Of The Finish
Your Bass From Damage
Bass String Life
Care Of The Finish
Sometimes wiping the bass down with a soft dry cloth doesn't remove
dried sweat or shine up a dull finish. You may want to use a guitar
polish that is available at music stores. Use polish sparingly, putting
the polish on the cloth and then apply it to the guitar. Do not use
household products such as furniture polish, which may have chemicals
that can do more harm than good to the finish. I've known some players
that recommend using a slightly damped cloth, followed by another
dry one. This can work fine, except that using tap water might be
harmful to some finishes since tap water may contain chlorine. Chlorine
can cause some guitar finishes to have a soft, gummy and sticky feel.
Some products contain silicone. Silicone can harm the finish of your
instrument as well as make it difficult or impossible to refinish.
Sometimes it takes more than guitar polish to restore the luster to
the finish. You can use pure carnauba wax to wax your bass. For best
results, use 100% cotton detailing or diaper cloths to apply and remove
Protecting Your Bass Guitar From Damage
When you are not playing your instrument, you should keep it in it's
case or high quality gig bag to protect it from the elements, sudden
changes in the climate and accidental mishaps. Wipe down the entire
instrument including the strings with a soft dry cloth when you are
finished playing. It is best to use a guitar cloth that you can buy
in a music store, sometimes they come with new guitars or you can
buy auto detailing cloths or diapers cloths that are sold in the auto
detailing section of an auto parts or hardware store. These cloths
should be made of 100% cotton and feel soft. Try your best to avoid
exposing your bass to extremes of temperature and humidity. Never
leave your bass exposed to direct sunlight, even in it's case. Never
leave it next to any source of heat, including leaving it in a hot
car. Heat warps wood and softens glue joints, both especially when
If you've ever seen an older instrument that had many fine cracks
or checking in the finish, this is because the instrument was exposed
to rapid temperature changes. When traveling to a gig or rehearsal
on a hot or cold day, arrive early to give your bass enough time to
acclimate slowly to room temperature while still in it's case. Set
up the rest of your gear first, remove your bass from it's case last.
Unpacking your bass after the rest of your gear is set up is always
a good idea because there is less chance of it getting bumped into
when people are setting up their gear. For the same reason, when you
are finished playing at rehearsal or a gig, pack your bass before
Bass Guitar String Types
There are a few different types of bass guitar strings available,
flatwound, roundwound, tapewound and half round.
Flatwound strings have the mellowest tone of all the string types.
They are made with a flat wire wound around a core wire. The core
wire goes from the top end of the string and goes around the ball
end. They have the smoothest feel and are easier on the frets than
the other two types of strings, as well as being a bit easier on
fingerboards of fretless basses. These strings were used on all
bass guitars through the 50's, and 60's. Although round wound strings
started becoming popular in the 70's, new bass guitars came with
factory installed flatwound strings. Flatwound strings lost popularity
as the bass started coming out of the background to the forefront
of music. Flatwound strings remained popular with bassists that
play blues and traditional jazz. In recent years, flatwound strings
have become a bit more popular in all types of music as bassists
look to find different tones for their music.
Round wound strings are brighter than flatwound strings. They are
made with a round wire, wound around a core wire. These strings
make more finger noise and can wear frets faster than flatwound
strings. Roundwound strings have become more popular than flatwound
strings due to their brightness.
There are roundwound strings wound with nickel wire and there and
also roundwound strings wrapped with stainless steel wire. Stainless
steel wound strings are the brightest and loudest of all the strings.
They also make the most noise and are the hardest on frets. Stainless
steel wound strings are popular with many bassists in loud rock
bands, due to the power and brilliance they have. There are also
nickel plated stainless steel wound strings (NPS). The attributes
of NPS strings will fall in between those of stainless steel wound
and nickel wound strings.
Halfwound, groundwound or pressurewound strings start out as roundwound
strings and then are either run through rollers which press the
outer part of the string or ground a bit to make the outside a bit
flatter. This way the string will produce less finger noise, be
easier on the frets and have a good amount of the brightness that
roundwound strings have.
strings flatwound strings, usually having nylon in the outer wrap.
These are the least bright sounding strings. If you are looking
for old school thump, these are one of the best choices.
Some of the string manufacturers put silk wrap on the ends of their
bass strings. This is to keep the windings at the ends of the strings
from separating. Bass strings that do not have the silk wrap on
the ends are made using a method of winding the ends so that they
do not separate, therefore the silk wrap is not necessary and helps
keep the cost of the strings lower. Some bassists prefer to use
strings that have silk wrapped ends, because they like the way it
looks and they feel it protects the tuning posts from the strings.
the properties of the different string types can make a difference
in fret wear, finger noise, brightness and power, your playing style
is also a big factor in how much of each is produced. If you and
heavy handed with your fretting hand and picking attack, you can
wear out frets with any type of strings and produce a fair amount
of finger noise. Your choice of string should be based on your playing
style, preference of sound and feel and the style of music you play.
