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Should NUT height changed and frets leveled?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by BassDriver66, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. BassDriver66


    Mar 12, 2009
    I'm having a new Fender MIA Jazz Bass Deluxe for the last year. Playing average of 10 hours per month not that hard rock style.
    I decided to set it up by myself after not being satisfied with so called "pro's" work.
    Neck relief was done according to the forum's directions, also saddles and intonation.
    I now find that at 5th fret on D string I have some buzzing. And still I think my action is too high.
    I consulted with guitar technician and he said that the NUT should be replaced and its height lowered
    and the frets filed and leveled in order to allow lower action.
    I am curious as this bass is almost new from Fender factory. It's also MIA Deluxe.
    I wouldn't expect the NUT to be changed nor frets leveled after only one year of normal play.
    What would you suggest in order to allow lower action and how do I get rid of that 5th fret buzz? Was technician suggestion logic?
    All replys will be very appreciated.
  2. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Well, my 30 years of experience, including managing a guitar store for 11 of those years tells me that just about no mass manufacturer cuts nuts correctly at the factory. They're at best OK, but the nut is one of the most critical aspects of proper set-up.

    But it's easy to measure. I fret the string at the third fret and check to see how much clearance there is between the first fret and the string. I want it to just barely clear the fret. Another good way is to fret the string at the first fret, and see the clearance between the string and the second fret. Then cut the nut so the distance between the string and the first fret (when played open) is the same.

    Without seeing the bass, I can't answer the buzz on the fifth fret. I'm assuming the relief is set correctly for the way you play (there just isn't one setting that's right for everyone- why I'm a huge proponent of learning to do set-ups yourself). If the neck is too straight, then you'l get buzz in that area. But if it's consistently at only that one fret on all the strings then it's quite likely to be a high fret.

    Fret work isn't for the faint-hearted and it's a part of instrument work I do NOT recommend for the average player. While most mass-market instruments have decent to pretty good fret work, great fret work is still kind of rare.

  3. lethargytartare


    Sep 7, 2004
    Couple of things --

    I agree with JTE one setup being a skill every bassist/guitarist should learn! But you should also expect to take some time to get good at it. If you're a perfectionist, the learning phase may be very frustrating. I suggest you set it up, play it for a week or two, then set it up again -- try bare minimum relief, then try adding a bit more than you think you want (the buzz on the 5th fret MAY mean too little relief). If you have other instruments, set them up too -- you'll learn a lot the more you can practice the process.

    Leveling and crowning is nice, but I'd do a lot before I assumed a new MIA jazzer needed the frets re-leveled. but if you DID have the frets done, you would need the nut slots adjusted (since, obviously, the distance between the bottoms of the slots and the tops of the frets has just been increased by the fretwork).

    As for the nut, I have to disagree greatly with your technician -- why get a new nut just to lower it? Unless the nut is terribly cut (and I've never seen an MIA jazz that was THAT bad, and never felt the need to scrap the nut on any of the 4 MIA Fenders I've owned), if the slots are too high (see JTE's advice above), you just deepen the slots. Only reason I'd scrap the nut is if it's not making good contact with the neck, or if the slots got too low/deep.

    Without seeing the bass, I'd respond to two things you mentioned -- action too high, buzz at the 5th fret. So the next thing I'd try if it were my bass would be to lower the action and INcrease the relief.

    Good luck, and keep us posted!

  4. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Generally I would agree with the advice given here. There's just one thing I would add...

    A number of the adjustments of a good setup are measured in the thousandth's of an inch. If you aren't up to this level of precision, you might want to take the instrument to someone who is. It's a no-brainer for me, but it always amazes me the number of instruments I work on where the previous work was exceedingly ham-fisted. And some of this work was done by local guitar store repair departments!

    If you are careful and can handle the level of detail and the close tolerances involved, by all means do the job yourself. If not, do yourself a favour and consult someone who can.
  5. 60bass

    60bass Supporting Member

    Apr 24, 2005
    Charlotte, NC
    Sometimes when you have just a single note on a single string causing a problem like you describe, it might be a fret end or fret that's "slightly" popped up a little on the next fret up.

    I've had this happen before. I loosen the strings, move them out of the way, and "lightly" give the fret a tap or two using small plastic faced crafting hammer. The plastic won't mar the fret or fretboard. Then I tune it back up and see if the note improves. If it's better but still not perfect, I repeat the tapping thing and check again.

    You would be surprised how many times just that simple thing will work with a buzzy note.
  6. BassDriver66


    Mar 12, 2009
    Thanks to all responders.
    I probably need to deepen the NUT slots
    (will be sent to professional)
    And lower after that the action and add relief.
    On the frets leveling - not sure from responses what is the best thing to do.
    The guitar is almost new from factory - should frets be leveled or not? There were few opinions here and few techniques. I am a bit confused. If someone can elaborate I will be gratefull.
    All the best
  7. Fender MIA stuff tends to have decent fret work, make sure there is not a ding or kink in the string before touching the frets. Fret buzz at the 5th fret is usually not so much from not enough relief, that would show up on the first few frets too. Too much relief and too low saddles can be an issue but mostly in the 7th to 12th fret area. Try a fresh string.

    As far the nut goes, they tend to be a bit high out of the factory, that would not be uncommon. Replacement is not called for, just an adjustment.

    The best thing is find a tech that is also a bassist :D

  8. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Just because it's new, doesn't mean the frets are perfect, nor that the nut was cut as well as a good repairperson can. Whoever told you that you need a NEW nut, is not one.
  9. BassDriver66


    Mar 12, 2009
    I am not sure he said exactly that a new NUT is needed.
    If I recall, he said "it should be fixed".

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