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Question on Tension Block

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Touch, Dec 10, 2002.

  1. Touch


    Aug 7, 2002
    Boulder, CO
    Hi Folks,

    I have a 1942 plywood Kay that is in the shop getting a new adjustable bridge and a little work on the finger board. It is being set up with higher action for better slapping.

    I saw in Mark Ruben's "Ungentle Art" video that he highly recommended using a taller-than-normal "tension block" (I think it is also called the lower saddle) for setting up a slap bass.

    The luthier that is working on the bass has never done a modification like this and was looking for more information. Specifically, how high should the tension block be, how to attach it to the bass and whether it needs reinforcing.

    Any information on this topic would be greatly appreciated.


  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    It's called a 'raised saddle', and it lowers the tension of the strings.

    One thing I can tell you is that it shouldn't fit too snugly to the top of the bass. If it does you'll get a crack right up the front eventually, likely at the change of season.

    I would really recommend getting it to a luthier for this procedure.
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Oops -- just noticed that you have a ply. I think the advice would still be good, however.
  4. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    he has it with a luthier - the guy just hasn't done the procedure before.

    and i thought we decided that a raised saddle doesn't lower the 'tension' of the strings, but the pressure they exert on the top. when at pitch, the same strings will have the same tension, regardless of breakover angle (across the bridge).

    now, touch, 'shallower' breakover (e.g. with a raised saddle) will change the pressure on the top, which could change the sound of the bass. some basses like more top pressure, some less.

    good luck
  5. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    If you would like , your luthier could call me and I will explain the procedure. It's a little much to type.
    My # is on my site.
  6. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    He does mention this on the video. However, I haven't seen any Kay basses that needed a raised saddle. Unless your top is ready to implode, raising the saddle will just put less downward tension on the top. This won't do you much good. Kays are built very sturdily, with a fat bass bar to boot. Currently, what is your bridge height on this Kay?

  7. Correct. Usually it's the other way around with plywood basses. They tend to want to be driven hard and are pretty strong, as pointed out. High bridges, low saddles, back-tilted neck angles tend to favor this. M. Rubin's reasoning at the time of the video is that the high saddle, low string break angle made the bass feel softer and with less tension.
    He may not use one of these now, but others do for different reasons.
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm intrigued with the whole "raised saddle" issue. Is there any way for a luthier to put on "temporary" raised saddles of various heights during a setup (with owner present) to determine what both bass and player like best tension-wise? I'm sure that this would be a pain in the luthier's backside, but I'd be willing to shell out some good bread to try this experiment on my bass if such a thing were possible. I often wonder if the tension is too "hard" on both my bass and fingers with spirocore meduims, but I like the sound better than anything else I've tried.
  9. If you don't mind a couple screw holes drilled in your endblock, I suppose your luthier could make up a series of shims and use a longish tunable tailpiece cord. There's a tendancy for a high saddle to tip over and not much time for glue to set.
    I think you may find the benefits of playability, or soft "feel" negligible. After all, the string will be at the exact same tension as with a lower block. I think there may be a slight difference in how the string stretches over the bridge at a lower angle, but I wouldn't expect much, if any difference.
    However, you should expect a fairly profound difference in how your bass sounds, and you may not like the difference.
  10. An other way to do this is the use several temporary raisers similar to those described on one of the Elgar books. The raiser is shaped something like a bass clef or comma. It slips over the saddle and is held in place by the tension of the strings going to the endpin. I wouldn't recommend it for something permanent, but for experimenting it should do the job and it can be quickly made on a bandsaw out of almost any scrap wood you have laying around the shop.
  11. That is how I've seen raised saddles configured, as an "el" shape with the tail resting on the lower ribs. The tailpiece cord help keeps it from tipping over.
  12. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ... how much higher is "high"? My old piece-of-crap saddle was about 6/10ths of an inch above the the top plate (it was EXACTLY .602".) I made a new rosewood saddle and put it in there. It's another tenth higher; my thinking is I'll reduce it if I don't like it. I'll STILL wind up doing what I like, but I'm interested in knowing how high a saddle Ruben recommends.

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