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Bass strings advice.

Discussion in 'Bass' started by Glux, Aug 2, 2009.

  1. Glux

    Glux Guest

    Hi guys, I have a really annoying problem with my bass strings and was hoping someone could give me some advice.

    I play in a modern hard rock band, it sounds really heavy and agressive and I tune my 5 string, like the guitar players, in D flat, like this:


    It really is necessary for some of the riffs to sound good, plus I started playing bass when I joined the band so I`ve pretty much always played like that, but the thing is, as you can see, the strings are tuned way lower then they`re supposed to. It doesn`t make that much difference in all but the fourth string ( Db ), which is tuned 1 and a half step lower than the usual and stays too loose on the bass and sounds awful. I`ve tried to make up for the tension buying thicker strings of all kinds, but was never fully satisfied, until finally a friend of mine who owns a music store suggested I should put another B string instead of the E, so my fourth and fifth strings were the same thickness. I`ve been told it shouldn`t be a problem and it shouldn`t damage the instrument as long as it`s set up properly, so I gave it a try. My band is currently recording it`s first cd, and through the bass sessions I thought the bass sounded awesome, but when it came to the guitar recording we found out that, in some songs more than others, the bass was horribly out of tune, in some cases almost 1/4 tone off. Now I`ll have to record it all over again, but the real problem is we can`t find what caused it. It was properly tuned before each song ( with the same tuner and frequency used on the guitars ) and it almost didn`t change after, and it wasn´t finger pressure on the frets or bad bends either because there were open string notes out of tune. It never happened before in the studio so we`ve also ruled out gear and virtual problems, so the only thing I can think of is maybe some problem with the new set of strings. It`s a real freaking mystery for us and we`re pretty desperate for some answers, so does anybody know something that could help, know of any other players who use the same thing with the strings, or even have some other advice on the loose string problem? If it matters for anything, my bass is a 5 string active fender american deluxe jazz bass. Thanks.
  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    You're only tuned a half-step down.

    Medium or heavy-gauge sets shouldnt be a problem.

    High tension sets like Thomastik-Infield , or Roto-Sounds should work well. Its all about the tension and your attack.

    Fenders have a soft feel to the low E and low B on the fives. So, you have to compensate by using a string that has a higher tension as well as a larger gauge, such as heavies would have.

    By putting a string slated to be a 'B' string in place of the 'E' string, you have changed the harmonic settings of the intrument. Simply getting it 'in tune' in the open posistion doesnt recify the 'in tune-ness' up the neck at the other positions. To do this, you have to go through and reset the harmonics of the bass to get it in tune up the neck. A set-up from a pro will do the trick, but you need to look into a larger set of strings to solve your total problem.

    BTW. A new set-up before any major recording is always a good practice and one that professionals ALWAYS do.
  3. Glux

    Glux Guest

    All the strings are tuned a half step down, except for the fourth string ( E ) which is a step and a half down to Db, and is the one causing the problem. I've tried the thickest E strings I found and they did help, but I wasn't completely satisfied until I put the B string, and of course I got it properly set-up from a pro.

    I didn't know there were special high tension string sets.
  4. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    That sounds like an intonation issue. The evil in intonation is that it doesn't show it's ugly head until you start playing. The open strings are going to be in tune with each other because you tuned them that way, but when you find that your fretted notes are out of tune to the open ones then that is an intonation issue.

    Just for the record, you got it setup AFTER you put the thicker string in place of the E string?
  5. Glux

    Glux Guest

    Yes, I got it set up after putting the thicker string, and I don't think it was an intonation issue because there were open string notes out of tune.
  6. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Is the truss rod properly adjusted? Is the bridge properly adjusted? I was going to rant and rave about how crappy the "guitar techs" are at most music stores, but I'll do that some other time. I recommend trying to find an instrument builder who you can pay to really do a truly professional setup on the bass. They'll probably tell you to tune normally, but if you explain the whole, "we need to be cool and tune low" thing to him, I'm sure he'll understand. :lol: Now, about the whole loose string thing... Have you ever heard Korn? You can hear the bass strings rattling against the frets on their stuff: sounds fantastic. I'll recommend thick strings along with everyone else, but strings don't make an instrument in tune or out of tune, unless they are brand new and weren't stretched properly, or if they're really old. When you got the bass setup, did you explain the drop tuning to the tech? If not, chances are that he adjusted everything for normal tuning. If you got the bass back in normal tuning, or even not in the same tuning you were using, you can bet your bologna that the bas is setup wrong for the tuning you're in.
  7. dave_p

    dave_p Active Member

    it is definately intonation. you have to compensate with the saddle position because of the guage of the string. how does the basses nut like having a b string shoved into the e slot?
  8. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    I agree with NCDan
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Maybe I'm dense or something, but in my 40 years plus of bass playing, I have never heard of that tuning... ESPECIALLY since you have a five string already! Theres a frickin Db right there on the fifth string......what does having an open string detuned like that do for you other than cause the issues you're talking about???

