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first DB!

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by eliascalles, Nov 21, 2020 at 12:29 PM.

  1. eliascalles

    eliascalles Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2013
    hi all. I have been wanting to get a DB for years. I briefly engaged with the quixotic quest for "things that sound like a DB but aren't" (aka Ubasses, acoustic bass guitars, tape wound on a short scale bass guitar etc etc) and yeah , turns out nothing sounds like a DB except for a DB. I suppose I could have just listened to everyone who said as much, but I guess some of us have to learn things the hard way.

    to complicate my quest for a DB, I live in a remote, rural area in Mexico where I have access to tololoches and guitarrons, but as long as I've been looking (5-6 years) a used DB has never come around... until yesterday!

    hopefully this wasn't a mistake purchase as it seems to need some setup possibly and I"m not luthier (and the closest one is 3.5 hours away and I really doubt he has much experience with contrabasses). but..... it was $7000 mx (around $350usd) so I jumped on it. hoping I can learn enough to get up and running on it.

    it's a "paris" brand and appears to be a cheaply made instrument (though it sounds ok) . It's about 71 inches from bottom to top which I think makes it a 3/4. It came with a bow and a bag. There is no wear of any kind on the fingerboard or the body. seems to hold its tune fine. The lady I bought it from said her ex husband bought it new from an importer (maybe it's chinese?) and never once played it then he ran off with another lady. When I expressed sympathy for her plight, she laughed and said leaving was the only good thing he ever did. anyway it does appear unplayed.

    the bridge is not adjustable. The tailpiece is metal. The string height at the neck heel is about 1 cm. in my younger days I worked for years as a jazz pianists and would often play around on my bass players DBs and I really don't remember it being this hard to play? I setup my bass guitars with a high action so I'm used to having to put a little muscle into it but maybe the string height is too high on this db, or maybe these are not the right kind of strings for finger style? Tension seems higher than I remember, but it was 30 years ago. Unfortunately there are no DB players around that I could even try to meet up with and compare instruments.

    I'm going to dig into this forum (I"m active over on the BG side of talkbass) and learn all that I can from you all here, but since I bought the thing before I read the sticky "read this before you buy your first DB" thread" I'm already kind starting in the hole lol. I did a little looking online and it seems I could get a cheap adjustable 3/4 bridge for not much money (saw one for $35usd) anyway I just wanted to introduce myself and as I read the begginer threads I'm sure I"ll have lots of questions!

    thanks in advance, this site in an amazing resource!

    IMG_3295.jpg IMG_3296.jpg IMG_3294.jpg IMG_3293.jpg IMG_3292.jpg
  2. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Congrats! Your bass looks identical to my first one which got me started (more or less) successfully. You’ll want a setup from a real DB luthier at some point, but in the meantime moving the bridge so that the feet are aligned with the inner f-hole notches should bring your string height down a bit. :thumbsup:
  3. eliascalles

    eliascalles Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2013
    thank you I will do that! do you think it's worth bothering with a cheap adjustable bridge at this stage in my DB infancy? I saw one online (ammoon brand 3/4 bridge) for $30 usd. cheers!!

    update- just watched a helpful youtube vid from upton bass on adjusting bridge position, moved it to match the notches and it DID improve it thank you!
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020 at 2:29 PM
  4. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"...

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Congratulations! I got my first DB four years ago and it has changed my bass playing life for the better. As you’re noticing, the set up on a DB has a huge impact on how easy it is to play. I played my first upright for several months with a less than optimal set up (string height was too high and the nut needing some adjusting), causing me quite a bit of unnecessary pain. Their are some very knowledgeable folks here on the DB side (including some reputable luthiers) so I’m sure you’ll be able to glean some useful insight from the forum. Best of luck and enjoy your new pursuit!
    Winoman and eliascalles like this.
  5. Congratulations on a first double bass! Sounds like a screaming good deal at that price.

    It is worth getting adjusters, but you would need to get them fitted to your existing bridge by a luthier. Three and a half hours away isn't too bad... as long as they have experience with violin family instruments, they should be able to help with the set-up.

    The Ammoon bridges are bridge blanks that then need to be cut to size and shape for your bass, and have the feet shaped to fit the top plate of your bass.

    Your existing bridge already has had that work done, and a luthier would cut, drill and tap it to take the adjusters. They might also make further adjustments to the shape of the curve etc. But it is less work to have adjusters fitted to the existing bridge than have a blank made to fit.

    I'm curious as to what your string height is now that you have moved the bridge. 1cm at the neck heel is too high for most people. I run about 7-8mm height at the end of the fingerboard.

    And do you know what strings it came with? Heavy high tension strings might also be making it harder to play.

    Welcome to the world of double bass, and good luck with your progress!
  6. 16fuss

    16fuss Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2005
    Congratulations and welcome! Get a professional setup and enjoy your bass!!
    eliascalles likes this.
  7. eliascalles

    eliascalles Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2013
    great info thanks!! when I get back home I will remeasure the string height and let you know. Is there a specific or correct place to do the measurement? I did the neck heel as a guess. Here's a link to the bridge I saw online.


