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Length from Tailpiece to Bridge

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by jimclark68, Dec 31, 2001.


  1. jimclark68

    jimclark68

    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    I upgraded the endpin and tailpiece wire on my Engelhardt last week. But, to my frustration, when I picked it up, my (now former) luthier said he didn't really know how far the tailpiece should be from the bridge, so it looked like he just eyeballed it based on the stock factory setup (#&*@!). I read several past threads about the 1/6 setup, so I used this as a starting point. For me this comes out to be 7" (the factory setup was 8"). However, the string length from tailpiece to bridge looks really short. Thinking that it was due to the fact that I just shortened it an inch, I looked at some pictures of fine basses, and their setups on average don't seem as short, either. Am I correct that the length is measured from the bridge to the ridge (saddle?) that the strings contact on the tailpiece, and not the end of the tailpiece? Any other feedback/advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. The 1:6 idea is a mechanical/mathematical formula to establish a relationship between the pitch above the bridge and between bridge and tailpiece. Disregarding octaves, opinion seems to be that the two pitches should be a 4th apart. Or a 5th. Depends on whom you ask. Since disagreeing with Monte on the subject, I heard from a notable luthier who feels that weight is a more important consideration than that pitch relationship, which seemed to validate Monte's choice of tailpieces.
     
  3. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Don,
    I wanted to get your opinion on a theory of which I tend to follow in this "ratio matter". First of all, there are things in lutherie that I will claim to know the answer to and there are many that I won't[those I usually have a strong opinion on though.] Some subjects seem to be based more on faith than fact and that is ok-you could believe in something that facts don't support and go with it-and if it works for you-what the hey. I feel that the tailpiece ratio gig is one in which faith plays a role.
    I have an old friend who has great success in dealing with wolf-tones. He claimed that the concept of tuning the relationship was not the way to go. Here's why. When you start to tune two notes together and they are just getting close you here that woo-woo sound of the waves clashing. That conflict settles down and ends as the note become completely in tune. My friend felt that wolfs came from that woo-woo thing-not from relationships of tunings, but more from tunings slightly awry. Strong relationships like unisons, octaves, fourths, fifths, not EXACTLY in tune. It's also been suggested that tuning the notes exactly below the bridge is more than very difficult and a lack of precision here might result in wolfiness. So whats the solution if you subscribe to this theory? You drive the notes out of town. Create relationships between the above bridge and below bridge notes that are not strong ones. Any opinions?[probably a stupid question]
     
  4. jimclark68

    jimclark68

    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    So, beyond creating a specific pitch below the bridge, does the length between the bridge and tailpiece have any bearing on the performance of a bass?
     
  5. Jeff, you flatterer:
    Put me down as one of the faith guys. I have no absolute knowedge on this. You'll notice that most of the time I just pass along what knowledgeable people have said to me.
    In setting up Karr's Amati, Lou DeLeone disagreed with Karr, who wanted a heavy tailpiece to combat the wolf. Lou thought the weight was oppressive, and diminished the sound. And decades ago, Lou experimented with a system of cable loops that eliminated the tailpiece altogether. As for the wolf, that may be another "faith" area. Lou showed me a device he made to measure top deflection for use in making a soundpost. Quite by accident, he found the new soundpost eliminated the wolf on a client's bass. But not every time. Go figure...
     
  6. Cauldron

    Cauldron

    Oct 22, 2017
    Could it be that what you ultimately want to base the tailpiece length on is to have a identical angle of string tension at the bridge? In other words, if the angle at which a string crosses the bridge on the nut side is less then the angle on the tailpiece side, the overall tension would tend to bend the bridge forward and eventually warp it. In another thread on this subject it was compared to a rope stretched at shoulder height across the room. Stand under the Rope so that it crosses over your shoulder, you wouldn't feel anything. Lower both ends of the Rope by 6in and you would feel tension evenly distributed on the top of your shoulder. Lower the end of the Rope behind you by about another 6in and you would feel tension more on the back side of your shoulder then evenly distributed.
     
  7. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    Break angle over the bridge does affect tension a bit, but I've never heard that having the bridge equally bisect that angle is some kind of ideal, and it'd be very hard to accomplish. Changing afterlength does not change the break angle, in any case. You can make the break angle less acute by pushing the tail saddle outward with a block, and some people do that to reduce tension somewhat, but it takes careful engineering. It seems to me that it will also reduce the resonance of the top a bit.
     
    Don Kasper likes this.
  8. If we speak of tension here without specifying which One wie mean it is almost always string (length) tension.

    What you mean here is top pressure that is transferred from the bridge downward pressure as a result of string (length) tension in combination with the string angle at the bridge.

    It would help to reduce confusion if you be a bit more specific what you mean here.

    BTW, the string angle at the bridge has a huge influence on top pressure. Deactivate your school vector math a little bit by dividing the string tension into horizontal and vertical components and you see why this is the case.

    There is not much that could be done to make the string angle on both sides of the bridge equal. That is part of the construction of the instrument and would need major changes. An adjustable saddle can do a bit, but it also changes the top pressure which you may like or dislike more than the angle difference at the bridge.

    It is more important to have the bridge straight, but keeping the bridge straight is easier with the same angle at both sides of the bridge.
    But without control and correction, the bridge will lean towards the fingerboard earlier or later.