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Nut height same for all strings?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by xcski, Mar 6, 2006.


  1. xcski

    xcski

    Mar 6, 2006
    Salt Lake City
    I purchased a laminate 3/4 urb for my 12 year old daughter on the internet. The deal came with an adjustable bridge and a "professional setup". It arrived last Friday. The string height at the nut is a business card thick under the D and the G string, 3 cards thick under the A string and more than 3 cards thick under the E string. The string height at the lower end of the fingerboard is approximately 10 mm on all four strings. The adjustable bridge is as low as it will go.

    From what I gather on this forum and from my daughter's bass instructor that is high and obviously would be easier for her to play if I lowered the string height. (Not easy for this guitar/mando player to not use "action".)

    From my perusal of this forum and other resources on the internet, I assume that prior to shortening my bridge I should look first at the nut. Even though references to string height and a business card thickness did not specify all strings, am I correct in assuming I should lower or have lowered the grooves in the nut for the E and A strings?

    thanks
     
  2. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    It would be helpful if you would fill out your profile. As you will read many times over on this site, a good set-up, performed by a qualified luthier, is essential. This especially holds true for students, and young ones at that, who are least able to overcome shortcomings in the setup. From your description, it sounds like the bass you received was very poorly (if not horribly) set up. Yeesh-- 10 mm across all four strings? That's basically no set-up!

    What did you buy? Truth be told, and you may not want to hear this at all, the instrument may not be worth what it will cost to have it properly adjusted. It may be best to start over. You were promised a "professional setup" and you did not receive that. Depending upon what you bought, it may be wisest to use that as a reason to return the instrument.

    Please consider that a poorly set-up and/or constructed instrument can be a constant source of frustration for students that eventually leads them to be discouraged.
     
  3. xcski

    xcski

    Mar 6, 2006
    Salt Lake City
    The bass is a laminate made in china, I don't know the specific make, ebony fingerboard. I bought it from Fantastic Musical Instruments for ~$700 including shipping that was to include $100 setup, not a jazz setup. I admittedly know very little about basses, but the sound seems to be decent on this one. My main concern is the setup. I will be talking with Tom from whom I purchased it, but I wanted to take advantage of this forum to be a bit more informed when I did.
    thanks again for any feedback.
     
  4. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    These instruments are often made of thin laminates that have a big sound initially, but soon collapse and are not repairable.

    As DURB says, you got no setup at all, or at least a very bad one.

    I'd send it back and try to rent a good instrument locally, or just buy one. If you spend $1500-0$1800 on a decen tinstrument, and your daughter gives up on it, you can sell it later and get most of your money back. One of these $700 instruments (I've seen them as cheap as $500 or less) will cost hundreds to make playable, and has almost no resale value at all.
     
  5. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I could not agree more and, as you pointed out, these instruments often collapse, in which case the value to the owner as well as the resale value is essentially zero.
     
  6. xcski

    xcski

    Mar 6, 2006
    Salt Lake City
    I appreciate the responses from both of you and don't doubt the wisdom of your advice. Unfortunately for various reasons (disposable income, shipping costs, etc) I am afraid I am going to have to make do with the bass I got.

    I have reviewed the various posts regarding lowering the bridge on an adjustable bridge that's already adjusted as low as it can go, and I am confident that I can deal with that. I do suspect that my E and A strings should be much lower at the nut then they are and that I should deal with that first. Is there any reason they should be higher at the nut than the D and G string?

    thanks again
     
  7. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Generally, I am told, nut height should be half the string diameter.
     
  8. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    No, that's way too high.
     
  9. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    I look at the nut as just the next step down from a fingered 1/2 position, so on a properly dressed fingerboard all the strings can be almost touching the board at the nut. A business card is a good starting point. It should make it much easier to press those strings down in the low positions. However, if the fingerboard isn't well-dressed, filing the nut slots may introduce buzzing or other issues. And it still might not lower the string height enough for you. You could try a little bit at a time, but you might end up having to see a luthier anyway.
     
