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Getting consistently low string height

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by fourstringbliss, Feb 28, 2013.


  1. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    Is it possible to get the strings on a bass set such that they are a consistent height over the frets?

    I currently have my neck almost totally straight. I'm trying to get the strings set at an even height over the strings and have been working with the bridge saddles and foil shim strips to get my strings to obtain this. No matter what I do the string height gradually raises slightly higher on down the neck. If I lower the saddles I get string buzz when I dig in.

    What's the solution? Lower the saddles and play with a light touch?
     
  2. JLS

    JLS

    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Maybe a nod in passing to the laws of physics?
     
  3. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    Smarty pants.
     
  4. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    So, a lighter touch is needed then? There's no way to get the strings parallel to the fretboard?
     
  5. testing1two

    testing1two Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    Physics requires the strings rise towards the end of the fingerboard. Without over complicating it, just think about the basic forces involved. There is greater string motion (vibrational amplitude) on one end of the string than the other. Therefore one end of the string needs more clearance.

    Low action is determined by two things: straightness of the neck and vibrational amplitude of the strings. If your fingerboard and/or frets are not level, you will not achieve the lowest possible action for your instrument. This is where most instruments fall short.

    Also, less string motion means the string height can be lower without buzzing against the frets. So stiffer strings allow for lower action.

    Just as an editorial note: low action is not the holy grail. I find it's more comfortable to play looser feeling strings with medium action than stiff strings with slammed action. YMMV
     
  6. Geroi Asfalta

    Geroi Asfalta

    Aug 23, 2011
    You can get perfectly level action if you get a pro fret level.

    My main basses have the action set at about 2 mm above each fret from nut to bridge, varying slightly from bass to bass. Try using stiffer strings, you can get lower than before. When I switched from rounds to flats late last year I was able to dial in the action lower than I thought possible.

    You won't be able to dig in as much with an evenly setup bass unless you change your playing style, at least in my experience. Use a lighter touch, definitely.

    Setting up a bass to get action as low as you describe takes some experimenting. You will need a fret level and you may need a new nut if you cant get it consistent. The best action I"ve ever played on was a German Custom shop warwick. I swear the strings were lying on the frets but every note was crystal clear.
     
  7. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    Thanks for the help!

    I shimmed the nut on this bass because the slots were too low and I'm using flatwounds (stiff strings).

    I think I've discovered that I need a fall off on the last five frets. The bass I had before this was an SX that was otherwise really nice but definitely needed a fret leveling. In the process I ended up filing frets 15 and up lower than the ones before and could get the strings much lower than this bass. I'm going to file in a gradual fall off from frets 15 on up.
     
  8. Stinsok

    Stinsok Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2002
    Central Alabama
    A small item...do you own a machinist's ruler?
     
  9. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    No, but that would be a good purchase!
     
  10. JLS

    JLS

    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    No, and no.
     
  11. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    alpha-music.com
    sure you can get the strings parallel to the board;

    you just have to raise the action at the nut, making them way too high over the first half of the neck ;)

    (if you want it to play right, then you don't want parallel strings over the frets. you want them as close as they can be at any given fret, which means really close at the nut and a bit further away at the body end.)
     
  12. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    Problem solved. I progressively filed a fall off or fall away on frets 15 - 21 and it solved the problem. I can have my strings a good deal lower and now it's a very comfortable bass to play!
     
  13. darkstorm

    darkstorm

    Oct 13, 2009

    Yes.
     

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