Improving Bass Sound

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Dave Irwin, Nov 17, 2002.

  1. I have acquired a fairly new carved bass . (eastern european)
    and it seems to be well made and has a nice tone. It also has alot of wood in it so I'm wondering if some parts could be thinned out to produce more sound.
    Most of the better/louder instruments I've played are lighter.

    Before I hook up with my luthier, are there any recommendations on how best to improve the volume?

    I think I got a bargain on the instrument so I would consider incesting some more money if it makes sense.

    shaved table?, bass bar?, new fingerboard?....

    That sort of thing.

    accompanying ballpark cost would help too.

    Thanks in advance,
  2. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    If your only goal is to get more volume, I'd experiment with strings.
    Maybe the strings you have right now have too much tension, or not enough.
    As a simple test, you can detune your bass, up and low to see if changing the string tension has a good effect.
    Do you play pizz, bow, a mix of the two?
    Which strings do you have?
  3. Before you think about anything extensive you might try moving the soundpost, make sure it's positioned correctly, or try a new soundpost. Depending on what kind of tail wire is on there you could try something different. Do the feet of the bridge fit properly? And as Francois suggested you might try different strings. If the top is thick try a heavier gauge string to get the belly flexing more.

    Before trying anything major like regraduating the top I'd try as many small, easy, inexpensive things as I could.
  4. Since this is a fairly new bass, it probably has not been played enough to be "played in". If you don't want to wait for that to happen, see if you can find a luthier in your area that does vibration dedamping. If they don't know what it is, go some place else. For an introduction, see this URL

    I've had extremely good results on basses using this treatment.
  5. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Wise words from David. Regraduation should always be a last resort because once it's done it's done. It is possible your bass might need it but there is plenty else you could look at first. As far as the fingerboard goes it should be fairly obvious whether you need one or not. A nice fat board can do wonders for the feel of your axe and the added projection over the table may have a positive effect on the sound.
    Costs can vary quite a bit depending on the quality of work and parts. Locale is also a factor. A luthier living in NY will tend to need a different wage then one living in Manila. I guess Columbus is somewhere inbetween.:D A post adjustment could range from 35-75, a new board-600-1100, and when you start talking about regrads and bass bars you will be talking in the thousands.
  6. Very cool suggestions. I'm thinking of a new fingerboard since the one that came with the bass is a little flat and bow access to the D string is tricky.

    I'm not sure about the strings because they came with the bass and I'm not good at id'ing them by the sleeve color.

    I like the tension experiment though so I'll try that.

    They have a pretty tought feel though.

    Has anyone tried the moses graphite fingerboard or bridge Gollihur sells?
    Opinions on them vs. traditional fingerboards and bridges?

    I don't think the sound post is improperly positioned since I know it was set up by our local lex luthier recently.

  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Have you addressed these concerns with your local luth?

    If it's a newer bass, does is it seem to open up after a hour or so of constant playing?

    How long have you been playing (at the the risk of sounding condescending)?

    I forget your history as far as The Bass. If you're new to the axe, it takes some time (year/years) on the instrument until you're pulling the kind of sound out of the thing that will wake it up and keep it awake.

    I have almost two years of minimum 4-5 hrs per day, with a lot of 8-10+ hour days on my bass. At two years old, it still takes about 1/2 hour or so of gig/session level playing to wake it up each day.
  8. I'm waiting to come up with a game plan before taking it to my luthier. (I'm also considering buying an 8 yr old chinese bass that I find to be very loud...the bass is owned by a non bass player and has seen little use)

    The bass volume does not seem to change much after an hr or 2 of playing. More advanced bow players have commented that the bass seems pretty open to them.

    I've been playing quite a while but don't have the practice time available youre talking about. (job,family..etc..)
    I'm focussing more on arco now than previously

    What got me thinking was when I played a chinese bass (about 7yrs old) which I found quite loud)
    The bass also seemed very light, and I associated that with the increased resonance.

    Actually, I think the sound of my bass is a little sweeter than the chinese but the fingerboard is a little flat so bow access to the D is difficult.

