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Impossible to get reasonable action

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by belzebass, Nov 15, 2012.

  1. belzebass


    Feb 21, 2012

    I have a bass that I like a lot, but I cant seem to get action at a reasonable "lowness". I like action a little higher than normal, But on this bass the action is just too high at higher frets.

    I tightened the trussroad and lowered the saddles, it is still high over 12th fret, and buzzes like hell on first ones.

    Is the neck just unmanageable? How would you know that for sure?

    Maybe put a business card into heel joint?


  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    There is a logic to setups.
    First you adjust curvature with the trussrod, then string height at the bridge, then intonation by moving the saddles.
    If and only if strings remain too high with saddles completely lowered, you may consider shimming the neck.

    What you describe is typical of a neck that was set straight with the trussrod. A properly adjusted neck has a slight curve to leave room for string movements.
  3. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    Qualify that remark: on most Fender or Fender-inspired instruments. There are instruments out there whose manufacturer recommends a straight neck. And the different manufacturers otherwise recommend different relief amounts.

    Find a tech that specializes in your particular make of bass, since you didn't state what kind of bass it is.

    Not only the setup, but sometimes the frets need addressing. When frets are dressed at the factory, they are done all at once with a long dressing bar. If equal pressure is not applied, the first few frets will not be crowned properly and this can cause buzzing also.

    So when you have a setup done, have the frets checked as well.
  4. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Basses are all built the same and really don't differ much in the way of setups.
    There are subtle differences that take 2 seconds to measure and mostly relate to the player.
    I'm not aware of a specialized tech per bass brand.
  5. Could be a number of things such as the bass needs a shim
    or a fret level. Could also be you tightened the truss to much
    and now have a slight back bow. My gut tells me the neck
    needs to be shimmed. What kind of bass is it?
  6. belzebass


    Feb 21, 2012
  7. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    That's exactly what is meant: the thin strip of wood that is inserted or glued into the neck pocket so the neck tilts up is a shim.

    OK -- I was trying to be discrete: Rickenbacker specifies an absolutely straight neck. And it's not just personal preference. There are fundamental differences. See Joey's Bass Notes.
  8. belzebass


    Feb 21, 2012
    Ok, thanks for tips, I'll test that. What do you put into the neck pocket?

    I any case, if the action is still high, I'll just man up, I guess :cool:
  9. i use strips of business card, although never more than 2 on top of each other, then you start getting into crazy levels of shim.

    try a 2 cm wide strip of business card or thin cardboard placed up against the bridge end of the neck pocket and then reevaluate and do the set up again
  10. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    You put the shim right up against the body so the neck will tilt up, effectively lowering the action.

    Remember, this is in addition to a complete set up: truss rods, fret leveling, nut slots, bridge height, bridge compensation adjustment for intonation, etc.

    If you're not sure it needs the shim, take it to a qualified tech.
  11. Silas Stingy

    Silas Stingy

    Feb 19, 2009
    This could be any number of problems, personally I'd take it to a professional if it's something that isn't solved withing 10 minutes of messing around. I picked up a bargain Precision which needed setting up, once the action was lowered the first few frets buzzed, the nut was cut slightly too low.
  12. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Then it still needs setting up, because it needs more relief; if the nut is cut too low, the bass will buzz/fret out on the first fret. Period.

    OP: read the stickies on setups, watch some videos, get back to us.
  13. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Sounds like it has no relief, and is back bowed.

    The only time you shim the neck is when the saddles would have to go too far out
    of their range to get the required action height.

    Set the relief properly first. You can't do anything untill you do that.
  14. belzebass


    Feb 21, 2012
    I shimmed the neck by inserting a piece of credit card inside, and now that's definitely better. I get consistent action from low to high frets.

    Sometimes, it seems like I have obsessive-compulsive DIY disorder :bag: I could have taken it to a tech, but I wanted to it myself.

    Thanks a lot for advice.

    "Set the relief properly first. You can't do anything untill you do that."

    I did, but even when when the trussroad is way too tight (buzzing with a lightest on all low frets), the action was still too high under 12th fret.
  15. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Let's be clear........even rickenbackers need a little relief. As much as this little bit of misinformation has been repeated, the Rickenbacker hasn't figured out how the cheat the physics of a vibrating bass string.
  16. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    No, you didn't; you don't have enough relief in the neck.