One string lower action / volume than others

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by edge83, Apr 12, 2004.

  1. edge83


    Apr 12, 2004
    Astoria New York
    Hi everyone-
    I'm using a fairly new set of spirocores, although i'm assumingthis problem goes beyond the strings themselves.. the G string seems to have a noticably lower action than the other 3, and the sound is thinner and trebly (which of course could be strictly the result of the action, but it seems a little more exaggerated, almost like it's not resonating into the bass body)This seems to be something that 'happened' after getting an outstanding setup job, and i'm wondering if there is a common cause for this or what to check. I thought the obvious would be the groove in the bridge or nut but they dont seem especially lower to me - it seems a little strange - does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks very much for your time
  2. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I think this happened to me. My bass felt great with helicores, I put on some weichs, and the g string stank. It was way low, so I put on the medium gauge and that was ok. I went back to some corellis and everything is fine. Still don't know why
  3. Just a sugestion - perhaps there isn't enough tension being generated to make the string work. My luthier adjusted my nut slots and left the tuning thereabouts. I was astonished at how it altered the g string only to find it a semitone flat. I supose you might be able to test this by tuning a semitone sharp?
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Are you playing mostly pizz or arco? Because if you're playing mostly pizz, you may be dealing with what I call "Orchestral Bridge Syndrome" (OBS). OBS is caused by well intentioned luthiers who cut the curvature of the bridge so that it easily facilitates arco playing, meaning that there is a rather steep angle between the strings (especially G and D) to prevent accidental double stops. While this is a boon to those who bow or do double duty, it can be a drag to those who play primarily pizz, since it can make it difficult to find a string height for the G string....when the G string is at the correct height for optimal tone and "dig-in-a-bility", then the D is so high as to be nearly unplayable. Lower the D down to the height where you want it, and then the G is too low, etc...

    I try to have my bridges cut for the pizz action I like, but have never gotten one cut that really suits my action preferences just right. This is why the Pecanic adjustable bridge (in the add on the sidebar at left) has always fascinated me. For pizz, there is definitely a connection between string height, tone and balance. A shame most bridges don't allow more individual tailoring of the "balance" aspect.
  5. Randy Ward

    Randy Ward Formally Known As Univac Jr. Supporting Member

    "Orchestral Bridge Syndrome" (OBS)

    Thanks so much for giving this a name! I recently bought an older German hybrid with a fairly flat fingerboard, Which is great because I wanted it for Jazz. It had orchestra ready strings on it and when I put jazz friendly strings on it the g was just WAY too low, I compared the arc of the fingerboard with the bridge and it just didn't look right. I went to the luthier and explained the problem and he really fought with me about changing it. Finally he had me leave it over night and disgustedly said he'd do it even though I was making a big mistake. When I got it back it was exactly the same only there was less of the bridge, he'd just kept the same bridge arc! When I complained he said; "You've got to stop thinking like an electric bass player"
    I later found out he did set up on the bass before I had bought it and he is after all an orchestra player so I now know he is just not interested in the same type of set up as I am. There really isn't anyone else where I live that could do a good job so I went to a local jazz guy who did kind of a sloppy job but at least the arc of the bridge is right and I can play it. eventually I'll try and cut a new bridge myself or get a Pecanic adjustable bridge. I guess I'd always thought of luthiers as being on the side of the player, at least I know I'm not alone.

  6. ackeim


    Nov 10, 2003
    Boulder, CO
    I am experiencing a similar thing in my search for a new bass. Almost everything I try is set up for orchestra playing, it's really tough to judge a bass when the setup is all wrong and the strings are arco strings.
  7. This is the one area in lutherie that I consider myself pretty good....of course i'm not a luthier, but i've pretty much set my partner Bob Ross up with this very idea of Chris' OBS so that Bob and myself have gotten to the point of learning to take care of this problem. It's no secret and Aaron has contacted me about a bass that I plan on doing the set-up on. We jazzers have got to learn to tell our luthiers exactly what we want in terms of this problem.
  8. It is indeed unfortunate that there are still some usually quite competent bass luthiers who don't recognize that the player's style of playing should dictate the arch on the bridge. Most luthiers I know use some sort of template(s) for initially cutting the arch on the bridge. The patterns for the templates are readily available in luthier books such as the ones by Henry Strobel (which was the source for the templates in the photos). If you look at an orchestra bridge template and a jazz bridge template separately, they don't look all that different. However, when you lay the jazz bridge template on top of the orchestra template, it is easy to see the difference.