Prolonging String Life
How quickly your strings lose the new sound depends on how much
you play your bass, how you maintain it and your personal hand sweat
chemistry. Bassists who gig and or rehearse regularly with a band
will go through strings faster than bassists who play for the fun
of it at home.
There are articles and videos on the internet about boiling string
as well as building a tube using PVC pipe and filling it with denatured
alcohol to renew the sound of the strings. Both of these procedures
are used to clean the strings of sweat, dirt and contaminants that
get into the windings of the strings. Each of these methods of cleaning
the strings will work to extend the like of your strings to some
extent. Boiling strings and/or putting them in a large tube of alcohol
are both ridiculous and possibly dangerous procedures.
In my own humble opinion, these methods only get the new sound back
to the strings for only a very short of time and weaken the ends
of the strings from un-installing them and then re-installing them.
This increases your chance of breaking them while playing. Good
maintenance is the key to prolonging string life. If possible, washing
you hands before playing helps very much also.
Here is an alternative that I use, which will work as long as you
don't wait until too much of the brightness has already been lost.
I prefer to just keep the sweat, dirt and other contaminants to
a minimum for as long as I can. When I am finished playing my bass,
I wipe down the strings with a soft, clean and dry cloth. When I
feel the strings are starting to lose some of their brightness (long
before they sound dull), I wipe them down with some alcohol or even
better, naphtha on a small piece of soft cloth. I do this by cutting
up some small pieces of cloth, smaller than 2" x 2". I
prefer to use chamois cloth to do this. I cut open a clean, smooth
plastic bag to put in between the strings and the body and neck
of the bass to keep alcohol and small cloth fibers from the instrument.
Next, I detune the string I want to clean, so I can get the whole
string easier. I apply some 90% isopropyl alcohol to the chamois
cloth and with a moderately firm grip, wipe the entire length of
the string several times, using a different part of the piece of
cloth each time. The dirt that comes off is usually visible on the
cloth. When I don't any more see more dirt coming off the string
and onto the chamois cloth, I wipe the length of the string with
a clean, soft and dry cloth or towel. I tune the string to pitch
and go on to do the same to the rest of the strings. You can do
this cleaning to your strings when you feel the need to, with a
minimal amount of time and materials.
There are products available in some music stores that you can apply
to you new bass strings which are made to coat and protect your
new, unused strings, similar to the coatings that D'Addario, DR
and Elixir put on their coated strings. The coating keeps the dirt
out of the windings. I have not yet tried this aftermarket string
coating, so I cannot say how well they work and whether or not it
will affect string performance. There are some sets of strings priced
for bassists on a tight budget. Some bassists prefer the sound of
Machine Head Maintenance
Machine heads with open backs are exposed to the elements. Dirt
and contaminants get in the parts and can stop the key from turning
smoothly. The open type can be disassembled by removing the large
screw in the center of the sprocket gear, Remove the screw, washer
and gear. The post of the tuner should come out through the bushing
in front of the headstock. Some machine heads might have a spacer
between the sprocket gear and the plate as seen on the third picture
below. There is usually no need to remove the bushing or main part
of the tuner. Clean all of the parts well with a penetrating oil,
including the inside of the bushing and in the grooves of the worm
gear side of the key shaft, removing dirt, corrosion and old gummed
up grease. Wipe off the excess penetrating oil. The residual coating
of oil will protect the parts from corrosion. As you reassemble
the machine head, you can put a tiny dab of white grease on the
metal to metal moving parts. (the part of the post that contacts
the bushing, the side of the sprocket gear that contacts the plate
of the machine head), to help the smoothness of the operation. You
will notice that the bottom of the post is shaped to fit into only
one side of the sprocket gear.
Enclosed machine heads as seen in the picture at the lower right side
are almost maintenance free. There is an adjustment screw on the side
of the key to adjust the tightness and feel of the key to your desire.
Turn the screw clockwise to increase resistance and counterclockwise
to decrease resistance.
Soldering is easy when you know how to do it properly. To wire a
guitar or to do soldering on a circuit board, rosin core solder
with a 60/40 tin-lead alloy should be used. You should use a 15
to 40 watt soldering iron. The soldering iron should be in good
condition. It's AC wire should not have any tangles, burns or cuts
in it and the tip should not be crusty, worn or oxidized. Solder
in a ventilated room. This type of solder rarely spits up like types
of solder used with liquid flux can, but don't take a chance, wear
goggles to protect your eyes! The larger, higher wattage, gun shaped
soldering irons work well, but they may be too powerful for sensitive
components, especially if you've had little or no experience soldering.
For safety and convenience, use a soldering iron stand to hold the
iron when it's hot and you are preparing to solder. These help keep
you from accidentally burning something or grabbing the wrong end
of the iron, which is NOT fun and may severely burn your hand, putting
your bass playing amongst other things on hold for a bit. The base
of the holder should have an area to hold a wet sponge that you
will use to clean the tip of the iron that has excess solder or
solder has has been hot too long. The size and shape of the tip
should correspond with the size of the solder joint you will make.
