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One "choked" fret ... new problem ... HELP!

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by pickles, Dec 1, 2005.


  1. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    I recently bought a used bass I love and have been playing a lot for the last couple months. When I got it I had done a quick setup which got it into the ballpark of what I like, and then just played and played it. Its a GREAT bass. Today I decided to start tweaking the action a little, and all of a sudden C# on the G string will not sound cleanly under normal finger pressure. If I press REALLY hard with my fretting hand, it will ring out, but otherwise it sounds like there is fabric on the string or something. Not dead ... completely choked! The note will not sound hardly at all!

    To answer the first questions I would have: I'm a very experienced player, and have been doing my own setups for years. I've even built a few guitars and basses, and I've NEVER seen anything like this.

    Usually if a fret is high or low I'll get string buzz ... this is NOT string buzz. This is also NOT a dead spot, it was working great before that truss rod tweak, and its not that it has a short decay ... I get almost nothing out of the note. I've set the action back where it was (> 2/32" @ 12th fret) and the problem presists! I tried increasing and decreasing the relif, and nothing changes it! HELP! I love this bass and this puts it completely out of commission!!!! The note is not usable. I'm baffled!

    The frets do show wear, but if the fret was warn wouldn't I get buzzing ... and why would a truss rod adjustment have effected it?! Is a fret loose? Did the neck just freak out and develop a bump?! I can't see anything wrong with the naked eye.

    I DID change strings, and it didn't change anything.
     
  2. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    About the only clue that I can see is the fact that if you really push down hard the note becomes more normal.

    There is one part of your post that I have to believe is a typo. You say that your string heigth is only 1/16" at the twelve fret. If that is correct, the string heigth is still less if it's fretted in the six fret. The string sure doesn't have much excursion room.

    That is extremely low action. How much relief do you have in the neck?

    A badly worn fret could cause something very similar to what you describe but it wouldn't start all at once.

    You might try just laying something like a piece of wire or a 4d finishing nail right behind the 6th fret and noting the string down on the "substitute" fret. If it rings clear, it's a good clue that it's a problem with the fret. I have no idea what could cause a fret to act this way and the problem not be apparent by a close visual.

    My mind keeps wanting to go back to the extremely low string heigth. I would try increasing the string heigth to 1/8" after making sure that there was a bit of relief in the neck.

    Please keep us posted on what you end up finding cause that's one for the books.

    good luck. It sounds as if you're gonna need it.
     
  3. Wow, I just looked at a ruler. I keep my G string the lowest of the bunch at 3 mm, around 1/8". I really cant imagine going much lower than that and still having all the notes ring out clearly, since I already use a pretty light touch. I agree with pkr2 that you need to just raise the string a bit. The string has to have room to vibrate in all directions.

    That said, if you are sure that the string is not simply too low, then take it to a professional. It does seem odd that this problem is only occurring at one fret. In any event, good luck with your bass!
     
  4. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Thank gents, yes, it really is 1/16" to the center of the string, measured from the top of the 12th fret while fretting the first. To me thats pretty standard low action. I can get my modulus lower :eek: Relief is very slight, less than 1/32". Remember this is the G string. low E is closer to 3/32". The rest of the string plays great, and I've had the action nearly this low all along. Raising it to 3/32" or 1/8" doesn't help

    So last night I put the bass away in its case, and went to bed depressed. Got up this morning, pulled the bass out, and the problem has gone away. :hyper: I swear I'm not crazy.

    Then I decide the action IS a tiny bit too low, so I raise it to 1/16" to the bottom of the string ... and the problem came back!!!! :bawl:

    Bending the note brings it back to life ... this must be a problem with the fret itelf, probably the crown has become too flat? Now I can't figure out why it was OK earlier?!

    I recorded a WAV file if anybody wants to listen ... to hear exactly what I mean by NOT a dead spot NOT fret buzz.
     
  5. basstruck

    basstruck Guest

    Nov 25, 2005
    Sudbury
    What you need is a fret level, crown job, fret buffing and a good set up, with an action at least 2 to 2.5 mm high at the 12th fret. Try that and you will see and play the difference and it will be the end of your problem
     
  6. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    I'm already making calls about a level crown and polish, since I also think thats whats going on. I'd do it myself, but the bass has skinny vintage wire thats got me spooked.