    Before shelling out the money for a new board, I'm trying to figure out if I can improve the volume issue as well

  9. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    Given there is enough material, couldn't you just have your luthier plane off the existing board to a sharper curve?
  10. Yes, but I don't think there is enough material to do that. Also since my goal is also to improve the volume, I'm thinking I shouldn't thin the existing board. Previous posts say a thick board seems to improve projection.

  11. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    Although initial reports on these are very good, I would talk to your luthier FIRST. I did and mine was reluctant to work on them as it was so hard it would kill his scrapers. I went with a good ebony board instead.

  12. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    Try a flexable tail wire made a huge diffrence on my bass. there it a thread on that subject floating around on this list.

    Also, if the D is hard to hit it might be the bridge needing adjustment.

  13. Since the bass was recently set up, I know the luth did the best he could with the bridge. It matches the fingerboard well.

    I found a post saying the graphite is pretty easy to work but i'll probably end up going with ebony. At those prices, tried and true is a good thing.

  14. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    There's just something that just doesn't strike me right about this thread. It almost sounds to me like you're about to embark on a terrible mission of some sort. Unless you got the thing for $50 or something. Don't know. If it's sick enough that you're considering regraduation and the like and all of these other things AFTER setup and approval by your luthier, then you're not going to be happy with this thing no matter how much you spend.
  15. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I think Mr. Parker has hit the nail with his head. This new "European" bass of yours could be just about anything. Labels mean almost nothing these days. If the bass is really heavy, I have to wonder why...was the wood so green that the makers figured they'd better make it beefy? Or perhaps they just didn't know or care about producing tone. The ideal mass of a bowed instrument is the minimum which allows it to stand up to the string tension without degrading. If there really is way too much wood in this thing, and you're willing to put some bucks in it, why not lighten the thing and possibly turn it into something decent? By the way, is it a flatback? There is a flood of student instruments coming out of Eastern Europe with very heavily braced flatbacks. A heavy back on a bass can be a tonal disaster. Lightening up the crossbars and some top regraduation could work wonders...
  16. You guys got the wrong idea. I like the tone of the bass but I'd like to see if it could be louder (preferably without re-graduation)
    I think somewhere down the line a previous owner had the fingerboard flattened a bit for pizz (he was an electric player)
    That's why I'm considering the fingerboard (to improve access to the D string and maybe improve volume)

    So no terrible mission.

    Before I buy an hour of a symphony players time and then take time from my always busy luthier, I thought I might get some ideas from the group.

    Rest easy.

  17. I would say just leave the bass as is and let time and palying work it's magic. I was thinking about all types of work to do on my bass to improve the sound (after it was set-up), but in the long run all I did was put new strings on I went through Obligatos and now am using Spirocore weichs, for volume, they can't be beat. For arco . . . well it took my a little time to get them sounding good and now I'm pretty happy, if that means anything.
  18. All the posts are leaning me more toward the simpleer solutions (strings and maybe a new fingerboard)

    Maybe listing the current thickness will help.

    It's currently just under 3/8th's of an inch on the treble side
    which seems a little thin to me..

    Since I'm comparing the volume to another bass which probably hasn't seen much more play, I think it's worth looking into these things.

  19. Dave,
    It's not unusual to find instruments with thick edges or areas around the F holes. Instruments are seldom uniform thickness over the entire top. The only two ways I know of to acurately measure the thickness of the top is to (1) remove the top and measure in many places with a large bass caliper, or (2) find a luthier with a Hacklinger magnetic caliper. The Hacklinger caliper uses a small magnet that is placed on the bottom side of the top plate. The caliper sits on top to the plate directly over the magnet and measures the the thickness by the magnetic attraction. Moving the caliper also moves the magnet, so you can measure places on the top plate that would be imposssible to reach otherwise. Unfortunately, not all luthiers have one of these tools, but you might call around in your area. If you find one, the cost to measure the top should not be excessive since nothing has to be changed on your bass to do the measuring. As far as the actual thickness is concerned, there are so many variables (mainly the relative hardness of the wood) that only a bass maker could venture a guess on what the proper thickness should be and not something that could be done without actually seeing the instrument.
  20. I should have been more clear. The thickness measurement was for the fingerboard.

    I'll keep the info on the table in mind though in case I do end up looking at that with my luth.