Old German Bass --> Old bridge

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by MrPeel, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. MrPeel


    Aug 21, 2012
    I just got me a new- old German bass... Loving everything about it, but since I play 90% pizz I want to get the action lowered by roughly 4-5 mm across the fingerboard (old owner played orchestral and jazz).
    My question is about the bridge though.
    Firstly, the bridge is old, and without adjusters... I've never seen an old bridge if I'm honest, and this one is the thickest I've seen. It's probably the better part of a centimeter thick where it meets the strings with metal channels for the strings to rest on.
    I was curious if the bridge improves with age... should I get adjusters fitted to this bridge when I get the action lowered... or just get a new bridge?
    Intuitively, I would expect a sharper point where string meets wood, would be better for sound production...

    All responses welcome!

    **I'd post pics, but I'm at work and can't**
  2. I would get a new bridge. So you can restore the instrument to the original state and get for yourself what you think is the best for you.
  3. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    Is this it?::

    First, congrats on the bass. It looks like a nice instrument.

    A 'standard' setup has the string heights at 5mm on the G with each string adding one mm putting the E at 8mm. Some players like to go higher because raising the heights usually results in more volume and definition. It also minimizes the sound of the strings buzzing against the fingerboard and produces more body sound. In my experience, basses have a sweet spot for a given string set. Raising the strings may choke the bass and kill the tone. I play near 5-8mm and believe that's about the minimum for my bass. Raising the heights just one mm improves the tone a bit but my old hands begin to feel it. Long term health is a consideration as well.

    As a starting point, what are the string heights now?

    To answer your specific questions, I don't know if bridges improve with age. If there's enough wood above the heart, a luthier may be able to remove the metal inserts and thin the bridge a bit. My bias would be to recycle the old bridge IF possible but the final result is what counts. A quality, well cut bridge is very important. Really, you should discuss this with a good bass luthier because there is no substitute for a hands on appraisal of your situation.

    Another consideration is the condition of the fingerboard. The level of camber (curve) may affect the height at the bridge.
  4. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Greg's got the right idea. You need to get together with your trusted bass luthier and go over the alternatives with him/her. There's no way that we can make a well-founded recommendation on-line. ;)
  5. MrPeel


    Aug 21, 2012
    And thank you guys for your input. Ultimately, I would go to my luthier... I have a good relationship with them. I just prefer going into that conversation knowing my options and how they align with my preferences.

    That is the bass I got... I could not be happier with it! The action is still on the high side though. Without having the bass in front of me, I'm going off of memory here, but the strings were all in the ball park of 9-11 mm. I believe the E string sits at 11mm and the G at 9mm. I can't remember the A and D strings though, but definitely in the 9-11 range. At the present height, the thing is a cannon... very loud, but a tad dark and thuddy.
    Down the road I'll be making some changes... firstly, the gut that holds the tailpiece to the endpin is less like gut and more like a twisted coat hanger :p. The strings are flat-chromsteel, which I like, but I'm not sure if I'll keep them or switch it up a bit.
    For now it's mostly the action... the bass is a 7/8s so to return to my previous playing speed I'll need lower strings, or larger ironman hands
  6. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    If the bridge is chunky and too tall then you could simply have it cut down and thinned for better tone and playability. If the bridge has any warpage or is made of soft maple, I wouldn't invest any more money into it. See what your luthier thinks about it.
  7. MrPeel


    Aug 21, 2012
    The bridge is the beastliest thing I`ve ever seen; not sure if it`s capable of warping haha... the top is easily thicker than a number 2 pencil. I`ll see what`s cheaper... if there are sound improvements from an aged bridge, then I`ll pay to have it shaved down, but at the end of the day, it probably is cheaper just to replace it with a newer bridge with adjusters
  8. MrPeel


    Aug 21, 2012
    Here's a lousy picture of the bridge. It's quite thick... should I toss it or get the luthier to shave it?
  9. Not much thicker than mine and I still use it. But I know that it would sound even better if some mass on the top will be shaved off. My one is not old so I woundn't care much.

    On the other hand this bridge won't warp as soon as a thinner one. I still think let the luthier make a new bridge and keep this one as a backup and to be able to restore the bass into the state when you got it.
  10. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    It also looks like the strings may be too deep in the slots. That can really kill the sustain.
  11. MrPeel


    Aug 21, 2012
    They are pretty deep, but they aren't snug... They rest in metal channels... The tone and volume I can get from the bass is amazing for me, but I knew when I bought it I'd have to sink a few extra dollars to really get it where I want it. The action needs to be lowered about 3-4 mm roughly across... The strings are good, newish flat-chromesteel, but I'll probably eventually put the Upton spiro- obligato combo on... There is sustain, but it starts to go as you move up the neck
  12. Fix that first... you might not need the lower string height if you have a more flexible tailwire (stainless braid is probably the best idea for this... aircraft control cable, or yacht chandlers have it too, plus the right fitting for joining the stuff).