Fig. 1: Do you like to experiment? Try shifting a neck’s resonance by adding temporary mass with a clamp. In their quest for tone, most bass players experiment by
Fig. 1: Do you like to experiment? Try shifting a neck’s resonance by adding temporary mass with a clamp.
In their quest for tone, most bass players experiment by swapping pickups, strings, and tone controls, but rarely do they look for a new neck ... and at least those owning bolt-on instruments could.
Necks have two basic functions: They serve as a platform for our playing and they handle the tension of the strings. While the first consideration leads to last month’s thoughts about shape and radius [“What the Heck is with that Neck?,” November 2012], the second consideration is about stiffness and adjustability— factors that affect both playability and, as we’ll see in a moment, tone.
Adjustability. Whether made of wood, composites, or aluminum, almost all necks have a truss rod. The truss rod’s only function is to adjust the neck to a slightly forward curvature against the tension of the strings. There are also two-way truss rods that act in both directions, but they’re usually not needed on basses. That’s because a 4-string has a string tension of about 800N (Newtons)—equivalent to the weight of an 80-kilo adult constantly pulling at the neck over its entire (and hopefully long) life.
The truss rod provides a way to adjust a fretboard to its ideal state, which is to be slightly concave, thanks to a subtle forward bow. The main reason behind this is that a string’s amplitude decreases as we shorten its vibrating length by moving further up the fretboard. And if we aim for the lowest action, the neck curvature has to follow this non-linear change of amplitude. So a totally straight neck would either mean fret buzz in the lower register or an unnecessarily high action in the upper register.
It’s easy to see the curvature by pressing a string down against the first and last fret. A distance of 0.5 mm between string and fret in the middle of the fretboard is a good number. Turning the truss rod nut clockwise shortens the truss and causes the neck to bend backward and vice versa. These adjustments work the same way, whether the truss nut is at the body or headstock, although I have seen some differences in accuracy between these systems.
Most truss rods don’t run through the complete length of the neck. For example, rods having the adjustment nut at the headstock often end around the 17th or 19th fret. That’s not a big deal because in that region the neck is already thicker and stiffer, and thus better able to withstand the pull of the strings before the neck finally ends in the solid neck pocket. Having the adjustment nut on the body side sometimes means not being able to adjust the softest part of the neck, which is the area at the lowest frets. Those who need to loosen the strings and detach the neck simply to adjust it might want to put a neck with a headstock-accessed truss rod on a checklist for their next purchase.
Tonal influences. Judging by the number of comments on forum threads, of all the non-electric components, body wood has the most impact on bass tone. It seems players typically replace a neck if they don’t like its feel or adjustability, but rarely make the move for tonal reasons.
Which begs the question: How much influence can a neck have on tone and where in the sonic spectrum does it have the greatest effect?
Being a bass player, your main focus should be on the fundamentals and lower mids. Whatever happens in the upper mids or treble range is an extra. Without getting too technical, we can explore the production of fundamentals and lower mids using a very simple model.
For starters, we’re talking about electric solidbody basses, so the model is a vibrating string with its two bearings at the bridge and nut. Ideally, these are infinitely stiff, so any vibrational energy ends up in our pickups. Every less-than-ideal resonating part will suck up certain frequencies, thus modifying the resulting spectrum. Hopefully this creates a better tone with more character and doesn’t rob our bass of its fundamentals.
So we don’t have to deal too much with mass, elasticity modules, or the quality of our bearings in this discussion, let’s make it easy and ask only one question: Which of the two—body or neck—is more critical to our fundamental tones?
Without getting bogged down in technical terms, we can expect the lowest resonances from the element that’s the weakest or softest. Assuming neck and body are made of the same material, their cross sections give us a good impression of their stiffness. The ratio of these is about 10 times more for the body, so we can expect the lowest resonances within the neck. The length and lever arm of the neck compound this and make the resonances even lower.
The most annoying resonance on basses is a dead spot—one that meets the fundamental frequency, causing it to be rapidly absorbed. When this happens, the frequency shakes the neck and not the magnetic field of our pickups.
This simple model tells us that one way of getting rid of a dead spot is to get a stiffer neck, which is why stiffer composite necks are less known for dead spots. Adding mass to the neck—especially to the headstock— is another way to lift resonances. If you’re dealing with a dead spot, try this DIY experiment: Temporarily affix a clamp to the headstock to change the neck’s mass (Fig. 1). Changing to heavier or lighter tuners can also shift a neck’s resonance. Because they react to their multiple higher modes, these resonances will also work their way through the entire midrange.
I admit that the body-to-neck connection, the headstock, and all the involved masses factor into the tonal equation. But our simple model is good enough to show the crucial importance of the neck, and it also suggests that the body’s sonic role is way overrated.
Heiko Hoepfinger is a German physicist and long-time bassist, classical guitarist, and motorcycle enthusiast. His work on fuel cells for the European orbital glider Hermes got him deeply into modern materials and physical acoustics, and led him to form BassLab (basslab.de)—a manufacturer of monocoque guitars and basses. You can reach him at email@example.com..
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.