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Floppy sounding new bass - strings, set up or both?


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I recently bought a Bass Centre "Betsy" Bass. Lovely looking bass - if you havent looked at them yet, please do.

The bass came set up and tuned straight out of the box - the Bass Centre pride themselves on having a guitar ready to play straight out of the box. Betsy comes with medium gauge Stadium Elite strings which combined with the low pro set up absolutely blew my mind! Being a player that digs in but also suffers with blisters etc. the medium gauge strings have been a massive help, and also help me play a bit faster too. Brilliant. But...

The bass came out of the box in standard 440 tuning (EADG) - but the band I'm in play everything a half step down. When I tune the bass that half step down, it sounds a bit "floppy" and poppy especially in the mid and high range. The strings still seem to have similar levels of tension (albeit sort of noticeably looser) but other than that, it all seems the same. I'm just wondering what effect tuning down will have on things like the action / truss rod / tension etc and how to resolve them? Is it a quick tweak of the bridge to raise the string height and intonate, a turn of the truss rod, or actually do I think sod it and put heavier gauge strings back on (45-105) like I'm used to.

Any help gratefully received!

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31 minutes ago, rmorris said:

What sizes are the medium gauge strings ?

Medium for Stadium Elites are 40 60 80 100. Standard is 45 65 85 105.

With regards to the question at hand, tuning down, even a half step, will reduce the tension in the strings, and therefore the tension on the neck. This will shift things slightly, but it is hard to explain exactly where.

Might be worth taking it back up to standard tuning, measuring the relief and string height, then tuning down and measuring again, just so you can compare. Seems odd that a half step would be making a massive difference, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say.

Edited by BruceBass3901
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As @BruceBass3901 suggests, I’d start with that so you can see where the adjustments need to be made.

I have basses that handle the Eb tuning exceptionally well and others that don’t. It could well be solved with a different set of strings and no adjustment, it’s hard to say. I have one bass that actually sounds and plays better a half step down, so I just leave in Eb which is handy as one of my bands plays everything tuned down a half step. 

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At a gig we did our singer had throat trouble so we tuned down a step to Eb and although my bass took it fine (I had fairly high action) I really didn’t like it, the strings just didn’t seem to play well at all, reduction in tension made them feel just wrong.

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9 hours ago, jonsebass said:

I'm just wondering what effect tuning down will have on things like the action / truss rod / tension etc and how to resolve them? Is it a quick tweak of the bridge to raise the string height and intonate, a turn of the truss rod, or actually do I think sod it and put heavier gauge strings back on (45-105) like I'm used to.

I've been playing down a whole step recently.  Strings were La Bella 0760M which are on the stiffer side anyway.  Tuning down lowers the string tension, which in turn reduces the relief.  Counter this by loosening the truss rod, i.e. turn it anti-clockwise slightly (start with 1/8 or 1/4 of a turn).

What I do is press the E string down simultaneously at the 1st and 16th frets, and I'm trying to get the tiniest of gaps above the 8th fret - but not so low that the string rests on the fret.

Then reset the action to your preference.  Might not be able to go as low as previously, as the floppier strings now more easily rattle into the fingerboard.

Finally, intonation.  I find that to be the correct order to do things in: relief first, then action, then intonation.

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6 hours ago, jrixn1 said:

I've been playing down a whole step recently.  Strings were La Bella 0760M which are on the stiffer side anyway.  Tuning down lowers the string tension, which in turn reduces the relief.  Counter this by loosening the truss rod, i.e. turn it anti-clockwise slightly (start with 1/8 or 1/4 of a turn).

What I do is press the E string down simultaneously at the 1st and 16th frets, and I'm trying to get the tiniest of gaps above the 8th fret - but not so low that the string rests on the fret.

Then reset the action to your preference.  Might not be able to go as low as previously, as the floppier strings now more easily rattle into the fingerboard.

Finally, intonation.  I find that to be the correct order to do things in: relief first, then action, then intonation.

The length of the string between nut and saddle hasn't changed in the OP's scenario, therefore intonation shouldn't need adjusting.

Loosening the strings might cause a slight straightening of the neck which you can correctly counteract by a slight adjustment of the truss rod without adjusting the action.

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Thanks everyone - For now I am really keen to keep the medium gauge strings so I've done what Bruce suggested and measured the string height before and after tuning. There wasnt a massive difference (at least not really anything I could accurately tell you about, but I was able to slide my library card in and out without any catching on the strings (just).

So I've loosened the truss rod off and will see how it settles and sounds tomorrow. Action immediately after still looks low (not touching but my library card is a very snug fit) and will wait and see what adjustments I need to make at the saddle end in a couple of days or so. Really appreciate your advice on this - thank you.

As for playing in Eb, it's something that we've always done in every band I've ever played in - easier for the singers and a bit of a heavier sound for a 4 piece. I normally keep a bass tuned in standard to rehearse with (and switch for the odd studio track that's tuned down). I dont buy many basses, and hardly any new, this being the first new one in about 10 years and I've never had this issue with used basses bar a bit of intonation and action adjustments. I should probably have mentioned that when I bought this bass so that it could have been set up appropriately. Lesson learned (and forgotten when I buy another new bass in 10 years!).

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