Open E string note vs the first fret F note

I am new to playing the bass so maybe everyone else knows the answer to this.

I have 3 bass guitars . Two full scale and one short scale. On the the full scale ones I can barely hear the difference between the notes played on the open E string and and the F played on the first fret of the E string. The tuners do register them correctly, E and F. However on the short scale bass they are 2 distinct notes. Both full scale bass’ have been setup professionally.

Has anyone else notice this and is this normal? And if so why?

Thank you

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Hi @jbanneck,

Might be strings or pickups / electronics voicing the notes a bit clearer on the shorty vs. the others, hard to tell.

BTW, have a stop over here and say hi:

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Yes. It’s probably too low for you to hear the difference now, if you are still relatively new to bass, soon you can hear the difference even if it’s 5 cents out of tune. Stay with it soon it would bother you like it bother the rest of us, lol.

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It’s more difficult to distinguish the difference between lower tones, especially outside of the normal range of the human voice. The harmonics can be different with a shorter scale and the sound is a bit fatter and darker which might make it easier for you to hear. It also depends on the type and gauge of the strings.

It would be more apparent if played in a series of notes. Like the bass line for Free Falling by Tom Petty, which is really simple.


That’s the whole bassline. Root, 4th, 4th again, root, 5th.

Then substitute an open E string for one of the roots. It will sound off.

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PSA: you can put tablature in [code] blocks to make them use a fixed-width font

That’s archaic

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…and looks 10x better :slight_smile:

It makes the tabs line up and not look like a haphazard jumbly mess

Welcome @jbanneck . hope you enjoy the course!

I read somewhere that short scale basses have less overtones. So it might be that you hear the fundamental more clearly and thus can distinguish the notes better.

In any case, I would assume it has something to do with overtones.

If you try to distinguish the notes, always play amped. And try to play the open E, than an F, than an E again, … . Don’t you get a bit of a “Jaws” vibe of that?

I think you may have hit on something here and the fact that there is only a semitone between the E and F probably does not help the issue :+1:

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When I first started playing Fretless after about an hour sometimes the semitone is a blur to me. It could be ear fatigue or over stimulation when I hit that point I usually grab my brightest gold string bass turn up the tone and slap it helps with calibration, lol.

The OP stated they can hear the difference fine on the short scale but not on the two long scales.

Longer scale has more harmonics. The bulk of what you hear for low E is often going to be the higher harmonics for a lot of people because many amps and speakers people use do not have adequate frequency response in the 40Hz range - E1 is about 41Hz.

So when you take away those higher harmonics, more of the fundamental will come through. This is both what makes shorties sound less bright than longer scales, and also a potential explanation for why he can hear the difference on a shortie and not a long scale.