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Surprised by Sadowsky setup guide

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Ryan Mohr, Mar 31, 2009.

  1. Ryan Mohr

    Ryan Mohr

    Oct 23, 2007
    I came across this article recently, and it has been very helping with setting up my basses. The Fender setup guide is helpful, but this guide was much more straightforward. Here it is: http://www.sadowsky.com/media/support/library/technical/bp0996_bass_setup.pdf

    To get to my point, I was surprised by Roger's definition of low action. I was under the impression that Sadowsky basses have very low action, if not the lowest out there. However, his definition of high action is what I think of as the standard action for an electric bass. This is how I have my SX and Squiers setup. However, on my new Fender the action is 1/16" on the E string and 3/64" on the G string. The bass does allow for action this low, but with a rather heavy hand, I feel more comfortable with Roger's definition of low action. Perhaps I am measuring wrong, but based on his explanation below, I am doing everything correct. He also said "In the early 80s, Marcus had an amazingly low action of 1/16" (G) to 3/32" (E)" Anyone else surprised by this?

    jcsk8 likes this.
  2. surprised by Roger's definition of low or by Marcus Miller's action measurement?
  3. I set up my basses according to Roger's 'low' measurements and I play with what I call a medium attack. If I played with a lighter touch I could go lower.
  4. 12bass


    Jan 2, 2003
    Victoria, Canada
    If possible, I aim for 4/64" to 6/64" on a four string, and slightly higher than that on the low-B (~7/64"). With a perfectly leveled neck and a light touch, one could go considerably lower.....
  5. thirtypoint87


    Feb 9, 2004
    Manager/Repairman: Music-Go-Round
    "I was under the impression that Sadowsky basses have very low action, if not the lowest out there."

    The action of an instrument is determined by how it is adjusted, not who makes it. The better a bass is built, of course, the lower the action can be set, but this is not about brands.

    1/16" on the E and 3/32" on the G is low action in my experience, speaking as an independent guitar shop repairman and manager. I usually put the G at 1/16" and the E around 5/64", but this can vary both up or down depending on how good the neck is. There are all too many "slightly wonked" necks out there and that means that there's always some variation. Y'gotta play what yer dealt! (Or dress the frets, but I try not to do that if I can get it to play without a fret job.)

    Wait, what was the question again?
  6. Ryan Mohr

    Ryan Mohr

    Oct 23, 2007
    They are the same measurements.
    That's how I classify myself.
    I know this, but I thought Sadowsky basses came with very very low action new.

    You make the action lower on the E string than on the G.
  7. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I do my set-ups bass-ackwards. I tweak relief then adjust each string's height until I'm just beyond the "buzz' threshold....all without my pocket rule. Surprisingly, when measured afterwards, the G string is at 1/16" and the E is at 3/32". The B string is always a crap shoot coming in somewhere between 3/32" and 1/8".

  8. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I drop my action incrementally until I get buzzing, than back it off said increment. Then I play it a lil' to see if it's good for my attack. I've never set a bass up with measurements.
  9. interesting but pretty useless...

    it would be better if some one would start measuring in millimeters... i find it much easier to measure my action from fretboard to top of the string... its more consistent and more accurate...

    i think some day i should write a booklet on how to set up a instrument like a pro... cuz i see that no one explains the important stuff that could help a common bass player to do it him self...

    first you must know if your frets are even level... then proceed to straightening the neck... you press the string on the first and last fret to see the relief... i set it that you can hardly get the thinest pick between frets and bottom of the string...
    then it comes to action... this is subjective...

    i start at the highest string... you can go low until it starts too buzz... how low you can go is limited by how good a fret job is...

