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Wolftone on the A.. What are my options?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by hunta, May 6, 2005.

  1. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    I have a pretty nasty wolftone on my Shen SB150 hybrid, on the A! This seems like one of the worst places to have one, because when I'm tuning the note is just dead sounding and the harmonics are pretty tough to hear sometimes, even the D string A cross harmonic. I am kind of a noob but when I got this bass (had to swap my other Shen, which are both rentals, because the fingerboard decided it wanted to warp) I immediately started having difficulty tuning fast enough in orchestra and I had no idea why. I was starting to feel like I was going deaf or something because it took me so long to tune my A string lol..

    I have heard of the wolftone eliminators but it seems like people have mixed opinions on those. I'd rather not kill the resonance of my whole bass if I don't have to, but there must be something I can do? Maybe a soundpost adjustment or something? I saw someone say that maybe adjusting the tailpiece tension can help? The eliminators are only like $15 (which actually does seem like a lot for a little metal ring) so I may just order one and give it a try, but if anyone can tell me a better way to take care of this it would be appreciated :)
  2. Soundpost correction might work, but you have to be carfull not to kill the sound of the entire bass, you could also try other strings.

    Good luck eliminating the wolf tone.. ! :)
  3. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    There's more than one way to kill a wolf but unfortunately sometimes they are invincible. The eliminators don't necessarily rob your ax of tone. You may possibly hear a loss, but it is the easiest attempt at a remedy and you yourself can do it. Aside from that you have adjustments to the post, bridge mass, and afterlength to consider which would need attention by a luthier. BTW if you decide to try the eliminator, try it on the A afterlength but try it as well on the D.
  4. I used a small cello sized eliminator on my 7/8 Shen, after several soundpost adjustments didn't do any good. The eliminator kills the wolf about 97%, and has no effect on the tone of the instrument.
  5. Toman.. Did you try a different set of strings ?
  6. Yes. I originally had helicore orchestras on it, which I didn't like at all. I tried several other strings, none of which had any effect on the wolf. I've ended up using a combination of eudoxa G and D with chromesteel A and E. The chromesteels maybe aren't the best match, but they're pretty good and the eudoxas are killer.
  7. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    That's a bit like objecting to the cost of a sound post adjustment because the luthier only moves it "a little".
    Eliminators are used by the finest players on the finest basses because they work. You could spend the money on a sound post genius like Lou DeLeone and still need the eliminator.
    There's a right way to install it. I'll try to find my lengthy explanation and post it.
  8. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Here's my earlier post:

    I picked this up from a Met player. I knocked out a wolf on Michael Moore's bass immediately:

    First, establish the pitch of your wolf. It will generally appear on any string when you play that pitch.
    For no particular reason, I put the eliminator on the A string.
    With a pair of needle nose pliers in one hand and the bow in the other, grip the string below the bridge at various distances from the bridge with the pliers and bow between the bridge and the pliers. You want to find the spot where the note played is equal to the wolf pitch (different octave, of course). When you find it mark the adjacent string with chalk at the same distance. Now slip on the eliminator, using the adjacent chalk mark as a guide to where to tighten the set screw. It won't be perfect, so you might have to move it one way or the other, but you'll be very close.

    This always works for me, but in the interest of full disclosure, I will report that Arnold Schnitzer, my absolute bass guru, does not think all my machinations are necessary.

    To which Arnold replied:
    "A wolf tone occurs where the instument's natural body resonance and the note being played match. The instrument behaves wildly at that pitch when bowed, creating a kind of "wah-wah" effect, alternately accepting and rejecting the bow hair. The wolf modifier works by vibrating more or less in synch with the offending pitch, and by doing so, sucks away excess energy before it reaches the body. Sometimes this has the unwanted side effect of damping the entire instrument's response. Almost every good bass has a wolf. Often, it is worsened by adjusting the post too far from the bridge in an attempt to coax more bottom from the bass.

    By the way, when Don Higdon told me his method (of tuning the wolf modifier) I nearly wet my pants with laughter. Turns out it works like a charm!"
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    To add to the information above: Every bass I've built has some semblance of a wolf. Every bass I've worked on (with perhaps a couple exceptions) does also. I have experimented with every possible fix including; afterlength tuning, soundpost adjusting, wolf eliminators, taping a weight on the top table, etc. My conclusions are: Nudging the post a little closer to the bridge and a little inboard can help a little; tuning the afterlengths to avoid the same pitch or its perfect fifth can help a little; tuning the afterlength to exactly the same pitch can sometimes help; raising the saddle can help; more flexible strings can help a bit; a heavier tailpiece can help. But if I want to really squash an annoying wolf, I have to resort to either a wolf eliminator weight or a fairly heavy Pecanic tailpiece. I think Mike's tailpiece helps by eliminating the perfect fourth relationships between afterlengths. My personal procedure for using the eliminator weight is to put it on the A or D string close to the tailpiece, then gradually bring it closer to the bridge in increments until the wolf becomes manageable. The closer it is to the bridge, the more it will act as a mute on the whole instrument. Don's method also works, but I prefer to see if I can get things happy with the weight as far from the bridge as possible.
  10. I should mention I used Don's method to locate mine. It's not very hard and works great.
  11. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    On my bass, sometimes when I play the open A string, the instrument seems to "reject" the note and make that annoying wah-wah sound. But I've found it makes a big difference if I mute the other strings with my left hand. I realize that isn't always possible, but at least when tuning, that can offer some relief....

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