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Bass Guitar Information

Things to Know about your Bass Guitar

String Gauge

Is Generally thought of as outer diameter of the string, universally measured in thousandths of an inch, for example .040 or .095. So in simple terms the string gauge can be viewed as the thickness of the string. The thicker the string at a given pitch the greater the tension will be.

String Gauge

General Description

Suitable Styles

035 - .095

Super Light

Lightest Touch, suits guitar techniques, extra long scale length basses

040-.095

Extra Light

Players with a very light touch

040-.100

Light

Most popular set, suits a wide variety of styles

045 -.100

Medium/Light

Firmer in the G and D. Can suit strong finger style playing.

045-.105

Medium

Shorter Scale Length(30"), players with a strong attack or players of rock music with a pick.

050 - .110

Heavy

For players with very strong finger attack, or players that use a pick or for players who tune the strings to a lower pitch.

030 - .090

Extra Super Light

Best suited extra long scale length instruments

Other String Gauge Styles

String Gauge

General Description

040, 060, 080, 100, 125

Medium 5 String Set

045, 065, 085, 105, 130

5 String Medium/Heavy Set

030, 040, 060, 080, 100, 125

6 string medium

035, 045, 065, 085, 105, 130

6 string medium/Heavy

.020p, 032, 042,052

Piccolo Bass

These are some sample settings, some string gauges may vary slightly from one manufacturer to another.

String Materials

The material has a significant contribution to tone and response. Stainless steel for a brighter tone or nickel plated for a warmer more vintage tone.

Taper Wound strings are constructed like piano bass strings. This allows the low notes (particularly the low E string) to vibrate more freely producing more upper partials and brightness. They can also be useful for basses where the winding of the string is to long and sits off the saddle that can result in false intonation.

Ground Wound the surface of the string is ground to a flat surface the sound is in between a round wound and flat wound string.

Flat Wound (Ribbon Wound) are w ound with a ribbon (instead of round wire). The sound is very even and flat in response, very mellow, with short articulate notes. These can be suitable for jazz bass players.

Nylon Flat wound are strings that sound closer to a double bass.

Silk and Steel Wound (Thomastik Plectrum)  are made with a silk and thin steel core with a bronze winding and a polished G string, An acoustic set sounding between a nylon and steel string.

Elixir Teflon Coated is  a standard round wound acoustic that is wound with Teflon wire to eliminate sweat and grime getting between the windings. They also have a mellower sound and last longer.

Please note the previous is just a guide to string gauges and is not absolute. The most effective way for you to determine what guage is most suitable for you is to experiment with different gauges and use the one that you feel best suits your style of playing.

Note: different manufacturing procedures, material density and guage will affect the ideal setting of your instrument. Once deciding on a string guage and type it is advisable to have your bass set to this.

Tuning of open strings

Bass guitars are generally tuned to concert pitch with the A string vibrating at 55 cycles per second. It is the equivalent to the second octave on a piano.

Sample tuning Table

Tuning

String Pitch(low to High)

Player

4 String Standard

E A D G

Standard Choice for most

Eb

Eb Ab Db Gb

Common for Bass players in rock bands

D(down 1 whole tone)

D G C F

Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix)

Dropped D

D A D G

 

5 String Standard

B E A D G

Jason Newstead

Standard w/High C

E A D G C

Keith Stone

6 String Standard

B E A D G C

Anthony Jackson, John Pattitucci

Scale Length

Scale length of the guitar is the length of the vibrating string from nut to saddle, or twice the distance from the nut to the 12 th fret. Assuming all else is equal (pitch and gauge of the strings) the longer the scale length the greater the tension will be in the strings.

Bass Guitar

Scale Length(inches)

Scale Length(mm)

Alembic

30.5 - 34"

774.7 - 863.6

Ampeg

34.5"

876.3

Cort

34"

863.6

Fender Jazz and P Bass

34"

863.6

Fender Mustang

30"

762

Musicman

34"

863.6

Warwick

34"

863.6

Ibanez

34"

863.6

Maton JB 4

34"

863.6

Tobias

34", 35"

863.6

Steinberger

34"

863.6

Yamaha

33.5"

850.9

Hofner

30"

762

Guild

30.5"

774.7

Gibson

30.5"

774.7

Gibson Thunderbird

34.5"

876.3

Ken Smith

34"

863.6

Rickenbacker

33.5"

850.9

Bass scales usually fall between 30 to 35 inches with 34' being the most common.

