Top-loading vs string through on a bass bridge?

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TeyeplayerTeyeplayer Frets: 699
edited August 2017 in Bass
Inspired by a couple of recent threads I've finally got round to working towards finishing a bass partscaster I started a few years back. It's a 51 p-bass style body, gotta jazz neck in the post and a custom psychedelic paint job in process thanks to Mrs Teyeplayer. So it's gonna be a proper odds and sods bastard.

I picked up a cheap but solid looking wilkinson bridge through Vanson the other day but didn't realise it was toploading rather than string-through until it arrived. I'm not a bassist and have too little experience of playing bass to consider one over the other, so wondered what the more experienced bass sorts (here's looking at you @Bridgehouse ) thought of these two bridge styles? Have I just had a happy accident or made a major mistake in buying this bridge and what do you consider the key tonal differences of each type? 

Many thanks for your advice.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15723
    I built a 52 P (surf green!) and it's got a toploader on it. In fact, all my Ps are toploaders. The early 51 onwards Ps and the reissues from 68 onwards (telecaster bass) were strung through. 

    The string through is supposed to give a bit more sustain and a bit more tension in the strings, but the ones that I have played haven't felt that different.

    My view? Toploaders are fine, and I prefer them. Put a set of flats on (I suggest Chromes as they keep some of the zing and keep the tension up) and enjoy some great deep Motown vibe. 


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  • guitarfishbayguitarfishbay Frets: 7026
    edited August 2017
    The Fender US Standard bridges can be top load or string through.

    I have compared it and came to the conclusion that the biggest difference is in feel, and transient response when you play hard.

    My preference for feel and tone is actually top load, for everything except a low B.  I string my low B through the body.  If you're playing in standard tuning a top load will be fine.

    With the exact same string gauge I found

    Top load - more give in the string, slightly looser feel when playing harder.

    String through - tighter feel, most noticeable when you pick/pluck hard.  I found it slightly helped the low B I use, but not a huge amount.

    The only string where I preferred it is the low B.  Otherwise I thought the feel was nicer on top load.  I think the differences are mostly due to the break angle, rather than being anything to do with being anchored in to the body.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3328
    +1 for top loading.

    I put this down to decades of familiarity with this approach compared to through stringing. 

    I also like the Warwick bridge and tailpiece combination. This enables makes the break angle adjustable to taste. I shall express no opinion on the Rickenbacker approach. That would start a flame war.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • TeyeplayerTeyeplayer Frets: 699
    Sounds like toploading it is then, thank you very much @Bridgehouse @guitarfishbay and @Funkfingers your feedback is greatly appreciated. TBH I'd have stuck with the standard string though and wouldn't have thought to even try toploading if it wasn't for this mistake, based on your explanations  I'm pretty glad I will be. Also I love flatwounds on guitar so this will definitely be flatwounds on bass too! Wicked stuff and many many thanks.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 32848

    I shall express no opinion on the Rickenbacker approach. That would start a flame war.
    When I was looking for solutions to the tail-lift problem on my old Rick, I did consider through-body stringing. I eventually decided against it and went with a miniature 'Fender-style bridge' hidden under the Rick tailpiece, partly because I didn't want to do anything quite as visible as ferrules on the back, and partly because I was worried that it might change the sound too much.

    In the event, even what I did noticeably changed the tone, but in a good way - it's basically like it was, but clearer and more defined. I wonder if it would have been like this when the bass was new and the tailpiece was flat, but I have no way of knowing...
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3328
    Given that through stringing increases string tension, it ought to be possible to balance this by changing to lighter gauge strings and arriving at approximately the same poundage.

    Leo Fender's bass guitar bridge is the cheapest, most minimal engineering solution to the problem that could be imagined BUT it is what we are all used to and it does contribute to instruments that sound good.

    Put a set of flats on (I suggest Chromes as they keep some of the zing and keep the tension up) and enjoy some great deep Motown vibe. 
    If you turn up for a deputising gig or a session, carrying a P Bass strung with flatwounds, you will get eye contact, a nod and then be ignored for the rest of the event because people know that the low end is taken care of. 
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15723

    Put a set of flats on (I suggest Chromes as they keep some of the zing and keep the tension up) and enjoy some great deep Motown vibe. 
    If you turn up for a deputising gig or a session, carrying a P Bass strung with flatwounds, you will get eye contact, a nod and then be ignored for the rest of the event because people know that the low end is taken care of. 
    I'm exclusively P bass and flats. 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 32848
    Given that through stringing increases string tension
    No it doesn't. The string tension is the same for any given string gauge (and construction), scale length and tuning. What the string does beyond the saddle (or beyond the nut) makes no difference.

    What it does change is the way the string responds to bending (including down to the fingerboard) - hence the feel and the *perceived* tension - and the way it vibrates, hence the tone and sustain.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • ICBM said:
    Given that through stringing increases string tension
    No it doesn't. The string tension is the same for any given string gauge (and construction), scale length and tuning. What the string does beyond the saddle (or beyond the nut) makes no difference.

    What it does change is the way the string responds to bending (including down to the fingerboard) - hence the feel and the *perceived* tension - and the way it vibrates, hence the tone and sustain.

    Exactly this - which also changes how the string responds to hard playing, since that also bends the string on the attack (hard picking sends a note sharp momentarily).

    This i why I string my low B through the body. Even a .130 B is lower tension than regular bass strings for standard tuning, but stringing it through the body can help it play a bit tighter, noticeable with harder picking.
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  • fretmeisterfretmeister Frets: 9142
    I've had both.

    I don't notice a difference, with 1 exception - that top loads seem to have less string breakages.

    I'm far more worried about the method of string loading. Having to feed a thick B through a hole is annoying. The "notched" type (like a Hipshot A Style) makes for far quicker string changes.

    The Stingray bridge could really do with that. The overhang gets in the way, and the holes could be bigger. With a 130 B the distance between the back of the bridge and the saddle is quite small - can be a faff to grab the end of the string and get it over the saddle. I usually end up using needle nose pliers to grab it.

    Not a deal breaker, but fecking annoying.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 32848
    I just kink the string about half an inch from the end before I feed it through, that way it's easy to grab. But then again, on my own basses I change strings about every solar eclipse, so it doesn't matter how awkward it is.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15723
    What is this mystery 130 B you all speak of? I don't remember Leo specifying that in his perfected design? ;)
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 32848
    What is this mystery 130 B you all speak of? I don't remember Leo specifying that in his perfected design? ;)
    It's for tuning BEAD, which sounds fantastic on a P-Bass.

    :)


    And you can always tune a Fender Bass V BEADG rather than the originally intended EADGC - Leo designed that too if I remember correctly, before he left Fender. These also have through-body stringing and with the long body and short, stiff neck they should actually be very suitable for a low B…

    Beautiful-looking things and probably the only 5-string I would ever play!

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • guitarfishbayguitarfishbay Frets: 7026
    edited August 2017
    ICBM said:
    I just kink the string about half an inch from the end before I feed it through, that way it's easy to grab. But then again, on my own basses I change strings about every solar eclipse, so it doesn't matter how awkward it is.

    Yeah that's what I do, never had a problem on any instrument using that method including using a .135 low B.

    Actually, I once cut a string woefully short when didn't spot the string had come out of the bridge, in one of those top loaders that doesn't have a complete bar over the top.  Think it might've been my old Eggle bass.  The second I cut it I noticed... serious face palm moment.
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