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Damage from Sharp String?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Bassist59, Oct 4, 2010.

  1. Bassist59


    Oct 4, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I'm an electric bass player so please forgive my ignorance about double-basses. Here's my question:

    A kid in my son's orchestra class went over to my son's bass and tightened one of the strings...way, way, way sharp (the little booger :scowl:). When it was discovered, the teacher simply retuned the instrument.

    I just bought a spanking new upright bass for him and accidentally (pun?) kinda did the same thing while tuning it up:rollno:.

    I wasn't looking and started tuning the D string while I was plucking the G string. Nothing was happening & I kept tightening thinking it was due to the springy new strings. When I realized what I was doing, I checked the D string and it was tuned to a high D sharp, almost an E.:crying:

    ...ok. my question is....c'mon guys make me feel better...did I damage anything? (Now that I've gotten my brain together and tuned the bass properly it sounds beautiful)

    It's bugging me because I just bought it...tell me I didn't damage anything...please :) ;)
  2. Mr.Phil


    Apr 9, 2005
    Upstate NY
    The bass is fine. Try not to do it too much, you could damage the string.
  3. Less than a whole tone sharp? Completely no worries!
  4. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    The only thing it will affect is the time interval before the string goes false. If it's just a student bass, I doubt that you're too concerned with false strings..
  5. Bassist59


    Oct 4, 2010
    Houston, TX
    "No worries..." That's what I needed to hear! Thanks!

    Strings going "False"? That doesn't sound too serious, thanks for the reply.

    "Orchestra" instruments are totally new to me and I really don't know how fragile the double bass I just bought is.

    I've been playing (more accurately, playing around with) the kiddos school & rental 3/4 basses pizzicato (applying my electric bass walking bass lines) over the years and this new 4/4 size (probably imported) instrument sounds way better & louder than all of them to my untrained ear. I didn't pay a whole lot for it.

    I'm thinking about getting an additional bridge to sand down, thin out to get the strings lower but that's a topic for another thread, I guess....

    Thanks for putting my mind at ease.:)
  6. Strings going false just means they sound bad and won't bow right... they give you plenty of time though, it comes on over a few weeks. Strings are not exactly cheap, but they're not difficult to deal with.

    A tone sharp won't do anything structurally to the instrument, but it will upset it for a while and mean it doesn't keep tune as well until it settles down. No big deal, just an inconvenience.
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I'll help put your mind at ease as well. No problem.

    I doubt what you bought is truly what one would call a 4/4 bass. Although there are no actual standards that are adhered to with regard to these sizes, this is a good reference. It's largely about the string length. The "standard" size bass is a 3/4, typically having a string length between 41" and 42".

    What did you buy? Does it need a setup? If so, and if you're not accustomed to fitting a double bass bridge, you'd do well to visit a qualified luthier. Where do you live?
  8. Bassist59


    Oct 4, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Howdy drub,

    Thanks for the info. Yes, I was aware of the no standard size for 3/4 and 4/4 issue. I can only say I fooled around with the 3/4 basses we rented and this one is bigger than those. I'm not worried about it. It's not HUGE or anything but bigger.

    (I should get up and measure the string length)

    I'm in Houston...know where the good luthiers are down here?

    Yes, it needs a setup...I am hoping to learn at least how to sand and thin out the bridge and am considering buying an extra to experiment with. Hey, maybe I'll do it right and he can use it!
  9. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    Your first and best option is to drive up and see me in Dallas. :D

    Your second and equally good option is to visit Lisle Violin Shop.
  10. Bassist59


    Oct 4, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I may end up visiting you or the Houston lisle violin shop eventually...It's a $$$ and time issue right now.

    I just came back from my son's Jr. high fall orchestra concert. I noticed some of the school's basses had the bridge cut in half and were adjustable with thumbscrews.

    I'm assuming that's not going to produce the quality tone that a solid wood bridge would provide but that would be perfect for the kid's "student" bass. It might fit in with my current shortage of available $$$!

    What's the deal with those adjustable bridges?? Again...forgive my ignorance on these instruments. I find them fascinating, though....still learning.

    Oddly enough, after years of playing walking bass lines on my electric bass, I find I can play this thing no problem pizzicato! Thanks.
  11. Actually, an adjustable bridge makes very little difference to the tone... certainly not of any practical significance. They're convenient, in that if the string height changes with the seasons varying humidity, which it will in some climates, you can adjust for that. It's not the cheap option, though, because fitting adjusters is a fair bit of effort, and fitting an adjustable bridge properly to the bass is somewhat harder. Not to mention the adjuster hardware isn't free. However, it does reduce the maintenance.

    Be careful trying to play DB with EB technique, you can easily injure your hands. Hand injuries suck. Better to get a teacher to show you the right way. Your musical knowledge will of course transfer right over.
  12. Bassist59


    Oct 4, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Thanks, Andrew. Interesting about the adjustable bridge...I thought for sure that'd be frowned upon...shows what I know!

    Yeah, I can see how a hand injury can happen. I'd like to know the right way to play the instrument. I don't recall seeing anybody using the 3rd finger (ring finger) alone when playing the double bass....I use all 4 fingers individually (unassisted) just like I do on the electric bass and that's probably asking for trouble. I even recall an e-mail exchange with Ed Friedland a while back about that very thing on electric bass. According to Ed, I'm doing too many stretches on the electric (specifically, not shifting enough) so I'm probably really pushing it on the upright.

    Thank you for the warning. I agreee.
  13. So, what you're describing is called 'open hand' technique, and it is very seldom used on DB. You can use it in the middle transition positions, but most people don't bother.

    "Normal" bass technique doesn't use 3rd finger below about E or F on the G string, where 4th finger is starting to be too short to reach. Instead, you can increase your reach by regarding your thumb as the 'fixed point' of your position, and pivoting the rest of your hand around it; that way you can easily get four semitones reach in the lowest positions, one more than even open hand (this pivoting is a very new innovation in DB technique, by the way).

    Once you're going past the shoulder of the bass, the reach of your pivot gets wider, and at some point (conventionally past the octave, but it is feasible and useful before that) you can start using the side of your thumb on the string as an extra finger; that's called 'thumb position' and gives by far the most flexibility. Thumb position gives a reach of around a fifth.

    Edit: I should add, that there are a lot of little details about HOW you do all that as well. The stop force must not come from your thumb muscles, they're not strong enough, instead you use the weight of your arm pivoting around your shoulder... it's about making your hand and arm the right shape and letting gravity do the work. That's easy to describe but hard to do in practice, so keep at it; if you're getting cramp in your thumb muscles, you're not doing it right.

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