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Changing String Retainer On Zero-Fret Bass?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Bryan R. Tyler, Nov 23, 2004.


  1. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    I was planing on changing the string retainer on a bass with a zero-fret that's cut B-G to one that's cut E-high C. Would this be different than having a new nut put in? Is a string retainer that different from a nut that you'd need a new retainer made in a different fashion than a nut?
     
  2. You could get lateral movement on the strings directly proportionate to the difference in diameter of the string vs. the retainer slot.

    Try it as is, and see if it's discernable. Prolly not by much.
     
  3. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    If your headstock geometry allows it, use a nut with v-grooves, that will work with a variety of different string sizes.
     
  4. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    But would this nut work as a string retainer? I'm just not sure if there's a difference between the two (like if the slots on a nut are generally cut higher than the slots on a string retainger for a zero-fret bass).
     
  5. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    That seems easy enough ;) That lateral movement would cause more wear than normal on the retainer though, right? Or would it be negligable?
     
  6. I honestly couldn't tell ya. But I do like the idea of the v-grooved version too. The retainer, it simply keeps the strings in position over the zero fret, yes?

    I wouldn't think it would cause TOO much wear over normal use, as I think the Zero fret takes most of the abuse / wear anyway...kinda the purpose, really.

    IF the movement is considerable, take a small piece of electrical tape and wrap it around each string where it meets the retainer. It'll take up some slack in fit, and doubtfull it would bind very much....

    Just a thought.

    mon
     
  7. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Actually, Mon is right. Since the newer strings are smaller, just give it a try first.

    The string has to have two things provided for as it leaves the zero fret, towards the tuner: First, it needs a break angle downwards, to put a little pressure on the fret. This is allowed for by the fact that the string height in the retainer is a little lower than the fret. (Reference: in the similar situation of a fretted higher note, this is provided by your fretting finger.) Second, it needs to be held in the proper position side-to-side. This is the main function of the retainer. It keeps the string where you want it, regardless of where the tuner is. (Reference: in the similar situation of a fretted higher note, this is already provided by the nut or string retainer, further up the string.)

    Placing a smaller string should still give it fairly good centering in the somewhat larger slot, and the height will still be good to give a sufficient break angle. So give it a try.
    I guess you'll have to see. If there's too much movement, or if the retainer is far from the nut, you could also begin to see wear on the zero fret due to side-to-side movement when playing open strings; but if this were happening, you should hear something funky first, since the string would be vibrating at different lengths in different planes. (This happens with improperly cut piano bridges.)
     
  8. Then again, I've seen pictures here of basses that simply had grooves worked into the heastock wood to act as a retainer.

    Knowing how word responds to its environs (heat, seasonal changes, humidity), the slot size's tolerance can be hit or miss...

    So to that end, I think your current retainer will do its job adequately. And as pilot said, the wear is more focussed on the zero fret. Of course they work together as a "system", but the 0 fret takes the brunt of the wear.

    :bassist:
     
  9. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    And that wear should be equal to or less than the wear on any "normal" fret.
     
  10. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Thanks a lot, guys. I'll let you know in a few weeks how it turns out.