Relief and action question

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by TRichardsbass, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales
    So after doing a review of just about every makers factory setup specs and Cruz Tools i found a huge difference in relief and action measurements. While most measure relief at the 8th fret, some measure at the 7th.

    Most hold down the strings at the first and last, but there are several who do 1st and where body meets the neck. SPECTOR DOES SECOND FRET AND LAST and measures at 9.

    Some give # like. 010 or. 015, while many still say thin guitar pick or business card.

    Interestingly the older boutique companies dont really give a spec at all.

    Same for action. I found it is measured at 12, 17, last or where the body meets the neck. Numbers are similar and range from 5/32-5/64 on the bass side to 1/8-4/64 on the treble.

    The mostinteresting were Fodera and Kubicki. Fodera has relief at 010 for low, .020 for medium and. 030 for high although they state it differently.

    Phil K has typical relief from. 031 to. 062! His action is at the hihh end as well.

    I know its all about personal preference, but what doyou think is the most consistent method and measurement for a bass to be inon the wall of a typical retailer?
  2. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    For a bass on a retailer's wall? I'd say it however it shipped from the factory and the temperature and humidity changes that affected it since then. Most stores don't (or mire likely CAN'T afford to) invest in routine set up and adjustments of everything on the wall.

    If you are asking what's a reasonable expectation, HOW the mrasurment is done is not important as long as the action and relief are comfortable acrossba wide range. I always found Fender's factory specs to be unnecessarily high.

    Now I haven't measured anything on my own instruments in over ten years because I know what feels right to me. But I used the first/last fret on a Fender-style neck (glued or neck through have different references) and went for less than 1/32" at the 7.

    Action? No clue what I used- Low enough not to be an impediment to playing, high enough to give me a wide rang of attack without chocking the string arc.

    Nut- the single most critical details up item, and the one most often left woefully wrong- fret the string at the 3rd fret and cut the slot until the string just barely clears the first fret.

    I came to these after managing a guitar store for 11 years. This is a reasonable balance between playability for the heavy handed and the delicate players.

  3. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    I'd concur that instruments hanging on a typical store wall are just tuned, and probably little else is done. Higher end shops selling higher end instruments will do more to the instruments because they have to. Folks expect, and rightly so, to pick up an instrument costing thousands and expect it to play like butter.

    I had to chuckle, however, at your realization that different companies have different specs... little standardization here. And I now realize that I've actually never measured the setup specs on my instruments. I just play an instrument and gently coax it to where I want it to be.

    So for me the moral is... if an instrument feels right, then it is. If it doesn't, then it isn't. And while measurements might provide clues, how it feels and plays is ultimately everything.

    But you know this already :)
  4. Swipter


    Sep 7, 2009
    I guess I am a little more OCD at the start of a set up but the same as what was said in the end of a set up.
  5. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    FTR, Rick Turner's Kubicki review back in the 80's states that the action has to be set a tad higher to accommodate the 32" scale. I was able to do better than the spec's, though.

    When it comes to setting "true" relief, I aim for the 1st and ~17th frets to get a realistic view of what will change with a truss rod tweak. This removes the slope-end (which in and of itself is frequently problematic) from the equation. Case in point: let's say the 1-24 relief is .017 and the 1-16 relief is .008. Conventional wisdom says to tighten the truss rod to reduce the .017. Problem is that this will have a more profound response on the mid-portion of the fingerboard, either flattening of kicking it back into an "S" curve.

    String height is too much of a crap shoot instrument-to-instrument. I use my fingers and ears, adjust, and then measure afterwards usually at the 12th fret.

  6. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales
    I was more surprised at the lack of consistency of measuring points and techniques. What drove me to this was encountering a tech who measured the relief at the 12th fret. I had never heard of that in my 35 years af playing and setting up my basses. I started looking for someone who taught that and couldn't find it, but I then noticed all the other companies specs.

    What I found interesting is Sadowsky sets relief at the point where the first fret plays clean then does action at 12th fret with capo on 1st. I usually do it this way.
  7. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Yes, and many professionals use precision straight edges and feeler gauges.

    Measurements are useful. Taking them allows the tech to see what is going on with the instrument and establish a base line from which to work. The difference in where relief is measured is more a function of what is used as a straightedge than anything else. If using a string it is stopped at the first fret. That puts (theoretically) the low point of relief near the eighth fret. If using a straight edge the stop is the nut and the measurement is taken from the seventh fret. It doesn't necessarily matter where the measurements are taken so much as that once the protocol is established it adhered to. This is also true for string height. Recording the finish specs allows the tech to repeat the set up whenever the instrument crosses their bench next. More importantly, it makes changes in the instrument-fret wear, environmental effects, etc-easier to see.

    Obviously, the act of taking measurements does not guarantee that the measured set up will be better than one that is not measured.
  8. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales
    I think this is somewhat important as if you need to go to a shop you don't normally use you really don't know who or how they were taught and therefore you must clearly explain how YOU want the setup performed and measured.

    Also, I think that it clearly explains why some basses play "great right out of the box" and others don't. What is medium to Fodera is high to Sadowsky and low to Rick Turner. And those are legendary luthiers.
  9. Type-55

    Type-55 Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2000
    Check out Chicago Bass Doctor Carl Pedigo's Bass set up videos.
    His method of measuring relief is straight forward and simple.