Any tips on making bass "sound" more in tune.

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Any tips on making bass "sound" more in tune.

Post by honkyjonk » Thu Nov 10, 2005 2:04 pm

Seems like nothing I do works lately with my bass. I'm employing almost fanatical checks w/ tuner, ears, checking intonation all over the bass, making sure I know where the song is, intonation wise.

But I'm having a hard time, especially with minimal arrangements, getting the bass to sound in tune.

Do super old strings tend to sound out of tune? Maybe it's time for a change.

Anyway, any tips as to ways of playing or recording that help minimize or mask the effects of bad intonation? I know that sounds rediculous, but I'm serious.

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Post by E-cue » Thu Nov 10, 2005 2:10 pm

Antares makes a plug in specifically for autotuning bass. I'd probably start with new strings or boil your "super old" ones before using it though.

I assume you are using a strobe tuner to check the intonation (of your instrument)?

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Post by mjau » Thu Nov 10, 2005 2:15 pm

I've never owned a bass that was perfect up and down the neck, so a couple of things I've learned regarding how to play basses with intonation issues:
1. Play around the dead spots - are there certain areas of the neck that never sound right? See if you can play those notes elsewhere.
2. Don't fret too hard - I used to have the tendency to fret really hard when recording for some odd reason, and inevitably I'd be pulling the note up a little bit.

What's the bass? What's the signal chain? Any compression on the way in?

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Post by honkyjonk » Thu Nov 10, 2005 2:47 pm

It's a Gretch Electromatic bass> Peavey Classic guitar amp> 421> Hamptone>1176 or Federal>HD

I'll try boiling those babies. How long should I boil 'em?

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Post by the brill bedroom » Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:36 pm

Not to be a gear snob, but that's a pretty cheap- ass bass. Short scale if I remember correctly and definitely meant for beginners. See if you can borrow a Fender from someone and I bet your problems will at least partially dissapear.

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Post by brianb » Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:39 pm

I'd get new strings. If nothing else you take that out of the equation. If they're really old the grooves that get cut into the stings by the frets can make the thing immpossible to tune and no amount of boiling will fix that. I had the same problem and new strings took care of a lot of it the rest was me pulling on the string and i'n still working on that.

Last edited by brianb on Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by honkyjonk » Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:41 pm


Matter of taste I suppose. Sure it's cheap. I happen to think it sounds awesome when it's in tune.

I know, I'm probably the one person in the world who doesn't record with a P-bass.

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Post by the brill bedroom » Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:49 pm

No, I never record with a P Bass, I use a Hofner or a Guild Starfire- but beyond taste, i wonder if the short scale nature of that bass is making it hard to get perfectly in tune. I could be wrong, but that's my guess.

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Post by joeysimms » Thu Nov 10, 2005 3:51 pm

I like what mjau said - it's probably the combo of fretting too hard and/or playing in spots that show off iffy intonation.

Sometimes you just need to get it the best you can and sleep on it, before listening again and evaluating whether it's close enough.
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Post by brian beattie » Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:00 pm

BOIL THEM!! Boil them for at least 45 minutes. Wipe them real dry instantly, then wipe them with alcohol. Boiled strings sound better and play easier than new. When I toured constantly, I kept a dozen sets of strings in rotation between my two basses. I'd boil them all before I went on tour, and change them as needed. If it was a long tour, I'd shanghai someones kitchen when I'd played them all out, and boil the batch. (you need to boil them longer when you're doing multiples)
Boiling bass strings is no joke. It works. You can boil them and play them and boil them and play them and boil them and play them until they break.
PS, this applies to round wounds. Flat wounds you're supposed to play them till they're gooey and never change them till you die.

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Post by Rolsen » Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:01 pm

I've got a cheap ass bass that I record with - Johnson Jazz Bass ripoff. Intonation is correct, strings are new, but I'm not a seasoned bass player and I find that I pull notes slightly sharp when I get all excited. First, I tune not with open strings, but fretted on the 5th fret and tune to that note (the theory being I'll be fretting notes more than not, so I'll tune relative to my fingers applying pressure to a string). That makes the difference in my little hobbyist setup.

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Post by drumsound » Thu Nov 10, 2005 4:32 pm

The above suggestions are great. I'd like to add that a set-up by a seasoned pro might be in order. They have learned and figured out tons on tine little things that make huge differences.

The best guys tend to be guys that also play gigs regularly...

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Post by JohnDavisNYC » Thu Nov 10, 2005 5:43 pm

if the intonation is correct, what's most likely the problem is that you're fretting and or plucking too hard. strings go sharp when you pluck them hard, especially with a short scale instrument. the old strings can sound wierd sometimes as the overtones can get funky if the windings are loose from the core or overly compressed at the frets or something like that, but not in such a way as it seems you described. i think it might be a matter of refining your technique specifically for recording. it's like on upright bass, learning how to not bottom out the low strings and accidentally smack them on the board (obviously if it's intentional, it's fine)... things that work playing live (playing hard, digging in, etc.) don't always record that well... like a drummer who insists on bashing the christ out of everything... the drums will choke and not sound that good.

i like to make music with music and stuff and things.

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Post by GrimmBrotherScott » Thu Nov 10, 2005 6:31 pm

I have been playing bass for 20 years or so now. I love me some cheap ass basses for performing. Right now I have a Univox scale bass (like the one on the inside of the gatefold of The Stooges Fun House.

The bottom line is, it just does not stay in tune and the intonation will never stay corrected. I think it's a combo of cheap craftmanship and parts as well as an increased tension on the neck due to it being shorter. I have been playing long enough that I can hear the softspots on the neck and compensate by bending the strings where needed when I play live. Additionally, the sustain on any scale bass is next to nothing due to the shortened neck (and strings).

If you insist on playing that one, try muting the strings at the bridge with a piece of felt and held on by painters tape (it won't pull off the finish). It's a technique used by Carol Kaye to eliminate overtones created by playing with a pick back when sessions were recorded live. Often times getting rid of the overtones covers up for a string that vibrates sloppily causing it to sound slightly out of tune.

Do yourself a favor and get yourself a P-Bass when you have some extra scratch. You can get them for $300 and change and it's well worth the investment if you plan on recording in the future.

Good luck!

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Post by llmonty » Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:00 pm

i agree with many of the above - techique is critical on bass (i mean in the paying attention to what you are doing way, vs. the shredder way). The shorter scale and presumably lighter string guages, combined with a natural tendency to bend notes sharp when fingering/picking/fretting, and dead spots/intonation issues make it a challenge. for recording purposes you may need to adjust accordingly - heavier strings, maybe tuning the bass higher to tighten up the strings and modify the fretting position, play as much on 1 string or stay in one fret range (say 3rd to 7th fret), tune strings 'out' when played open, but will be in tune when you play the song.

This was one of the reasons I ended up with a frettless bass - helps alot in this regard as you can adjust finger spacing to keep it in tune (and no i don't do those stupid fusion mmmwahs that everyone hates :roll: mine is a semihollow that is closer to an upright)
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