Nut height to match relief or relief to match the nut?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by maturanesa, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. After setting the nut height i realized the distance is varying due to involuntary relief changes.
    This results in different "feelings/comfort" when pressing the 1st fret.

    When the neck get straighter, it buzzes, when it gets more relief its kinda unconfortable to press fret 1.

    So, is the general rule to correct the relief or the nut?

  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Correct relief first. Nuts aren't adjustable, truss rods are.
    wild4oldcars and electracoyote like this.
  3. ale29


    May 25, 2008
    You set your nut height only once, ideally. And when it happens, you adjust it accordingly to the ideal relief for that particular bass, based on your playing style and personal taste as well.
    Relief will always vary a bit, but if the neck is fairly stable you'll always be in the ballpark, if there's a significant change in neck relief you adjust the truss rod and that's it.
    maturanesa likes this.
  4. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    Actually there is only one nut height that is right regardless of string height, relief, string preference, etc. etc. etc. It's right when the bottom of the string slot is about 1 to 1.5 thousands above the fret height. Anything more than that gains you nothing and only makes it harder to fret at the first fret, and drives the notes at the first few frets sharp.
  5. electracoyote

    electracoyote Supporting Member

    Since I use the first few frets to assess the nut, I always set relief first, then determine if the nut slots are too shallow and can be deepened (or too deep and a new nut is required).

    You should be setting relief by fretting 1 and then up high around 18-20, so the nut slots have no bearing on setting your relief. Do it first.
    maturanesa likes this.
  6. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    You always set the neck relief before doing anything else - that's basic setup procedure, as the neck relief will affect everything else...
    bassdude51 and maturanesa like this.
  7. i understand the first step is the neck relief, but the thing is i use some relief, not perfect straight
  8. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    The neck isn't supposed to be perfectly straight, it's supposed to have .010" to .015" of relief - after establishing that, then you set the saddle heights, then the nut slot heights, pickup heights - and lastly, the intonation...
  9. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    see that's the thing, with all the talk about low action some folks aren't even having a little relief, which in my experience leads to less ease of play and less ringing of the notes
    mesaplayer83 likes this.
  10. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    Agreed - I shoot for what I call a low/medium action for the best compromise between playability and sound quality, and that definitely calls for some neck relief...
    mpdd likes this.
  11. CryingBass

    CryingBass Ours' is the only Reality of Consequence Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    I don't adjust my nut height often. But when I do, it's Luthier...
    J_Bass likes this.
  12. ale29


    May 25, 2008
    I suppose the nut and the first fret are so close that the amount of relief is irrelevant at that point?
    I also figured that, since we do not know the OP, if he has a very heavy touch having some more clearence could be beneficial. I agree with you that nut height should be as low as possible without interfere with the open string vibration, and that it's a crucial part of any setup often overlooked.
  13. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    IME, properly setting the neck relief is critical to properly setting the nut slot heights...
    JeezyMcNuggles likes this.
  14. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    The nut hight is set to clear the first few frets. Changing relief has minimal impact on that part of the neck. As Turnaround stated there is one optimal nut hight and it is not impacted by relief. Given that I would recomend setting the nut hight first.
    byacey likes this.
  15. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    With all due respect towards Turnaround, it is my experience that *excessive* neck relief can indeed affect nut slot height readings... There is a reason why virtually every credible setup guide follows the same order - and I've yet to see one that places nut slots ahead of setting relief...
  16. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    I have never advocated straying from the setup order that is considered standard good practice. However, it would take a pretty severe case of "excessive" neck relief to change the relationship between the bottom of the string slot in the nut and the height of the first fret. That wouldn't be relief but a kink in the neck between the nut and fret one, in which case the nut height is immaterial. There's a more serious problem that needs to be addressed.
  17. electracoyote

    electracoyote Supporting Member

    I learned the hard way when I decided to deepen the nut slots before setting relief. I used a relative comparison to the first fret and I didn't think I went too deep at all, very conservative and careful. After I next took out a large amount of relief (leaving a slight amount) and adjusted action, I realized the open string buzz across all strings was caused by slots being too deep. Frets were very level.

    I'm not 100% certain it matters because both steps can be done independent of each other, but after that experience I'll always err on the side of caution and set relief (and action) first just in case there's something to it. Between removing relief and lowering action at the saddles, I get the impression the strings move downward more than enough to effect the nut slot depth and significantly change the relationship to the fingerboard at the first few frets.
    Loring likes this.
  18. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    I'll stand with what I've already posted...
  19. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    I have seen the same thing happen - again, there is a reason why every single credible setup guide lists setting neck relief as the FIRST thing to do - that isn't a coincidence...
    Loring and electracoyote like this.
  20. Joshua

    Joshua WJWJr Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 23, 2000
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