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Action & playability...(???)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by sfinlayson, Feb 15, 2002.

  1. sfinlayson


    Feb 15, 2002
    Hello, I'm new to this forum.
    I am a musician, primarilly a drummer (insert favorite drummer joke here), but I try to remain well rounded. I play a bit of everything.

    I have a question, but first a little background. My first Bass I bought was a "cheapo" $350 SDGR (Ibanez) just to see if I really liked playing bass. It turns out I do. It served me well, but it sounded "flat" on recordings so I bought another Bass just for recording. I bought a G&L SB-2 Fretless (4-String) and MAN! It sounded SO much better. It was such a difference that I decided to get a nicer fretted Bass to phase-out the SDGR Bass. So, I got a G&L L-2500 (5-string) and it was just SOOOO nice. I run it through an Aguillar(sp?) pre in our studio.

    Now... here's my reason for confusion. Are different Bass manufacturers inherintly better playing than others...? I LOVE the sound of my G&Ls, but no matter WHO I take them to for set-ups, I can never get them to feel like OTHER Basses I've played. I just played a Music Man and the action was so low and the tension so loose, it was like air guitaring, and there was very little buzz. I've also played many other high-end basses that just play like "butter"... so easy. Yet my "Expensive" G&L basses feel like a workout to play. The strings "feel" tighter, the action is higher...

    Are these basses doomed to live a life of lesser playability just because they are what they are...? CAN they be setup to play like the others I've played, or will doing so make them unplayable...? * sigh *

    So many questions, so little time. Sorry to overwhelm you guys with this "newbie" question... what do you want from me...? I'm "just" a drummer... :)

    - Scott

  2. Hey man, let me be the first to welcome you to Talkbass, even if you are a drummer. :D Seriously though, you will find some great info here.

    Some basses just have a totally unique sound. I haven't had the opportunity to play a G&L, so I don't know if it's one of those totally unique sounds, like a Ric. But it usually depends on the style of bass. I will probably not be able to duplicate the sound of my Precision on my Jazz or P-J. I can't get the sound of my Jazz on my P. It would be tough to get the tone of a Musicman from anything but another Musicman.

    I wouldn't say a bass is doomed to lesser playability, but made for a different playing style. Unless it happens to be a Hondo or something.

    Someone might be able to set up your G&L to make it sound like a Musicman, but the MM gets it tone from the type of pickups in it.

    Hopefully I didn't confuse you more. But ya know, if you wanna give me your G&L since you aren't getting the tone you like, you can give it to me, I won't mind. :D
  3. sfinlayson


    Feb 15, 2002
    Thank you for your reply, but I think you misunderstood the question. I am HAPPY with the "sound & tone" of my instruments... it's the "Action" that is giving me a hard time. I totally understand that there are inherent sonic characteristics of some brands, just like you stated; a Rick, Steinberg, Wal, Chapman Stick, etc...

    I like the "sound" for the most part... but I just can't get that "easy" feel like I've felt on OTHER Basses... that real "light touch" action.

    So to re-ask the question; Since 3 different places (one who SPECIALIZES in Basses) have tried to setup this Bass... and each time, it came back (although well intonated and no buzz) in the same condition of playability. I have a sneaky, sinking feeling that these two basses will NEVER play like the Music Man, or other easy-playing Basses. :(

    - Scott
  4. sfinlayson


    Feb 15, 2002
    That last part never turned into a question. So:

    "Can these basses be setup to play better, or are G&Ls just inherintly a higher-action Bass...?"

    - Scott
  5. It's not the sound or tone you don't like, it's the action. Have you tried different guage strings? That might help if you want lower action. Thats about the only thing I can think of that is left. It wouldn't be any truss rod adjustment or bridge adjustment if a pro tech has done it.

    But I could be wrong, I like my action high and I play a Squier! ;)

    BTW, you might get a better response if this got moved to the SETUP forum. Just ask any moderator to move it for ya.
  6. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I played a G&L L2500 for a long time. A couple of years. I never had any problem getting action low. I also just set up a friend's L2500 and was able to get the action very low on it as well.

    I will say that L2500 have a very thick neck profile. Even if you got the action ultralow, it would feel nothing like a 'Ray because the neck profile is totally different.

