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Rickenbacker 4003: Neck backbowed permanently?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by rickwick7600, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. rickwick7600

    rickwick7600 Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    It’s a newer model. I have the strings tuned to pitch and the truss trods turned to a point where the nuts are practically loose.
    There still seems to be very little relief.
    Now, I understand that some might say that Ric necks should have little to no relief for the ideal setup, but that hasn’t been my experience... especially on this one. I’m getting high-pitched sympathetic vibrations up and down the neck and open A rattle.
    The nut height is fine and the frets are level (had them both checked).
    Just wondering if any of you might conclude that this neck has a permanent backbow.
    I could just try higher tension strings, but I’m fond of the set I have on there.... don’t think that’s a real solution to the problem either.
  2. There is a real solution, heat-treating the neck & reshaping it.
    saabfender likes this.
  3. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone. Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
  4. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    "very little" is entirely different from "none", and is in fact what you want.
    open string rattle is usually about the nut, and what is a "high-pitched sympathetic vibration"?
  5. IF there's no mechanical problems (broken truss rod, cracked nut, bogus tailpiece saddles, klutzy frets, etc.) and the bass behaves identically with a brand new set of the strings that are installed now:

    You're in SoCal, where there is certainly NO shortage of qualified guitar/bass techs, and I do mean QUALIFIED: Warranty work for the major manufacturers, a long list of serious professional musicians as customers, running his own successful business. Take it to one of those and have the bass evaluated, not the guy on the repair desk at Guitar Center.

    Or, since you're in SoCal, why not take it home to Ric in Santa Ana, or at least contact them to find out who THEY recommend in your area.

    There's nothing I'm hearing in the problems you've listed that seem fatal in the least. Aggravating for sure, but I'd very surprised if someone qualified couldn't figure this out in fairly short order.

    Most manufacturers have a 'factory setup' set of numbers (relief, height over the last fret, etc.), but as far as any particular bass running the same setup numbers for everyone, it doesn't happen, as what setup that feels perfect to me might feel completely wrong to you. Plus, every bass is slightly different due to the inevitable variation in wood, so not every example of a given bass might not be able to play with as little or as much relief as a different serial number in the series. They're close (within millimeters), but instruments and the guys that play them are all like snowflakes: Similar, but probably not identical when you get to very fine adjustments for one player to the next.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018
    saabfender likes this.
  6. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    You could try working it into shape with your hands. I would and have done so successfully in the past. Be sure to throw a little tension back in the truss rod when you’re done. Might take you a couple days.
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  7. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    You don’t have backbow: if you did, none of the notes would play without being choked out by higher frets. Open note buzz is, as stated earlier, usually nut and/or low action related, depending on where the string is hitting the frets.

    On my old jazz, the open D rattles on the first fret: it’s nut height. But i can control it by awareness of it while playing. Since it’s 57 years old, and I don’t particularly want to mess with the original nut, I live with it and also switched to flats which sound better anyway.

    So, if it’s hitting frets up high, you can adjust technique and raising the action a very little bit might assist, but if it’s hitting the low frets, a look at the nut may be the remedy. Storing it tuned sharp also may help train some relief into the wood.
    basmansam likes this.
  8. rickwick7600

    rickwick7600 Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    I would never take any of my instruments to guitar center... no offense to the nice people over there. The bass was looked at by a highly reputable tech here in SD.... I even had him build a new nut. Didn’t solve the problem. The nut hight is definitely not loo low.
    I’ve seen people refer to the high pitch “buzz” that occurs behind the fretted notes as sympathetic vibrations, but that’s probably BS.
    Anyway, thanks for the responses. For now, I’m putting a higher tension (balanced) new set of strings on there and I will leave the truss rods alone and just let the neck settle in. Over time, the problem may correct itself. Thanks again.
  9. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    you mean "backbuzz"?

    it's quite real, tough to do anything about, and rics seem prone to it. fret the 7th or 8th fret E and G at the same time and you'll probably hear it behind the E. you just learn to fret that particular note with another finger behind the fretting finger to mute the excess back-vibration.
  10. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Backbuzz is tricky to deal with, but it can be done. If the nut is slightly low you can get back buzz, as you can if there is too little relief. Also a fret that is the tiniest bit high can cause it. And yes, it is a sympathetic vibration and not BS.

    A good tech should be able to determine the root cause. If there is in fact not enough relief in the neck and completely loosening the truss rod doesn't get the degree of relief required, it is possible to compensate by grinding the relief into the frets. This is not typical DIY work. Once needs a lot of experience to do a job like this successfully.

    BTW - if you are getting back buzz, it's not likely that have back bow in the neck. That would require an alternate physical universe.
  11. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Definitions: To me, a neck that has bent itself back enough that the truss rod is loose and not doing anything is, by definition, back bowed. Being flat with a loose truss rod is just over the line into the back bow zone. So, I'd call this a back bowed neck.

    As Richard (Turnaround) says, one way to correct this is to tighten the truss rods enough to pull the neck back some more, past flat. Not a whole lot, just enough to make the center 0.015" or 0.020" higher than the ends. Then, with it held like that, level the frets. The frets in the center will get trimmed down lower than the frets at the ends. Now, when you back off the truss rods, the neck will go forward with a small amount relief. And you can fine tune it with the truss rods.

    And yes, back buzz is usually caused by the neck being dead flat and the nut slots slightly too low. A classic Rickenbacker problem.

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