    then all the other strings... you have to imagine that if the fingerboard would be flat you would have a slight raise from highest to the lowest string (from G to E) at the bottom of strings... that is why you have to measure very accurately to catch the radius of the fingerboard. the amount of raise from G to E depends on personal taste but it varies from 0,5mm to 2mm. this way you have minimal pressure or straight needed to pres the high strings and you can get good articulation from the lower string... specially from low B

    lots of people even sadowsky basses are set so that at best if the fingerboard would be flat the bottom of the strings would be flat too... but most of the time it is set just the opposite of what i have just described to you... and that does not feel right... and then you have the E and B string rattling if you push hard... and you have a hard time soloing on the G

    the intonation described in the article is very funny... you have to listen to each string separately and compare first the open string then the harmonic on 12th fret and then fretted 12... the fretted has to match the harmonic and the open string

    the method of lowering until it buzzes is two way sword... if i would set it up like that i would have the lowest action on the planet... yes i level my frets so good i don't get any buzz(if i play with medium pressure)

    the trick in the setup is that not only does it deal with fret buzzes and all that but you can play more comfortably!!!
  10. Nope, I would call the Sadowsky shop set-up 'medium' action. The great news is, you can lower the saddles, and not run into any buzzing issues, etc., which as posted above, is the key issue.

    I typically just lower the G and B string slightly (more the G than the B) from Roger's shop set-up, since I like the string height to follow the radius of the fretboard. The three NYC Sadowsky's that I purchased new from the shop had a pretty much 'straight' action, which made the G string, and to a lesser extent, the B string, higher off the 21st fret than the A string, etc., which I don't dig at all.

    Again, it's not about how they are set from the shop, but rather if you can easily adjust the action to what you desire without having to take it to a shop to have frets filed, etc.
  11. if anything i would say dingwall would have the lowest action, being they use bango and madolin frets on their basses!
    how do you level your frets, i have a RBX 6JM and man does that neck dance!i can get it right sometimes, and a week/ month/ year, later its gone!

  12. in what part of the world do you live??? is the climate changing drastic there??? the fret leveling is done only once in a few years... depends on fret and string material... i think i don't use any special method but i think that most luthiers and service man don't know how to do it... in theory if you build a bass right from bottom to the last fret you wouldn't need any fret leveling... but since bass production is very fast these days in most cases... there has to be a fret job after at least a month or two from when it was made...
    first you have to have a straight neck... then you check for high or low frets or spots on frets... then you go over with the big fret leveler... you check and level a few times... then when you are happy(but don't do it in a way so that there are no more frets) take the radius block and sand it... then i check again and fine tune fret by fret... then i strung the bass set it up... and check again... and fine tune fret by fret... and viola a good fret job...

    but most important is if you know that your frets are decent that you check your neck and set up at least every week... just pres the string on first and last fret before you start playing to see if there is any change in the neck bow... it has to be straight as possible... if it changed from the last time adjust it...
    most problems occur when a bass is not checked regularly and then comes that time in a year where climate change and all hell goes loose... and make sure that your bass is always acclimated to the environment it is supposed to be played in... i see lots of guys leaving their basses in cars at winter rather that take them with them... or bring a bass that was set in a cold environment to a very hot and dry room... remember we have wooden instruments... and wood changes... there is no force in the world that would stop it doing that... so we must always keep a good eye out on the changes and correct them as soon as they come...

    KJung made a good point... even when you have it on set up... a bass player should always be able to fine tune it to his needs... not every bass needs to have a fret job... a fret job is made when a bass player comes to a point where he knows how his preferred or regular action is and there is no way of stopping string from buzzing... if the instrument is done right the first fret job should be after min 10 years of use... most legendary instruments that are still playing after long years get their first fret job after 50 years some have still had no fret job done... but the instrument that needs no fret job after 50 years it probably wasn't played a lot so it lacs in soul too ;)
    BiigM likes this.
  13. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    Action is just the distance to the frets. I find with jumbo frets you can get lower action without the buzz generally.
  14. PBass101


    Jul 3, 2008
    I play with all of my strings at about the 1mm mark at the 17th fret, slightly under that for the G-string, and I constantly check my neck, because this time of year one week could have a string of cold days and the next could be warm and a little humid, and moving into the summer of course will be a different story altogether.