    Because of their slab neck, the trusses take a while to settle. If you have to turn the truss. Let it set a couple of days before you attempt to set the action. But once they settle, the necks are very stable. As stable as any wood neck I have played. I assure you you can really lay the action down if you are patient working the setup. Unless you have a very good relationship with a tech, I doubt they'll put this much effort into it.

    G&L L series basses have a VERY agressive tone. Especially if you tend to dig when you play. The treble boost in the preamp makes it even more noticable. This makes even the slightest clicks and buzzes more noticable.

    So part of your problem might be you. These basses have superhot output and a ton of drive. You can really lighten your touch and still get a good, nosey tone out of them.

    As for string tension, I never noticed anything about that bass that made the strings seem tighter than any other good bass. Especially a EBMM. Maybe you just need to go to a lighter string.

    Don't give up on G&L. They are super nice basses. If I still played rock and blues, I would never have sold mine.

  7. sfinlayson


    Feb 15, 2002
    The reason I chose to post it here, is because I wanted to ask if it was an inherent property of the Bass itself... NOT the setup (because I've tried 3 different people to set it up) hence I figured it really isn't about the setup, but moreso about the company and it's products compared to others.

    Another naive question... If I DO go to a lighter gauge... I need it to be re-setup again anyways...right? I mean he(she) will have to re-intonate and re-adjust the neck accordingly, right...? If so... what's a good recommendation for a 5-String to get decent playability. Oh, and don't ask me what's on there now... all I know is that they are long & shiney... heeheehee.

    - Scott
  8. sfinlayson


    Feb 15, 2002
    I don't think I'm even CLOSE to doing my own set-ups just yet. Gimme a strobe tuner and a hex wrench and I'll cause some SERIOUS damage... :D

    Anyhow, you give me hope to at least try to FIND someone that can help me solve this issue. Thanks a bunch.

    - Scott
  9. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Can't really make any generalities about a particular string gauge being more playable than another. It is a matter of preference. Tons of people on this site are looking for the most tension that they can get.

    The G&L is meaty enough that you can go pretty light without losing bottom end. And since you think the ones on the bass are tight, go with a ultralight and work your way back up if you are not happy. Something in the .040 range.

    I will say that I was always MUCH happier with nickels on that bass. Stainless strings are dar too metallic sounding IMHO and tend to amplify the inherent aggressiveness of the tone.

    I might try D'Addario XL super soft nickels. I think they are like .040 to .125. They are good strings, and not so expensive that you will feel obligated to use them for 4-5 months even if you hate them. If you find that you like the weight, then certainly try other brands until you find your string.

  10. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    getting the action low is neither voodoo or difficult.
    Assuming of course there is no twist or warp in the neck.

    It's just geometry and making it happen. If the nut is cut properly, the frets are level and the neck has the proper relief and set in the neck pocket, the action will get LOW. That's about the only aspect of bass that is cold, hard, measurable science.

    Having said that, neck profile has a big effect on the percieved playability of the bass. You may just not like the feel of a G&L neck.

    Whenever you change brand or gauge of string, the bass will need at the very least to be re-intonated and probably a truss rod tweak. Particularly if you have low low action.
  11. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    How long ago was your last set up? You paid for it right? Take it back and tell them what you want. If they can't set it up the way you want it then,"it isn't set up". Of course unless it is a how liviley lthe bass is or the size of the neck. Can you be more specific about what it is exactly that you are having trouble with. ie Hard to push strings down, or it feels like you are holding a bat from the wrong end(thick)?etc.;)
  12. seamus


    Feb 8, 2001
    I have a couple G&L's, and I'll be the first to say they are more finicky than my other basses when it comes to setup and adjustments. I love my action LOW though, and I can assure you, it is possible.

    I suspect the setup gurus you are taking the bass to are not putting in the time to really identify and compensate for whatever it may be about your bass that isn't just right. I had to mess with my G&L's a lot more than any of my other basses, but they are where I want them now. The action is low, and I just adjust for seasonal changes now.

    They have hot pickups, so you'll find you don't need to dig in on em at all really. My two L-2000's also did not set up the same. They have different necks though, so maybe that was part of it. I have a lot of pressure on the truss in one of them, and not too much at all in the other. Still, they both play the same with no virtually no buzz. Since I like low action, if I go battering the strings, I'll get some buzz. Like I said before though, I found a soft to moderate touch is all that's needed with the L series basses. They have an agressive sound.

