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My strings are too big--what do I do?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by TheAdrift, Oct 19, 2013.

  1. Okay, so I recently bought a set of Galli Strings black tape-wound nylon acoustic bass strings, and basically did that thing from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World where I sat in front of the door awaiting their arrival.

    They finally got here yesterday, and guess what?

    They're too big around!

    So, I don't exactly have bajillions of dollars to spend on music equipment right now, so I'm looking for some cheap (and quick, because this whole thing is really testing my patience) fixes... I know they make special files for the ridges in the nut, but all of them are really expensive, so should I just... take a regular file to it? I mean, would that even WORK? Or would I ruin everything forever?

    Also, I don't know what to do about the bridge pins... I might need to get new ones so that the strings can still fit, but the only music store I know of around here is Guitar Center. Do you think they'd be able to help me out, or do I have to go a little farther out of my way to find the stuff I need?

    I hope I don't have to go TOO far out of my way, because I'm short on time and I really wanna get back to playing ASAP :help:

    (Note: my bass is an Ibanez AEB10E acoustic, pretty much unmodified)
  2. Filing the nut slots is a one-way street. If you go to smaller gauge strings, you will need a new nut or repairs to that one (there are some sneaky things you can do to fill nut slots but you still have to re-file them.)

    Tape wrapped strings are larger than non-wrapped strings because they have an extra layer on them - they're wrapped. Many acoustic basses are not set up well for heavy gauge strings. Some have very small holes in string-through bridges, and bridge pins in acoustic bridges can be tricky. You might want to search the web for instruction on installing strings with bridge pins...and you might consider strings made for acoustic basses.

    My advice: sell the strings in the classifieds to recover what you can, and re-order with much lighter gauge strings. Consider having a tech install them, but ask for instruction on how to to it so you'll be better able to DIY in the future.
  3. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Can you just return the strings and get new ones? I personally wouldn't file the nut unless you know what you're doing find out what the stock strings are and then just get a different brand with the same gauges.
  4. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Pilgrim, a nylon string, say, a .105 is .105: it's like a .080 wrapped with nylon tape that brings it up to .105. For a given gauge their tension will be much less than a metal string of the same gauge.

    The OP ordered the wrong gauge, obviously not knowing better. Likely the nut is cut for a .100 set or smaller so the new doesn't fit.

    Sanding the nut slots with paper wrapped around the old string isn't too hard but you need to be careful. Use the old string to allow the paper add the extra width. DO NOT cut into the bottom of the slots. Your goal is only to widen them. If it is a white nut, you can mark the bottom with pencil and keep checking that you aren't filing the mark away.


    As for the pins, you can rub them on a file to make the grooves larger or if you are handy, use a Dremel tool. Search for info on how to properly pin your strings; you have to do it right or they'll pull out.
  5. Thanks for the advice, guys--I did order strings made specifically for acoustic basses, but I guess I did order the wrong gauge. For the specific brand that I ordered, it was the only option... and I'd really rather not return them, because they were pretty much exactly what I was looking for other than the fact that they don't fit!

    I think I'm going to take 96tbird's advice and take it to a tech and have them file it for me. As for the bridge pins, only one of them needs to be widened, so I'm just going to do that myself.
  6. Thanks for the gauge info, 96tbird. Always good to get more data!
  7. Technicality


    Feb 10, 2011
    Nut material is really really cheap so you can buy some and make mistakes and its not the end of the world. It can definitely be done pretty easily with round things the right size (drill bits are a good option if you have a set) and sandpaper and patience.

    All you need is the patience bit, and you can make yourself a nut for any string gauge you fancy for practically nothing. Keep your original nut as a reference and for if you ever want to change the strings back.
  8. I wound up filing the original nut, and I don't think I did an absolutely perfect job, but I'm good and comfortable with precise detail work, so it went fine. I installed the A, D and G-strings, and oh my god they sound so sexy. They're kinda jazzy, almost like a double-bass, and the strings themselves feel soft and wonderful, and when you slide, it almost sounds like a fretless.

    SO glad I didn't give up on them! I don't think I'm ever stringing this bass with any other brand ever again.

    I wonder what would happen if I put these on an electric--can you put acoustic strings on electric basses? Has anyone tried?

    I do have one more problem, though--I couldn't get the bridge pin on the E-string to stay in. The string is just too big, and even after I sanded the hell out of the bridge pin, it still didn't work. I'm thinking about taking it into Guitar Center--hopefully I'll get some time this week, and I won't have to buy any more new materials. (The advice about the Dremel tool was good, and I do have one, but I didn't have time today to drive 45 minutes back to my house and get it--it's actually my mother's, not mine.)

    I may someday find a more permanent solution to the low action--surprisingly, the strings don't buzz much in standard tuning, but I think I'd be on the one-way train to Buzzville if I so much as even suggest lower tuning. An unmodified AEB10e already has low action, so I may get a new nut and saddle after I actually have a steady source of income. For now, I just wanna play with all 4 strings again!

    Any other thoughts?
  9. You may be able to sort out the action with a truss rod adjustment if you didn't do that already... As was said earlier, there's a good bit less tension on the neck with the nylon tapes as opposed to the metal fringe originally on there.
  10. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Big props to Mom for owning a Dremel...
  11. Yeah, a truss rod adjustment may fix the action if needed--although I did read some reviews of the Ibanez AEB10 online and apparently this is a common problem with that bass. The neck looks pretty straight right now, so I don't want to mess it up, but if I do decide to do that, I will NOT do it myself, because I have no idea what I'm doing (yet) and will undoubtedly destroy it.

    Apparently the bass also came with a taller bridge saddle, but I don't remember mine coming with that... I got this bass way back in '07 or '08 and didn't really used it much before I stopped playing--so yeah, I have no idea if I ever got that part, or where it is if I did ^^; (for now I just cut some strips of paper and laid them under the saddle--a weird and temporary, but decently effective, solution.)

    My mom has all kinds of fancy art tools--we're both artists, and now I actually probably do more sculptural work than she does. She's better at... well, probably everything art-related EXCEPT playing bass (or anything involving a computer), but she prefers to work in two dimensions, i.e. drawing and painting, while I prefer three (or a computer). One of these days, I'm gonna raid her studio and see what other cool stuff is in there...

    I'll take the bass into GC later and have them deal with the bridge pin, but for now I should totally be studying D:

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