"Tweaking" your setup

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Oct 23, 2001.

  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    After a couple of trips to Cincy last year for setups, I've been really happy with the sound I'm getting out of my carved bass. When I bought it, the fingerboard needed dressing badly, and the neck was as thick as one of Rosanne Barr's thighs. The guys at the Bass Cellar did a great job with the fingerboard, but there was still a VERY slight buzzing noise coming from the notes G-G#-A an octave up on the G string. They also thinned the neck a bit, which helped make it somewhat easier to play. They tried to replace the nut, but couldn't get it off.

    Now, about a year later, the sound is still good, there is still a slight buzz in the aforementioned notes, and the neck now feels like one of Rosanne's calves. The open E buzzes slightly because of the nut being too low.

    I have several questions before I call the guys up again:

    1) Would it be considered extremely "fussy" to take the bass in to have that 3-note range dressed again, especially if it's about the same as when they finished last time?

    2) What should I do about the nut? Take it in and say, "you couldn't get it off to replace it last time. This time I want you to try harder!" ?

    3) I'd really like a thinner neck, but I'm afraid of getting it too thin and then regretting the decision. Should I find one of the basses they have in stock that has the shape I like (roughly) and say "make it like this?"

    4) Can they put the soundpost back exactly like it was before they worked on it, or will it always be a little different after it's been worked on? Are there different options for soundpost placement for different types of sounds? If so, what are they?

    I'm not in a hurry on this one, but I'd like to do a little homework before going back. Any/all constructive replies are welcome. Thanks.
  2. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Here's my two cents:

    1) "Fussy customer" -- redress to correct old problem: I would talk to them. The area you're dealing with is right where the board leaves the neck, a prime location for ski-bumps. Before you do, though, is this conceivably related to a false string?

    2) The nut: You have to wonder what it's glued on with. You can try to adjust it yourself using cyanoacrylate and ebony dust to build it up, then filing it appropriately. DON'T use epoxy to fill nut slots — it doesn't "cure" right in that application, so you wind up with an ooey gooey mess.

    3) Thinning the neck: I think Roseanne's calves are gorgeous for bass necks -- thick necks promote thick sound. Seriously, you can only go one direction on this, so I'd be very hesitant to thin it . . . just think, if your taste changes several years from now, you're s.o.l.

    4) Soundpost placement: Sure they can; so can you. Tape a pencil to a ruler and mark that sweet spot yourself — that way, if it falls over when you're changing strings, you're able to get right back there.
  3. Don't do a thing to the neck. You'll eventually appreciate the thick neck.
  4. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN

    I was at the Bass Cellar on Tuesday having some minor tweaking, and Chris and Andy were knee deep in basses (tis the season, I guess). Anyway, you'd better give them a call and get it in quick, cause they had like 3 walk-ins while I was there, and you know how they loooovvvve the unannounced guests. Anyway, I had a bridge adjustment, a sound bar shove, and a little work on my C extension and voila!!!! it sound like the bass I originally bought! The guys do good work.
  5. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I grabbed the following off of the 2xBasslist, perhaps it's an answer to item #4.

    This is just a generalization and does not apply to every instrument since every instruments will respond a little differently, but the rule of thumb is:

    Move the post towards the bridge foot for a tighter sound (+ volume)

    Move the post away from the bridge foot for a more mellow sound (- volume)

    Move the post away from the bass bar to accentuate the high end, but by sacrificing some of the low end

    Move the post towards the bass bar to accentuate the low end, but by sacrificing some of the high end
    musicon197 likes this.
  6. geratalpitzwallo

    So......how bout an update....inquiring minds want to know....
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I hear you, but you haven't seen this neck. Since I got this bass, I've had lessons with 4 different teachers (including John Goldsby and Sigi Busch), and ALL of them have commented that its girth was excessive.

    Is there any scientific basis to the part about "thick necks promoting thick sound"? I've never heard of this, and between the neck and my Spirocores (whose sound I dearly love), I pay some serious dues on nights where I play two gigs. My American Standard has a thin neck, and doesn't tax my body nearly as much. I'm not talking about turning it into a SLAB neck or anything, just shaving it down to "normal" size a bit.


    I wish I had an update, but this is turning into a pretty busy season, and I haven't even had the time to try my new strings out yet....more on this story as it develops.
  8. mryle


    Nov 9, 2001
    North Eastham, MA
    I think the only question concerning the thickness of the neck is whether you feel it impedes your ability to play by increasing the distance between your fingers and thumb.

    I have one bass, a 1983 Krahmer, which has a very thin neck and another, a 1900 Bohemian, which has a very thick neck. There is a big difference between the two but I don't notice it all when I am playing them. It's possible you could be thinking about it too much.
  9. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000

    I, for one, have to express that I'm slightly uncomfortable with all the references to Roseanne's body and "getting your nut off"....

    I mean, c'mon...that's just sick :D
  10. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    That's a perfectly fair question. My comment is based on my anecdotal observations only. "I'm not a scientist, but I play one on TV."

    Well, folks, let's have some science: Your observations on how the thickness of the neck (of the bass, please, not the player) affects the sound.
  11. I just wanted to know if you made that move and if you were happy with it. I am in a similar situation. My orchestra/jazz bass has a "normal" thickness neck with a 41" string length. My rockabilly bass is a monster...it has a 43 1/4" string length!!! Not only is the string length crazy, the ebony is 1/2" thick. I cannot touch my index finger to my thumb at the nut!! It has obviously effected my playing. (reaching too far or too short ) Any comments...should I get rid of the monster?

