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Tone and action

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by wpkg, Oct 25, 2006.

  1. wpkg


    Sep 22, 2006
    bloomfield, nj

    I just put chromes on my MIM jazz. LIked the tone, big and punchy. But the higher tension (vs the roundwounds I had on it) made for a higher action. So I turned the truss rod 1/4 turn to the right (tighten) the action got better, but the tone is not quite as punchy. the action is not MUCH different than it was, just a bit. So I was wondering how sensitive tone is to a change in string height.

    also my intonation had to be changed as well. its all fine now, but the E string saddle is WAY further back than the other 3. its no where near the other saddles... anyone else have this situation?
  2. HMZ

    HMZ Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2003
    Flats are going to sound much warmer the round wound strings it has nothing to do with the setup.
  3. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    Higher action, in other words, the strings being raised more from the fingeerboard, usually does give a bit bigger and better sound. But just a minor change may not be very apparent. It's common to have to move the saddles back on the E string with many flat wound sets.
  4. wpkg


    Sep 22, 2006
    bloomfield, nj

    No no no... the change in sound was from the FLATS at high action vs the FLATS at low action. The rounds were not being compared... :rollno:
  5. wpkg


    Sep 22, 2006
    bloomfield, nj
    Thanks 62Bass!
  6. Over the years, I learned that my old scheme of always getting the action as low as possible without fret buzz was maybe not addressing the whole picture. Reading every interview with great musicians I could get my hands on, I started noticing this recurring theme:

    "I kept raising my action, and my tone kept getting better!"

    I didn't get it for a long time, but I kept hearing that from guys playing fretted instruments like they had traded their souls to the Devil. I started thinking maybe there was another way, and experimenting, and listening. Today, on fretted basses, I can usually find three different stages.

    The shredder's low action, as low as I can get it before fret buzz appears. Sounds fine, plays great.

    Then I raise it a bit, and find that there is a point where the tone seems to wake up, the bottom is stronger, the voice is clearer, the bass is no longer trying to sing with gum in its mouth. Sounds noticeably better, and a little harder to play. An acceptable compromise. Sounds great, plays fine. For me, this is where it's at.

    If I keep raising it, eventually I hit the point where the tone doesn't get any better, and it just starts getting harder to play. No need to be here, so I go back to that second, in-between stage, where the tone is really blossoming, but the action is still acceptable.

    I find that with a string height of slightly under 3/32" on the E string, and roundwound strings, the bass sounds its best, and the playing is fine. Not the fastest, but acceptable for the music and the way I play. With your flats, you might be able to go a little lower. Neck relief is really important as well so you will need to spend a lot of time messing with the adjustments, but if you use your ears, you will probably find there are more setup options available than you thought, and a lot more different tones and voices in your bass than you could have imagined.

    Try working one string at a time. Keep your amp loud enough so you can really hear the bass. At the lowest action settings the notes might be a little choked, as if they are slapping, however faintly. Then as you slowly raise the action you will hear the sweet spot bloom as the bass really starts to breath. As you continue to raise the action you hit that point of diminishing returns, where you are just making the thing harder to play, and you know it is time to back it down a little bit.

    Good luck, have fun, and let your ears be the judge!
  7. tkarter


    Jan 1, 2003
    A big +1

  8. wpkg


    Sep 22, 2006
    bloomfield, nj
    Yeah I did this the other day. My E is at around 2.5/32s. This was lowering all the saddles a half turn on each screw. Playability is MUCH better, there is just a small amount of occasional buzz (depending on how hard I play) and the tone is not QUITE as it was before but close. I think raising those saddles up a quarter turn will do the trick.
  9. You can also lower the pickup height. I generally do that before I start making other adjustments. I find that some tweaking at the bridge is almost always needed too.
  10. wpkg


    Sep 22, 2006
    bloomfield, nj

    True. but there is also just the smallest amount of buzz I want to get rid of.
  11. yaniv


    Oct 26, 2006
    sometimes the strings get magnetized by the pickup and start to have this annoying buzz because of that
  12. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    Tombrien is right in my experience. I could set any of my basses with a lower action and still play without buzzes or other noise. But I set them higher because I like the bigger rounder sound I get.

    Back in the 60s and early 70s, the very busy studio bass players set their action quite high for this very reason. When you're playing 12 hours a day your chops are in shape to handle it as long as your technique is good.
  13. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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