Are there any differences between an electric bass' tuning machines and an electric guitar's?

I'm planning on building a four string electric bass guitar, and I have a six string guitar to take parts from. Are bass strings too thick to fit in a regular guitar's tuning machine, or should it work?

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sttelnoj7 years ago
apparently carl thompson uses modified hipshot guitar tuners on his basses (dont quote me). i gather if you use locking machines the tension shouldn't be an issue, and if you check out the images of his headstocks, the strings are only just wound on to the posts. i guess its just a case of drilling slightly larger holes and using larger buttons. checkitout www.ctbasses.com this guy is the don!
Not to mention the nut, bridge pieces, and pick-ups are not properly sized or spaced for it.  As a frame of reference for string thickness, the high G on a bass is approximately the same thickness (light gauge) as the low E string on a guitar (medium to heavy gauge).  Also, by eyeballing my five-string bass (which has a tighter string spacing than most four-strings) I estimate that the spacing between each string is roughly 1.5-2 times further apart than my electric guitar.

There really isn't going to be anything you can salvage from an electric guitar, save perhaps the pick guard, volume and tone pots, switches, and jack, that will work with a bass.

Carvin provides entire kits for basses and guitars (as well as parts).  A full kit is $399 US, and I can personally attest that even Carvin's entry-level stuff is nicer than about 90% of anything I've ever played.  Their necks are a dream, they have silky-smooth tuners, and the pick-ups they use have a fantastic sound.

If you'd rather cannibalize an existing bass to make it better on the cheap, I'd recommend buying the First Act bass from Wal-Mart.  They're surprisingly good starter instruments that, when accompanied with a DIY spirit, could no doubt be customized into a half-decent bass.
ItsTheHobbs (author)  MahavishnuMan7 years ago
I would only be using the tuning machines and maybe the neck. I would buy a bass or a bass kit but my budget is $40(US). I guess that's enough for cheap pick-ups and the tuning machines. What if I drilled larger holes for the string to go through, would that work?
Probably not.  The gearing on bass tuners is fairly large and sturdy.  Plus, since bass strings are so thick, you won't be able to wind them properly on such a skinny post.  These two issues will prevent you from staying in tune.

You could possibly rig a string-through-body design, but you'll still need a bridge of some sort to run the strings over.

Are you using a bass neck?  The neck has to be longer too.  Again, the strings are very heavy, and because of the relationship of mass and tension a shorter neck will bring them to tune more loosely - they'll flop around instead of producing a nice solid note.
ItsTheHobbs (author)  MahavishnuMan7 years ago
Is there any difference between the necks besides the head and nut? I want to use it for sizing.
Aside from length, the arching of the fingerboard (measured as a radius of a circle) is a bit different.  This varies more on personal preference though, as it contributes to the feel and playability of the neck.  I like smaller radii as they arch a bit more, making the strings feel a bit more separated.  No good instrument has a perfectly flat fingerboard (except for classical guitars), as it feels entirely unnatural.

As far as length is concerned, this is a vitally important attribute as it affects the tension and tone of the strings, as well as intonation.  If you're making an instrument by hand, you need to ensure that whatever neck you purchase or build is scaled correctly.  A quick measurement of my bass tells me that from nut to bridge is approximately 34" (typical of most basses).  The 12th fret (by this I mean the metal strip itself) must be exactly 1/2 the total distance between the nut and bridge saddle.

If you're constructing the neck from scratch, each fret must be cut in at precise intervals along the length of the neck.  You must understand also how equal-tempered tuning works (equal-tempered tuning describes the method by which all modern Western instruments are tuned).

If the A above middle C is tuned at 440 Hz, then the 1/2 step above it, A^#^ is 440*1.05946, or 466.16 Hz.  That crazy decimal there is actually the 12^th^ root of 2, and is multiplied by the frequency of each note to acquire the frequency of the next 1/2 step.

Similarly, this concept also applies to the distance between each fret, which is why they contract as you move up the neck of a guitar or bass.  On a 34" scale, the distance between the 11^th^ and 12^th^ fret is exactly 1 inch (or 25.4 mm; when building, I would use metric to make measurements easier).  This means the distance between the 10^th^ and 11^th^ fret would be 25.4*1.05946=26.9 mm.  Remember that the distance must get longer towards the nut, and shorter towards the bridge; this means the distance from the 12^th^ to 13^th^ fret would be 25.4/1.05946=24.0 mm.
ItsTheHobbs (author)  MahavishnuMan7 years ago
Ok, cool. Thanks for the reply.
ItsTheHobbs (author)  MahavishnuMan7 years ago
That's ok. I just won an auction on eBay for bass tuning machines.
Well yes, bass guitar tuners are a lot bigger, and usually hold more because theres more tension on bass strings (cuz of the thcickness.)

If you could get it to work, more power to you. But ud probably wanna do bass tuners because of the fact you wouuldnt wanna make it then ruin it by redrilling holes.