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Old roughly used bass won't stay in tune

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Insederec, Nov 30, 2013.

  1. I recently acquired a bass that used to be a high school instrument. It's seen some heavy use. Worn and chipped corners and the like. I also found a paper airplane inside of it. The bridge wasn't put on it, but I knew enough to get it in its proper place and to get tension on it properly. The issue is that when I tune all the strings to the proper pitch, I go back to the first string and it's already down half an octave from where I tuned it to. I'm completely befuddled, and my lack of knowledge is most likely to blame. I come from the guitar side of these forums. :(
  2. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Make sure the soundpost is in place. You will damage things if it is isn't.
    If that's the problem, get the tension off the bass and take care of that first.

    If the soundpost is in it's proper place, check that the strings are installed correctly and not slipping.

    And also check that the tailpiece wire or cable (tailgut) isn't slipping.

  3. I saw a piece of wood rattling around inside of it and it didn't even occur to me that that is what it was. Goodness. How in the world am I going to put that back?
  4. And as it turns out the tailpiece wasn't aligned AND the neck isn't glued in. There's a lot of work to be done.
  5. wcoffey81


    Feb 3, 2012
    S/E Michigan
    a few years ago i was watching a tv show and they had one of those "what in the world is it?" segments. what they showed were thin metal rods bent into some really strange shapes. what they were are tools for working on the insides of stringed instruments through the f-holes. something like you find in a lock-out kit for getting into cars.
    it's not going to be easy but i hope i helped a little
  6. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    That piece of wood rattling around inside it is likely the soundpost. It makes the top and back vibrate together, and keeps the top from collapsing. It isn't an easy thing to put back in place yourself, and if the neck is pulling out of the block and the tailpiece isn't where it should be, you're looking at a trip to a luthier/shop.

    The hook that is being described is a soundpost setting tool, but having it properly fitted can make a huge difference in the tone of the instrument. It isn't just a "get it to stand up" procedure, and even getting it that far isn't an easy thing to do.

    Take it in and see what they say. Resetting the neck and soundpost might be all that really needs to happen, but they will also let you know if you have other issues that need to be addressed like open seams or cracks. The setup on school basses is usually pretty horrible too, so you might be looking at adjusting the bridge and nut to make it more playable. Chances are you will want a new set of strings too as most schools only replace them when they break.

    Welcome to the double bass! It sounds like it needs some work, but most school instruments are serviceable enough to give you something to start on. Best of luck.
  7. I've been pretty stubborn about going to a luthier so far because I have the tools and knowledge to repair anything I've come across, but I only have experience in electric instruments. I'm aware the structural side of things is pretty much an art form, especially for this type of instrument. I should probably suck up my pride and find someone who can look at this for me.
  8. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Acoustic instruments are a completely different ball game. Setting a neck is not an easy repair, and if there are other issues as well, it gets outside of your comfort zone really fast. A lot of shops also refuse to work on basses that have been worked on by amateurs as well. The glues you use and techniques involved have a lot of history, and are there for a reason.

    If you are looking for a project where you can learn repairs, there are a lot of good resources out there and it sounds like you don't have an instrument you've sunk a lot of cash into. If you are looking for a playable instrument and aren't planning on dedicating years of your life to learning the art of bass repair/building, you will potentially save yourself a lot of headaches and even more cash by taking it to someone instead of trying it yourself.
  9. Hi.

    Only for the people who don't study the construction ;).
    For those wo do it's fine craftsmanship that can be imitated, duplicated, and even improved upon.

    From Your description of the shape of that DB, it sounds like You have a factory ply there, rather far from art IMO.

    If that someone is willing to teach You the basics (for a compensation of course), then by all means go ahead.

    While setting up the sound post isn't IME the mission impossible some people make it out to be, it sure helps if someone shows You the right way first.
    Then it's easy to tweak it to Your liking ;).

    Re-setting the neck is more difficult task, but again, if You are able to follow simple instructions and are handy, IMO perfectly doable.


    Even without any pics, it does sound that You have a Bass Shaped Object in your hands and it may not be feasible to take it in.
    Those BSO's are IMO/IME the best ones to learn on though.

    Just use hot hide glue and stay away from power tools, and every inevitable mistake is fully reversible.

    Internet is full of good (and bad as well) information on how to repair DB's, and there's a few books on the subject as well.