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Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Matthew Tucker, Oct 6, 2002.

  1. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Does a bass taken out of a good luthier’s workshop invariably sound as good as, or better than when it went in?

    How often does it happen that an old bass with a nice mellow tone is taken to a luthier for setup or repairs, but in the process of being repaired loses that mellowness, despite the best efforts of the luthier to, say, find that sweet spot for the sound post again? Can the top of every bass be "popped" in reasonable confidence that when re-assembled the bass will still sound as good?

    I'm sure ANYTHING a luthier did would improve the sound of my bass, but I imagine those with expensive instruments might feel very nervous about sending their bass into "hospital"

    As the sound of each instrument is a very subjective and personal thing, I’m also wondering how far a luthier will go in such situations to satisfy the client. (This *is* the clean side of Talkbass, ja? I’m not inviting lewd suggestions here!)
  2. NO!

    It is not unusual for a bass to sound different after undergoing major repairs. Just like when you purchase a new bass, it has to be "played in". How long this "playing in" takes depends to some degree to the extent of the repairs. If you were to change the word "invariably" the word "eventually" to your question, my answer would have to be Yes in 99% of repairs.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    This is a very interesting question, and like most very interesting questions, it is impossible to give an absolute answer. I may have a slight case of "Luthierphobia" as regards my bass, because whenever I think about taking it in to be worked on, I always have to stop and think, "but it's playing really well right now....why risk screwing it up?".

    My bass needs a small amount of fingerboard dressing work around the octave of the G string, and also a new nut, because the open E has a rattle that only a new nut (or some work on the old one that I'm afraid to take on because I'm clumsy and impatient) will cure. Other than that, the bass is playing great, and getting an absolutely beautiful sound. I'm afraid that if I take it in to have these issues addressed, the soundpost will be moved in the process and that sound which has been opening up for the past couple of years will be gone and I'll have to start all over again. Probably irrational, I know, but there it is.
  4. Chris,
    You should have no fears about taking you bass into a good luthier. Fingerboard work is not a major repair and there is no reason to think that it will do anything but improve the sound of your bass.

    What I was referring to in my previous post was the kind of repair that involves removing the top or back. Your fear of the soundpost falling or moving brings up another discussion. I would say that if your post is so loose that it moves when the strings are removed would indicate to me that you should be thinking about having a new post fitted. Many players with older basses have two or more posts. One for summer and one for winter and possibly one for in between. Having a post of the proper length is just as important as having it sit on that "sweet spot" that eveyone talks about.
  5. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Any luthier should be able to put the post back in the right place if it falls. Steps can be taken to insure it doesn't fall though. Both ANAL WIENER SCHNIZTER and myself commonly place a 25lb. bag of buckshot on the table when the tension is down-this works great in keeping the post in line.
  6. Jeff,
    That sounds like a great idea. I've been using a web clamp with padded block over the SP, but buckshot sounds a lot more convenient.

    Question... Where does one buy a 25 lb. bag of buckshot? I've done a quick Google search and didn't find any such animal. Does it come in a bag or did you have to con your wife into making one?
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    That sounds great. Is it common for folks to request such treatment if the luthier in question normally does not engage in any such practice? I'd love to be able to take my bass to either you or BLARNEY STONER, but it'd be a helluva drive.
  8. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Nicely tailored canvas bags of shot can be had at good gun stores. Added bonus is that it can be heated and used for many luthier applications.
  9. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Well I suppose some discreet pencil marks could mark the sound post position for you.

    But yeah its the irrational fear of the unknown ... "if it ain't broke don't fix it" ... versus the irresistible desire and need we have to tinker with the bass to get that ultimate perfect sound.

    I have a few friends who play violin and cello and they are quite bemused by my talk of new strings, height adjusters, setup and so on. They just take their instrument out of its case and play, then put it back. One guy says he hardly even needs to tune up (!) Do you think DB owners really tinker any more than other musicians?

    I guess one good thing about Talkbass is it gives us a chance to hear some confident replies from the likes of SCHNAUZER and BOLLWEEVIL. "Don't worry, you can trust us, we're a doctor!"
  10. In my opinion - Yes without a doubt!
  11. jugband


    Jan 16, 2001
    That's a good question. Any gun shop that sells handloading supplies probably carries various sizes of shotshell shot, but the last time I bought any, I seem to recall that it came in something more like a 5-pound bag. You might have to get a really large bag special-ordered.

    Go to the yellow pages under "Guns" and call some gun shops that mention "loading supplies" in their ads. Ask if they sell bags of shot for shotguns.

    I'd guess that you don't necessarily have to get buckshot. Birdshot would probably do, and you might have better luck finding #4 birdshot, or 7 1/2.

    The linen (or canvas) bags would be a little more pliable with smaller shot, too. There are several different sizes of buckshot, but they are all pretty-much marble-sized. Double-aught pellets are about .35 caliber, and it's the largest size available in commercial loadings. You can get larger than 00, though, up to .45 caliber.

    Shot comes in linen bags, but if it were me, I'd have an additional covering made. That would be a bag to put the bag of shot into, maybe made of thin sueded leather, or even vinyl, if you wouldn't be afraid of the vinyl tacking to finishes in hot weather.

    The linen (or whatever cloth it is) shot bags will allow a certain amount of lead residue to come through, after enough use.

    The bags are really just designed just to hold the balls together for shipping and pre-use storage.

    "use" is expected to eventually empty the bag... so they don't make them just overly durable, long-term.
  12. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Addressing Mr. Tucker's original question: Yes, I have had many situations where an old, poorly set-up bass, with open seams, a bad fingerboard and dead strings leaves my shop beautifully set-up, but sounding quite different. If a bass sounds mellow and dark, and is then tightened up and re-strung, chances are good that it will now produce stronger overtones. The player percieves this as "brightness", but in reality all sonic regions of the bass' response have probably improved. Bass players in general seem to have a problem with "highs", as if by having a really dark, wooly sound, no one will hear their technical deficiencies. My best-playing clients have amazing hearing, and they know that when the overtones are happening, so is the bottom end...Bollbach, did you call me a Wiener?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

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