    How many 32nds is 2mm?

    Why is everybody on my case about the action? I've got a half dozen basses in the closet with this same setup, and they all play and sound fantastic. I don't think its extreme at all. You guys are measuring from the top of the fret, not the fingerboard, right?
     
  7. basstruck

    basstruck Guest

    Nov 25, 2005
    Sudbury
    There are no 2 basses that the set up is the same. Depends on the stability of the neck under the pressure of the string and the condition of the frets. A bad fret will make a string choke.
    A very low action, since the string need space to vibrate, will create a fuzz or make a string choke. Even if the frets look shiny and in good condition that doesn't mean that they are level, some frets might be higher than others.
    So a low action on a 4 string bass at the 12th fret is 3/32 (2mm) on the "G" and 1/8 (3mm) on the "E".You measure from the bottom of the string to the top of the fret at the 12th fret. You might have a lower action on some basses but when the humidity changes, then the bass starts fuzzing, buzzing and choking. It might choke one day and not another. That's the way you have to deal with wood. It moves and basses are made out of wood with 150 to 200 lbs of pressure on the neck from the strings so they need a lot of adjustment.
     
  8. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA

    Hmm. Thats what I call "medium-to-high" action. I remember an article with roger sadowsky calling it the same.

    At any rate, I think a fret job is in order.
     
  9. basstruck

    basstruck Guest

    Nov 25, 2005
    Sudbury
    To you it is a medium-to-high action you might be right. But ask any Luthier you need a damn good stable neck to have an action lower than that in Canada and some parts of the States. Because the humidity goes to the extreme in this part of the world.
    Fuzz, buzz or string choking are 90% of the time caused by bad frets, fret leveling, bad strings and super low action.
    So If you don't accept my opinion, there are a few more luthiers on this forum that might give you other advice but this is my opinion from trial and error of my days as a maker and a repairman
    Couple of basses that I use to handcraft in the old days!
     
  10. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Pickles, the fact that when you mash down hard on the note or bend the string and the prob improves both indicate the same problem. I would almost bet the farm that you have a notch worn into the fret under the G string. The fact that you have small fret wire still further increases the likelyhood of a worn fret.

    There are still a couple of things that don't add up though. First, the problem comes and goes. Second, you don't actually see a worn place on the fret.

    Don't think that we are "on your case" about the action heigth. I have been doing set up for more years than I want to admit and I have honestly never seen a bass with action as low as yours that didn't buzz and rattle like crazy. That's not to say that yours didn't play just fine for you. I suppose that you must play with a super light touch in order to make it work. In trying to diagnose a problem, though, it has to raise some question as to whether it might have a bearing on your prob.

    May I ask why you would want the action so low? Ease of playing wouldn't really suffer with a more conventional heigth and as was mentioned, humidity and temp would have much less effect on it. I'm just curious.
     
  11. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    The coming and going I don't understand either. Maybe I was subconciously bending the notes a little. But the fret is warn down quite a bit right there. The crown has been flattened out significantly.

    I did also try raising the action up to 1/8 and it did NOT change the problem.

    Any seasonal changes can be adjusted for using the truss rod, though its not much of an issue here in california. I don't understand why you'd want to raise the saddles to compensate for a neck thats moving around in the humidity.

    I feel like one of those people that "won't take the advice they are asking for right now", but I think you guys are off target on this one.

    I've also been doing setups for the better part of a decade, and 3/32-1/16 allows me to control the envelope of the note from "fat and warm" to "tight funky spank" with my fingers. I can get the full range of expression without switching to a slap technique.

    I suggest you guys read this:

    http://www.sadowsky.com/media/pdf/technical/bp0999_bass_setup.pdf

    I'm still thinking we just have a disconnect in the way we're measuring. I use "top of fret to bottom of string" while holding the string down at the 1st fret.
     
  12. pkr2

    pkr2

    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    The adjustment to the heigth that I suggested wasn't meant to be a permanent adjustment. Just a means of trying to diagnose your prob.Sometimes you just have to eliminate possibilities one at a time.

