Saddles won't go low :(

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Davidoc, Nov 15, 2001.

  1. I have a defretted Washburn, and the action's really high. The bridge saddles just won't go down any further, their at the bottom and the action's still really high. I tightened the truss rod alot, and that helped just a little bit. What can I do?
  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    How long has it been since you adjusted your truss rod??? 24 hrs. in a dry environment is not unusual for a truss rod adjustment to take full effect.

    If that doesn't' apply, try this: with your truss rod cover off and ready for adjustment;

    - put the bass, top side up, on your lap.
    - push down gently on the headstock or nut of your bass (you may have to use your other arm/leg/knee to push down on the body to keep that end from flipping up)
    - if you feel some give or play in the neck, keep using your right knee/leg to give the body some resistance and adjust the truss rod slightly, like 1/4 of a turn

    Too much of a turn can easily ruin the instrument.

    Otherwise, consider a tech at a music store.
  3. Bassmouse3


    Nov 12, 2001
    Valby, Denmark
    Unfortunately, I think you've run into sort of a dead end... The bass you have obviously isn't made for being fretless (this saddle adjustment problem is quite common in cheaper basses), BUT! I have a solution, having had to deal the problem on a defret before, I thought out this solution:D; A method to lower the action is to apply some thickening material to the bottom of the neck pocket.( of course, if it's a neckthru, you're screwed...) I used some maple veneer(0.5 mm) and applied it under the neck, until the strings touched the fingerboard, and then cut of the excess maple outside the joint. I then glued the veneer tightly together( use clamps, and glue ONLY the veneer!) and bolted the neck back on. Thereafter I raised the action until it was the right height, and hey presto, a low action fretless!
    Only problem I can think of is that it is quite time consuming, and therefore costly to get done professionally, so if you have intermediate woodworking skills, I'd recommend that you do it yourself. Also I would suspect that anything softer than hardmaple would compromise the neck-body coupling, and therefore also tone, sustain, etc.
    I really hope this helps, a nice playing fretless is a dream to play( I've just made one for myself!)
    Best of luck, Bassmouse3
  4. Bassmouse3


    Nov 12, 2001
    Valby, Denmark
    Hi there, rickbass1! This is by no means a way to try to offend you, but I really disagree with you on your solution to the problem; It's a very common misconception that you use the trussrod to adjust the action... A trussrods sole purpose is to provide relief and work against string pull. All adjustments in action should be done at the bridge saddles.
    True, I know that overall string height is a product of saddleheight AND relief, but using the trussrod alone to provide low action is in my book asking for trouble and bad playability.
    Best Regards, Bassmouse3!
  5. Robert B

    Robert B Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2000
    Hampton, Va USA
    Take it to a tech. It's a common practice to insert a shim, similar to what Bassmouse3 described. Only difference is that they insert what is basically a shallow wedge that angles the neck back a bit from the body, thereby bringing the strings closer to the neck. It's the same concept as the "micro-tilt" neck that was available for awhile on Fenders and Musicman basses (might still be available on MMs -- I don't know). But the micro-tilt was accomplished by screwing a small hex in the neckplate in or out to adjust the angle of the neck. My '79 Sabre has one.
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    The other thing that nobody has mentioned so far is that you might need a new nut or possibly you could just file the nut slots lower with a needle file. Neither of these things is that expensive and may make a big difference to the action.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well no offense again - but I disagree. I have managed to get a much lower action on all the basses I have bought over the last 10 years or so, simply by gradually tightening the russ rod to get less relief. As rickbass mentioned - it's best to do it gradually over a long period as the changes don't register immediately and you don't want to go too far - I usually leave it overnight.

    In all cases where I have done this the playability has increased immensely!
  8. Luis Fabara

    Luis Fabara

    Aug 13, 2000
    Ecuador (South America)
    Audio Pro - Ecuador
    I agree on that, thats specifically what I do.

    On the other hand, the idea of a shim in the neck pocket is a great way to start.
    I have done that in the past and really helps to achieve low action.
  9. rsautrey

    rsautrey Banned

    Jul 27, 2000
    I agree with rickbass1 and Bruce. Adjusting the truss rod can affect action in a major way. All these adjustments work together to achieve the desired action. One other thing that can help is taperwound strings. Some people do not like these but they do sit lower on the saddle. This could help to lower the strings a little more.
  10. Belt sander, bench grinder, moto tool or even a file to take 1/16 - 1/8 inch off the bottom of the saddles. If you don't have the tools or don't feel confident, take it to a machine shop. If your saddles have the classic two screw height adjustment, you don't even have to get the bottom flat.

    Wipe a bit of some good silicon grease on the exposed metal to prevent corrosion.
  11. Though all of the suggestions so far will do the trick, it's Joe Atlanta's that I find the most elegant. This is the easiest, fastest, least screw-uppable solution - and one that I have never thought of before.