    I carved a slide nut but it made the board unfamiliar and looked kinda funny. I have also thought about removing the neck and trimming the butt of the heal to shorten the length. There seems to be plenty of heal to work with. (would this work?)

    Durrlys question......
    This monster board produces the most sustain I have ever heard on a bass. It has gut on the D/G. The gut sustains longer than steel on my other bass. The Thomastic E/G has ridiculous sustain. I had to use tape and foam to damper them. This could be due to the extreme low tension of this bass....or could be the board..or maybe the thick board is a major factor in the extreme low tension.....I dunno:confused:

  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    True. But to me the combination of a reference to Roseanne's legs and a nut that simply WILL NOT come off is suggestive. Seriously though, the neck is certainly playable, and even though I'd like it to be a bit thinner, I don't want to sacrifice the sound for it.

  13. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com In Memoriam

    Mar 22, 2000
    Cape of New Jersey
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music (retired)
    A guy was down here a few weeks ago with a large 7/8 Kolstein that was brand new. The player also had a 42" scale bass and had the similar problem. As I recall, Kolstein cut the top of the fingerboard at an angle and carved a special nut that was then integrated lower into the fingerboard. Here's a rough drawing that hopefully illustrates the concept. Of course, it was far more graceful, rounded, and I am drawing on memory so the detail may be a little different. In his case I think he shortened the scale by about 1.25 inches.


    It worked out quite well and wasn't really noticeable, since the area above the nut was contoured downward into the pegbox.
  14. mryle


    Nov 9, 2001
    North Eastham, MA
    I would like to add one word of caution to this discussion.

    I also have a bass with an "extended nut", or whatever you want to call it, reducing the string length from 43" to 42". I got it at what I consider somewhat of a bargain from David Gage. It had sat in his shop for some time and the price had been reduced over this period by 33%. David told me he thought the reason it didn't sell is because people were scared off by the extended nut. They had never seen one before and even though it was well crafted they thought something was "wrong" with it, which is nonsense.

    I liked the bass and the price was right so I bought it and didn't think anything about it. Now I'm trying to sell it and I find that people look askance at the extended nut. One guy liked the bass but turned it down simply because of that.
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Thick necks are actually a littler better for your hands, within reason. I've known a couple of bass players that had shims put under the fingerboard to help relieve carpal tunnel / chronic tendonitis problems. Of, course the thickness of the neck only relieves stress on your hand when 'clamping' instead of pulling the strings down with the large muscles of the back, but pulling down the strings with your arm-weight completely is kind of a theoretical goal rather than anything in reality, right?

    Another trick that is used, and I don't really recommend, for string length is to cheat the bridge up toward the neck a bit. This was done on a Juzek that I had (and almost detroyed my left hand on) long before I had it. The list of complaints on the bass that were fixed by putting bridge back in its proper place is long, and my string length actually got shorter as I didn't have to tip the bridge toward the tailpiece to lose some of the stiff-feel that I was experiencing with the bass.

    Extended nuts shove the octave further up over the body, just one consideration. I kind of prefer this, myself. My main bass has the modern 'D' neck (is that what they call it?), wherein you hit the body a lot sooner than with a lot of older basses. It took some getting used to, but you come to enjoy all the added landmarks that you have when playing, i.e. there isn't as much 'No Man's Land' in the middle of the neck.

    Ultimately, buy a bass that fits you. The physical peril that you put yourself in by playing too big a bass isn't worth it.

    One thing that's happening with the chaos around the octave on the G string is that -- you're right near the octave.... the string is trying to vibrate on both sides of where you are fingering the note. Try dampening the bottom half of the string with your chin while playing those notes and see if it still does it. If that does help the problem, it'll give your luthier some more ideas when fixing the prob.
  16. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas

    I think that the truism should actually be thick fingerboards produce thick sound . My Juzek has a nice full sound, but as a 5 string it has a wide but not thick neck. On an old Bohemian bass I used to have, the sound was noticeably better with a new thick ebony board, and it already had a very thick neck. This is just my experience; who knows, my bass might have a thicker sound with a thicker neck.

  17. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I don't see how the thickness of the neck would affect the sound at all. The fingerboard quality will however. You can liken the strings to the reed a sax players uses, and the fingerboard to the mouthpiece...

    Interestingly, what can affect the sound is the endpin -- my Chinese plywood came with an inexpensive endpin and I replaced it with the nicer (and heavier) endpin like the ones on my other basses so that I could put my wheel on it. A major difference in tone. The scroll also has a lot to do with tone. I've heard of basses that had the scroll knocked off and it radically changed the sound. I'm considering an experiment with my German plywood wherein I drill straight through the center of the scroll (from side to side) and insert a piece of lead dowel so as offer more ballast against the vibration of the bass. I have the notion, and I don't think that I'm far off, the the endpin and the scroll act like holding the ends of a piece of string -- where you would be holding the string and pluck it. If you had a looser hold on the string, it would offer less sustain (read tone) than if you had a good, tight hold on it.
  18. interesting....interesting....the last time I saw Edger Meyer, he added weight to the scroll with metal clip-ons...
  19. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Very cool! That gives me even more impetus to give the scroll-weight idea a try...
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Hmmm...this might explain the Washburn Plank I played recently that had the most even response across the entire range that I had ever seen: it was designed with a brass plate built into the headstock, and the volume and sustain that thing had was UNBELIEVABLE. I wonder if there's a way to experiment with this concept without doing any permanent harm to the bass...