    Please note that these templates are just a starting point in setting the arch. The final bridge arch is dependent on the arch of the fingerboard.

    template 1
    template 2
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Thanks Bob! You rule. ;)

    Frankly, when I posted my initial comments about OBS, i expected to take some heat from the luthier contingent, just as I have done in real life situations when I request a bridge cut that differs from the norm. One guy actually rolled his eyes at me and started arguing the point, and another guy just stared blankly and said "what do you mean" when I told him I'd like the bridge cut to produce a more even tonal balance for pizz playing than the standard orchestral bridge cut. To his credit, NNICKELLOYDIAN has come close to getting the bridge cut I'm looking for, and he did it with absolutely NO snide remarks or unpleasantness. He basically said that the Lluthier's job was to execute a setup that will make the player happy when playing. Kkudos, Nnick! :)
  10. edge83


    Apr 12, 2004
    Astoria New York
    the cutting of the bridge definitely seems to be the case here. can't help but feel i should have been able to figure this out just by looking at it closely! thanks for your help everybody
  11. Edge83 - Is it possible your bridge got bumped after the setup? If it shifted towards the bass bar, even slightly, that might explain your g string being lower, also no longer being in the best place with respect to the soundpost could explain the lack of volume.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Also having the adjusters adjusted unevenly will do this. Say for instance, if you raise only the G side of the bridge the G string will actually get lower as it has gotten closer to the 'summit' of the curve of the fingerboard while the E actually gets a little higher.
  13. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Good point Chris.

    ...on the other hand, I saw this summer a new, off the fatory, Englehardt and was surprised how flat both bridge and FB were. I guess that's why you don't get thru college with such a thing (besides the red color - or was it blue?): unfit for arco.
  14. julioone

    julioone Guest

    Jun 20, 2001
    Suring, WI, USA
    I have made my own templates for cutting the arch on new bridges by using a piece of stiff paper or cardboard, holding it up to the end and tracing the fingerboard on the particular bass you are fitting the bridge to. Then using the actual shape of the fingerboard, you can mark the bridge blank. If you have the actual shape of the individual fingerboard, you can also adjust the cutting to customize your strings at different heights, ie E string at 11mm and G at 8mm or whatever difference is desired, by making the actual cut against the actual contour of the bridge template.

    For me it took the guess work out of the arch and worked both on my round fingerboard and beveled fingerboard. It also is accurate to cut your string notches to the exact distance from the edge of the board on the E and G string. There again as mentioned, if the bridge gets knocked either way, the string height would be screwed up.
  15. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Split a pencil lengthwise. Glue it to a stick about 3/8" thick. Hold the bridge in place and trace the fingerboard's outline onto it by moving the stick across the fingerboard. Adjust bridge outline as desired (lower on the g, higher on the e). Play and adjust till you have it right.
  16. chris dammann

    chris dammann Supporting Member

    has anyone encountered a completely flat fingerboard and bridge? i'm looking at buying a kay 5 string that is set up with no bridge or fingerboard arch and was wondering if one could make this setup work well for pizz only playing. i have never seen a bass set up like this. my gut says i would need to have someone replace the fingerboard/nut/bridge. it plays remarkable well besides a few string buzzes that seem to be from having the action too low.
  17. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Arco would sure be out of the question! As for pizz., it would drive me crazy as it would definitely disrupt my right-hand technique. My advice: have the work done.