough exposure to learn how to do it right.

    For me, the fretless neck needs to be at or near perfectly straight, depending on the individual player. Since the rosewood neck is going to wear unevenly and faster than a fretted neck, it usually needs a touch up more often. Depending on your string choice and left hand technique, every year or so is not out of the question, although a light left hand touch and half rounds can extend that a lot. The material used for the lines (and this is especially true of synthetics) often swells/shrinks differently from the board itself (usually due to changes in humidity), and needs to be leveled once in a while.

    Some repairmen know this, but most treat the fretless bass like a guitar, which usually requires .008" to .015" of relief to play great. Those fellows may be able to do the job while you wait, but they are not the solution to your problem. A gentle dressing, which evens the board out without disturbing the radius, might be all you need. This is easily done (usually with a radiused sanding block) by someone who is familiar with the proper repair technique FOR A FRETLESS! Guitar repairmen tend to want to "install" a gentle bow (relief) in your neck, removing way too much wood in the middle and robbing tons of mwah!

    I would offer these suggestions when shopping for a repairman:

    1. Ask them if they are experienced with fretless basses, then try to figure out if they answered truthfully.

    2. Consider the violin shop. Cellos, doublebasses, and the violin family are a lot more similiar to your instrument than Strats and Les Pauls. A guy who works on these instruments can usually do a much better job with a fretted bass board than a guitar repairman. This is not a slam on guitar repair people. It's just that most of them assume that the fretless electric is pretty much the same as a Kramer with a locking trem.

    3. Don't worry too much about how long the job is going to take. Getting your instrument repaired is not someplace you want to save money or get it done fast. Borrow something to use in the meantime and do it right!
  5. Sundance


    Jul 24, 2004
    Thanks for all the feedback. Yes, I'm sure it's metric, none of my tiny American tools fit the holes on the bridge.

    Oops, I did turn the truss rod the wrong way. I got the wrong impression from that Gary Willis site. It's not enough to make much difference though apparantly.

    And like I said, the guy I took it to first said he had built fretlesses before, though didn't seem as proud of his work on them as on the guitars he mentioned building. He wasn't talking about sanding out most of the neck either to give it a full bow; just the problematic areas at the end of the fretboard. So about now, I'm leaning towards the first guy who offered to sand it, or trying to find some general luthiers in the area, which would be much easier to find given my contacts.

    I also realise now that it is relevant to mention that I've used rounds with my fretless the entire time I've possessed it. Just bought a set of half wounds to try on it though, so maybe I'll put them on after this problem is fixed. Are they really a lot tighter and similar to flats though, or more similar in looseness to rounds, or in between? Even though this isn't the right forum for that question.
  6. In my opinion, half-rounds or ground rounds are a lot closer to round wound strings than flats in tone and feel. I've settled on the D'Addario Half-Rounds because they sound good to me and they are easily available. They don't have the same top end response as round wounds, but for tone, tension, and sustain, they are acceptably close. They cut fingerboard wear down a lot! A pretty happy compromise.