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Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 2903
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 4:18 am:   Edit Post

I've heard this in the past but not really focussed on it recently until today.

When I play an Open "A" string on my bass I can also hear a C# an octave above this so it sounds like a chord is being played. It's only subtle its like playing an open "A" with a C# on the 11th fret of the D string simultaneously.

I was playing my Elan 4 and My Series 5 today so those are the only basses I've focussed on. I know i've heard it on my other basses before but as I've been concentrating on the sound much more since I've had the series II its more noticeable.

I'm not sure if it's a problem at all. If it is would it be something to do with the wood resonating or electronics or even my hearing or, something in the signal path resonating I can't tell yet. It's the same when I play through my PJB Briefcase amp as well as my alembic rig.

Any thoughts Idea's.
Username: jzstephan

Post Number: 63
Registered: 1-2012
Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 7:02 am:   Edit Post

I've always heard the overtone series on Alembics clearly. Its there on everything, but there's something about the neck through and the quality of the pickups that brings out the overtones.

Overtone Series
Senior Member
Username: elwoodblue

Post Number: 1397
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 7:16 am:   Edit Post

Thanks for the good link jz,

Jazzy, try picking at the 5th overtone node,
(1/5 the length of the string) and see if you can hear a difference.

This page mentions how a piano hammer is placed around 1/7th the string length to decrease the 7th overtone which can cause unwanted dissonances.

( LOL...just saw the url ;) )
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 2905
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 11:44 am:   Edit Post

I've read it but I'm still none the wiser as to whether what I'm hearing is problem or a good thing?

Username: mica

Post Number: 7726
Registered: 6-2000
Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 12:38 pm:   Edit Post

Vince! I told you not to learn to hear the 5th harmonic! Actually, there's other ones that I dislike noticing, but the 5th is the one that is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

Oh well, it really doesn't matter at all when you are actually making music, but when you are all by yourself, and listening to long sustained notes, you can hear all sorts of things that are rather unpleasant and it amazes me that music actually comes out of strings sometimes. Oh wait, it's amazing musicians that make the music come out, strings can't do it on their own.
Senior Member
Username: elwoodblue

Post Number: 1398
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 2:55 pm:   Edit Post

...maybe some chewing gum at 1/10th the string length? :-)
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 2907
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 1:30 am:   Edit Post

Yes Mica, I do recall you telling me about this harmonic when you were showing me the signals on the scope. If you are ever at one of my gigs I will try hard not to let it ring out for you, how's that. :-)

And if I see you cringing in the corner I hope it's because of that harmonic and not my playing.... hahaha

Since you mention strings mica, do you remember what the string gauge it was that you put on my bass? I need to get some spare sets.

Advanced Member
Username: jimmyj

Post Number: 386
Registered: 8-2008
Posted on Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 2:15 pm:   Edit Post

I remember having this discussion with Mica also. She has become so attuned to listening for anomalies as she tests basses that (I thought) the out-of-tune 7th was driving her crazy. I also learned from my dad who was a piano tuner / technician (and bass player) what you linked to above about the piano action being designed so the hammer hits the string in that very spot to purposely limit that overtone's involvement. You can see in a grand piano how the strings are arranged to do this. An upright piano is less successful because of the physical restrictions and that's one of the reasons they sound more dissonant than a grand.

So Mica was telling me about this and showing me how if she plucked the string near it's center she couldn't avoid hearing that ugly overtone, it was almost ALL she could hear after a while. I demonstrated to her that when playing bass in the normal position we pluck the string closer to the bridge and that gives us the ability to limit the level of that very overtone in the sound! If you pluck the string at what would be it's 1/7 "node", just like in the piano you force that node to move (initially) and thus the ugly 7th is not as prominent.

Oooo, physics!! Ouch, my brain!!

I also know that for our "tempered" scale to work out the intervals of a 5th have to be tuned slightly narrow and 4ths slightly wide. Not by much but by a very slow beat. They can't be perfectly in tune or the rest of the intervals don't quite work.

OK now everybody get back to jamming with drummers and we can forget all of this! Ha!

Jimmy J
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1863
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 10:01 pm:   Edit Post

Jimmy, one of my piano teachers (she was degree'd from Julliard, full scholarship to get her, a brilliant classical pianist) had perfect pitch. Some days she literally could not play because all of the 'bent' tuning it takes to get a piano in tune (and that's a relative phrase, as you know) would give her migraines ! She and her husband had a studio with two German Steinways, that were tuned every other month, and this was in a very controlled environment. They certainly would not have sounded 'out' to 99.9% of us, but she could hear it.

And yes, JV, a brilliant side-effect of Ron's electronics: You hear LOTS of things you won't hear on most basses. BTW, hearing those ebony fundamentals under your low C's and D's yet?

J o e y

(Message edited by bigredbass on May 17, 2012)
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 2909
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Friday, May 18, 2012 - 1:45 am:   Edit Post

Joey, I'm still not hearing anything that I can attribute to the Ebony specifically because my other basses have different woods and electronics and also I've no other experience of series basses. Therefore all I'm hearing is different bass with powerful, clean sounding notes. I can accept that the ebony is contributing something, but for me to hear it's specific property is not something I think i can do without referencing that to another series II bass of the same construction without the ebony lams.

I guess the reality for me is that the ebony is used in the construction for a specific sonic reason and if it didn't satisfy that reason then presumably alembic would just offer it for cosmetic reasons instead and at lower cost than it is now.

So although I can't claim to hear it specifically I'm happy that whatever it is doing is adding to the sum of parts that are giving me a great sounding bass. If in time I get to understand and hear what it is doing, then that will be an additional benefit.

I have to say I've started hearing some other harmonics when using a brighter sound and open strings.


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