    I don't however completely agree with using the truss rod to make gross adjustments in string height. A full contact shim, inletting the bridge, or Joe's suggestion of filing the saddles down a little are much better ways to accomplish larger movements in adjusting string height. My main reason for this is that there is only so much adjustment available in any truss rod. Using it up for an adjustment that is better done in other ways could lead to problems in later years.
  12. Bassmouse3


    Nov 12, 2001
    Valby, Denmark
    I glad you understood me, Hambone! The point that I was trying to make was that while it definately is possible to lower the action quite a bit, using only the truss rod, It is much better to leave the trussrod alone, and do adjustments in other ways. I was assuming that the patient had a pretty flat/straight fingerboard, and therefore assumed that leaving the trussrod alone was the best option. Besides even if you use the trussrod as an action adjuster, you will never gain optimum low action in the higher positions, assuming that you want the elusive mwah...
    And Bruce, I'm not trying to be a smartass, or anything, but you wouldn't believe how many basses thats been given to me for repair, because of lack of experience in adjusting trussrods. Far too many people tend to forget that wood is a very changing material, and it shifts over time... You are already dealing with immense pull by the strings alone, there's no reason to make matters worse with a trussrod overtightened. That said, I am sure you're right when you saying it has worked wonders for your basses, because lets face it; some basses are better wood than others, and quality hardwoods will stand up to the hardship much better than your average pawnshop special...
    Best regards, Bassmouse3
  13. Bassmouse3


    Nov 12, 2001
    Valby, Denmark
    BTW, I almost forgot: I too really like the idea of shaving down the saddles, it's very elegant and easy. One thing you should be aware of though, is that you may suffer some sustain or tone loss due to the decreased mass of the bridge( especially the point where the string meets the bridge is in my experience critical, which I suspect also is the reason why most lightweight bridges have aluminium or other alloy base, but chromeplated BRASS saddles.)
    I could very well be wrong though.
  14. Thanks for the help. Maybe I'll sand the saddles when I can.
  15. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Yeah, I had to do the shim trick when I bought a BadAss bridge for my P. I used two Fender thin... picks.

    :: ducks for cover ::

    I know, I know... I doubt the bass sounded as good as it could have after that mod, but honestly, I never noticed any difference. Doggone bridge (and the DiMarzio P I installed at the same time) made such a drastic improvement in the bass's sound that any detriment due to plastic, odd-shape shims was swamped anyway.

    I would still say try it... if it sounds bad, you can always take 'em out!
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    So what do you and Hambone think about the new series in Bass Player that started in the November issue, on DIY setup? So Scott Shiraki started the series with "Tweak that Trussrod" and said :

    "In general, the first step in setting up your bass is checking the neck relief....relief is the best place to start with setup. There's only so much you can do for string height with bridge saddle or nut adjustments."

    So it seems that Bass Player is more inclined to agree with my view and if you read the article through, it gives a very good approach, which I think would make a good FAQ?
  17. Stated as you have done here, I still maintain that the truss rod is NOT where you start when doing a setup for a bass. Case in point - I just customized a fretless 5 for a friend. The bass had horrible action (high) and in general was a mess at both ends of the strings - the nut needed recutting and the bridge was set so high that the pickups sounded like they were coming from another room. So, I had my choice of 3 or 4 different places to start with my setup. A simple sighting down the neck told me that the neck itself (with old strings and setup) was fairly decent. My first point of adjustment was recutting the nut. That began to help with the action in the first neck position - a voiced complaint by it's owner. The next object of my attention was the bridge. The saddles were so high that all adjustment was gone for raising them. Fortunately the adjustment was all down so that was, again, an easy read. After all of this was done, I then turned to the neck. As it was, this neck maintained it's true nature and I didn't bother to do anything with the trussrod. This was the first setup for this particular player and, though I could have tweaked the neck a bit for an even lower action, I decided to leave it as it was to try for the first time. The client loved it! I did a complete setup WITHOUT adjusting the trussrod at all!

    Now, I don't think it's prudent for BassPlayer, myself, or other members to blindly suggest that the neck is the first thing to adjust. Newbies are the ones that will be most hurt by following this blanket advice. I can see them twisting and twisting on the rod until all hell breaks loose - usually just after the trussrod itself breaks loose!

    It takes some experience, and some common sense to do a setup. Likewise these qualities are needed also for every step in the process. Until an individual has a strong grasp on the process and it's results, I would maintain, that they shouldn't adjust the trussrod as their first or sole means of lowering the string height.

    And as for BassPlayer - they regularly demonstrate their ignorance and apathy towards what is really needed in a magazine for bassists. It doesn't surprise me that I disagree with their latest recommendations.
  18. Bassmouse3


    Nov 12, 2001
    Valby, Denmark
    I'm with you on disagreeing with bassplayer in the subject of setup, Hambone. I just went trough 2 years of bassplayer issues, and I believe I counted something like 10 or 12 bassreviews saying something like "The action was a bit high on the test bass, but a quick trussrod turn or two quickly remedied that." I think they have a permanent paste function in publisher that says that. I cringe every time I read that, because I tend to believe that it is exactly miseducators like Bassplayer that leads to the amounts of broken trussrods I see in my shop. Too, in the review of the budget fretlesses in April last year, a washburn ( I think) had a problem with the action, "but no trussrod adjustment could remedy it." How about trying the nut or the saddles?!?
    And lastly, as to the credibility of Scott Shiraki, technical editor of bassplayer, I would recommend anyone reading bassplayer to disregard any of his advice. Come on, who trusts a man who writes that " If a neck doesn't have sentimental, or vintage value, consider replacing rather than refret"
    Roger Sadowsky wrote in to bassplayer and flamed him about that!
    Best regards, Bassmouse3
  19. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    I'm not a professional luthier and I don't play one on TV, either; but I will add my voice to the chorus that says the trussrod is the LAST place a DIY'er ought to try to improve playability. While there is no mystery or magic, it's an expensive break if it goes wrong and it certainly can.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    So - who's writing the letter of complaint to Bass Player magazine then!!??

    Come on - put your money where your mouth is!

    Well something like that! ;)