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Action Adjustment?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by that one guy, Apr 10, 2004.


  1. Here’s a quick background on me: same story you've all heard many times before - I’ve been playing BG for a long time and recently picked up the DB. Now that you understand where I’m coming from, I have a couple questions for you experienced guys and gals.

    So, being completely new to this whole world, I was wondering what a "general" string height should be for playing jazz pizz. coming form a BG background, I find my DB hard to play and am wondering if I am in need of a major setup or if I just need to get used to it. :confused:


    I took some measurements to help you guys out:

    E String Heights:
    @ Nut: 2.5mm
    @ Lowest A Note: 7mm
    @ Octave: 11mm
    @ End of Fingerboard: 16.5mm

    on the treble side-

    G String Heights:
    @ Nut: 2.5mm
    @ Lowest A Note: 6mm
    @ Octave: 8mm
    @ End of Fingerboard: 11.5mm


    I'm not 100% sure, but I believe the strings are synthetic core LaBellas. The bridge is unfortunately a nonadjustable one.

    I would greatly appreciate anyone's thoughts and opinions on this. Thanks in advance! :)
     
  2. Thanks for the reply Brent. I had alreay read that post before i posted this topic. i did absorb some info there, but that post starts to go off topic and these rubbery type of strings i have weren't addressed. i was thinking of hijacking that thread, but decided to post a new one instead.
     
  3. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    There really isn't a general rule for string height. I have played jazz guys' basses that were so low they were like a 42" scale BG. They were absolutely dependent upon the amp doing the work as they were more like an EUB than an acoustic bass. Other jazz guys dig in so hard they have their strings as high as many orchestra arco basses.

    It is all about personal feel. The lower you go, there easier it is to play (sort of) but for the low action, you trade dynamic range and part of the tone, as you get part of the color of the tone from the attack.

    If you want to go really low, you'll also want to have really good luthier set up the neck if you want to play the strings without them clacking on the board, and you may need to use a little higher tension string as the lower tension ones are more likely to buzz.

    The lower the strings, the greater an issue you have with climate changes and such, especially with a carved bass and even a hybrid.

    The best idea is probably to get the bass fitted with adjusters.

    All that having been said, based on your specs, you are about average as far a string height at the end of the FB, maybe even a little on the low side.

    I think the nut may be a little bit high. You should be able to push a playing card laid under the strings all the way to the nut without a lot of pressure, but you should feel it start to rub a bit as it gets very close to touching.

    I don't know how thick a card is (playing, business or otherwise) but I am certain it is less than 2.5 mm. 2.5 mm is not much shy of 1/8"!
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I wouldn't play them that high. I run about 4-6mm on the G side, 6-8 on the E side, depending on what strings I'm using.

    I play acoustically about 80% of the time.
     
  5. Thanks for all of your input guys! I'm going to have to set it up with an adjustable bridge and get the nut fixed then. I'm going to get new strings while I'm at it.

    i'm willing to trade off volume for playability, and will be using an amp alot anyway. i'd like to get just a little bit of that pleasing jazz fretboard buzz in to my tone. any suggestions for low action easy playing strings?
     
  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Hey, that's your call, but it sounds like you've made your decision without really examining the alternatives. You may find that developing a sound comes even easier for you than, say, developing monstrous chops or deep musical ideas.

    I played easy-and-plugged-in for a long time. After I made developing an acoustic sound my priority, I found myself more satisfied and my colleagues responded positively too.

    Just a thought . . .
     
  7. Along the same lines as what Sam was saying, trading off volume is cool, but don't trade off tone. You can play at a low volume with a big tone. Pulling tone out of an upright is way different than pulling it out of and electric, in my experience.

    I recently saw Rufus Reid play an unaccompanied, unamplified version of Sophisicated Lady. He was playing some very intimate dynamics, but he still managed to fill the entire 300-seat hall, because the tone, not the volume, was big.

    Later, in a clinic, he was addressing the issue of amplification. He said that even if you use an amp, your acoustic tone has to be big. He said, "If you have a puny tone and amplify it, all you'll have is a LOUD and puny amplified tone."
     
  8. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    I still consider myself a noob, but wouldn't this be considered the very extreme of low string height? 4 mm? that's barely over 1/8"!!! I'd guess that my slab isn't much lower than that at the end of the fingerboard.

    My bass, which I consider to be set up very well, wouldn't come close to that with the adjusters bottomed out.

    My bass is about 3/8" (9-10mm) at the G with a beveled board, so the E height is a little hard to comparatively quantify. Even at that, my teacher says its too low. Although for the last couple of amped pizz things I have done, I have turned it down a bit more.

