Can you diagnose. Do I have a string height problem?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Jaygetsreal, Nov 30, 2021.

  1. I have just got a second-hand, almost new, Chinese hybrid and am so excited!!

    But after playing an EUB which has very low action for the last two years I am finding fretting notes on the new DB quite tiring and hard. Both basses have exactly the same strings.

    Before taking it to the local luthiers I thought I'd measure everything up and see whether it's likely to be the bridge shape, bridge height, scoop, or whatever that's making it hard.

    I reckon there are experts on this forum who could diagnose the problem just by looking at these measurements? Would be greatly appreciated. Screen Shot 2021-12-01 at 12.31.23 pm.png
  2. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    Krivo Pickups
    Slight tangent -It has been my experience that different strings just feel and sound different on different basses, particularly going from an EUB to a carved top acoustic instrument. On my Eminence I love superflexible solo, but they haven't sounded or felt good on any acoustic bass I've had them on, including my recently acquired Shen SB150. Your two basses are likely to have different demands and will respond differently to the same string.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  3. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Since you are used to and prefer the feel of the EUB, it would be nice to see and compare the same chart with the EUB's values. That will probably also reveal a lot to you as you collect that data.

    It would also be good to know the length of the fingerboards and the string heights at the bridge for both instruments.
    Povl Carstensen and BarfanyShart like this.
  4. Reiska


    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Hi and welcome to the dark side! Pretty standard procedure for pizz-oriented players is height increasing 1 mm ( on the bridge, measured at the end of the fingerboard ) when going from G to E. As in your case the action would be G 5mm, D 6 mm, A 7 mm, E 8mm. That sort of setup allows the fatter strings to vibrate freely, and it increases bowing clearance. Also the string spacing at the bridge effects the feel of the setup and bowability. I'd think pretty standard spacing would be 27 - 28 mm string to string.

    Also one thing is that it takes time and effort for your body to get used to acoustic double bass. Lessons are much recommended!

    Good luck!
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Agree with @Reiska ’s response above. Scale lengths between the two instruments would be a useful part of the comparison, as the mensure changes the way a string responds. Last, a 2mm difference between the G and D strings at the end of the board would drive my right hand crazy, and it is pretty unusual for the E to be lower than the D and A strings. If there was a qualified luthier that could take a look in your area, that would be the best case scenario.
  6. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    E seems low. D seems high. If you have an adjustable bridge you can deepen the notches of some strings to get the approx. 1 mm per string increase, then jack it up to achieve a reasonable string height.

    It's more likely, though, from my (limited) experience, that difficulty in playing is related to excessive string height at the nut. Of the small number of basses and guitars I've played that hadn't been carefully set up, the nut heights have been universally 2X - 4X the recommended amount.
  7. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    Usually when a bass is hard to play, or intonation is weird, the nut is the issue. The nut on one of these Chinese basses almost never comes properly filed. Also, as others have said, the E seems low, and the D seems high. The G string's specs (ignoring any possible weirdness with the nut) seem up to code, though, how does that string feel to you?
  8. oldNewbie

    oldNewbie Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2016
    ... IIRC rule of thumb for height at the nut is two business cards. If the "standard" card is 16 pt = 0.016in ~0.4mm, X2 ~ 0.8mm .
  9. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    It also does seem bridge isn't cut exactly right for this fingerboard. It's not super far off, though, so filing the bridge slots on the A and D might be enough to bring it in line, and maybe bring the E side of the adjustable bridge up a notch.
  10. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Also, the bridge can be cut to give you a lower height adjustment and you will probably find that helpful. And, check the scoop in the fingerboard. If it's excessive, that will make the instrument harder to play.
  11. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    Thank you. I can never keep this straight -- is it one business card or two?
  12. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Sorry guys but "business card" is not a meaningful measure. I took a quick check of a couple dozen and found thicknesses from 0.22 mm to 0.39 mm. I'd suggest a feeler gauge set.
    Povl Carstensen likes this.
  13. Either the fingerboard is strange or the measurement at the end of the fingerboard for the E string is wrong.
    I agree that the D might be a bit high.
    I have 6 to 11 mm with metal wound synthetic core strings. With steel core maybe a mm lower.
    A lot of EUBs come with EBG action height. That is not useful for either DB or EUB.
    If you have problems pressing the strings down, consider synthetic core strings. By pressing the string down you make it longer, that is easier with a more stretchy core like synthetics or gut. Metal wound synthetics often can replace steel without changes. Even if you don’t like them too much, it might be helpful to get used to DB/EUB playing.
    And take at least a few lessons from a DB player, bowed and plucked!
    oldNewbie likes this.
  14. oldNewbie

    oldNewbie Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2016
    Agreed. Even a very casual google of "business card thickness" had a big range , but there was some kind of convergence on 16pt from vendors on the few order forms scrolled through. At any rate, the OPs nut height measurements were well below that range.
    Feeler gauge is a good idea , do we have any firm numbers from the luthiers ?
  15. The E lower than A is weird, as others stated. Other than that, the measures seem okay to me. Could you make a photo of the bass lying on its back, where we could see the end of the fingerboard and bridge? I'm thinking perhaps the bridge is moved a bit from the centre towards the G side, that could explain the low E (but likely not A).
    Jaygetsreal likes this.
  16. Thank y'all for helpful suggestions. Long live TB :cool:
    The FBs on both basses are 850mm long. String spacing at the bridge is 25-26mm.
    The nut seems fine.
    The suggestion of photos was a good one - here's what it looks like from above and below. It looks to me like the bridge has been shaped?

    IMG_2061.jpg IMG_2063.JPG

    For context, the EUB I mentioned in the OP is an own-build and I've been playing it for a couple of years. I carved its compound radius FB myself (to mathematical precision!) using a purpose-built travelling router jig. That might explain why it's so easy to play!
    dhergert likes this.
  17. bherman

    bherman Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2009
    Grand Junction, CO
    hard to tell from photos alone, although it does look to me like the bridge slots are on the deep side, especially for the E and G. And the bridge shaping looks a little off (and a bit rough) compared to the fingerboard profile. Probably best to have a DB luthier look at it. Congrats on getting the bass! Hopefully with a bit of work it will be good to go!
    HateyMcAmp and Jaygetsreal like this.

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