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Mismatched strings not intonating the same?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by cornfarmer, Nov 29, 2018.

  1. cornfarmer

    cornfarmer jam econo

    May 14, 2002
    So I've been working on an old Acoustic Black Widow, which obviously needs some work. After getting the dead pickup sorted, I am having issues with the set up.

    First off, I put on a fresh set of DR steels, and accidentally cut the A string too short (rookie move). So I had to use a Dean Markley (Solid Bass I think) nickel A string from my stash. After setting the intonation, re-checking, and setting again, something is still off. For instance, if I play/fret a 5th interval on both the A and D string, it's out of tune even though the open strings for both A and D are set to be in tune with intonation set @ the 12th fret.

    This bass has a zero fret. I noticed that the nut (metal) was sitting kind of low and the strings were definitely wearing down on the zero fret. Thinking this might be the issue, I shimmed the nut to sit a little higher, but that didn't seem to do anything.

    The neck relief looks in-spec for a bass this old, i.e. nothing glaringly wrong. I'm going to take it to a pro, but want to make sure I'm not missing something....???
  2. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    If it has a zero fret, then the nut is just acting as a spacer to keep the string interval correct. I have nothing else to add.
    96tbird likes this.
  3. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Check your string install (including witness points) and re-intonate so the 12th fretted matches the 12th harmonic on each string. Don't intonate with open strings. There's a dozen variations on this theme but this is a widely-embraced industry standard.

    As @sissy kathy pointed out, the nut is pretty much along for the ride and nothing else.

    96tbird likes this.
  4. Make sure that shimming the nut didn't cause one of the strings to lift off of the zero fret. Had that happen on one string of a pair on a mandolin, drove me nuts until I took a close look at the zero fret and those strings.
    96tbird likes this.
  5. cornfarmer

    cornfarmer jam econo

    May 14, 2002
    Turns out the gouges in the zero fret were deep enough to make intonating the A string a waste of time. Seeing how the rest of the frets can't even be crowned, the whole neck is getting a re-fret now.

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