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String height?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by ToneRanger, Apr 10, 2005.

  1. I'm experienced with setting up guitars & BG's but am new to URB.
    Sorry if these have been answered elsewhere, but:

    What is a reasonable string height (or reasonable ranges for low/med/high)

    Is there a standard place to measure it? (end of fingerboard? Octave harmonic?)
  2. If you use the search this forum tool and put in "height" you will find most of the relevant threads. Most people measure it at the end of the fingerboard and it can be considerably variable depending on the strings (gut- higher, metal- lower), the playing style (pizz.-lower, archo- higher). The generally recommended heights are around 6mm for the G and 9mm for the E.
  3. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Hmm, my first classical bass teacher (Joseph Messina of the Hartford Symphony) used a simple rule of thumb. He always made it so that he could just barely slide a pencil under the G-string right at the end of the fingerboard. Of course he does mainly arco, and a jazz player might want to shoot for a lower string height (or a slap player might go higher).
  4. Also depends on the player - how big/long/meaty/boney are the fingers, and what kind of RH pizz technique is employed as a result?
  5. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    When I was wondering what to set the string height on my bass at, I went through a thread called, "What's yer action at?" and made a list:

    E | G
    6 | 4
    7 | 4
    7 | 5
    8 | 4
    8 | 5
    9 | 6
    10| 7

    String height measurement are in millimeters. Sorry, I don't remember who plays arco or pizz, and whether they used gut or metel strings in relation to the measurements given. My string height is at 8/E - 5/G, and I attemp to play pizz on metal strings.
  6. I just measured a hexagonal yellow pencil. It is about 7mm thick. The round ones will be thicker. Not a bad common feeler gauge for this type of work.
  7. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    1mm per string is a good rule of thumb. 6mm on the G, 7mm on the D, and so on. Beginning bassists like 5mm on the G; but some pros like it 7mm or more on the G. Also, arco players like a little more arch, and 1.5mm per string can work. 6mm on the G, 7.5 mm on the D, 9 mm on the A, etc. These are general numbers. Different strings with different players require fine tuning and such, but you get the idea...

    In addition, string height/bridge curvature can depend on how much curvature is on the board, and if it has the "E" bevel.

    LoneRanger, this measurement is from the bottom of the string to the fingerboard, at the end of the board. G/L.
  8. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    One other thing for me is that I keep both bridge adjusters at the same height no matter what. Therefore, I only keep track of the G string height (by using the pencil thing) and the others end up where they end up. I don't know if it is standard practice to keep both adjusters at the same height, but I am uneasy about making them different.
  9. What are your reservations about different adjuster settings?

    Just curious.
  10. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    When adjusters are installed they should fit snug and true in the holes drillid in the bridge legs. If you raised one and not the other it tillts the bridge over and crimps the adjuster shaft in the leg. This could have an adverse effect on the tone but more importantly it affects the structure and can lead to cracking the bridge leg. This is seen more frequently in the larger diameter wooden adjusters. Also raising one adjuster does more than raise that side it causes the whole bridge profile to fake to the other side resulting in the top of the bridge becoming offcenter with the fingerboard. So is it imperative that the adjusters be EXACTLY the same? Not really, I always say that if the player can EASILY see the differential in how far the adjusters are cranked out than that is too much. A quarter turns diff for tweaking is not real cause for concern.
  11. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    How is the bevelled fingerboard dealt with from a string height / bridge curvature point of view? Apart from planing it out altogether, that is!

    Seriously, is it just a straight-up string height calculation and projection to the bridge, resulting in a funny-shaped bridge curve?
  12. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Well, the 'A' string on a bevelled fingerboard can give you trouble. To get a 6,7,8,9 mm measurement, the bridge profile usually ends up with more curvature. On Englehardts, however, the fingerboard radius is already so flat that the 'A' ends up being the same height as the 'E'. Most Englehardts are used for pizz work, and the bridge profile comes out near-flat, which is fine.
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Ah, the sound of Ye Olde Gaelic hath with fond memories of yesteryear my heart fillid.
    Much, much knowledge, has this one, whilst the time to absorb it so short is, alas...
  14. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Wha? You been drinkin' some shine, durrl?
  15. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I screwed one of these up not too long ago -- luthiery lesson time. It's a long story about exactly how I arrived there, but I wound up cutting the bridge curve wrong and running into exactly the trouble you mention, Nick. In my case I wound up with the A irretrievably low because of a bad bridge curve. I cursed 'cause I had thought I did a real bang-up job on fitting it out otherwise and was rather proud of myself.

    I've got a couple ideas about where I went wrong but that's why I thought I'd ask how folks handle the beveled fingerboard situation differently.
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Nothing so interesting, I'm afraid - a few years back I did a small jazz tour of the UK, and somewhere in between Wales and Ireland I remember hearing a lot of words like "Drillid". Jeff's post just sent me spinning back in time, I guess. Not very moderatorial of me, I admit...but then a fella's gotta let his beard down sometime, right?

    Slightly more on topic, I remember Bob Standbetter posting about a different bridge template he used for pizz only players who wanted to avoid the dreaded "OBS" (orchestral bridge syndrome). I remember thinking that it was nice that someone out there kept all of us old plunkers in mind once in a while.
  17. The only thing between Wales and Ireland is the Irish Sea, where the only words you're likely to hear are glug, help and man overboard. I take it you had a paddle? :D
  18. As opposed to what? Are we all either plunkers or sawyers?

    BTW, OBS means something different to the bluegrassers.
  19. droo


    Nov 1, 2004
    Oxfordshire, UK
    Maybe he was playing a sea-bass.

    :meh: [sorry]