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how to set a soundpost

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by The Biz, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. Quoting an old post from james condino

    "All players should know how to set their own soundpost. It is an essential life skill for a double bass player, like driving a car and not knowing how to change a tire or where the gasoline goes...."

    I've never owned a car but can do those things. I don't know how to go about 'experimenting' with my soundpost. Fear not, my head is hung in shame.

    I did some searching but there doesn't seem to be a generalised "how to" on here. What tools, important tips, etc.

    Anybody got a good link?
    james condino likes this.
  2. jlmorgan84

    jlmorgan84 Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2014
    Clemson, SC
    Here's how I set my soundpost...

    1) Put the bass in the car.
    2) Pay my bass guy to set it for me.
    3) Spend the next few hours not cursing and peering into the side of my bass.

    In all seriousness I set mine once after having knocked it over, and I'm terrible at it. If I was hours away from the nearest person who could set it for me I might try to learn, but for now, life's too short to spend it setting sound posts! :)
  3. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    There are certainly better tools, but I've had success with a bicycle pedal wrench (thin solid piece of metal to tap it around) and a wire coat hanger bent straight except the hook. If it's laying over, I put the wrench on one end of the post and grab the other end with the hanger. Once it's standing upright-ish I just use the wrench to tap one side at a time gently until it's where I think it should be. As to where to put it for best results, I won't open that can of worms. For me the "neutral" position always seems to work well. Though now I have a bass with a trap door in the c-bout, so I can just reach in there, big fan of that mod for this reason and others.
    Happy Camper and The Biz like this.
  4. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    You can also stick a little mirror in the f-hole to see if the top of the post is flush with the top of the bass
  5. Dr. Love

    Dr. Love

    Nov 5, 2008
    Lubbock, TX
    I've done it. It can be a challenge, but it is do-able. Gollihur (and probably others) sell a special tool that has a flat sharpened edge that you spear the soundpost with and guide it into place through the treble side f hole. Then you can use the other end to gently tap it around to fine tune the placement. The post should fit well with the top and bottom without gaps, and should be just snug enough to not fall over, not wedged in tight. Sounds easy...

    My tips:
    1. Before you move the post, take a pencil and mark where it is now.
    2. I also got one of the bendable spring loaded "grabbers" and a small telescoping inspection mirror from the auto parts store. The grabber is helpful to hold and fish out the post when it falls over during positioning, and the mirror helps to see gaps between the post and top or back, etc.
    3. Find a bright light that can be inserted into the other f hole, but not fall in. I use an LED music stand light.
    4. LOOSEN THE STRINGS before moving anything.
    5. Protect the edge of the f holes with a cloth or wrap the tools with something to keep from scratching the edges.
    6. Make sure you have more time than you expect to need.
  6. I set up a soundpost with the help of two laces. Using a fork makes it much easier and faster, but the laces do not leave holes and do not harm the details.

    At first, I spent an hour or so on every installation, but later I did it for about ten minutes. This is the same skill as the ability to change the strings or establish a bridge. It is not always possible to contact the luthier. In addition, the soundpost greatly affects the sound. And only you know what sound you want to get!
    Wasnex and Dabndug like this.
  7. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Maybe this should be rule #1 for, like, everything that relates to double bass :)
    M0ses, bluejack, GlenParks and 4 others like this.
  8. Happy Steve

    Happy Steve Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2007
    Mel-burn, Ore-stralia
    I had success with some clear plastic tubing with a running-shoe lace. The lace is looped around the post. The ends of the lace are in my hand. Get the post into position, let one end of the lace go and voila. No scratches on the f-holes.
    Povl Carstensen and DoubleMIDI like this.
  9. Here is my homemade tool, made from a wire hanger:
    Holding on to a broomstick.
    With this holding the post at the upper end, and using something to tap the bottom of the post (I use a long screw driver), I can move, install and even take the sound post out.
  10. Yes, with regular laces it takes ages.
  11. Happy Steve

    Happy Steve Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2007
    Mel-burn, Ore-stralia
    And my sponsor insisted on clear plastic...

    ( n.b. the laces do not need to be white)

    Attached Files:

  12. I think your tool is very well thought out. But I would venture, that with my wirehanger, I can grab the sound post while it is in its place, and I can lock the grip. Perhaps with elastic laces, knots at the ends and two slots in the tube, you could do the latter also...
    steve_n_his_urb likes this.
  13. There is some good advice above. I agree that standing up a fallen sound post is a good skill to acquire. Replacing it with a longer new post, shortening it or moving it around each has some pitfalls, enough to say that you should ask a luthier to instruct you. This is how I learned.

