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Off-Center Bridge, Tailpiece and Strings

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by pi_r_squared, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. pi_r_squared


    Sep 3, 2008
    A friend with a group who does some blues, ragtime, old standards, etc asked if I was interested in playing upright bass with them (I play bass guitar). She had just purchased a used bass, so I thought I would give it a shot.

    I'm loving it, but my hands are trashed. Either I'm a complete wuss (certainly a possibility) or something is wrong.

    The tailpiece, bridge, and strings are quite a bit off-center. Knowing nothing about a double bass, and noticing the asymmetrically beveled fingerboard, I thought maybe this was somehow intentional. Now I'm having second thoughts.

    Looking at the attached pics, is there ANY reason that this would be intentional? or is it more along the lines that it was either dropped, bumped (hard) or someone tried to use it for a step ladder????

    Attached Files:

  2. pi_r_squared


    Sep 3, 2008
    2 more pics

    Attached Files:

  3. pi_r_squared


    Sep 3, 2008
    and yes, I just noticed, when taking the pics, that it looks like the A-string needs to be re-seated in the tailpiece.
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    The bridge should be centered between the ffs, and with the notches. You can move it yourself after loosening the strings a little. The tailpiece wires are off of the saddle! They should go over the saddle. You'll need to loosen the strings a lot to correct this. I would take this to a bass luthier, as the soundpost (inside the bass) may fall, and should be looked at anyway to see if it needs adjusting.

    Also, the bridge looks extremely thick and should be trimmed down for better sound. From this alone, I'd guess there are many other tweaks that can be done to make the bass more playable. The strings should be 5-8mm (G-E) above the end of the fingerboard for easy playing. At the nut, the strings should be a business card above the board.
  5. You are correct. That's all wrong, with the exception of the flat on the fingerboard, which is called a Rhomburg bevel.

    If you want to improve the situation yourself, you could:

    1. Lay the bass down on the side of the G string (the skinniest one).

    2. Detune all four strings until they are slack.

    3. Drop the bridge.

    4. Pull the tailgut (the looped wire connecting the tailpiece to the endpin) back into a centered position on the saddle.

    5. Holding the tailpiece and tailgut in place, stand the bridge back up. Don't worry about being exact.

    6. Position the bridge. It should straddle the centerline of the top, and the bridge feet should be centered between the two inner nicks of the ff-holes.

    7. Tune the bass. I'd tune each string up one whole step, starting with the G, until the instrument is in tune. Watch the bridge, as it may want to tip toward the fingerboard.

    If you hear the soundpost fall, stop. Do not attempt to tune the bass to pitch without the soundpost in place, as you could damage the top. If any of this sounds scary, consult a professional. While you're there, see about having that bridge thinned out.
  6. pi_r_squared


    Sep 3, 2008
    Thank you so much. It's great to know I'm not crazy.

    I enjoy messing with this stuff, as long as I won't hurt anything.

    I did notice that the sound post is slightly closer to the centerline of the bass than the middle of the G-string foot of the bridge is, but I think when the bridge is shifted to the proper position, it will be very nearly in the proper place relative to the bridge, at least from the info I have found online. Thank you for pointing that out, I'm not generally nervous about messing with such things, but this isn't my instrument, so I'll definitely be erring on the side of caution.

    I've also ordered an adjustable bridge, it's to address a disease I have that makes me want to mess with the action on every stringed instrument I've ever owned.

    Thanks Again.
  7. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    If you are near a bass luthier or violin shop I would encourage you to take it there.
    However, if that isn't an option this is something you can probably address with caution.

    The process would be to lay the bass down flat on its back, probably on a bed or sofa so that you have access to the tuning gears, bridge and tailpiece.

    First, check inside the bass to see that the soundpost is in place a bit below the G bridge foot. It should be approximately perpendicular to the front and back of the bass. If it isn't you must take it to a luthier. Carefully tune down each string in a balanced way but you want enough tension to hold the bridge in place. For example, lower the E, then the A, D and G a bit and then repeat the cycle. Once this is done the tension must be low enough to return the tailpiece cable to the center of the saddle. There are probably faint grooves in the saddle to guide the placement. Next, the bridge should be centered between the f holes and on the inner nicks. An imaginary line connecting the nicks should go through the center of the feet. Do whatever you need to do to get the A string properly seated in the tailpiece. Now, tune all the strings back to pitch being careful to keep the tension on each string similar. The top of the bridge will pull toward the fingerboard so you must carefully pull it back, ultimately so that the back of it is at 90 degrees to the top of the bass.

    During and after the process double check the soundpost position.

    When you are done, everything should be lined up and centered.

    Good luck.
  8. You may want to reconsider. I can say from my own untrained and non-professional experience that fitting a non-adjustable bridge is difficult. I am told that fitting a pre-made adjustable bridge, whose feet will constantly move on you, is nigh on impossible. The correct way is to fit the bridge, than add adjusters.
  9. You will definetly need to take the instrument to a luthier to have the new bridge properly fit.
  10. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Pretty good advice Sheriff, but for the record its a 'Romberg' bevel. ;)
  11. Thank you. And for the record, it's Monday morning. :atoz:
  12. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    KungFu's instructions are good. However, I would loosen the strings JUST enough to move the tailgut but leave the bridge standing to prevent the soundpost from falling.
  13. If the bass is laying on the G side, there is no place for the soundpost to fall to, as far as I'm aware.
  14. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    If the soundpost is currently standing then removing tension from the strings causes the top to lift slightly and then the soundpost can tip over, requiring it to be stood back up. This is easy for a luthier but rather challenging for the rest of us. Soundposts are only held in my tension and usually are not tight enough with string tension to keep them upright.