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Lowering the action

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Jaswine85, Nov 28, 2002.


  1. I wish to lower my action, but have been able to find no info on Talkbass or on any other site. How is this done? Thanks

    j
     
  2. You'll need an allen wrench that will fit your saddle screws. The saddles are the metal cyclinder-shaped objects on your bridge, where the strings start at the bottom of the bass. It's as simple as turning that wrench to lower them :). However I'm not sure about how low they should be set, and be careful you don't go so low that you end up with buzzing...!

    Hope that helps :D
     
  3. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    yeah, what Microbass said.

    I just do it by lowering the saddles quite a way, such that I get buzzing and clacking etc, then just raise 'em a bit at a time, until they're just high enough not to be noisy. I like low action (I play a fretless). I've found that this doesn't necessarily mean all 4 saddles are the same height. I dunno if this is the best way, but it's seemed to work for me.

    Also, depending on how far you lower them, you may need to reset the intonation. There's another recent thread in this forum (started by Microbass actually :)) that deals with this.
     
  4. shakeyeraz

    shakeyeraz

    Aug 25, 2002
    Connecticut
    Just a suggestion - Check the bow in your neck first - this can be done by fretting the E (or B) string at the first fret and the 12th fret and viewing the string clearance off of the neck. If it is even across all frets then there's not much bow and you should be able to lower the action easily. If you do have (or desire to play with) some bow in the neck, then you might be limited in how low the action can go.

    I find that it is usually worth paying a luthier to do a set up for you which would include setting the neck for the desired action, intonation, and string response volume (pup adjustment), etc.

    my 2 cents
     
  5. Are you sure you didnt find anything on Talkbass using the search function? This question has been answered indepth many times.

    If you dont find anything PM me, i'll give you the run down.

    :D:D

    Merls
     
  6. actually, dependig on your original setup if you ower them your intonation can go off. I would suggest learning to do it yourself though.

    I have 8 basses and learned to do it myself. That way they are always the way I want them, no waiting a few days, or the hassle of dropping them off somewhere.
     
  7. I hope you recieved my PM jaswine and i hope they were of sufficient length and if you have any questions.. get back to me.

    :D:D

    Merls
     
  8. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    First thing you will need to do is to check and perhaps adjust the relief in your neck (ie: the amount of curvature). Do this by only turning the truss rod nut 1/4 turn at a time (clockwise), and after each 1/4 turn, retune the bass and let it sit for a few days to allow the neck to settle in.

    Next, you will need to check and adjust the height of the nut for each string. You do this by fretting the instrument at the 3rd fret, and then checking the spacing between the 1st fret and string. There should be a very, very small gap. If there is a large gap, you will need to file down each string groove in the nut. GO SLOWLY here, as if you file it too low, you will need to replace the nut and start over (you could shim it up, but i don't recommend it...).

    Once that is done, you can, if you desire, shave your frets to get the top of them all on the same plane and level with no one fret being higher or lower than the rest. Again, go slowly here. I shave my frets with a 4"x6" piece of eastern rock maple wrapped with emery cloth and two or so layers of masking tap over the fingerboard between the frets to protect it from scratches. I go over the frets with increasingly finer emery cloth to polish them up. After shaving, you might want or need to reshape the frets with a fret file, maybe not.

    Now your ready to install new strings and set the height of the bridge saddles. Of note, you can go low enough where you do get a very, VERY, slight amount of fret buzz acoustically as it usually will not be heard through you amp, but basically you adjust the height until it buzzes, then raise the action just a tad.

    Final Caveat: If you aren't experienced with these type of luthier techniques, take the bass to a good local guitar technician and tell them what you want. Typically this type of setup is only around $20 - $40 bucks and money well spent.

    Hope this helps,
     
  9. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    This is all good info but probably a bit much for someone setting his own action for the very first time.
     
  10. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Hey Swing Bass,

    I absolutely agree, hence my final caveat of going to a good local guitar tech for a setup.

    Learning how to do a proper setup can take time and practice, and I learned by asking other luthiers and buying lots of cheap-o guitars in pawn shops and practicing on them.

    I just wanted to give the original poster a good idea of what can be involved in really getting the action as low as possible. It does involve much more than just adjusting the bridge saddles.

    Regards,
     
  11. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    Hey it's cool. I just thought that much info might scare him off and wouldn't try at all. You're right though, a really good set up is very involved.
     
  12. JoeYello

    JoeYello

    Sep 18, 2002
    New Jersey
    Should the saddle sit evenly? I mean when you adjust the saddle there are screws on both sides that need to be lowered. I noticed that on one of my newer basses the D string saddle sits unevenly. It is higher towards the middle of the neck (lower towards G string). Is this okay? The D string seems to sound a bit muted to me and I thought that this might be contributing to the problem.
     
  13. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Hey JY,

    Yes, the bridge saddles should sit evenly. This puts even tension on both of the height screws which makes a better mechanical connection between the bridge saddle and the base of the bridge and thereby the body of the bass resulting in better sustain and tone. I have seen some where one of the screws wasn't touching at all and the saddle was being held in place on one side by the two saddles on either side of it.

    Sometimes what you describe with yours can happen simply due to playing the bass over time and the vibrations of the string and body, which can cause the saddle height screws to ever so slowly turn and loosen. You should always check over your bass every 6 months or so for loose screws, etc.
     
  14. JoeYello

    JoeYello

    Sep 18, 2002
    New Jersey
    Kahuna - The bass in question is a Lakland 4-94 that I just purchased used from a dealer. I was told they just set it up before they shipped it to me, but the tilt on the saddle is very obvious. The intonation is dead on though. I will level them all out and re -intonate and see what happens. Any thoughts on string through body Vs top load?

    Thanks, Joe
     
  15. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Hey JY,

    Most if not all music stores / dealers do not do setups on the instruments they sell before they sell them. Also, IMHO, for every good guitar / bass technician there are 10 bad ones, and what they consider to be a "set-up" is simply putting on a set of their cheapest strings - sometimes, usually they don't put on new strings to keep their costs down - (unless you request and pay for the ones you want) and then doing a quick check of the intonation. That's usually it.

    If they had really done a good setup, the bridge saddle would not be in the condition you describe.

    I would suggest either having a good local guitar tech do a setup for you, or doing a quick run-through of the setup techniques I described earlier to check the relief of the neck yourself. I do this by fretting the instrument at the first fret and the last fret and then checking the gap between the strings and the fret in the middle of the neck... on a 24 fret neck this is not eh 12th fret, but it will be the fret that is equidistant from the 1st fret and the last fret. I have been doing this long enough that I usually just "eye-ball" it vs. taking an actual measurement.

    Then check the height of the nut for each of the strings.

    I can practically guarantee that with the saddle sitting sideways like that, that eventually the saddle will move and the screw that is carrying most of the tension will end up moving a little resulting in the saddle ever so slowly dropping in height.

    I have seen many discussions between through the body vs. top loading, and IMHO I think that the quality, mass, and type of metal used (ie: hence the big, heavy bad-ass bridge on my `71 p-bass!) for the bridge make a bigger difference than whether it is a top load vs. a body through design, however the body through design is supposed to add a bit more sustain, on paper anyway. My old p-bass is a top load as is my carvin LB76 and the mutt "les paul" bass I built, and they all have incredible sustain.

    Hope this helps,