    I see what you mean about shaping the feet to fit the bass. I have zero instrument building experience (though I do setup my own basses and guitars) but I do have woodworking experience, i wonder if it's a special job to sand the feet to fit the radius of the bass. I'm waiting to hear back from the luthier here. He mostly builds flamenco style guitars, but he's done some pretty major repairs for me on a few old acoustic guitars I have. he's about 80% nuts but seems to do ok work.

    I've no idea what type of strings are on it (other than they seem to be steel). the lady I bought it from was selling it as a cello so she wasn't a fountain of useful information lol. I'm sure there are many threads about strings on this forum so I will check out the options, but if you have any specific ones you think a rank beginner would benefit from I'd be grateful for any advice.

    thanks again!
    Anthony White likes this.
  8. I've never done it - there is a luthier and set-up sub-forums on here that can give you more detailed information. Shaping the feet to fit the bass is usually done with a very sharp woodworking knife, though they can also be sanded to shape. And when the strings are loosened to remove the bridge, the tension comes off the top, and there is a high likelihood that the sound-post inside the instrument will drop, and then need to be placed in position again. Soundpost placement is trickier than shaping the bridge. (If the soundpost doesn't fall, then it's probably too tight, and will also need to be re-shaped.)

    But as well as the feet, you will see that the Ammon bridge has a very high arch on the upper part - there is a lot of material there, to allow it to be shaped to match your fingerboard curvature and the height you need.

    Strings - it depends what music you play. For mostly jazz or pizzacato style music I'd recommend buying a used set of Spirocore weich (weich being light-guage in German). Used, because they're quite bright strings new, and they become mellower over time, and then last for ever (almost literally for ever). Others might recommend Evah Pirrazzi, which are nice and forgiving both pizz and arco, and have a mellower tone. But spriocores are something of an 'industry standard' string, and once you have used them you can say things like "I've tried spriocores and want something brighter/darker/more flexible/less flexible," and people will be able to give you good direction. For mostly classical or arco styles, I don't remember what a good beginner string is - maybe look through the strings section here.
  9. A thought - you could consider getting a pick-up installed at the same time as bridge adjusters, if you plan to play amplified at some point in the future. Either Full Circle or Yamahiko make pickups that are built into the bridge adjusters. I have a Full Circle, but after reading the Yamahiko thread elsewhere here, I am likely to switch to one of those next time I want some set-up work done on my bass.
    eliascalles likes this.
  10. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    The "setup/repair" forum here is your friend. Ask before you do anything you aren't sure about and you have a world of knowledge available.

    To move the bridge to the correct position, lay the bass on its back (with a pillow or cushion under the neck heel so the scroll isn't on the floor). Detune the bass until the strings still have some tension, but can be moved out of the bridge slots manually with some effort. If you detune too much, the soundpost could fall over (not the end of the world but not fun for a beginner). Grab the bridge on both sides and move it to where the bridge feet are centered on the inner f-hole notches. Don't let the bridge tilt when you move it, let the strings ride over the bridge slots. Once it looks like it's in the right spot, tune it up slowly and make sure the tailpiece side of the bridge remains perpendicular to the top of the bass. You will likely need to pull the top of the bridge toward the tailpiece periodically as you tune it up since the strings will want to bring the top of the bridge toward the fingerboard as they ascend in pitch/tension. Lubricating the slots with graphite (pencil lead) helps.

    That's one thing you can do on your own without buying anything that should help some!

    A good set of strings will go a LONG way, too.
  11. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
  12. eliascalles

    eliascalles Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2013
    prob a smart move, though I would guess it'll be some time before I"m really up to speed enough to take it out on gigs. I do have an AT pro35 which I have used to mic a cello for stage and it worked ok. NOt sure how well it'd do on DB. many years ago when I worked as a FOH person in NYC I reguarly micd DBs with a 57 wedged into the tailpiece with some foam and it worked well enough for loud rockabilly bands. Never really sounded that great, but it made nose and didn't feedback much.

    I just heard back from the luthier and he does have experience with DBs and said no prob to do a setup for string height, change strings etc. I'm going to look for used spirocores now. or..... the luthier says that he can get new Daddario DB strings here without having to have them shipped down from USA (which adds like 30%+ to the cost of everyghing). . He says there are a few differnt kinds available including some kind of fake gut (zyex)? any opinions on those vs trying to find used spirocores. as for a new bridge with adjusters, I guess if I were to switch it out for the existing non adjustable one, now would prob be the time as the luthier is going to need to work on the existing bridge anyway to set the action up. Should I be looking for somethng not quite as cheap as the ammoon (as in spendng a few more $ is well worth it)?

    thank you!!
    Keith Rawlings and Anthony White like this.
  13. Martin Beer

    Martin Beer

    Dec 4, 2004
    The luthier I dealt with for setup on my bass said that he preferred players not to source their own bridges for him to fit. Choosing the right bridge has a couple of variables, and one you've ordered online may not be right, especially if you're new to the instrument.
    Also, many prefer to add adjusters to a bridge rather than using pre-made adjustable bridges, as the feet can be fitted more effectively before the legs are cut for the adjusters. If the luthier considers the current bridge to be OK, they should be able to add adjusters to that rather than starting with a new bridge.
  14. Unless there is a problem with the existing bridge - eg it is warped or cracked - then just have your luthier fit bridge adjusters to it. If it needs replacing, let your luthier source the blank, as he will know what he needs, and be able to make decisions based on seeing your bass.

