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bridge placement question

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by idahohay, Jan 5, 2003.


  1. idahohay

    idahohay

    Nov 22, 2002
    Priest River, ID
    I have an unlabeled plywood UB that appears to be 3/4 like, about 15 or more years old, and Chineese. The body leangth is 1105 mm, lower width-654 mm, upper width-508 mm, middle 381 mm, fingerboard height projected at bridge is 150 mm. The neck is more 4/4 like and measures nut to heel-464 mm, and a fingerboard leangth of 892 mm. If the bridge is centered at the notches it gives a nut to bridge string leangth of 42-3/4"(1086mm). I'm assuming this bass has a somewhat odd configuration and am tempted to ignore the bridge location notches and shorten the scale leangth closer to 1060 mm.And use 3/4 size medium strings. Is this a bad idea and should I leave the string leangth at 42-3/4 and experiment with different(heavier?) strings. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. rh
     
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Get thee to a luthier and have it set up. He would also have a few different sets of strings around that you could try.
     
  3. idahohay

    idahohay

    Nov 22, 2002
    Priest River, ID
    Thanks for the reply Ray, it's at the luthiers and those are my options but there isn't much in the way of strings to try other than used 3/4 Helicores and some Spirocores mostly junk so I thought I would see if there was anyone out there that actually had some knowledge on this before I bought strings. Any further comments would be appreciated. rh
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Apologies -- sounded like you were out in the garage and at an impasse.

    I had a Juzek that had the bridge 'cheated' -- eons before I got it. My luthier and I, before cutting a new bridge one time, put the bridge where it was supposed to be as an experiment and it was 'night and day' better both in tone and feel. I told the whole sordid story in another thread here some place.

    42 3/4" is on the long side, but not intolerable unless your hands are particularly small. Well within the 3/4 string length -- meaning that you won't have to purchase special strings or anything.

    Having more info about you and the bass would help get you some good advice. How long you've been playing, whether you have had this bass together and had problems before, etc.
     
  5. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    No one has ever decided exactly what an acoustic bass should be, and that's one of the reasons they are so interesting. We have all sizes, and even within a specific size such as 3/4, you'll find basses that vary in body length, rib depth, width of bouts and string length.
    Generally string length between 41"-42" is considered normal. I have seen 44"! Fourty two and 3/4 would be too long for me, but if you can play it in tune and it's not killing your hands, then it's ok, but you may find it harder to sell to someone else down the line. F-hole placement on an instrument is important and the bridge is normally supposed to be centered on the inside nick of the f-holes. However with basses this is not the case 100 per cent of the time. The basses we make at KC Strings are designed so that the back side of the bridge should be about a third of the way up on the inside nick.
    I've found that you can usually move a bridge up to where the back of the foot is even with the nick, and it will work fine, though it may require a corresponding adjustment of the soundpost.
    Many basses with overly long string lengths have this adjustment combined with a "double nut". A double nut requires removing some of the fingerboard and lenthening the nut. This will make the string length shorter and easier to play, but you have now moved the notes on the bass. Moving the bridge up, moved the notes towards the nut end. That is, if you had a D neck, you may now have an Eb. On the otherhand lengthing the nut moved all the notes the other way.
     
  6. I like to fit my bridges so that the top front edge (where the string cross over) is directly over the imaginary line between the inner notches. If the bridge is fitted so that the back side of the bridge is perpendicular to the top, that puts the feet of the bridge about a third of the way up. I'm not too surprised that KC Strings and I do it the same way. Anton Krutz of KC strings and I had the same mentor (but I was there 15-20 years earlier).
     
  7. idahohay

    idahohay

    Nov 22, 2002
    Priest River, ID
    Thankyou much for those replies, that is what I needed to hear. Playabilty is important on an entry level instrument and 42-3/4" nominal string leangth is probably too long. I won't be playing the bass but will be responsible for selling it. Again, many thanks. rh
     
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I'm curious about this. What would you expect to happen to the string height and tone of an instrument on which the bridge was "moved up" so that the back of the foot was even with the nick?
     
  9. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    Moving the bridge up very slightly will raise the bridge height a little bit. If the post is left alone it will probably open the bass up a little, make it more mellow, but lose some volumne.
    Unlike violins, no one every decided exactly what a bass should be. Many fine basses were made by makers with no experience in violin making, and so you find all kinds of ideas as to size, f-hole placement and f-hole design. Generally the rule would be that the bridge would be centered on the inside nicks of the f-hole, I've just found that in actual practice you can fudge this a little, not a lot, and still have a satisfactory result. The reasons for doing so would include reducing the string length to make the playing more manageable, and possibly creating a "D" neck out of a bass that's Eb or in between.
    When I first started playing, back in the last ice age, my teacher told me that the bridge was supposed to be placed with the back of the foot even with the inside nick. Years later I tried centering the bridge, but this lengthened the mensur from 41 3/4 to 42, and I never got used to it, so I moved it back. The bass sounds great, and now I can play it in tune again.
    So, f-hole placement and therefore bridge placement has to do with instrument design, and the acoustical center of the instrument. Since many bass makers weren't aware of these principles, you have all kinds of sizes, shapes, string lengths, archings, round backs flat backs and so on. Almost everything violin makers are taught about violins, just doesn't seem to bear out in practice when it comes to basses.
     
  10. "The reasons for doing so would include reducing the string length to make the playing more manageable, and possibly creating a "D" neck out of a bass that's Eb or in between."


    Sorry if this is a dumb question but what is a "d" neck? Thanks
     
  11. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Sorry to disagree, Ed, but it's generally accepted that if your thumb is opposite your first finger (pointer), and your thumb encounters the neck heel, the note under your FIRST finger should be D. I guess, though, that if you can keep your SECOND finger directly opposite your thumb you could get the D there as well. I've had this discussion with many luthiers including Lou DiLeone (all bow) and Tom Martin, and we all seem to go for the FIRST finger method. But of course, like all else in the bass world, there is room for differences of opinion. Yet we all know a dreaded E flat neck when we encounter one...
     
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Arnold - why do you dread them?
     
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    ...stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum...
     
  14. Better than a clam.
     
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Unfortunately, I play in CP more often than I care to contemplate.
     
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Being emptied as we speak. So far when I play in CP, my thumb can go down as low as "D" on the G string. Can anybody tell me why Eb necks are "dreaded"?
     
  18. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I think it might be because there is so much neck without any landmarks. Both my plywood and my Juzek had Eb necks, so when I got the current bass it took me months to get used to the other configuration. I sat in last night on Da Mook's Strunal with an Eb neck. I sounded like I was playing 'steel bass' or had conjured Joe Walsh or something while looking for notes...
     
  19. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    I hate to disagree with Arnold cuz he's most often quite right but I'm gonna anyway. The positions lower than what we're talkin about-do you play with the pointer opposite the thumb? Make a grip in thin air thumb to others and feel where the greatest strength and the most fluid bone muscle configuration is. It's gonna be thumb in between 1 and 2- 2/3's of the way to 2. That's the most ergonomic position. This always seemed very natural to me having had some classial guitar training, but John Schaeffer[exNYPhil principal] teaches it and verifies that "D" concept as most natural and also most in accord with Simandl thinking.
     
  20. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Sorry, Bud, but Tom Martin writes in the latest ISB magazine that the "thumb-across-from-1st-finger d-neck-method" is correct. He also quotes Horst Grunert as agreeing, but as being perplexed by the lack of standardization. Anyway, if Sir Thomas says it's right, it's right!

    #5 Gouges at five paces?