Build #3, Thread #1: My New Thinline Bass Guitar

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Freekmagnet, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    A little sneak peek here:

    [​IMG]

    I put it together and it’s looking good. There’s some noise coming out of the preamp that I have to pinpoint. Also, I have to make a new pickguard. I ordered the material from eBay and they said it was cast acrylic, but it’s extruded acrylic for sure. It’s scratching like a flea-bitten dog.
     
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  2. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Does anyone out there know a good material and source for a single-ply black pickguard? They have PVC sheets at Mojotone, but I imagine shipping for one sheet is out of this world.
     
  3. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    Guitarfetish.com has sheets of single ply Black, but it's a Matte finish. Have you looked on the Stewmac site?
     
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  4. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Friend of Leo's

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    GFS has both matte and shiny.
     
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  5. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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  6. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    I’ve spent the last day or two troubleshooting and tweaking my preamp a bit.

    [​IMG]

    Turns out I had a bad capacitor somewhere, and it was making tons of racket and killing my output.

    Since I recreated the preamp on my breadboard, I decided to change a few of the resistor values. I’m running 2x9v on a circuit that calls for 9v. I used the extra headroom to up the gain by bumping the value of R2 from 10K to 15K. Since the pull-down resistor value doesn’t seem to be all that crucial, I attached a trimpot to dial in a good-sounding value and replaced it with a resistor. Also, I seemed to have misplaced my bag of J201s, so I swapped out the buffer trannie with 2N5457. I guess those are better for buffers anyway.

    Somebody please remind me that I am waaaay out of my wheelhouse here. I should not be designing preamps.
     
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  7. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I buy A4 size 2mm acrylic sheets on ebay from plastics suppliers.... white/black/clear...they usually cut as many as you want and post them out...
     
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  8. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Last night, I plugged the bass in and it worked. She speaks like thunder.

    [​IMG]

    I have rehearsal tonight and we’re playing Friday and Saturday, so this will be getting a test drive right away.

    After doing a side by side comparison with my 2015 StingRay, I was pretty proud that my pickup and preamp had less hiss.

    Not ready to sign off on this build yet - I still have to cut a new pickguard and truss cover. I ordered some material that should be here Friday. Sometime early next week, I am going to set up my lights and shoot some glamour shots.
     
  9. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Geekery...

    [​IMG]
     
  10. CraigB

    CraigB Tele-Afflicted

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    That's beautiful! Extremely nice work. Hey, looks like we're practically neighbors. I'm in Santa Maria
     
  11. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Thx!

    Haha - yeah Santa Maria is about 2hrs from me. I guess by Southern California standards, that is practically neighbors!
     
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  12. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Quick tone report: I took the bass to rehearsal the other night and it seemed to work OK. The bass amp at the studio is some crummy old 100w Yamaha from the 70s. I managed to get a decently clean tone from the amp just using the controls on onboard the bass.

    Overall, the bass plays great. It has a really tight feel to it which I was pleasantly surprised by. Sound-wise, the pickup and preamp are really bright and have that hi-fi vibe that will take some getting used to. Every note is really there. There’s plenty of bass, and I’ve been cutting some of the mids on my amp. Theoretically, if the new flatwound strings ever deaden, I can just cut the mids by turning up the highs on my onboard preamp. Sometimes the output is a little hot and almost has too much attack when I really pluck at it. I might consider either decreasing the gain on the preamp or knocking the wind count on the pickups down by a 100-150 turns. I’ll have to figure that out. I guess now that I’ve moved the electronics from my crummy Squier to my more tightly constructed bass, all this stuff makes more of a difference.

    The bummer is that they no longer make my brand of strings. I’m using Dunlop Flats, and like most modern flatwounds, they’ve super bright. I’ve tried Chromes, Ernie Ball and a couple other brands. Most of them are too bright and clangy for me. The GHS Precisions are pretty good, but they wear out - the frets make grooves in the strings and they don’t vibrate properly. I used to use the Sadowski Black Label Flats. They were made by LaBella and had a similar vibe tho their stock Deep Talking Flats. The Sadowsky strings had a more reasonable tension and just a little more midrange and brightness. I called LaBella for some guidance and they recommend the Low Tension Flats. I’ll give them a try; my worry is that they’ll have the wet spaghetti noodle vibe that the Thomastik-Infeld strings have.

    I’ll have two gigs with it this weekend and I’ll be back with more.
     
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  13. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Field Test and Tone Report Part II:

    I brought the bass to two gigs over the weekend. Before I go on, let me begin by defining my parameters of success with this particular instrument; the primary goal was to support a 7-piece band with two singers, bass, guitar, drums, a two-piece horn section and a really loud keyboard player, while covering a diverse range of material ranging from blues, funk, traditional R&B, cumbia and ranchera music. This was to be done with one pickup placed in the bridge position. This pickup, while being a humbucker, is a sidewinder and the nature of this design make the pickup sound and behave more like a single-coil pickup.

    Given these parameters, this is/was a pretty tall order. As far as the StingRay, a bridge humbucker-driven bass that I've played forever - I still haven't figured out how that configuration is able to accomplish as much as it does. A side note: decades ago, I was coffee shop in the Bay Area talking tone with a pretty well-known bass player whose name I will not mention out of a desire not to incriminate either party. He plays a bass with a single small EMG humbucker in the bridge and at the time he claimed it was as pretty difficult to hold his trio together. I hadn't really tried it myself until this weekend, so my thoughts harkened back to that day and that conversation.

