(holds up bic lighter in a drunken manner) Free Board! ...Free Board!

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Sep 1, 2001.

  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I played an outdoor gig on my Old American Standard bass last night, and for the most part, it did very well...good tone, nice action, etc. I haven't played it much since I got my carved bass, but it's nice to have for outdoor gigs since it doesn't seem to mind the humidity as much.

    I noticed two things during the first set: First, the strings are way closer to the treble side of the fingerboard than they are to the bass side, closer in fact than I ever remember them being. Second, the bass sounded more "G" string heavy than I ever remember it sounding before, and a little weak on the "E" string, which is the opposite of the way I remember it sounding when it was my regular bass.

    I've heard the portion of the fingerboard "East" of the G string and "West" of the E string referred to as "Free Board" by several other bassists, and I've noticed that different basses seem to be set up differently in this respect. My German bass has the strings set right smack in the middle of the fingerboard, with the same amount of "Freeboard" on either side, but I've seen other basses where it isn't so even - on some, the strings seem closer to the bass side, ond on others, closer to the treble.

    My question is, does this make any difference? How does it affect the tone, if at all? And could this have anything to do with the strange tonal balance I was noticing last night?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Oh, Man, when I saw your tiltle, I thought you had an extra room in your house where I could stay for free! How misleading! ;)
    Seriously, though thats an interesting question, and I can't help but wonder if placing the bridge closer to either side would create an uneven distribution of pressure across the top table, which can't be a good thing. I'm sure it would change the sound, as the area of vibration would change. The way the Bass is constructed, The sound post is supposed to be proportionately positioned opposite the Bass Bar, with the bridge an equal distance from either F-hole.
    At least that's what I always thought. The reason you may have seen variations on this may have been to compensate for an uneven or warped top table, which happens sometimes. Or maybe they did like the sound they got from the different position, But wouldn't it change the angle of the strings in relation to the fingerboard as well?
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Good to see you back! Hope everything is going ok after the move....

    Before my bass got repaired last time (which involved removing the top and replacing a broken patch) the bridge did tend to "slide" from side to side over a period of months, after which I would loosen the strings and reset it where I thought it should go. And yes, the top table is pretty screwy-looking, as the pics will show whenever JT has time to post them (...cough....*hint*....*hint*). But I've been playing the newer bass exclusively for so long now that I can't tell if the Standard really sounds that much different than before because of the repair, or because I've been listening to the German bass for so long that I'm really noticing the difference in sound between the two basses. And YES, the lesser amount of free board on the treble side DOES mean that the string angle is different, especially on the E string, which sits on a beveled fingerboard.

    But I thought I'd check out a few opinions from folks who know more about the subject than I do (like you, for instance) before messing around with the bridge placement again. Any advice?


  4. Ah, Yes, I'd almost forgotten about that patch job that you had done. See, that puts your bass in the exceptions category. I would like to see a picture, though. Was it a patch or an inlay? Because that might mean that you have a weak spot there, and you may actually want to adjust your brige slightly,
    just to get it away from the weak spot, which will of course change the distance from the sound post, which will change the tone. All I can say about the string angle is that a little movement can make a big difference. If you get buzzing on the fingerboard, it's too much, so I wouldn't advise anything drastic, just experiment a little and see what comes out. Let me know how it goes.
  5. I can't add any technical solutions for the problem that you have Chris but I can feel for ya. After I got my carved bass, I let my Kay sit around the house for several months before I picked it up again. During this time the neck had moved and my G string was WAY into the "free board" area almost to the edge of the board. Between extreme height adjustments (wheels) and moving the bridge "East" I settled on a bridge footing that was 1/8" East of the North/South line of the f hole. My bass shop knows that this is my "battlezone bass" so they said I wasn't hurting anything by this unusual placement. So...thats how the bridge sits to this day. NOW....the issue of sound... I now notice that my once "awesome sounding Kay" (we have all heard that one) doesn't sound as great.........Of course it could be the crazy set up but.....I too think that I have gotten use to the sound of my carved and that my ear has matured over the past 6 months......