    The general beliefs are that
    (1) the post is made from spruce,
    (2) the grain of the post should be at 90 degrees to the belly grain to give best sound,
    (3) the top and bottom of the post should fit very closely to the inside curve(s) of the front and back,
    (4) the post will stand vertically in all directions (very hard to judge),
    (5) with bridge and strings in position and no tension in the strings the post should be lightly wedged into position,
    (6) a good starting place for the top of the post is its center in line with the center of the bridge foot and its own diameter below the back of the foot.

    If you are moving or standing up an existing post then keep the luthier's groove (made by his setting tool) pointing towards you at 90 degrees to the belly grain. Do not allow the post to rotate because the relatively soft inside of the belly can be easily bruised and dented. My emergency setting tool to prevent this is a length of coat hanger wire with the last 3 inches bent at 45 degrees and its end cold beaten into a chisel point to insert into the groove. This wire also helps me feed the post in through the F hole and stand it up. A second piece of wire has its end bent into a U - shape and is used to pull the top of the post across towards you while the first stops the post from rotating. My third piece of wire is longer and has its end bent into a hook at 45 degrees that can pull the bottom of the post towards you or help extract the post when it inevitably falls over!!

    To move the post around I use an old wooden spoon for tapping the top and the long handle of my mechanic's swivel-headed inspection mirror for the bottom. The best tool is the proper luthier's setter that is shaped to hold, push, pull and tap the post into position. Some form of light and the mechanic's mirror will allow you to check for best fit, top and bottom.

    If you have to fit a new longer post then make the groove with the point of your setter in line with the grain, lay the old and new posts side by side with their grains/grooves parallel and carefully transfer the angle of the old top to the new. If your bass is flat-backed then the bottom cut will be square. A swell back will require you to copy that angle. These operations will help shorten the fitting process considerably. Use a fine bladed saw for your cuts while you hold the post firmly to stop it spinning and allow sufficient extra length.

    The final fitting takes time and a lot of patience as you insert and stand up the post many times. If you are replacing or moving an old post try to mark both its "north" and "east" positions as reference points with a sharp pencil or ball point, top and bottom, before dropping it. An old bass will have marks, sometimes dents, to act as reference points. The best fit is called a "chalk fit", where chalk is rubbed into the top and bottom to identify where wood must be removed. Traditionally the final fitting was carefully done with a very sharp luthier's knife. Perhaps a very sharp hobby knife is OK. Or even very careful use of a disc sander or linisher. Using the knife can be helped by dipping the end of the post in water to soften the wood temporarily. As you get the post closer to its final destination start tuning up and testing the sound. You will have a little more lattitude for north-south adjustment than east-west.

    A skilled luthier can work magic with these small adjustments and is well worth the expense. They can "read" your bass and offer a lot of suggestions about how to best set up the bass to suit your playing. Hopefully the above may help you a little should this not be possible, because of an emergency or isolation.

    Best wishes.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2019
  14. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    In a pinch LED Christmas lights fed into the opposite F hole work well for lighting.
  15. After you’ve fished the post out, tie one end of a thread around the middle of the post and leave the other end outside the bass. When you inevitably screw up and drop the post while fitting it, the thread makes it much less crazymaking to retrieve the post so you can try again.
    RSBBass and Povl Carstensen like this.
  16. Good idea. I have my cellphone lying on the opposite F-hole. Luckily, it has not fallen into the bass. Yet.
    downunder, RSBBass and MDrost1 like this.
  17. I would just say that my gizmo at post 9 is also a remedy against that, AND can be used to manipulate the post..
  18. downunder


    Aug 25, 2005
    these are my soundpost setting tools: a "bass soundpost setter", inspection mirror, grabber, cool needlenose pliers optimized for the post (bought that way, a lucky find) and a short length of led rope light. It's not a big investment and is all you need to do it right. Making a new post is more involved, of course. I've done it, I use a small belt sander to get the angles right. sound post tools.JPG
  19. Those "cool needle nose pliers" are called hose grip pliers, and are certainly handy for bass soundpost work!
    downunder likes this.
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    There is a student bass I am dealing with currently that started with a bridge that was too wide for its top, so that the bass foot was hanging over the bass bar and causing the F hole to sink. A new, narrower bridge was fitted, but the soundpost apparently was not moved, so that its center is much closer to the treble F Hole than the middle of the new bridge foot.

    This bass also had a pronounced dead zone on the G string between about C and E. I don't remember if it was there before the new bridge was fitted. Could there be a connection?

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