    It also has plenty to do with your bass. Some are just more open and loud than others and/or easier to get a nice tone our of. A really well-seasoned bass may give you more set up options whereas a newer, stiffer bass might be really lifeless without plenty of energy on the strings.
     
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The sound is all in your ears and hands. As long as the strings are high enough so that they don't mute themselves on the fingerboard. Lower action requires a bit more finesse (and work) from the right hand, but frees your left hand up considerably.

    For me, I draw the balance between sound, volume, and playablilty. I do a lot of duo and trio playing and am therefore expected to be cutting eighth note lines through a lot of medium and up tempos all night long. Having had a real bad bout with tendinitis I don't screw around with the he-man thing at all, not that I was ever into it.
     
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I've heard Ray play, he gets a big full sound that can be easily heard indoors or out. I have not actually ever heard him play through an amp.

    But as Sam and Mike say, you don't get a big warm sound out of the amp if you're not getting a big warm sound out of the bass to begin with.
     
  11. I think Ray and I are on the same page. I’ve had hand problems in the past as well and have been taking dietary supplements for 3 years now to help combat this.

    With the high action that my bass has now, there is plenty of volume....it actually rattles things on the walls of my apartment unamplified. So to my inexperienced mind, there seems to be plenty of trade off to work with.

    While I’m a tone freak, to me it does come second fiddle to a nice playing instrument. To me it doesn't matter how good or loud it sounds if I can't get what I want to say musically out of it. Well at least that's my train of thought.

    Not only that, but I'm in love with a small dose of pleasing fingerboard buzz, and would like to achieve this.
     
  12. You hafta pump the strings to make the box vibrate to get a big, warm sound out of a DB. It's not like a hydro bass, where a magnetic pickup senses the vibration of a string to produce a sound.

    If you tickle a DB, your 'signal to noise ratio' will be such that your sound will be real noisy and rattly when amplified using a pickup. Go watch some accomplished players and see how wide the vibration pattern of theirs strings are when they play. The guys who get the big sound get it from the bass, not the amp.

    I can't play with my action as low as Ray's without rattling the strings off the fingerboard. I think to achieve workable action that low you need an expensive, David Gage calibre dress job on an expensive, stable ebony fingerboard.

    I'd suggest a set of Spirocore strings to start. Lower the strings at the nut to the aforementioned one or two business card thickness height. Get an adjustable bridge installed, then lower your adjusters to the point where you've got something in the neighbourhood of 7- 8 mm under the G at the bottom of the board, and 10- 11 mm under the E. That's probably a reasonable place to start. If you can't achieve that, the bass may have other issues like neck angle, warped board, etc. Then it's off to the luthier's.
     
  13. G 4.5, 5.0 max
    E 7.5, 8.0 max
    Spiros get the low setting; weichs, solos, or Obligatos get the higher.
    Believe me, I can be heard.
     
  14. I've heard Ray play sans amp with an electric keyboard. Fast chops and proper volume.
    And I've seen the kind of chicks he digs, but that's another thread.
     
  15. Again, thanks goes to everybody for there input.

    in your personal opinions, which would be better for what i'm looking for.

    1. higher tension strings w/ low action

    or

    2. lower tension strings w/ higher action
     
  16. In my opinion, what you need is a new bridge. Having said that, you might as well make it an adjustable bridge, to cope with seasonal changes. The Europeans, who generally eschew adjusters, keep two bridges for the changes in season. After you get the adjustable, work at different heights with the strings you have until you can get an informed opinion on how you like the action to feel. Then get back to us. Then we'll confuse the hell out of you with our pet theories.
     
  17. Thanks for the warning Don :)

    That sounds like a good plan, I'll order a bridge from Bob the Great. When it comes in, I'll bug you guys for pointers on working the nut too.

    Thanks!
     
  18. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    TOG, as someone whose money is perpetually "pre-spent" I can appreciate that you're trying to save money by doing work yourself. But there's a good chance you're gonna wind up penny-wise and pound-foolish.

    You seem to need a new bridge, with adjusters, and some DB-nut-tweaking, and maybe some modest fingerboard dressing too. Why not go over to Lisa Gass or whoever you like and pay for a setup? Your bass will feel better and sound better, and you'll have a clear idea of where to head in the future if you want to try it yourself.
     
  19. After years of suspicion, I went for adjusters.
    Now I´m experimenting with lower strings,
    and at the moment I have
    8mm on E
    4mm on G
    and I´m pretty happy with this setup on Spiro Orchs.
    Nothing is missing from my tone, but I´m faster.

    R2