As you can see there are many different scale lengths on many different types of basses. There is no better scale length just different. The general consensus is that shorter scale bases with reduced string tension are easier to play, respond quicker to touch, enable hands to span greater distances and require less right hand force to excite the string. Longer scale basses, due to the greater string tension, are louder and more powerful. There is better individual note separation and greater definition that will allow for a heavier plucking attack, thus giving more articulate and clear sound in the lower register. Please be aware that scale length is one of only many factors that affect how your bass will sound and feel. Wood type, construction, bridge type, pickups, string gauge, etc all affect the sound and feel.

Fret wire choices  

Density
  • Soft,
  • Medium
  • Hard
Size & Profile
  • Small,
  • Medium
  • Jumbo
Material Choice
  • Nickel Silver Alloy (Nickel, Zinc and Copper)
  • Brass
  • Warwick Bell Brass alloy
  • Stainless Steel

 

Fret wire

Description

Width

Height

6000(Jumbo)

The biggest

3

1.5

6100(Jumbo)

Slightly narrower than 6000

2.8

1.4

6105(Jumbo)

Narrow and tall.

2.3

1.4

6150(Jumbo)

A jumbo wide normal height

2.6

1

6130(Jumbo)

Standard Gibson

2.7

0.9

6230Medium)

Standard Fender

2

1

6250(Medium)

Shorter in Height

2

0.9

Warwick(Medium) Bell Brass Alloy 2.4 0.9
Warwick(Jumbo) Bell Brass Alloy 2.9 0.9
Stainless Steel (Medium) Long Wearing, very hard, bright sounding 2.03 1.09
Stainless Steel (Jumbo) Long Wearing, very hard, bright sounding 2.8 1.45

As illustrated in the table there are different fretwire choices. The larger the dimension and the harder the alloy lead to a brighter initial attack of the note. Also larger frets on a bass can enable you to bend the strings as there is no friction between the strings and the fretboard. In addition very small fret wire is almost akin to a fretless bass in sonic terms. A recent development by Warwick has been the use of a new alloy for frets incorporating a material used in making brass bells.

Fingerboard Radius

 This is the curve or camber of a finger board surface.

There are two fretboard surface options, cylindrical and conical. A cylindrical fretboard maintains the same radius over the entire fretboard surface, where as a conical fingerboard's radius changes over the length of the fingerboard from a rounder surface to a flatter surface.

Guitar

Radius Inches

Vintage Fender P Bass

7 ¼

Modern Fender P Bass

9 ½

Ernie Ball/Musicman

11

Gibson

12

Tobias

16 or 9

Rounder radiuses (smaller diameter) have a very comfortable feel when playing in one position for an extended length of time as the "roundness" suits the natural tendencies for our hands to grip objects. Flatter radiuses are not as ergonomic but it is easier to achieve lower action settings and some players find playing more complicated passages easier with flatter radius.

 

String Clearance (action)

The action is a general term used to describe how the strings are distributed across the fingerboard. The higher the strings are from the frets, the more force is required to fret the string. Conversely the lower the strings are from the frets the easier it is to fret the string. Different instruments and different playing styles will dictate different set-ups.

Action regulation is determined by how the string clearances are distributed at the nut, bridge, profile of bridge saddle and the amount of neck curvature.

Action

String Clearance at 1 st String 12 th fret

String Clearance at 6 th string 12 th fret

Neck Relief

Very Low

1.5mm

2.5mm

0.2mm

Low

2.0mm

3.0mm

0.3mm

Medium(standard)

2.5mm

3.5mm

0.4mm

Medium High

3.0mm

4.0mm

0.5mm

High

4.0mm

5.5mm

0.6mm

Very High(low tuning)

5.0mm

7.0mm

1.5mm

Neck Relief (deliberate neck curvature)

This is amount of concave bow in the neck (dipping in the middle) that can help create a relatively buzz free action. The amount of neck relief is determined by adjusting the truss rod tension.

