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action at first fret is higher than anywhere else on neck

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Art Araya, Oct 6, 2010.


  1. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    I've got a relatively new Birdsong Cortobass shortscale bass. Very nice bass which I'm mostly happy with. One problem I'd love to resolve is this...

    I like my action as low as possible. I straighten the neck so it has no relief and I set the bridge saddles as low as they'll go without buzz. All this works great. But the notes on the first fret play considerably harder than the notes anywhere else on the neck. Most would not notice this difference in playability for the one fret position but I must be "the princess and the pea" when it comes to basses because this drives me nuts!

    I'm assuming that the nut grooves needs to be filed down? My problem is that it looks like the grooves are pretty deep and very close to the neck as it is. I'm afraid to go down deeper and get buzz on the open strings.

    What's the solution?

    (If I could ask - Please let's not turn this into a "the neck should have some relief" discussion. I've set my basses up like this for years with no problems so I know it's doable. There's just a particular problem with this bass that I'd like to solve.)

    Thanks for your wisdom and assistance guys!

    Art
     
  2. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Inactive

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    Add a little relief. Most basses need a little. Could be a high fret.

    If none of these ideas helps, maybe take it in for a pro set-up.
     
  3. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    took it to one of the supposed best in the area and he could not get it any better than i have it now. but i don't think he's all that good to be honest with you. so i don't necessarily trust that it can't get better.

    i've setup my basses like this for many years and not had this problem before.
     
  4. David1234

    David1234

    Jun 1, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Endorsing Artist: SWR Amplifiers
    I never set up a bass without any relief. When the string plays it bends into a curve, I like my necks to reflect some of that curve.

    I agree that when the first fret is hard to play, it's irritating! You might like to consider cutting yourself a new nut rather than risking the current one, and seeing if you can improve the action that way.
     
  5. JLS

    JLS

    Sep 12, 2008
    Albuquerque, NM
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    (If I could ask - Please let's not turn this into a "the neck should have some relief" discussion. I've set my basses up like this for years with no problems so I know it's doable. There's just a particular problem with this bass that I'd like to solve.)

    Thanks for your wisdom and assistance guys!

    Art[/QUOTE]

    Sounds like the nut needs work.
     
  6. ThrashMaster

    ThrashMaster

    Jul 7, 2010
    Boston, MA
    my setup procedure (youll need a set of feeler guages):

    1) tune to pitch

    2) adjust truss rod off until you have about 3 to 5 thousandths of relief, retuning after each adjustment...this is basically dead straight

    3) capo at 1st fret

    4) adjust bridge height, then intonation, then recheck bridge height (itlll change just a hair from the saddles sliding around). Usually end up with about 3/128ths of an inch from the bottom of the g string to the top of the 12th fret, and about 5/128ths for the E string. This is pretty low.

    5) move capo to 2nd fret
    using feeler guages again, measure distance from bottom of string to top of third fret, for each string (lets call this number x)

    6) move capo to 1st fret, measure distances at 2nd frets (lets call this number y)

    7) get the difference between those to numbers (lets call this number D = y - x), and thats how much higher the string should be at the first fret than it is at second. (D + y)

    8) put a feeler guage of the proper thickness (which you just calculated) on the first fret, and cut the slots until your string just barely touches it.

    Wham, dead on balls perfect setup with no trial and error......assuming the fretwork is done properly........which is a mighty big assumption

    For all the feeler guage stuff it helps to put a lamp other side of the bass so that you can see when that sliver of light disappears
     
  7. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    ^^ wow - that's a good bit more involved than my setup! LOL

    Might need to find me a good setup guy that knows this stuff. Any recommendations in Florida?
     
  8. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    That's GOOD advice right there.
     
  9. ThrashMaster

    ThrashMaster

    Jul 7, 2010
    Boston, MA
    and forgot to mention...do all measurements and tuning with the bass in playing position
     
  10. ThrashMaster

    ThrashMaster

    Jul 7, 2010
    Boston, MA
    sorry man, dont know anyone down thataway :(

    Also, just thought Id mention it, but youll never get the action on a short scale bass down as far as you can on a long, theres just not enough tension and the strings vibrate in too large a circle. If you really want it to play as fast and nice as possible youll need to put some heavy strings on to get the tension up to where it would be on a long scale with regular guage strings...but then you loose some of that short scale vibe of course.
     
  11. ajunea3

    ajunea3

    Feb 14, 2008
    Baton Rouge
    The frets closest to the nut will always take the most effort to play. You're pressing down an inch from where the string is anchored. The angle of the string in relation to the fret board is steepest at the first fret. Same reason it's easy to bend a string at the 12th fret but damn near impossible to bend a string at the first fret.
     
  12. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    ^^ I can understand that. But again, this problem only happens with this one bass.

    I have another short scale (SG Reissue) that doesn't have this problem.
     
  13. greggster59

    greggster59

    Oct 31, 2006
    New Jersey
    Have you tried calling Scott about this? He will steer you in the right direction if he can.
     
  14. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    I actually sent the bass back to Scott and he removed the zero fret and had his setup guy lower the action as much as possible - which helped the problem somewhat...

    He's been very helpful. I figure that he did all that he could for me.
     
  15. ThrashMaster

    ThrashMaster

    Jul 7, 2010
    Boston, MA
    Thats ashame about the zero fret bein removed etc. A properly done z-fret instrument (using stainless steel so youre not replacin the thing ever month) plays absolutely perfect
     
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