    Really, I'm curious.
  10. Glux

    Glux Guest

    Thanks NCdan, but I really think the truss rod and bridge were properly adjusted, I've been working with this same guy for a long time and he knows ( and dislikes ) all about my tuning. I left my bass with him to see if he could find the problem and I'm picking it up today, I really respect his knowledge in guitars, but I am going to try taking it to a good luthier for a setup. About Korn, I love their sound, but it's absolutely not what I'm looking for.

    Thanks dave_p, but as I said if it were an intonation problem, how would there be open string notes out of tune?

    Thanks Davedog, but it's not about having the same note in another part of the instrument, it's about making the riffs sound the best and playing comfortably, plus I've been playing this way since I began playing bass. I realize it's not the most common tuning, but I'm pretty sure there are similar and much stranger ones out there ( I can think now of John Moyer, from Disturbed, who I think uses a similar tuning ). Anyway I've thought of changing tuning, but it's something I would only do after all other options were exhausted.
  11. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    You really need to be a little more open minded about this. We know a couple of things for sure: (1) The bass recorded 25 cents out of tune. (2) No one heard it while you were recording. (3) The bass is set up with low tension and unequal tension on the strings. Either you are just not tuning the instrument correctly or you are knocking it out of tune as you play or it is set up incorrectly. I'm not going to rag on the guy who did the setup work. This is a strange setup and it would not surprise me if he took a while to get it right.

    So I'll just try to throw out a few more ideas:

    1) Can you reproduce this? Record yourself while you tune up and as you play. Is there a specific time that the bass goes out? After a specific lick? Are you really getting the tuning right in the first place? Is your tuner any good?

    2) Has the slot in the nut for the fourth string been properly cut? It should be wide enough so that the string is tight enough not to move but loose enough to slide smoothly through the slot. You need to have a rounded file that will cut the proper shape in the slot.

    3) If this really is a tension issue and the neck is torquing while you play you are going to have to take another look at individual strings. juststrings.com sells individual bass strings of various brands. You would like each string to be roughly the same tension (or at least to vary evenly).

    Good luck.
  12. Glux

    Glux Guest

    Thanks Bob. While I was recording I actually heard it a bit out of tune, but it was right in the tuner so I thought it was just in my head. The tuner me and the guitarrists used is a Korg chromatic tuner ca-30. The idea of recording and checking the tuning is actually pretty great, I was trying to solve the problem before going back to studio but maybe it can give me some anwers. About the nut slot being properly cut, what would be the "symptoms" if it wasn't? And thanks for the site, but they only sell in US and I'm writing from Brazil. Last, what do you mean I should be more open minded?
  13. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I'll ask around (as you should) about places that sell single strings outside the US. You might ask juststrings.com. A lot of companies will say "yes" to a specific question even if they won't claim to ship outside north America in their ads.

    On the "open minded" comment - this is almost certainly going to be something that you were "sure" that you had checked. Don't rule out things that you think are OK. Odds are that once you figure this out you are going to slap yourself. You say, "it's not this," "it's not that," but it's probably something that you already checked and overlooked. Always is.
  14. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Great thread.

    The one thing I have encountered that has not been discussed yet is a FALSE STRING.

    (Actually, a combination of several of the proposed diagnoses could be the actual case.)
  15. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Does it go out of tune in a live situation?

    Again.....I understand that if you have used this tuning since you started it might be hard to adjust, but theres nothing you play that cant be played with a standard half-step drop tuning and even if your key centers are mostly Db, the fact that Db is going to be starting on the the low-string at proper tension should give you lots of balls and clarity for any 'riff' no matter how complicated.
  16. Glux

    Glux Guest

    Thanks Bob, got it about the open minded. And don't go out of your way for the single strings, I think I'm going to buy a custom set from D'Addario, they're pretty famous here in Brazil and easy to buy.

    Thanks MadTiger, I hadn't thought about that, in fact false strings can be a problem in Brazil, I'll look into that.

    Thanks Davedog, I haven't played live since I got the new strings, so I don't know how they would do, and I might just end up giving up the bizarre tuning, in view of the problems it's causing...

    Anyway, the setup guy did some adjustments and I'm going to give it a try recording tomorrow, and I'll get back here after. Thanks a lot for the help so far guys, I really apreciate it.

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