    "I feel like one of those people that "won't take the advice they are asking for right now", but I think you guys are off target on this one."

    I can't be off the target because I haven't chosen a target. I thought finding the target was what we were trying to do.




    I am detecting a little bit of animosity in the tone of your response so I'll just gracefully back out of any further suggestions. I do wish you the best of luck with your prob. I'm sure you'll get it sorted out.
     
  13. tadawson

    tadawson

    Aug 24, 2005
    Lewisville, TX
    I always thought the way to measure action height was top of fret to the bottom of the string, with the string open and unfretted. Also, most setup procedures that I have seen give measurements farther up the neck - like at the 17th fret or so . . This might explain the difference folks are seeing in measurements . . . . . lemme go look at mine . . .

    On my P, if I measure the way you do at the 12th fret, fretted at the first, I get about 5/64 on the E. If I don't fret, I get 3/32. This bass was setup to Fender factory specs (3/32 at the 17th), so while you are a bit lower, it does not seem to be by all that much. Or did I miss something altogether . . ? . . ? . . ? . . ?

    - Tim
     
  14. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Fretting at the 1st takes the nut height out of the equation, so its a little more consistent of a method. Constisency is all that really matters ...

    I don't think you're missing anything, I've been saying that my action is fairly "normal" and is therefore not a likely contributor to the problem.
     
  15. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Didn't mean to sound that way at all, I was just trying to get the focus of the conversation away from action height, actually. :meh: I really meant to accuse myself of being obstinate :D

    I've got a guy thats going to dress the frets this weekend, hopefully that will set everything strait.
     
  16. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2000
    Minneapolis by way of Chicago
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Before you do anything else, take a look at the string itself and make sure there's nothing on it or on the fingerboard. I had a scary experience just like this a couple weeks ago - played a C on the G string of my fretless five and it was absoutely dead. Nothing. Turned out to be nothing more than a tiny black (and therefore nearly invisible) sliver of foam that had come off the lining of either my gig bag or strap and wound up right under the G string at the 5th fret.

    Lonnybass
     
  17. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    I'll check again. The first thing I did when this started happening was change strings. :(
     
  18. tadawson

    tadawson

    Aug 24, 2005
    Lewisville, TX
    Understood. My point is that I was trying to draw attention to the fact that you were measuring that way - it gives lower numbers for a given setup than if you don't fret . . . . as does measuring at the 12th, as opposed to some other published procedures. I just wanted to point out the potential discrepancies between different setup procedures, so that folks here could make sure that they are really comparing measurements made under the same conditions. As I noted on my P, using the Fender procedure and yours give very different numbers for the same setup . . .

    - Tim
     
  19. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    The luthier I took my bass to feels that it is a combination of elements making the note 'fret out", which is a better term for what it is doing. The key contributors seem to be the very small fret wire and the fret wire having been flattened on the top from wear. He drew me a picture that made a lot of sense:

    When I fret the note lightly, it contacts only the corner of the flat spot on the fret wire, which allows for some strange vibration to occur. Pressing down harder forces the string into better contact with the flat top of the fret, allowing it to ring true. The problem is fairly subtle and aparently complex, since when we were experimenting we found that it didn't happen with the bass laying on its back, only when it was in normal playing position, which could expalin why its been coming and going. Its a very specific vibration pattern that is causing the fret-out.

    Normally a recrown would to the trick, but since this bass started with vintage wire, and was already re-leveled one time before it left the USA factory (if you're paying attention, you now know the make of the bass), theres just not enough wire left to level and recrown. If we did the frets would be rediculously small.

    We decided the best thing to do was refret with medium jumbo wire, replace the nut (which was the one shoddy component on this bass) to accomodate, and get the frets back into a crown and level situation that will work with my playing style and action preferences. He too, commented on my "very low" action preferences :spit:

    I'll let you guys know how it turns out.
     
  20. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Just got the bass back, refretted with Dunlop 6105, and with a nice new bone nut. They guy did a great job, and the bass plays clean and even up and down the neck when set up to my specs :cool:

    Sounds a little different now with the taller fret wire, clearer and cleaner with more sustain and a little less woody. I think it'll be a change for the better on the gig ... we'll see. The upper register sounds especially sweet now.