injury related setup change advice
Hi Luthiers et al.
I injured my hand earlier this year and it is requiring me to play (as part of the recovery) with significantly lower action then I have had on my bass. This has created a whole new set playing parameters that I am trying to get accustomed to while my hands recover. My question is, how do I set up my bass with low action and have the maximum sound and projection? what are the characteristics of a well set up low action bass? My bass is a 150 year old flatback Tyrol that has a beautiful even dark tone and while the sound is softer with the bridge dropped, it's character is not ruined just not as loud. I'd like to know how to set it up for the next year though while my hands regain strength.
(a skier I am not...but my son wanted me to go with him and I foolishly believed the other father who said "oh come on up to the very top, there an easy route down" He disappeared the moment the ski lift deposited us at the top....)
thanks for your advice....
i'm so sad to hear that!
Are you a classical bass player? If so, there's many good strings to consider that can handle low string action.
Sorry to hear the news. The first thing I'll tell you is to be sure your fingerboard is perfect. Scoop should be about 2.5mm on the E and 1.5 on the G for pizz using an average pull. You don't want ANY imperfections. Sighting down the board can reveal problems that won't show up with a short straightedge and light. I've experimented with the nut and don't see much advantage to having the grooves super low. Although it reduces the effort to stop the string, getting them too low can feel like there's no cushion. I shoot for string heights of a business card or so on the G increasing to two business cards or so on the E. I've learned some people like them even higher. That said, be sure the bass is setup well with a good fitting bridge and soundpost. I wouldn't mess with the tailpiece or endpin; might help, might not.
Lowering the bridge will always reduce power and projection.
A string with more tension will give you back some power and probably also projection, but at the same time is harder to play with the left hand, so you could have used your bass the old way which does not work at the moment.
You might like to try medium tension synthetic core strings, since the core is more elastic and so easier to press down. But on the other hand they often need a higher action. You might want to try Evah Pirazzi Weich or Innovation Braided (for less tension, but also less power). But it probably won't give you the projection you want.
You can also try higher tension solo string tuned down to orchestra tuning like Spirocore Solo, but you probably need to make a compromise in action height and left hand power needed.
I think you should get a bit lower tension strings and work with them more or less regardless of the sound, power and projection until you can get back to your original strings. You cannot get the same output with less input.
If I were you I would put on a set of solo strings tuned down to concert pitch. I'd also keep the strings fairly low, especially at the nut. Yes, you should expect some loss of volume, but there is no free lunch! At least you will be able to play the bass and gradually restore your chops. You may find that if you pluck and/or bow a bit closer to the bridge you will be able to put out more sound than you thought you could. Good luck, and happy recuperation.
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