Reversed Tuners: How have I missed this?!

Discussion in 'Bass Area; The Bottom Line' started by mcknigs, Jan 3, 2008.


  1. mcknigs

    mcknigs Supporting Member

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    I turn 50 in April. I started playing bass 35 years ago. I am reasonably gearhead-ish. I know a fair amount about guitars and amps.

    A couple weeks ago I borrow a "Sting" model bass to do 5 songs at a benefit show and find it nearly impossible to tune. Are these tuning pegs working backwards?! The following week - another gig with the Sting. Yup indeedy, the tuning pegs work in reverse fashion. I ask the Sting's owner about it, and do a little research, and determine that Fender basses up until the late '50s had reverse tuners. I've never heard of this before. I vow I will never own a bass w/ reverse tuners - too confusing. Last night I go to check out a Tokai P-bass copy advertised in the classifieds. It turns out it's some sort of vintage reissue. The tuners are reversed. WTF?

    I'm sure '50s Fender basses have a lot going for them. But I personally don't understand why anyone would prefer reversed tuners, and therefore don't understand why reissue models would go so far as to duplicate what I consider to be a design flaw.

    Q1 - how did I make this far in life without hearing about this phenomenon?

    Q2 - Am I missing something? Is there a practical value to making the tuners work opposite of the (deeply ingrained) way nearly everyone has learned to tune?

    Q3 - How easy would it be to find replacement, normally-turning, gears for the Tokai? Does anyone know if Fender replacement stuff works in mid-80s Tokais?

    -Scott
     
  2. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Member

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    You get used to it pretty quickly.

    My Japanese made Bacchus '62 J is the first bass I've owned with these.
     
  3. wynsmth

    wynsmth Member

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    My '65 Jazz Bass has them too.
     
  4. westrock

    westrock Member

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    Marcus Miller signature jazz bass is the same way, a little uncomfortable at first but no big deal. Can’t think of any benefits of the reverse tuning.
     
  5. mcknigs

    mcknigs Supporting Member

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    After using them on the Sting bass I vowed I would never own a bass with them. I susbsequently found, and bought, the Tokai with reverse tuners. I guess I'll either get used to them or replace them.

    -Scott
     
  6. gdcx

    gdcx Silver Supporting Member

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    I believe that Fender used them (reverse) until the mid 1960's. Both my 1962 jazz bass and early 1966 P bass have them. I can see how they could throw you off at first, especially at gig time. Sort of like driving on the "wrong" side of the road in a different country ...:messedup ...without the cars coming right at you, of course:eek:

    Greg
     
  7. The Golden Boy

    The Golden Boy Member

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    Same here.
     
  8. mcknigs

    mcknigs Supporting Member

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    Between the reverse tuners, the cheepness of the tuner I was using and the fact that we had about 2 minutes alotted for changes between bands at this show, it was kind of a mind blower.

    My comparison was similar to yours -- like getting in a car and discovering that the steering wheel works the reverse of what you're used to. And it doesn't really help to tell yourself to do the opposite of what you normally do, because the action is so habitual that you don't really *know* what you do anymore - you just do it.

    Anyway, I played the bass at rehearsal Monday and started getting the hang of tuning it so I guess I'll beable to live with it. :)

    -Scott
     
  9. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    It's what we think of normal tuners now that are actually reversed. The other kind came first :).

    Think how confusing it must have been in the 60s when people had got used to the old way round and then someone comes along and changes it... ;)

    If you keep at it long enough it will come naturally and then the other type will feel odd, which is presumably why Sting and Marcus Miller specified them.

    There's no mechanical advantage one way or the other, it just depends whether the thread on the shaft gear is right-hand or left-hand. A right-hand (ie normal) screw thread produces what we would call a 'reverse' tuner, so I would expect that's why they were done that way first.

    AFAIK Rickenbacker continued using 'reverse' tuners until some time in the 70s.

    Most of the standard Kluson-style tuners should be interchangeable.
     
  10. mcknigs

    mcknigs Supporting Member

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    For everyone? I have a WWII era Kay guitar that has modern-turning tuners... (try saying "modern turning tuners" 5 times fast). I've never heard of reverse tuners on early Fender guitars. I have to assume it was just Fender basses(?).

    That's how I feel now. :)

    The reason I doubt that is that I still have a bunch of guitars and basses that I use that work the way I'm used to.

    However, from a human factors standpoint it makes more sense to me that turning the tuner so that the top of the key goes toward the bridge maps more intuitively to the notion of slacking the string. Turning the top of the key away from the bridge maps to tightening the string. So in that way the current system seems more intuitive. I acknowledge that, had I learned with reverse tuners, I might have come up with a different mapping that makes as much sense.

    That makes sense. Never thought about it that way.

    On guitars too?

    -Scott
     
  11. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    It's just the Kluson 'cloverleaf' bass tuners - probably because they were patterned after traditional double bass ones. Double basses were the only classical instruments to usually feature geared machineheads as opposed to standard friction pegs.

    Guitar tuners have always been the 'modern' way round AFAIK, but they don't go back anywhere near as far as double bass ones.

    I wouldn't have put it past Rickenbacker to purposely use the opposite to everyone else, but it is just the bass tuners :).
     

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