    Here is the Gollihur page with examples of bridge adjusters:
    Adjusters for Upright Bass Bridges (Assorted)

    And here is the Fishman Full Circle:
    Full Circle Upright Bass Pickup | Fishman

    And the Yamahiko:
    Double Bass Pickup System

    D'addario strings will suit your purposes perfectly well. Some people here swear by them. Some others think they go off quicker than the Spirocores. The comparable string would be the D'addario Helicore Hybrid.

    I recommended used Spirocores because buying used is cheap, because they are good strings that last forever, and because they give you a standard that you can then compare against. There are usually some for sale in the TalkBass classifieds.

    When I started playing, I rented for the first 18 months, then set about shopping for a bass. It took me quite a long time shopping before I started to understand how significant a difference strings make on a bass. I probably passed on many basses that would have been perfect for me with different strings before I realised this. Good strings and a good set-up that match your playing style and the music you will be playing will really make your bass.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020 at 3:36 PM
  15. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I totally agree with this comment. Rather than buying a bridge, consider having adjusters installed in the existing bridge.

    Also, if you can move the bridge into it's proper position, you may find you don't need adjusters. Don't worry about the sound post dropping if you plan to see a luthier anyway. If you can get the bridge into proper position, you may find that you can delay your trip to the luthier, until you have a bit more experience. If the sound post falls...you go see the luthier.

    The height of the bass's strings will vary a bit with the seasons. Adjusters are nice to deal with these seasonal changes, so I would not argue against having them installed. However, the fact that you do not have experience is a bit of concern, because even with adjusters the bridge should be setup very close to your optimal playing height.

    Essentially what I am saying is I don't recommend making massive changes to the setup with the adjusters; in my opinion it's best to use them only for minor adjustments. So it would be helpful to know your preferred string height before you install the adjusters.

    Here is my concern with making massive corrections with the adjusters.

    As you can see, the sound post supports the left side of the bridge (G string side). This side is fairly stable. As you adjust the bridge to raise the string height, the right foot will tend to compress the face of the instrument and cause the bridge to rotate to the right.

    I don't think this asymmetry poses any problems for small seasonal corrections. But if you want a major change in how the bass is setup, I think it can potentially throw the geometery off enough to cause problems. So if you wanted to alternate between a really low setup and a really high setup, you would probably want two bridges, with adjusters...and since you are new to the instrument, you really don't know what you want.

    I have played many uprights professionally over the years. The bridge and height of the strings was usually in a range I could live with, but I often found the string height at the nut was much higher than I like. This will cause the strings to get progressively harder as you play closer to the nut. Also it can cause the tension across the strings near the nut to feel extremely uneven.

    I played various gauges of Spirocores for most of my career. They are a considered a crossover string by many, and they were a good choice for me because I played about 50% pizz and 50% arco. They do require a bit of finesse to get started under the string. Some people actually like this, but others prefer an arco string that is darker, starts easier, and is less prone to complaining. IMHO, one of the biggest advantages of Spirocores is they have a long life...but they are also fairly expensive when purchased new.
  16. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Only have adjusters installed in your current bridge if it's a good bridge to begin with. Your luthier needs to assess that. You'll be fine with D'Addario strings to start. I'd get the light gauge in Helicore Jazz or Hybrid or Zyex. That way you won't beat your hands up too much as you get started.
    eliascalles and Wasnex like this.
  17. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Welcome to the addiction. ;)
  18. jsf729

    jsf729 Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2014
    Central Maryland
    What are the measurements of the bottom of the strings and the fingerboard at the end of the fingerboard? Also at the nut you should be able to slide a business card between the strings and the nut and have it stay. Not sure if you mentioned what strings are on it, but with a decent set of strings and some files to do some filing of the nut and bridge (if necessary), you could improve the playability until you could get the bass to a luthier. Of course a sound post adjustment- if necessary- can work wonders with the sound. Lots of info here in setup forum. Looks like you've done your homework. Enjoy your bass!
    Anthony White and eliascalles like this.
  19. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    BEFORE mucking around with the bridge get a soundpost setting set:
    a) Tugger-stabber and hole-y plyers
    b) Extendable claw tool

    Once you release string tension there's a high likelihood that your post will fall over. If you can't grab it and reset it you're kinda fooked.

    On a related topic, attach a pencil to a ruler and mark where your soundpost is now so you have a clue about where to start.

    Enjoy! You are on a great path now!
  20. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    The other name for a 'tugger-stabber' is a soundpost setter, and it's a good idea to have one (I recommend them so I don't have to do a lot of "emergency" sound post resets for bassists). Just one caution: the link above takes you to a violin sound post setter. This won't work on a bass. You'll need a bass sound post setter, which is about twice as long and much heavier.
    Sam Sherry likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Nov 25, 2020

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