Neck thru bass won't intonate properly?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by DasClyde, Feb 17, 2014.

  1. DasClyde

    DasClyde Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    I have this beautiful Alfonso Iturra 5 string I traded for awhile back. Lately, it's come on this issue where it won't be perfectly intonated through the fretboard. The B on E string is off by 3-5 cents and is kind of noticeable, at least to me, but mostly when playing along to songs where there is another bass on the track. Less so, if at all, when playing with others.

    I took it to get set up and the guy said it might have some neck issues but he fixed it for the time being. Now, it's getting back to where it was before. When it came to me, it had really light gauge strings and was fine. I put on heavy flats and that;s when the issue started (I think).

    I have a few questions:

    -Would putting lighter gauge strings on help?

    -If a neck thru bass has a neck issue, is it junk? This bass is beautiful and I would considering spending to get it proper.

    -Any other options?

    I plan on taking it to another place to get set up to see what a second opinion would be. I don't want my main bass (the nicest bass I've ever owned) to be out of intonation when I play.
  2. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    You have to set up the bass ... Adjust the nut, the truss rod, and adjust the bridge.
  3. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    Then decide.

    The neck tru doesn't matter. The frets must be in the correct location---- crowning them helps

    BUT REMEMBER----- all fretted instruments are slightly out of tune. (it's a math thing)
  4. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA

    All fretted instruments are going to be off a little. In fact, pianos too (it's all about equal temperament).

    You have to choose your intonation points. I usually try match the open string, the fretted 12th, and the 12th fret harmonic.
  5. DasClyde

    DasClyde Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    I'm not one to set up myself because I don't want to accidentally blow this bass out. It set up only about 2 months ago and has returned to the state it was before setup. It's a high quality instrument so I don't really think it has any huge production issues like a lower end bass could. What concerns me is that the tech that set it up recently sounded concerned about the neck bow.

    I suppose I will take it in to another bass and see what happens.
  6. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    OK ... maybe you are afraid to mess with the nut and the truss rod ... But you really have no chance of doing damage by adjusting the bridge.

    Get a digital tuner and adjsut the bridge until it intonates properly.
  7. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Hook up to a digital tuner. Tune all the open strings to pitch. Then Fret the strings at the 12th fret. If it is sharp then then move the bridge saddle back. If it flat then move the saddle forward.
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    But you went from light gauge strings to heavy gauge flats. There may be a reason that those strings were installed, don'cha think???????????????

    That is a major change to some basses (fortunately, not all of them respond dramatically.)

    The first thing I'd do is go back to light gauge strings.
  9. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Do you mean take it to another technician? That was gonna be my advice.

    Right after I bought my 98 Music Man, I had the nut replaced. Took it to the "best guy in town". Afterwards, I noticed that all the strings were out of tune when played on the first fret only. Everything else was fine. Some research online turned up the nut slots cut too high as the most likely cause. I asked a couple of upright bassists about another luthier and they suggested a little-known older guy that works out of his house. This guy worked magic on my bass. He now only corrected the nut problem, he made a couple of really minute adjustments to the neck and the fret leveling that really helped.
  10. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    I'm not at all trying to dispute your position on the string gauge, but every bass I've owned, I've had to remove the usual light-gauge strings and use my medium-gauge (.050, .070, etc) strings. Of course, some adjustments are necessary, but nothing that any bass I had (Fenders, Alembics, Peaveys, Ibanezes, and now, Music Mans) wouldn't tolerate.

    You reckon the heavy-gauge strings might be an issue because of the scale of the bass? I wish the OP would state just how heavy those heavy gauge flats are...
  11. DasClyde

    DasClyde Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    These are the strings I put on:


    Previous strings were very light rounds from circle k.

    Also, I have adjusted the the action previously and it would not get right and that's why I brought it to the tech in the first place.
  12. Those strings are of average gauge. If you're off considerably in just one spot, it's probably the string (defective). The 12th fret harmonic adjustment is really the best you can do.
  13. pointless without adjusting the truss rod.

    just make sure you get the right size wrench, and turn in small increments. it's not hard. if you over tighten, you can always loosen it (just don't go doing full-turns. 1/8th or so at a time is fine.)
  14. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    If it was just set up 2 months ago, everything should be fine except the neck bow. That happens all the time b/c wood is wood and it fluctuates with humidity. The only thing that probably needs adjusting is the truss rod. I usually have to make truss rod adjustments twice a year (as the seasons change).
  15. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Might have a neck issue? Bah!

    If the truss rod works and the neck isn't twisted, no issue. Washers can be added to gain more adjustment room with the rod to get that neck flat.

    Find a tech that doesn't use words like "maybe". That is just indicative of incompetence. Why would you pay for maybe?


    Get a couple washers that will fit behind the truss nut. Get that neck set straight with .010" relief. Set the bass up. I've been doing it since I was 15 so anyone can do it. Read Jerzy Drozd setup guide to learn. It's posted in the stickies up top of this forum.

    Also, did you set clean witness points on the new strings????
  16. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    What exactly was the concern your tech had about the bow? I'm not sure what steps are usually taken to correct a neck thru whose neck and bridge has reached the limits of adjustability short of recessing the bridge into the body. Replacing the neck is obviously not an option.

    Edit: I guess washers are one thing.
  17. Technotitclan

    Technotitclan Lurking TB from work

    Mar 1, 2012
    Rochester, NY
    Sounds to me like the neck settled into the new strings, which are medium btw. Have it adjusted one more time and you should be fine.

    I do strongly recommend you learn to do setups yourself. its real easy and you will save a TON of money. They are so easy my guitarist can them!
  18. Bassisgood4U

    Bassisgood4U Banned

    Jan 30, 2014
    I think every band should use an electronic tuner with led lights. The crowd doesn't want to hear you tuning up on stage..and it's just better organization. It can be done without one, but it will probably just take more time, with one guy saying he's the one who's really in tune...

    Bowing is one thing..but a neck thru bass with a twist is pretty much the end of that's instrument's time. You didn't mention a twist, though.

    You need to adjust the bridge intonation every time you switch string gauges, just about.

    Sounds like you really want the higher gauge strings, so:

    You have to be precise with your electronic tuner. You need to re-tune your open strings(make sure they're right on the money) every time after you adjust the intonation on the harmonics. Crank here, crank and turn there..
    Once all that is in the clear, your starting point should be that 7th fret B(E string). If it's out, with the open string being in exact 440 pitch(or whatever you tune to), you need to check the harmonics again.
    Once that's fine and dandy..check the 15th fret G(E string), this is sometimes where you have to compromise, but there are "given and take" ways around it.
  19. DasClyde

    DasClyde Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    I don't think there is a twist. The neck looks straight to me from the bridge and the headstock.

    I had put the strings on initially and let them set in. From there I did do a setup with the bridge to adjust intonation but I could not get the intonation to match open, 12th and harmonic. Admittedly, it was a lot worse before I took it to the initial tech. I don't think I was working with an amateur as they've been in business for years and I did do a lot of research before I picked a place to go to.

    If I work on the intonation again and am unable to get it right, would the turn be to the right to tighten or the left to loosen?

    Would it be better option to switch to light gauge flats?

    I do want to learn to do a setup myself but I am hesitant because of the lack of replacement ability with a neck thru bass. I'd be comfortable if someone physically showed but less so reading from tutorials. I might have to try it anyway.

    Thanks for all of the input!
  20. KeddyLee


    Nov 12, 2013
    All your intonation issues are going to be fixed at the bridge. It's all about the 12th fret being dead center of the string. Adjust the string length so that your open string and 12th fret harmonic are the same and you're good to go. Can't mess anything up by trying that.