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Relief and tone


Rik

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Just how much effect does neck relief have on tone?

 

I was getting a tone that I very much liked from my Tobias 5-string and Carvin amp. Unfortunately, I wasn't happy with the action on that bass.

 

So with a little tweaking, I've managed to get that bass set up with remarkably low action and very little fret buzz (I actually like a tiny bit of fret buzz - it seems to add a bit of pleasant sizzle to my sound). With my current setup, the neck is almost perfectly straight - very little relief. The Tobias has always been very playable; now it's fantasticallly playable. Like butter.

 

Only problem is... ever since that last setup job, I can't get the sound I want. Don't get me wrong - the sound I am getting is beautiful. It's a very woody, natural, clear and articulate tone. But it's not what I want. As beautiful as the tone is, it simply doesn't suit the music I'm playing. I want the fat, ringing, bright tone I was getting before, and no amount of knob twiddling has been able to get that sound back.

 

Can minor neck and bridge adjustments actually cause this big of a tonal shift? This last adjustment involved little more than tightening the truss rod by one-quarter turn, and lowering the string saddles just a hair.

 

I've considered other possibilities: maybe I need new strings; maybe the battery in the bass is getting weak; maybe something has gone wrong with my amp. It's just that the tone change corresponded almost exactly with the setup adjustment.

 

Thoughts? Ideas?

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For your sake, I hope it's just coincidence. Now, I have noticed a bit of a shift in sound when making adjustments to the action. On my jazz, I let the action be really high for a while (I was able to detune all the strings a fourth and still get no fret buzz!), and it gave a more "thumpy" tone, and the strings were more taut. After lowering it to my taste, it's not quite as thumpy now, but it was a decent amount of adjustment, and the change in tone is noticeable, but not drastic.

 

I would definitely recommend checking the strings and battery. Some people say there are no coincidences, but still others say everything is a coincidence and cause and effect are figments of our imaginations. Who knows?

 

Regards

Andrew

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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Bumpcity - That's a good point - I hadn't thought of that. :eek: Unfortunately, the pickups are of the soapbar variety and don't seem to be very adjustable. At least not down. They seem to be screwed down fairly tight. But I'll fool with that and see what happens.

 

hags2k - I'll be changing the strings and battery soon anyway, so I'll check what happens then.

 

Thanks :)

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Well, son-of-a-gun. I was able to lower the pickups. They weren't screwed down as tight as I thought. Now they are though, so I'll see what happens to the sound. Unfortunately, I can't really check it again until Sunday - I keep my amp at my church (neighbors in apartments don't appreciate 600-watt bass amps :D ) I practice at home through a Korg Pandora and headphones, which doesn't give me a true picture of the tone.

 

Thanks.

 

BTW - the red bass in my avatar is the Tobias in question.

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I have been going through the same thing. I still like to play around with things every once and a while to see if maybe I like the feel of playing better, so recently I lowered my strings. I don't like how it sounds or feels. It seems that no matter what I get the same tone and I also don't like how it feels. I do know that the pickups are too high however by the fact that I found a mark on my bridge pickup from my b string. anyhow, to make a short story long, I'm going to raise them back up soon when I have time to do a little changing around.

www.geocities.com/nk_bass/enter.html

 

Still working on it...

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Originally posted by BenLoy:

Keep in mind that action does have a slight effect on the sound as well. I used to play with fairly low action, but found that I got a wider range of articulation by raising the action a bit.

You know, that's a really good point. That's something that I have noticed, but not really consciously thought about, if you know what I mean...I think that I'm going to raise the action a bit on my P-Bass (add some relief to the neck)...at the moment, the action is insanely low, and it took me a while to get it that way, but even though i barely have to apply any pressure with my left hand, it does indeed take a way a bit of articulation, as you put it. I didn't really think of it as "articulation", but I guess that's really a good way of describing it the difference in tone.

 

Well, here's to trying new things.

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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Originally posted by Rik:

BTW - the red bass in my avatar is the Tobias in question.

Its Pretty :D
http://www.briantimpe.com/images/LDL/dots/blue.JPGhttp://www.briantimpe.com/images/LDL/dots/black.JPGhttp://www.briantimpe.com/images/LDL/dots/fuscia.JPGhttp://www.briantimpe.com/images/LDL/dots/grey.JPGhttp://www.briantimpe.com/images/LDL/dots/orange.JPGhttp://www.briantimpe.com/images/LDL/dots/purple.JPGhttp://www.briantimpe.com/images/LDL/dots/red.JPGhttp://www.briantimpe.com/images/LDL/dots/yellow.JPG
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Its Pretty
As Sammy Hagar once said, "I like red!"

Here are some bigger photos on my Web site:

 

My Basses

 

It looks even better close up :)

 

Anyway, I think I'm going to back the truss rod off a bit to add a little more relief. We'll see what happens.

 

Thanks for the suggestions :)

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Fatness of tone has two basic ingredients, before a single knob gets tweaked: higher action and thicker strings. Just listen to Stevie Ray Vaughn and you'll hear. Of course, getting too carried away with the string height on a bass can cripple you, but that's why you've lost something: your strings are now at a lower tension. The resistance is what fattens up the tone.

"I had to have something, and it wasn't there. I couldn't go down the street and buy it, so I built it."

 

Les Paul

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