String length compensation (Intonation)

When we depress a string to play a note we are stretching the string. This stretching makes the pitch of the note sound sharper; therefore a correction is required to compensate for this discrepancy. Thus intonation is the state of the guitar so that it is harmoniously in tune with itself. This is usually done by setting the strings length at the point at which the string crosses the bridge saddle.

Flexibility of neck and soundboard

Weak or rubbery vibrating surfaces produce an unstable sounding musical notes, therefore it is better to have a stiff vibrating surface. On the other extreme side the thinner vibrating components can be prone to movement and affected by temperature and humidity changes. Thin and flexible instruments produce notes that warble with unclear upper partials making it difficult to clearly distinguish and tune the strings to pitch. Quality instrument design balances stiffness to weight.

Bridges

There are many bass guitar bridges available, with their own designs, features and functions. All bridges share similar concepts in that they anchor the string to the bass body transferring the string vibration. Most allow for action and intonation adjustments. The bridge is the point where the settings will improve the ease of playability that suits your playing style. Correcting the angles and seating of the string to saddle contact will improve the performance and tone of the vibrating string, intonation and the life of the string. The geometric setup of the saddles will facilitate easier chordal playing. Vintage bridges consist of an L shaped bent steel with steel roller saddles very simple in design capturing the wood tone. Modern bridges are heavy, usually cast steel or solid brass to increase brightness and sustain.

Fretless Electronic Basses

Jaco Pastorius was a musician who helped contribute to the vocabulary of the instrument as well as inspiring many young musicians.

His trademark sound was performed on a Fender Jazz bass which was modified.

This was done by removing the frets and filling in the slots on the rosewood fingerboard with maple veneer, then hardening the surface with an epoxy coating.

Replacing the fingerboard to a harder surface like ebony is a popular request.

When playing a fretless, a more melodic or lyrical sound can be achieved. Due to the absence of frets the sound is less metallic. If you would like this done to your bass please call to arrange an appointment.

 

Electric Bass Pickups

An electric guitar pickup is a coil of thin copper wire wound around magnetic pole pieces. The pickup is placed below the strings so that its magnetic field encompasses each sting. The vibrating string disturbs the magnetic field of the pickup creating alternating current running through the coil. This electric current can then be amplified.

  1. Single Coil - is a coil of thin copper wire wound around magnetic pole pieces. Single coils are generally bright, snappy and clear sounding. In addition single coils are also receptive to picking up the vibration of electric transformers, fluorescent lights, computer monitors and other electro magnetic radiation resulting in a "Hum" sounding a note at 60Hz in between Ab and A.
  2. Humbucker - in essence are two single coils wired together electrically in series out of phase and magnetically one coil is North and the other south. This results in a cancellation of most of the electromagnetic noise. In addition to cancelling the hum (hence the term Humbucking) these pickups have a darker, smoother and thicker sound.

Modern Innovations

Manufacturers have taken the original designs and made changes to suit the application of each musician.

"Noiseless" Single Coils

They are designed to maintain the authentic tone and response of the original single coil without the annoying 60 Hz electromagnetic hum. Many methods are employed, for example; stacking two coils together, aligning two coils side by side or two coils side by side one for the bass strings and the other coil for the treble. By utilizing various magnets and wire and altering their dimension and strengths pickup tone can be altered.

Humbuckers in single coils size

Strat style players wanted the sound of humbucker without having to modify their guitar. Pickup manufacturers came out with designs equalling in output and tone of many popular styles of humbucker.

Active Pickups

Active pickups use onboard electronic circuitry to achieve a signal without any of the electromagnetic background noise. They require the use of a volt battery onboard the guitar which is usually installed under the pickguard or in a specially installed battery compartment. Bartolini, EMG and Seymour Duncan offer active pickups.

Don't hesitate to get in contact with us if you have any questions regarding your instrument.



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