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Noob questions on string height

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Joe Ergle, Dec 10, 2006.

  1. I searched through the noobie links and found a thread on this, but it left a few of my questions unanswered.

    As I have been progressing, I have been getting frustrated with playing in the upper register. It is incredibly hard for me, and I tended to think it was my inability as a player. However, I recently played my old band director's bass, and it occurred to me at that point that my string height is way too high. His strings are probably half an inch off of the fingerboard, even on the highest notes. It was like butter. So, in conclusion, I have two options. I can suck up to my old band director to the point of him letting me borrow his bass, or I can make some modifications to the one I'm using.

    The first option is a no-brainer, however, I doubt it will happen. The second option is plausible, but I run into some problems. This sounds a little ridiculous, but I want to avoid spending any money on this bass at all costs. I don't want to, and I am not able to spend $100+ on new strings, bridge adjusters, etc. when I have to return the bass at the end of the year. With that said, is there any safe way to sand down the bridge to make the action lower? Could it also be the strings? I already know the strings are horrible, but could they also be adding to my action problem? Is there any other way to do a homemade action reset?

    I just have one more problem. My arco sound on the one I'm using is absolutely horrible. At first I thought it was the bow, so I asked for a $100 Upton german bow for my birthday. Although my sound was a little darker, it still sounded very scratchy. I started to think it was my playing ability, but I played on the bass I use at school with my new bow about a week ago, and it sounded beautiful. They are almost the same exact bass model, but I'm thinking the strings might be at fault. I've noticed that on the strings I'm using at home, I get pretty large amounts of rosin buildup about every five minutes. After I wipe it off, it sounds better. I do NOT use too much rosin. Believe me when I say this: I haven't put rosin on in about two and a half weeks, and it still builds up on the strings. I avoid putting rosin on because when I do, the buildup on the strings increases tenfold, even when I apply a very conservative amount. My friend in Tampa told me that it could possibly be the strings that are causing this, because I don't get this effect at all on the bass I use at school.

    Thanks for reading my noobie essay; any help is appreciated.
  2. Based on what you've written, I tend to agree with your friend in Tampa. Generally speaking, there are three types of metal strings.
    (1) Those that are made for bowing, (2) Those that are made for playing Pizz, and (3) Hybrid which are supposed to be somewhere in between. Also generally speaking, strings made for playing pizz are terrible for bowing. Hybrids are somewhat better, but still not good for serious bowing.
  3. Thanks for your words; I had no idea! haha. I'll keep that in mind when I buy a bass soon (hopefully). I play very little-to-no pizz.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    A couple of thoughts:

    If resources allow, buy some decent strings and save the old ones. Take the good ones off and slap the junk back on before you turn the bass back in. You'll love yourself for it.

    As for the bridge, a luthier would not sand it but instead would cut it down. That said, I would be VERY hesitant to attempt to do it yourself. You can't add wood back once it's gone, and you have no idea what may await you.

    The camber of the fingerboard will play a huge factor in how low you can go. Often, with basses that haven't had any TLC from a luthier, the bridges are set high to keep the strings from rattling on the fingerboard.

    And, going really low without adjusters is a little dangerous in general. Even if the bass plays right today with no rattles, all it might take is a change in humidity and you have issues.

    I think most players who play really low without adjusters have a couple of bridges. One winter, one summer.
  5. I do not know why that never occurred to me, haha! Thanks man, your advice is appreciated, and will be used. I'll ask Santa for some strings; do you have any suggestions? I play about 95% arco.
  6. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    thomastik Belcanto--sweet, very sweet, and smooth

    D'Addario Helicore Orchestra--less expensive, still good
  7. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    If I was doing "95%" arco, I'd do Thomastik Belcantos (on my bass now) or Pirastro Flexocores.
  8. Sorry to bump a semi-old thread, but I have another question.

    I just ordered some Bel Cantos, so hopefully that will help my situation.

    This is my new problem: I previously thought that my action needed lowering. The strings are very high, and when I say "very high", I mean it literally inflicts pain on my fingers and wrist when I play in the upper register. However, I recently read on here that a bass set up for orchestral work is supposed to have higher action than normal. Are my strings supposed to be this high? Do I just have to get over it and build up hand muscles? I've seen many solo arco players shift to the upper register without much effort. I have an extremely hard time doing this because the strings are about 3/4 of an inch above the fingerboard. Is this a normal height for a bass meant almost exclusively for arco play?

    Sorry if this seems vague; my sleep schedual has been messed up and I am pretty tired, to say the least. Any help is appreciated, and happy holidays!
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Yes your strings are way too high. Ideally, the G should have 5 to 7 mm of clearance at the end of the fingerboard; 8 to 10 under the E. The height of your strings is not only pain-inflicting, but tone-destroying.

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