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Getting my bass to play in tune


Peckels

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This is just a titty bit annoying. I've messed with the intonation screws and saddle positions of my bridge enough so that A. there is no difference between the open string and its own 12th fret and B. the same notes on different strings are relatively in tune (IE the 5th fret A on the E string is in tune with the open A, the 8th fret F on the A string is in tune with the 3rd fret F on the D string)

 

Now a host of new problems has come up.

 

- According to the the 5th+7th fret harmonics method of tuning, I'm out of tune.

- If I play octaves within the first 5 frets they seem noticeably out of tune.

- If I I were to play a C on the A string and then slide up to the 15th fret for an octave, the C on the 15th is ridiculously flat. Basically every note above the 13th or 14thg fret is quite badly flat. And, sorry purists, I actually utilize the high neck at certain times.

 

Actually when I practice and play, I switch positions a lot and even use open strings quite a bit. So going constantly in and out of tune becomes quite an annoyance.

 

Is there some work I can get done or some bridge or anything at all that could help remedy this? Or should I just learn to play an unlined fretless?

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Uh, it doesn't MATTER if the fretless is unlined or not. Seriously.

 

I'm going to blow right past all the intonation-at-the-bridge stuff and assume you've done this right. That's relational to ACTION HEIGHT anyway. What HASN'T been mentioned is TRUSS ROD RELIEF. If your bass is set up with a lot of bow, you have to press the strings further to hit the fret (or the 'board) and that makes them go sharp. And where that happens the most is usually closer to the nut - especially if your nut is also cut too high, which also makes 'em go sharp further down the neck. So...

.
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Sorry I don't remember what type of bass you have. That might be a component to this.

 

I also manage to get up on the neck, so I know what you mean. For many years I didn't understand how the basic bridge adjustment affected tuning, so my upper register was way out.

 

One thing I try to be careful about when setting the intonation is how I fret the octave. It's easy to push down too hard (or let you finger push the string sideways). That will throw off your intonation right from the start.

 

I sounds like you've been careful when tuning - that means that the frets aren't in the right place. If you've replaced the neck or done other overhaul work (or the previous owner did), then you need to re-check that and probably find a way to fix it. If the neck was replaced, it may have been the wrong length for what the pocket called for.

 

Assuming that none of that is the case, I don't know what to say. As I said, I've found that the upper register is sensitive to your fretting technique. I've got both my short scale and my 34.5 set so that the notes are as in-tune as I can play them :)

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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If the bass is fretless, ignore the dots, the lines, don't look at the neck, just listen.

 

I'm not reading your description of adjusting the bridge to hear that you did it correctly.

 

Forget the open string.

 

You need to tune the 12th fret note to the 12th fret harmonic. And you should probably do the adjustments with the bass in playing position, not lying on a bench.

 

Good luck.

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Also thought I'd mention that 5th and 7th fret tuning is not absolutely accurate and depending on string gauge/flexibility, the overtones there can be slightly off and different for each string - not to mention that an overtone perfect fifth is different by several cents than a even-tempred fifth, which means comparing an overtone at the 7th fret to a fretted note shouldn't be totally right anyway {other than the variable those zany truss rod and nut height issues may introducs to further confuse this ; }

 

It's possible to have well-placed frets with clean edges and still be wildly out of tune due to only these elements

 

(1) bad strings or old strings with grooves stomped too deep into them by frets, which makes them vibrate unevenly

 

(2) high nut

 

(3) truss relief too bowed especially when action is high

 

(4) intontation screws at bridge

 

(5) neck pickup so close to strings that its magnetic pull is skewing vibration and introducing bent harmonics and harmonic distortion; often goes by the name "strat-itis".

.
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Greenboy has a good point, and Jeremy's spot on.

 

If you adjusted the bass so the open string sounds in tune with the 12th fret, you've really done nothing.

 

12th fret must equal octave harmonic.

 

That will make a world of difference.

 

Of course, neck bow, strings and etc. make a ton of difference as well...

 

And there is always the unintentional string bend to deal with.

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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I'm playing a OLP MM 4 string with 1 and a half week old flatwounds... didn't mean to throw anyone off with the fretless comment.

 

I'll straighten the neck a tad and let the wood settle, see how that works out tomorrow.

 

Greenboy, did you say action height is relational to intonation? How so?

 

I appreciate everyone's comments. Even if I don't necessarily use every bit of knowledge gained, its still good to learn as much as I can.

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From what you say in your first entry, it almost sounds as if you have a longer scale neck than what there should be - ie 35" instead of 34". Is this possible?

 

G.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the World will know Peace": Jimi Hendrix

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The Geoff - blame Caevan!!!

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Originally posted by greenboy:

(1) bad strings or old strings

I had a heck of a time with my last set of DR's. The D an G wouldn't get in tune. I took them off and reset my saddles and put a couple new strings on and bam, perfect intonation.
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Originally posted by Peckels:

A. there is no difference between the open string and its own 12th fret and

try setting intonation using a tuner by matching the fretted 12th fret with the ring of non-fretted 12th fret instead of an open string.

You can stop now -jeremyc

STOP QUOTING EVERY THING I SAY!!! -Bass_god_offspring

lug, you should add that statement to you signature.-Tenstrum

I'm not sure any argument can top lug's. - Sweet Willie

 

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Originally posted by Peckels:

I'm playing a OLP MM 4 string with 1 and a half week old flatwounds... didn't mean to throw anyone off with the fretless comment.

 

I'll straighten the neck a tad and let the wood settle, see how that works out tomorrow.

 

Greenboy, did you say action height is relational to intonation? How so?

 

I appreciate everyone's comments. Even if I don't necessarily use every bit of knowledge gained, its still good to learn as much as I can.

Well, the OLP's are "officially licensed products" and are often problematic. It could be a bass problem that is unfixable.

 

Use every bit of knowlege gained. That's the only way you'll remember it. Especially the part about tuning the 12th fret harmonic to the 12th fret fretted note.

 

In fact, get it to a shop for a professional setup. That will really help the thing be the best it will ever be.

 

Good luck.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Peckels - Ace Cracker put a different bridge on his OLP and felt that the whole instrument stabilized, felt better, sounded better, and whispered sweet nothings in his ear at night. Maybe the bridge is a significant weakness. I've always liked the wood and feel..

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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