The tips are replaceable, change the tip as necessary. Small solder
points will need a pencil point tip, larger solder points will need
a chisel shaped tip. Before you plug the soldering iron into the
AC outlet, take about an inch or two of solder and tightly wrap
it several times around the tip of the iron. This will "tin"
the tip, helping the solder melt and flow easier. This will also
help the tip last longer.
When the solder melts off the tip, you'll know the iron is ready
to use. Solder flows and hardens to where the heat is transferred.
You always want the tip to look shiny and wet when you are using
the iron. If the surface that the solder needs to be on has not
been heated well, the solder will only stay on the iron tip and
/ or you might make a cold solder joint, which may work intermittently
or not at all. For best results, first wipe the tip of the iron
on the wet sponge. Touch the iron tip to the area where the solder
is needed, then touch the solder to the tip and solder joint. Let
the solder flow on to the solder joint, then pull the iron away.
Do not use an excessive amount of solder, just enough to make the
parts hold. When you are finished soldering the connection, wipe
the tip of the iron on the wet sponge to clean it. Sometimes getting
the existing solder on a potentiometer to melt is difficult. To
make it much easier, melt a little new solder onto the old solder,
that will get the existing solder to melt. When you are finished
using the soldering iron, unplug it and wipe the tip on the sponge
while it is still hot. Never leave a hot iron unattended.
note about those COLD HEAT soldering irons. They are convenient
tools, but only meant to handle small, quick solder applications.
They are not meant to solder ground wires onto the backs of potentiometers
or other solder points that will take longer than a momentary touch
to form. They work well on small wire connections and most standard
circuit boards. There is also a difference to the technique of soldering
with them due to their design and function.
String Tension: You may be advised by airline personnel to be sure
to detune your bass before air travel. Do not take this advice,
leave your bass in tune. Your bass was designed to handle string
tension at all times. Guitar manufacturers ship their guitars fully
tuned to music stores and they arrive just fine.
Airline companies fly airplanes, they don't build guitars. If an
airline worker at the airport asks you if you've already detuned
your guitar, just say yes to avoid the ridiculous lecture. If you
intend to do any air travel with your bass, be sure to buy it a
flight case. The chances of carrying your bass onboard an airplane
are extremely small unless you have purchased an extra seat for
it. Even if you were allowed to take it onboard as personal luggage
one time, you might not be able to take it onboard the next time,
even if it is the same airline. The case for air travel should be
an ATA approved fight case. Baggage handlers are moving baggage
in and out of planes quickly, so they are unlikely to always be
gentle with your case. The right case will hold up to rough handling
and other cargo that it rides with.
Your Instrument On An Airplane:
It is not very common to bring what airlines consider to be a medium
to large sized instrument ebe allowed into the cabin of an airplane,
especially with long scale bass guitars. The people at the airport
will tell you that it is too big. The only way to definitely ensure
that you will be able to bring it on board, is to buy a seat for
it. I've found that the best thing to do, is try your best to get
a direct flight. Bring your bass guitar to the airport in an ATA
approved flight case. Then walk it all the way to the airplane.
That way you will be with it at all times, at any possible security
checkpoint. Be as nice and polite as you can be to airport personnel
that may question you about what you have in the case, those who
want to inspect the case and to the ones who can assist you.
It is important that you are nice and polite and smile, even to
airport security people who might not be nice and polite back to
you. Anyone can have a bad day and some travelers before you could
have been a headache to the security person. Nicely ask airport
personnel if they can do anything to help you and that it would
be greatly appreciated. Tell them your instrument is a your baby,
like a sweet car is to an automobile enthusiast. You can also tell
them that your bass is your livelihood (whether it is or is not)
and that you cannot afford to have it become missing or damaged.
Tell them you would like to handle your bass all the way to the
plane if possible. The person at the gate will arrange to have someone
meet you just as you board the plane to take your guitar and they
will put it in with the baggage. By that point you can lock the
case. Make sure you see the I. D. badge of the person who takes
your bass from you. It should be plainly visible. If his or her
I. D. badge is not visible, ask them to please show it to you. That
person will give you a special claim ticket for when you get off
The scenario that I've just described will only work out well if
you don't have to change airplanes during your trip. If you have
to change planes to get to your destination, you will have to check
your bass just like you would check your luggage.
Sometimes you get lucky and they will let you take a guitar on the
plane. I wouldn't take such a chance with a gig bag. If you were
very lucky enough to have been able to bring your bass on board
on one flight, it doesn't mean you will be as lucky on your return
trip, even it is the same airline. Very important...do not make
a joke about having something dangerous in the case. Especially
in this day and age, the security people will not appreciate it,
nor your fellow travelers and you might find yourself in trouble
or at least very delayed for making such a statement.
An alternative, would be to ship your bass ahead to someone you
trust very much and have them ship it back to you when you return