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Luthier Blues

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Miles Hanson, Jul 20, 2004.

  1. I'm addressing all of our esteemed luthiers with this post but any and all of you having similar experiences can feel free to chime in.

    I recently got my bass back from having some work done (new ebony beveled fingerboard, new KC Strings endpin, new Obligato strings). The work is top notch. The fingerboard was perfectly blended into the neck, the new nut makes it a dream to play in half position and he even colored in a nasty looking scratch free of charge. I used to have Spirocore Orchestra Mediums on this bass so the Obligatos are a big surprise to me (not really digging these so far).

    After adjusting the action at his house and now having played it for a few days, I'm not digging the action. The g string is at 5mm and the e string is at 11mm. This feels very lop-sided from my old 7mm g string and 9mm e string. I can't help but wonder if it has to do with the bridge not being replaced or re-shaped. Not to mention the g string adjuster is showing about half an inch and the e string adjuster is around only 1/8" (don't quote me on the adjuster heights, I'm not at home right now to measure them again). Should I ask him to put the action where I want it or is this a common playing height?

    Another odd thing is there is a lot of space between the g string and the side of the fingerboard and virtually no space on the e string side. I haven't played that many basses in the short time I've been playing, but I've never noticed this on any other bass. He did the origianl set up on this bass when I bought it from him and it didn't have this problem. The bass I'm borrowing from my teacher right now doesn't have this problem either. My luthier said it's to facilitate thumb position better like on a cello or violin (I'm a jazzer and will be doing only a little orchestral playing).

    He's been a lot of help to me from the beginning and I don't want to offend him with these simple questions. I did question him about not replacing the bridge and he said he didn't have to on this one. He also really loves this bridge he put on my bass and reminds me of that every time I talk to him. Am I not hip to what he's doing or should it be questioned?
  2. I've always taken it for granted that the strings, as a group, should be centered on the fingerboard, that is equal space from the G to the edge and from the E to the edge. I have a hunch centering the strings will also make the string height seem less lopsided.

    Plus, everything I've read here indicates that your bridge adjusters should be more or less equally extended.

    My bridge gets bumped out of place occasionally and I find that loosening the strings and "persuading" the bridge with a couple of raps with the heel of my hand gets it back into place.

    I've never heard that positioning the string the way you describe would facilitate thumb position. If anything, I'd think it would make it more difficult.
  3. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Miles, did you have a bevelled board before? Your bridge was shaped to match the fingerboard. At least, it was originally. Perhaps the new board doesn't match the old bridge.
  4. Damon - My old fingerboard was also beveled. I think a majority of my problems are from this new fingerboard not matching the contour of the bridge. My luthier seems to almost have an attachment to the bridge and won't change it. Isn't it obvious that the bridge needs to be re-shaped or replaced all together? I am admittedly inexperienced in this field, but from my info gathering on this board, if feel like I'm at least in the ballpark on this one.

    P.S. - the official measurements of thread showing: E string - 1/8" and G string - 5/16"
  5. Nuno A.

    Nuno A. Velvet Strings Customer Service

    Jul 9, 2001
    Take the bass to another luthier...its like going to the doctor, when you feel your doctor is not doing all you expect or you just want a 2nd oppinion, you go to another one, same with basses :D
    i understand you respect your luthier, but in your position, i would take my bass to another one...
    good luck

  6. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    If your guy intended that setup then he is whack. Bring the adjusters down to 0. The strings should look basically centered, but you should see slightly less of the board on the bass side[to compensate for the thickness of the E]. Look from several vantage points. Measure the string heights at this point. Now bring it up to a playable height and see if the disparity still is pronounced. The bridge may also be not centered.