Is there such thing as a neck that's TOO straight?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by yawnsie, Sep 30, 2001.

  1. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    Apparently, my band's guitarist thinks that there is. I've had a bit of fret buzz recently, and I want to put the action up a little bit. I showed my bass to my six-stringed friend, as he's more knowledgeable about setting up instruments than me, and he thinks that my neck is a little too straight, and allowing it to bow ever so slightly will improve it.

    Basically, is he right? Could I stand to improve my bass by letting my neck bend a little, or is he totally mad? (I accept that some of you will say he's mad just for playing the guitar. ;))
  2. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    I know it's hard to believe, but this time the guitarist may be right. :D

    Really a memorable event ;)
  3. PollyBass

    PollyBass ******

    Jun 25, 2001
    Shreveport, LA
    Well, ive heard you that its good to have a neck with some bend, and others say it better to have a little bend in it. i really dont see the point of it. i have a bend in the neck right now, but its not my choice.
  4. Robert B

    Robert B Somewhere under the rainbow Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2000
    Rittman, OH, USA
    There is a certain amount of controversy over this issue. Some swear by a straight neck. Personally, I find a slight bit of relief (that is, a slight bit of bow) to be more comfortable. I also find the tone a bit fuller with a slight bit of relief.
  5. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    One for the Talkbass calender, perhaps - "29th September 2001 - a guitarist is right!" :D

    Thanks to everyone who's replied so far, by the way.
  6. lo-end


    Jun 15, 2001
    yes, there is supposed to be some relief. If your bass is buzzing too much in the 1-5 fret area, you need more relief. If its buzzing too much in the high frets, you need a straighter neck.

    Roger Sadowsky's rule of thumb is you want the relief equal to a Fender thin pick. What you do is press down the string at the first fret and at the last fret so the string is flat against the neck, and then at the center where the relief is most visible, you should just be able to fit in a Fender thin pick. Im not sure how many milimeters they are.. probably like .50mm

    Anyway, the frets are the best judge. If the low frets buzz, you need more relief. If the high ones do, less relief. If all the frets buzz, raise your action.
  7. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Generally, most players want a little relief in the neck. I like a little relief in a fretted, but would prefer to have none in a fretless.

    That's the only little gripe that I have with my Zon. There is some relief manufactured into the neck, too much for my taste on fretless, but I have no truss rod to adjust it out of the neck.

    Someday, when I have some spare $$$, I'm going to talk to Joe and see about sending the bass in to have a zero relief neck made for it. But it's not really that bif of an issue, it can wait.

    Anthony Jackson is one of the biggest proponents of a totally flat neck, and he plays primarily(only?) fretted. He believes that everyone should play a straight neck, and clean up their technique to the point that they can have super low action woth no fretbuzz. He's caught some flack for his position on this over the years.

    I have pretty decent technique, but if I have frets, I prefer a little relief, because if the neck is flat, I will get a little buzz.
  8. I had a bass repair guy tell me that a slight bend is good. He actually really said it isn't a four letter word. I always thought straight was the way to go and that explains why my old bass really blew. Ah I wish I knew that then.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think it depends on the actual bass you're talking about. I am a proponent of the flat board, but I know it doesn't work with every bass.

    I have found that generally, the higher quality in terms of build, the bass is, the flatter you can go.

    So a fairly cheap, bolt-on neck, bass, cannot stand as flat a neck as say a Ken Smith through-neck six-string.
  10. Bruce is right. A Stingray or G&L can stand a virtually straight neck, but most Fenders and nearly all asian instruments cant.
  11. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    To put it in completely neutral terms, avoiding talk of preferences:

    Some relief will allow a firmer playing style (therefore more output from the instrument) and a less perfect fret job before getting clacky and buzzy. Straight boards require a really clean fret job in order to work properly, and even with that, require a clean and lighter playing style to avoid buzz. Lightly and heavily plucked strings do have a different sound (some describe the lightly plucked sound as more "pure") and the straight board forces the player to stay in the light touch area. The relieved board, then, does offer more tonal flexibility and is more forgiving of varying techniques -- in the extreme analysis, one could say "allowing sloppiness".

    Now, out to the real world:

    Aside from the "forcing gentle touch" issue, I myself am not clear on the real avantages of perfectly straight boards. I do play with a heavy touch, and that may be why. My fretted definitely has more relief, but even the fretless has some -- if I adjust it too flat, the 1st "fret" position goes "WEEEENK" like Jaco in hyperdrive. This illustrates that a really flat board needs to be more perfectly sculpted. I do get great "mwah" out of my fretless all the way up and down even with the relief and the better-sounding first position, so I fail to see the advantage of the perfectly flat board.

