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Bent neck after installing 5ths tuning set

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by jimconklin, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. jimconklin


    Aug 24, 2011
    I am new to the double bass. I bought a used one recently and learned that some bassists were using strings tuned in fifths. I bought a set and installed them. The strings seemed too high for bowing and I cut down the bridge. As I brought the strings up to pitch I heard creaks and cracks. The strings now were higher over the fingerboard than when I had measured to cut the bridge. When I laid a straight edge along the fingerboard I saw there was quite a gap where the neck joins the body. I loosened the strings and removed the bridge. When I put the straight edge along the fingerboard a few hours later I saw that the fingerboard was fairly straight again but there was a noticeable upward curvature in the lower couple of inches. I wonder if the cracking noises I heard indicate glued joints coming undone somewhere in the interior, say at the neck, and whether I will have to install strings with softer (gut?) interiors for lower tension at pitch.
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    You need to take the bass to a bass luthier before stringing it up again.
  3. +1

    I'll add that I am happy to read of people taking up new musical instruments (or any activity) at the age of 87. Kudos to you. (Maybe it was you creaking and cracking as you tuned up? :bag: Just kidding ;) )
  4. It is quite possible you have higher tension strings on your bass. As with any stringed instruments, there are different strings for various applications. Alternative tunings like solo could increase the stress on the bass quite considerably thus there are strings developed for these applications. As suggested above, have a qualified eye examine the instrument first before experimenting with various tunings just to make sure you are not running the risk of damaging the bass.
  5. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Here's a few rules about set up:
    Rule #1--Never try this at home.
    Rule #2--Never cut wood off of the bridge without being trained by an expert luthier first.
    Rule #3--Never tune your bass in 5ths unless you are Red Mitchell or played the cello for many years!
  6. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    I agree with the first two :D

    sounds like a glue join problem to me, but creaks and cracks could also be the top if the bridge feet were sitting poorly and started to cut into the top. You cut wood off of the top of the bridge, and not the feet, to help with the bridge height right? I'm sure this is what you did, but the question needs to be asked, I suppose.

    Also, what set did you buy? as someone above mentioned, if you put on a set of strings that are a higher tension than the set on the bass previously, perhaps there was a glue joint just waiting to fail.

    Good luck with this, and enjoy 5ths. I know I do when I get a chance to.

  7. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.

    Do you post at the Musical Instrument Maker's Forum? Your name sounds familiar... if so, welcome to TBDB.

    To answer your question, there was added tension with the 5th's set, and you probably found a bad glue joint. The FB may have issues of it's own.

    As always with this particular section of TBDB it is best to post pics so we can give the best advice.

    If you can post a few shots, I am sure you will get some great responses here.

  8. jimconklin


    Aug 24, 2011
    Many thanks for your ideas. The woman from whom I bought the bass, Nancy Rohn, is a stringed instrument repair person. She is coming over to look at the bass today, so she may be able to get it going again. While it was working, I very much liked the sound and response with the fifths tuning, so I am hoping to be able to find other strings with less tension requirements to give me that sound again.

    No, I am not a musical instrument repair person, but I have had a lot of experience with other mechanical, electrical and electronic equipment.

  9. rjspear

    rjspear Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2011
    Ithaca, New York
    Luthier, owner Singing Woods Violin Shop
    The bending and relaxing of the neck you described is typical of either a loose (or loosening) fingerboard or a fingerboard that is too thin. The cricking and cracking sounds you heard indicate the former. Without any strings on, the way to test is to grab the fingerboard at the end and see if it will pull up. If it flexes but stays put, the board might be too thin. If you hear more cricks and cracks, the glue joint between fingerboard and neck is weakening. If the board pops off altogether, well, it was already getting ready to do that anyway, and it's easier on the bass when the instrument is not under tension.

    While you are tugging away on the fingerboard, check the joint of the neck and the body to see if it seems loose. Fore-aft movements are often still strong if at least some of the foot joint is holding; side-to-side is a dead giveaway. Look for gaps appearing and disappearing at the joint as you wiggle the board.

    Good luck with you experiments in fifths tuning.

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