    So that all aside, on Friday, we played the Copa Cubana in Ventura. The Copa is a tough room; its a live, bright sounding and I have to play with no PA support. The bass is a really bright-sounding instrument, so this presented a big challenge. I also had new Dunlop flatwounds on it. In soundcheck, the bass sounded OK, but I realized that I had made a mistake but upping the gain on the preamp. My original thought that increasing the gain would simply result in more volume. This was a misguided assumption. While I did get a little more volume, but what was really happening was that the increased gain was amplifying everything - including a lot of characteristics I didn't really want to hear. The pickup was overly bright and bassy to the point of being really had-sounding and the attack was way to aggressive. I could feel the speakers popping every time I played a note. I dialed my amp in so I could get through the night. One thing for sure was that I really hated the Dunlop strings. They were way too bright and for a flatwound, I wasn't getting enough booty out of it. I tried stretching the strings and I ended breaking one before the gig. I actually played the Music Man that night.

    The next morning, I swapped out some resistors and brought the preamp back to earth. I also put some old LaBella Deep Talking Flats I had laying around. The bass sounded much better. Just in the living room, it had a lot of bass, a lot of brightness without being hard-sounding or clangy and I had a nice slightly scooped midrange not unlike a Jazz Bass.

    That night, we played at Pirates in Oxnard. That room is a little different than the Copa. I had PA support, but I had to play at a much louder level to support the band. The bass sounded really good at soundcheck, however the amp would go into clipping mode before I could get the preamp up where I wanted it. I assumed because the bass is so bright, that the highs were causing the amp to clip. As we played the the gig, what I realized was that the lows were what was causing the amp to clip. I ended up dialing the preamp back and bumping the power amp up. The result was that I got this really, really deep yet very clear low end. This made sense, since it takes more power to amplify the bassier tones. In this sense, the bass really delivered last night. I could get a really good dubby reggae sound on the one Bob Marley song we play, and while I'm not much of a slapper, the natural brightness and the extended low end made for a pretty fantastic slap tone.

    As of this weekend, I'm very happy with my results, although I'm not 100% convinced yet that this pickup, preamp and placement will work in every live playing situation. I think that with some more work, it can and will. I think that it would be great in the studio not unlike those Ibanez MC800 basses. Either way I'm going to need to experiment with this some more and perhaps change my approach to experimentation. For one, I have been running the preamp with the bass and treble cranked all the way up. I need experiment with running the controls flat and boosting and cutting where it needs to be. This would make sense, because when I'm running passive, the pickup sounds really good by itself. It has a nice, pleasant and full range - it just needs more output because where it's positioned. In the meantime I will also not entirely rule out the possibility that perhaps this pickup might be more well suited in the "P" position or even be one of a pair not unlike a "J" or a Rick. I'm also considering the possibility of designing a fatter humbucker for the MM position that I personally prefer. I was picturing a big quad-coil or something of that nature.

    Anyway, I need to get a new set of LaBellas for this bass. I want to photograph it this week and get some glamor shots. The silks on the set I have on this bass are pretty ratty-looking. Hopefully, I'll have some good photos up sometime mid-week.
     
  14. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    OK this clip surfaced this morning. The li’l Lady shot it. This is what the audience heard, so I feel pretty good about it.

    Our new keyboard player is really loud.

     
  15. Raoul

    Raoul TDPRI Member

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    [QUOTE="Somebody please remind me that I am waaaay out of my wheelhouse here. I should not be designing preamps.[/QUOTE]

    OK: You were well out of your wheelhouse-- you shouldn't have been designing preamps.

    But, since you did, and since you've got some really good real-world data about how that worked out, you're a whole lot less out of your wheelhouse, now. Rinse, repeat a couple of times, and nobody will be able to design a better pre-amp for you than you.

    This whole build has been wildly inspiring and entertaining. Thanks for continuing to share.
     
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  16. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Glam Shots

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
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    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  17. oldrebel

    oldrebel Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    That looks fantastic!!
     
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  18. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    Looks great. Sounds great too, lots of deep bottom going on.
     
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  19. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    The new bass plays great and sounds great. For the last few days, I’ve been coming home after work and working with the preamp and the amp to get an optimal tone out of it. As I suspected, I’ve had success rolling the tone controls down about mid-way and starting from there. From the “center” point, I usually cut the highs about 20-30% and boost the lows maybe 10-15%.

    I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to wrap up this thread. For the most part, this bass is done. I’m thinking I might refinish the blue bass I built last year, ‘cuz I’m really not happy with the color or the execution. I want experiment with the Auto Air Pearl Blue I have. From there, I’ll continue refining this design in future builds.

    At some point, I have to put some thought into building more pickups. I’ve had some interest from a few people in my pickups, so I’ll have figure out what I’ll need to make a production version of the piece. The big task will be to bring my production time waaay down. That would largely involve investing in some tooling and creating space for that tooling. My nephew says he has a Shapeko CNC router he wants me to take off of his hands, and that’ll help with making flatwork and stuff. From there, I have a couple of ideas for new pickup designs I’d like to get started on soon. On a tangentially related note, I let my DBA for my graphic design business expire this year, and will be renewing the name as a pickup-related business.

    I’d like to send out a special thanks to everyone here on the forum for following and commenting on this thread. I found a lot of great ideas, inspiration and help here on the forum and it really helped to make this little project come together. I look forward to more projects here as things develop. In the meantime, I am going to catch up and read through some other people’s build threads.

    Best,

    Jeremy
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  20. eallen

    eallen Tele-Afflicted

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    Love it Jeremy! A beautiful bass build!

    Eric

    Sent from my SM-G892A using Tapatalk
     
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