    Bruce, I know you've discussed this topic before, but exactly what is it that you get out of a straight-board instrument that you CAN'T get from one with some relief?
  12. With a perfectly straight neck, you get better intonation in the upper register. A guy like Anthony Jackson needs that badly, since he jackrabbits around the neck a lot (and on a wide-spaced 6! Amazing!), but those who stay below the 7th fret really have no need for a perfectly flat neck.

    One question I have is this: why is nut height adjustment ignored so often? Last year, I had my Dean's neck PERFECTLY flat (no mean feat for a neck that thin)--you could just barely fit a piece of tissue paper under the 8th fret if you were barring the 1st and 15th frets (the Tobias method). I was getting crazy buzz on the low frets but the upper frets were sufficiently in tune that I could play three-note chords without any beating on the E, A, and D. I took the bass to a tech and asked if he could put a Warwick adjustable nut on, and he just said "no, that won't work," and didn't explain himself. Wouldn't a higher nut allow you to have less buzz on the lower frets and uniform action across the entire fingerboard? The only disadvantage I could see would be that the intonation would be slightly off on the lower frets, but with notes that low it wouldn't really matter, right?
  13. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    The nut height should have no effect on the fret buzz except on open strings. Once you finger a string, the only thing that's happening is between your finger and the bridge, and the nut is simply out of the equation.
  14. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    I lay the bass in its case so that it's supported evenly and then lay a straight edge on the fretboard from the first to the last fret (24th fret on my bass). I measure with a spark plug feeler guage the clearance between the straight edge and the seventh fret. I adjust the truss rod to get the clearance I like. 0.010" to 0.020" will get you in the ballpark. Play around with it within that range until you find what works best for you and your bass. There is actually a lot more difference between 0.010 and 0.020 than what it sounds like. Too flat and you'll have to raise the string action at the bridge. Too much curve, and the action will suck regardless of how the bridge is set.

    After you adjust the truss rod, check it again in a day or so because if you make anything but the most minor adjustments, it will change slightly as it "sets." I check mine after a string change or whenever there is a drastic change in weather.
  15. But wouldn't having a higher nut increase the witness angle of the string when you fret it? That would seem to eliminate a lot of the fret buzz.
  16. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    Thanks for the advice, everyone. At the moment, most of the fret buzz on my bass is around the 7th fret - the high and low frets aren't really a problem at all. Actually, the thing that annoys me most, and which made me want to raise the action, was that when I play my strings "clack" against the fretboard. Still, I suppose that's a technique problem more than anything else.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I must say that in my experience, this is simply not true. I have had problems with "rattling" behind where I was fretting. So, what was happening was that the action was very low and when I fretted the A string at about the 7th fret, the string was just touching the fretboard between the nut and where I was fretting, causing a very annoying rattle or buzz.

    So I took it along to the tech at the Bass Centre in London - his name is Chris and he's very good (very experienced) and very easy to talk to. So, we had a bit of a discussion about it and he explained what was happening. His first inclination was to increase the relief as he explained that it was too low for most people and that adding some relief would make it easier to play below the 7th fret.

    My style on 5-string is to play mostly higher up the neck - so I would rather play starting from around
    10th fret on B and E strings. I also like the improved intonation above the 12th fret. So Chris explained that what he could do, was optimise the height of the nut slots. So he actually raised the heights of the nut slots at the A and E strings, which cured all buzzes and rattles and now I can have low action, with a fairly flat board.
  18. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    In this case, it sounds to me as though you may have either a low fret (7th) or a high fret (8th). You may need a fret dressing. A higher action and more relief will alleviate this to a gegree, but if you can get a goo fret job then you'll have a lot more options.

    Bruce, forgive me. I didn't realize we were talking about THAT kind of rattle.
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I'm not sure what you call it - it's really the same as fret buzz except it's happening "below" where you are fretting rather than above.

    I thought you were saying that the nut was out of the equation - full stop! But I can see from reading your post again that you are probably referring to this only insofar as it relates to "fret buzz".

    I was just trying to stress that if you do opt for a flat board and low action, then the height of the nut slots is going to be important. Otherwise you can just raise the action.

    I do like a little bit of fret buzz just around the 12th fret - or rather for it just to be on the edge of buzzing -I feel I can use this to make a fretless sound when I play a bit harder.
  20. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Or you could just... play a fretless! I think it was Michael Tobias who said they build their fretless necks DEAD straight.