The Bass Neck

The other important half of the bass is the bass neck. The neck usually consists of the back of the bass neck, the fingerboard or fretboard and the headstock.

There are a variety of necks out there, and the woods and construction methods used in creating the neck play an important part in making the bass sound a certain way.

There are many ways in which a neck might be attached to the Body:

- Bolt-On
- Neck-Through
- Set-Neck

Bolt-On means that the neck and the body are built separately and attached later through the use of screws. This is the main way of producing basses and is seen on most basses since it tends to be cheaper and easier to do.

Neck-Through basses have the body and neck built into the same instrument at the same time. Generally, this gives the bass a different, more mellow tone than bolt on does, but can be much more expensive and time consuming to fix if it breaks.

Set-Neck is like a mix of the two. The parts are built separately, but the neck is attached afterwards and secured into the body so that it can't come off, usually with glues and a variety of chemical adhesives. This is easier to produce and provides a tonally balanced median of the two production methods.

As for the parts of the bass neck itself, some of the things that you may run into include:

Tuners (1):

Tuners (or tuning keys or machine heads) are the big obtrusive things on the headstock. There is one on each string and they are each individually responsible for keeping one of the strings in tune. There are now unique kinds of tuning keys that allow you to switch tunings with the flick of a switch (literally)!

Truss Rod (2):

In the necks of most basses, there is a small hex or cross shaped cut in a metal circle in the neck of your bass. That is where you make the adjustments to your truss rod. A truss rod is a long metal rod that runs along the inside of your bass and allows you to combat various changes in the bow of the bass neck. Be careful when turning the truss rod as the rod can break if there is too much pressure and pop your fretboard right off of the neck. Pop goes the weasel!

String Tree (3):

On most basses, there is a small object that holds down the strings and provides a way of keeping the strings taut against the nut. That is the string tree. It is a good idea to have on, unless you want to give the strings a chance to escape your nut. It's only happened once to me, but it still sucked.

Nut (4):

This is the small bar-shaped object at the end of the neck where the headstock meets the fingerboard. The job of the nut is to stop the strings from vibrating past a certain point so that the bass plays in tune.

When measuring the scale of a bass, if the scale is 34", that means that there are 34 inches from the nut to the part of the bridge where the strings are cut off.

Headstock (5):

At the end of the bass where most of the hardware is is called the headstock. The main job of this part is to hold the strings and keep them in tune through the use of the tuning pegs.

In the 80's, there was a surge of basses without headstocks. While this did reduce weight, it became so overused that many people nowadays associate headless basses with the 80s. The main thing about the headless bass is that without a headstock, a lot of the weight of the neck of the bass is gone and the bass tends to balance better. I personally like the way that they play, but some people may not. You might want to try one just to say that you have and so that you can get an idea of why they were popular.

Fret/Fingerboard (6):

There are a variety of materials that fingerboards and fretboards are made out of. Most of the time, you'll find that woods are used, especially Rosewood and Maple. However, there are also more and more bass necks made out of Graphite and Man-made materials becoming available.

The difference between a fingerboard and a fretboard are frets. A fingerboard doesn't have frets whereas a fretboard does. A fretless bass has a fingerboard and a typical fretted bass has a fretboard. Bingo!

Necks made out of Maple and Graphite tend to sound brighter than a rosewood board does.

Frets (7):

These are the metal bars that make your bass neck look like a railroad track. Their job is to cut the string off at a certain point and provide accurate pitch for each note. There are many different kinds of metal that are made into frets, but they are always made out of metal.

Fret Markers (8):

These go in place of frets on some fretless basses in order to give the player an easier time playing the fretless bass. Some people think that they are akin to cheating or are somehow dishonest. I figure that if it helps you to play better and more in tune, go for it. These are typically made of maple, rosewood or plastic.

Neck Plate (9):

On many basses, there is a small metal plate on the back of the body where the neck meets the neck pocket. This is a neck plate and it is there as both a mark of the manufacturer (sometimes) and to stop the screws from digging into and making marks in the body around the neck pocket. On some basses (like mine), the neck plate has been replaced with small metal protectors for each screw that do the same thing but are more hidden than a plate. Both are equally effective at protecting the bass.

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