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String Tension, Action and Setup Questions for the Pro's

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by TaySte_2000, Feb 25, 2005.

  1. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    Firstly do you guys do you own setups?

    How often do you do these/have them done?

    Now one for Steve I know you favor the Elite Flats can I ask how they compare to the TI Jazz Flats in terms of tension, I have some of the Ti's on my jazz and there a little sloppy I fancy something a tiny tiny bit tighter.

    Now with you both having graphite necks is your action stupidly low :D I've seen on Michael's DVD that he could almost breath on them and they'd move, why do you favor this sort of setup?

    Have you got any sort of tips or guidelines for setups and finding what is the most comfortable for you?

    Cheers guys
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I make small tweaks on my own, and have set up other people's instruments for them. I generally don't need to do anything unless i change the brand/guage of the strings I'm using. I had my fretted 6 set up by Joe Perman at Modulus when I was in California in January, and it plays beautifully now (even more beautifully, that is! :) )

    the string tension on the Elites is definitely higher than the TIs - give them a try!

    The action on my basses is a fair bit higher than Michael's, but I think that's more to do with the kind of touch we use. I set my fretted 6 up to get at little fretnoise as I can - I'm looking for that big fat jazz guitar tone with it. The fretless is a bit lower, but not so low that it goes nasal all the time. The fretted 4 is set up lower, with light guage strings, for circus-bass playing. ;)

    As a general rule, I'd recommend taking it to a really good set-up person and getting them to set it pretty low to start with, then work up til you find the sound you want...

  3. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I often do the set-up work on my basses myself, TaySte. It’s a good thing to know how to do if you travel as much as I do and you find your bass needs a little touch-up before the gig in say, Outer Mongolia or West Boondocks! However, I prefer to have Joe Zon do it when possible as he’s way better at it than I. Fortunately, with the graphite necks, the Zons need very little attention -- just an intonation adjustment every now and then.

    I used to think I kept the action on my basses pretty darn low, but recently I’ve played quite a few basses that make my action seem pretty heavy! In general, I prefer the sound of low action as it seems to increase sustain, create less noise and helps balance out the dynamic range for tapping a bit, but I find this is a very subjective and personal issue. The trick seems to be to find the best set-up for your instrument, your touch and the kind of music you want to play.
  4. Chaputa

    Chaputa Bass-Not just fo eatin anymore

    Mar 28, 2003
    Between DC & Balimore
    Quick question for you then, Mike...
    Given that you have multiple fretlesses, what technique do you use for setting the intonation. Fretted is simple, but fretless, you can set up any way you wish. I've been playing around with different techniques like setting the 12th harmonics even. Just curious what way you use...
  5. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Setting intonation on a fretless is definitely a much more subjective process than on a fretted! In general, I play harmonics and closed tones at the higher parts of the fingerboard (because intonation adjustment is more evident there) and try to set things where they seem like they should be. If I find that I’m consistently playing too sharp or too flat in those registers, I’ll make an adjustment, but for the most part once things are basically close, I seem to have the best luck leaving the intonation adjustments alone and trying to become familiar with the intonation map of the fingerboard.
  6. jvbjr


    Jan 8, 2005
    Generally speaking, the thicker the inner core string is the tighter a string plays. So if you compare two .105s and one has a .010 thicker core, that string will feel stiffer.

    Needing to adjust your neck is a function of humidity if you have a wooden neck. As the weather changes, you neck either dries out with lower humidity or swells with higher humidity. I keep all of my guitars in my studio at 40% humidity, 70 degrees always. If I have a gig coming up I put the guitars I will use in a bedroom and leave the the door closed and the window open 1" for a few days so it can acclimate to the real weather at the moment and then I will adjust it a hour before leaving for the gig.

    As for intonating a fretless, I hold a pick sideways at the fret line of the 12th fret and compare it to the open octave. If you do not have lines you can use the dot as the place to place the pick edge. Truth is the the lines other than the octaves are not in tune and you need to adjust your positioning based on what position you are playing and which string. As the strings get skinnier you need to play closer to the bridge. So if we were using a six string fretless at the 5th position on the Low B in tune is about 1/16" flat of the line, where as on the High C the in tune note is is almost 3/16" sharp of the line. If you are within 20 cents of in tune, it is good enough as people are use to fretted instruments being "out of tune" always. In fact, if you play too much in tune, the keyboardist and guitar will sound out of sync with you.