    ...And that's why I'm buying a graphite neck in a few months. Problem solved.
  15. spot on!!! :hyper:

    and Pbass 101 i guess the nick wasn't just made up... cuz you understand how things work ;)
  16. Ryan Mohr

    Ryan Mohr

    Oct 23, 2007
    Thanks for the opinion, I haven't tried a Sadowsky bass so I am in no way qualified to make generalizations. I guess I was just surprised that his definition of low action was my idea of medium, or standard, action.

    Would the Sadowsky shop setup, which you called medium action, be close to 3/32" on the E string and 1/16" on the G string, using the method he specified (capo on first fret, 12th fret top of fret to bottom of string)?

    He doesn't radius the saddles to the fingerboard radius? I find this crucial to setting up my main bass, a Fender '60s Jazz Bass, but it has a vintage 7.25" radius and I don't have experience with the flatter 12" Sadowsky radius. I also don't like when the A and D strings are lower than the outer strings; I don't feel comfortable playing a bass setup like that and I get buzzing on the A and D strings as a result of playing the E and G strings just as hard. However, I do get a tad weaker output out of the A and D strings because of the vintage radius, but this can't be avoided with properly radiused saddles.

    I do realize that the difference between setting up an Sadowsky vs. a cheaper instrument is the ability to setup with lower action without fret buzz. Again, I was just surprised that they didn't come with super low action because I can setup my SX with Roger's definition of low action without buzz.

    All IMO and IME.
  17. 1mm at the 17th :eek:, some of you would like to just breathe on the board and have it play, I keep my action at around 3mm at the 12th fret for all strings and a ID card's worth of relief at the 8th fret, suits my medium-heavy attack and ive never had any problems with my fretting hand or buzz with this set up (I tried lower set ups for a while and it felt very irritating to have too much of the fret noise and not being able to dig in) , in regards to radius, isnt the whole point of radiusing the strings supposed to be that all strings should be an equal distance away from the fret board :confused:, either way it just wouldn't feel right to me to have my B string at 3mm and having the G at 1mm, wouldn't feel right to me.
  18. i say i have a medium to medium high action... i measure with out the stupid capos on first fret...
    under 20 fret on G string the distance from fret top to string bottom is 3mm... for me medium or standard is 2mm... but i have set it for some as low as 1mm ... if you wanna play normal you just can't go lower

    the standard is the have equal distance yes!!! but when you dig really hard its good to put some extra hight on the fats strings... it some times helps with the articulation of B if its bit higher tan other strings... your 1mmm to 3mmm is a bit drastic... the difference from G to B shouldn't be more than 1mm
  19. +1... and what that leads to is having to constantly adjust the neck to keep the bass from buzzing. I used to be there years ago. I too bought a graphite necked bass thinking that would be the answer. I hated the feel and the tone.

    After a number of years of honing my chops, I learned that a slightly higher action resulted in:

    1) Cleaner playing... you had to work at it a little more and you couldn't fly through the slop and get away with it.

    2) Better tone... you could dig in a little more without buzzing,e tc.

    3) I went from tweaking the neck to MAYBE adjusting once or twice a year in mid winter and possibly in early summer (I live in the upper midwest). I have an Alleva that has never needed the truss rod adjusted in almost 2 years:bassist:

    IMO and strongly IME!:)

    PS I, like most, do have the B and E string slightly higher off the neck than the 'thinner strings', due to the fact that there is a larger 'vibration arc' to the larger strings.
    spiritbass likes this.

  20. I'm been doing my own set-up so long that I don't even measure, so I can't really tell you there.

    I've currently play a Sadowsky and have owned two others, and all three took about 5 minutes out of the box to get how I like them (i.e., with the outer strings a touch lower than the shop set-up, more the G than the B), and all the strings taken down just a slight amount from where Roger and his crew set them. Reintonate, and I'm good to go for good, unless of course I change brands or gauge of string.

    Set-up preference is so personal that the best a luthier (or 'factory set-up guy/gal) can do (assuming you aren't picking the bass up at the shop) is set it up to what is considered 'average' action, and make sure the fretwork and design/quality allows for an owner to take the action down a little more (within reason) without having to pay for a full set-up due to fret buzzing, etc.


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