    None of this probably helps, but I just wanted to say it's not the brand. Could be the bass, but not the brand. Sounds like you need to find a setup tech that will actually remedy the problem instead of trying to do the setup on your bass that they do on every other bass out there.
  13. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    "Sounds like you need to find a setup tech that will actually remedy the problem instead of trying to do the setup on your bass that they do on every other bass out there."

    I agree. Setting a bass for lowest possible action is a real labor of love. It's hard to charge enough to make it worthwhile. It's not unusual for me to spend a couple of days tweaking here, dressing there, maybe try a neck shim or two, letting it settle in, play it for a while, try something else....
    You get the idea.

    You really have to sneak up on it because if you over do on the nut or frets, there's no going back.

    Better you should learn to do it yourself. For the cost of a setup, you can just about buy the tools you need to do it yourself.

    Besides, all your friends will love you for it. Next thing you know, you'll be up to your neck in necks.
  14. As far as action goes no one bass should have better action in actual dimensions above the FB but noy only sring diameters but also string materials will make the action feel stiff.A stainless string or one with a larger core will have more tension but yield closer action.(Roto 66).A tapewound string on the other hand feels much looser but will yeild a little higer action but much softer feel.Try a few different strings and you should find something that will work unless your neck is bad.Good luck
  15. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    SF --
    Actually, it's sounding to me like your G&Ls' nuts may be cut too high for your taste.

    Measure the height of the strings above the first fret (use business cards as gauges) on the G&L basses, then under the strings of a MM or some other bass you really like the feel of. If you can slip more of 'em in under the strings of the G&L's, then this may be your problem.

    If so, this IS a touchy change, and not correctible short of replacement if cut too far. So tell a reputable tech you want the nut slots cut deeper. If possible, show him a bass that feels like you want so he can get a measurement.

    Good luck!
  16. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    :eek: EXCUSE ME :eek:What was that you said!!!!
  17. I had a similar problem with a Fender MIA Deluxe Jazz. Unless I jacked the action way up and put a good bow in the neck, it would buzz on every note on each string. It was like playing a sitar. There were absolutely no clean notes when setup to play with medium or low action. I took it to two professional luthiers and the last one told me he thought there was a vibration problem between the neck and body. I asked him about everything including the nut and he said the problem was deeper. He said acoustic flat-top guitars have had this problem for years. I've sought his advise for 15 years and his reputation is beyond question in my area.

    I ended up selling the bass. I gave up.
  18. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    Is it possible that the neck shape on the G&L is just not as comfortable to you as something like the Ray?? That alone can make it seem like it doesn't play as good to you, I think. A bass with an uncomfortable neck profile (for you) can make it seem more like work to play it than others with a neck profile that fits your hands/needs/style better.

    If that isn't the case, then I would take it back to your tech and tell them exactly what you want. And keep going back till they get it right.
  19. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Wow! Lot's of great advice here, people!:D

    What I would add is something I got from Jeff Berlin, when I asked him a more general question regarding a similar topic when he was 'round these parts...I miss him (for the record;))

    Anyway, his take on making a bass more "playable" (ie: lower action), was to have smaller frets and thinner gauge strings. That will assist the playability of the G&L.

    Now for my own opinion (and you know what that means:D...) G&L's can be harder to play. The one's I've picked up ALWAYS seemed to require a little more muscle than other basses. I don't know why. Maybe it was just the 10 or so that I tried, and not inherent in other basses. That aside, one of the nice things about G&L that a lot of people set aside is that this is a manufacturing company that is just small enough to be able to customize instruments for your individual taste. If you want a slimmer neck, they can put a "Jazz" neck on the bass, though the "Precision" shape is standard on some models.

    I think you can also request a specific neck profile. If, for example, you find that you like a flatter neck profile, you can see if G&L can provide that for you. Or, you may like a flatter fingerboard...or more rounded "shoulders" on the fretboard...etc...

    Another thing you can consider is lighter tension strings.

    Or, maybe even a neck replacement. You could have a G&L with a Status graphite neck, a Moses neck, a Fender neck, a Warmoth neck...or any host of others.

    The first thing I'd do, however, is to investigate the measurements of what you like and compare it to the measurements of the G&Ls. See what the differences are and if other basses with either measurement are characteristically similar in feel to what you like or dislike. Then, take it from there...
  20. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago

    Y'know, I've found that with Fenders, too. For some reason or another, they just seem to take more work to play. I wonder, G&L being a direct descendant, if this is a Leo characteristic...