  10. SBassman

    SBassman

    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    I'm pulling for you.
    [But, I definitely can't coach when it comes to DB setups.]

    One thing that would be really valuable would be to open up a thread on that bass, and post to it from time to time as your daugher uses it. There are those here who are strongly opposed to those Chinese basses, and there are those who have said they have done well with them. It would be great to capture your experiences here.
     
  11. SBassman

    SBassman

    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Any chance your daughter's instructor could do some setup work on it?
     
  12. xcski

    xcski

    Mar 6, 2006
    Salt Lake City
    Thanks again, I will check back as this bass "develops".
    Frank, my daughter's instructor did recommend a luthier but I am hesitant to put much more money into this bass. I do enjoy working with wood and will give it a shot myself, hopefully taking care to err on the side on non-irrevocable modifications.
     
  13. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Modern Chinese instruments, like German instruments, run the gamut from terrible to very well made. Lumping all the factories together is short sighted.

    xcski- if you care about your daughter (as I'm sure you do) take this bass to one of the 200 luthiers that live in Salt Lake City and get a proper setup. A bad setup will only discourage her learning, and fingerboard camber is not a d.i.y. project. You might be spending another $500 for soundpost, endpin, fingerboard planing, strings, bridge work, nut work, etc. The payoff is the bass will be fun to play, with a nice full tone, and easy on the arms/hands... very important.
     
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    !
     
  15. pjwolf

    pjwolf

    Feb 20, 2006
    Ventura, Ca.
    I was going to visit the Fantastic music store this coming weekend...to get an inexpensive upright to leave at my girlfriend's house (she plays piano)..after reading all the posts concerning the chinese basses, I don't think I will buy one...are the Cremona's any good? Thanks for the help!!
     
  16. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    What I've learned reading TB and hanging around a luthier friend:

    1. You cannot get a good, new, Chinese laminated factory bass for less than around $1500-1800. That's the bottom.

    2. There is no such thing as a good, cheap bass sold by a discount, general music store.

    3. Unless you know a seller's reputation, don't buy a mail-order bass from them. People have bought a number of basses from reputable dealers and luthiers and written about it here. You can check them out.

    4. Some people have purchased $500-700 Chinese basses and raved about them. They may have gotten the good ones. Or they may not have compared them against other instruments. Or their just haven't collapsed yet.
     
  17. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Or they don't know what they are talking about...
     
  18. Back on the subject of string height at the nut, I too was thinking of the straightforward advice I've so often seen here, i.e. the thickness of a business card. However, I had an interesting experience the other night which makes me wonder if that is the ideal setting for everyone.

    I had the pleasure of letting a veteran bassist play my bass. She said it was very nice, but she needed to press down harder on the strings than she preferred. At first, I was surprised, since the string height at the nut is quite low (~ business card) and the strings are are not at all high tension: 2 plain gut and 2 Labella Goldtone. String heights at the end of the FB range from 9 to 12 mm. I personally love the setup and find it a pleasure to play.

    This player is an older lady and has been playing for a long time, and on many different basses. Further discussion with her led me to understand that her preferred setup with a higher nut allowed her to use less force with no string buzzing. She says she needed to press the strings down harder on my bass to get a clean sound.

    Does this lady have a valid point? I'm curious to hear you folks with more understanding of this subject share your experience and help me understand how this thing really works. I am beginning to to really appreciate the way different setup details interact with each other, in particular, the string heights at both ends of the FB, string tension, and the camber of the FB.
     
  19. pjwolf

    pjwolf

    Feb 20, 2006
    Ventura, Ca.
    Thanks for the input...I will just spend a little more $$ and get something more reliable and decent to play.
     
  20. M_A_T_T

    M_A_T_T

    Mar 4, 2004
    Canada
    I agree with Nick. I used to think my CCB was awesome, but I really didn't know anything, and a few months ago when I looked at an Englehardt it blew my CCB away.

    Mine has a 7-laminate, 8mm thick maple top & back...:meh: