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Bass Setup; Nut Height


cx04332
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Check the Bridge height an relief first.

 

http://www.fender.com/support/basses.php

 

 

The nut height is independant of the bridge height.

 

Put a capo on the 2nd or 3rd fret and see if the strings just clear the first fret. If they look high use a feeler gauge and measure the gap between the 1st fret and the string.

 

I wouldnt go much lower than .010 clearence on the first string and .025 on the low string with the strings in between getting progressively higher.

 

You will wind up haveing .010, .015, .020, .025.

 

If the low E is too high, and you're using light strings that bend sharp, redo your math to say .010 .014 .018 .022 etc.

 

If you use drop D tuning leave the lowere strings a littel higher. Slack strings vibrate wildly so the extra height keeps the strings from buzzing on the frets.

 

Dont go lower than .008 on the first string and maybe .020 on the low string or you'll have all kinds of problems develop. Anything from buzzing notes, booming notes, spongey root notes, intonation issues etc.

 

Other notes, If you got worn frets on the lower frets leave it a littel high too. You dont want to compensate for something that needs correction that may be throwing your perception off.

 

All of these adjustments hinge on the strings you use, playing style, type of bass, scale length. Getting a bass "Tuned in" to a musicians playing style and preference is the job of a good luthier. If you want to experiment, make sure you can get some extra nuts and the right files for the job.

 

When you cut the frets, measure the first fret height with the feeler gauges by putting a straight edge over the first two frets and fitting the gauges under the straight edge so it barely fits. Then add the .010, .015, .020 and .025 to that height and place it under the string against the nut on the fretboard and use it as a limiter so it prevents you from cutting the slot too low. Also keep the file level with the headstock, Not the fretboard when cutting.

 

 

My suggestion is, check the bridge and relief first. If the nut is a smigeon high so be it. If its a junks bass, then fix it.

 

This doesnt ally to you CX or anyone personally, But you should know, a bass take twice the hand power of a guitar to man handel the strings and play the darn thing right. Playing a single note on a bass is like playing an entire chord on an acoustic guitar, or twice that on an electric.

 

Most guitar players want them to play like a guitar. Any experienced bass player knows Its not gonna happen unless you dont care about a crap sound. Guitarists need to butch up and get some blisters happening. I own a Short scale bass that has highly tweaked action and it has the playability between a Precision and and an acoustic. Its actually not that much easier to play than a full scale except you dont need to streatch as much in the lower positions so you can reall run some riffs at high speed. Because it is a short scale, I have to use thick strings though or it would be nearly impossible to play fingerd bass without strings slapping the frets and missing the notes badly. A long scale can actually feel more confortable playing with fingers because the strings are spaced wider.

 

Anyway, just some additional observations I threw in there that might help. Use some gauges on yours CX and be sure to use round files cutting the slots.

 

If you havent got any files, you can use old bass strings strung on a hacksaw holder tightly. Roughen the strings up with corse sandpaper going across the strings and use it like a round blade to take the slot down slowly and safely. This will take the nut down using friction and prevent the nut from causing tuning issues from rough filing.

 

You could make a wooden jig for cutting bass slots but how much bass work do most musicians do? If you did alot, then bass fret files are the way to go. I have three bass and always have old strings so putting them on the hacksaw holder works fine for the occasional job.

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Thanks man, I try not to miss the important details even though you may know them. Someone else may read the thread and screw their instrument up without a full account.

 

Theres some good google articles on fretless bass and nut height. Especially those who have done bass conversions. I recently did a nut height job on my buddies 6 string fretless. He plays for a living in an excelent band and had one built by the same guy who makes guitars for Billy Gibons of ZZ Top. He had some strings in the center that were brusing his finger tips from being too high and I had to rework the nut,

I had him hang out as I did the work and try it out as I went along.

A 12 pack later and the thing was playing like butter.

 

I worked on that bass before when he first got it. Found out the builder had done the binding side markers in the wrong place. He marked them for a fretted bass so I made him send it back and rebind and refinish the neck and engrave the proper positions for a fretless so that was dead on this time. (I dont like to touch other luthiers builds on certain things especially a major screwup like that).

 

The same adjustments hold true for a fretless as I mentioned in my other post minus the fret height. You'd be working off the fretboard with the adjustments. You still want the graduated height between the 1st and 4the strings just take the nut down slow and use the feeler gauges as a limiter. You want to be sure the strings dont touch the fretboard between the nut and where you hold the string down or they will rattel from sympathetic vibration that travel through the string and get beyond the finger holding the note down and make the string vibrate above the neck. You also dont want a nasty slapping noise either with it being too low.

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On 10/10/2009 at 1:50 PM, WRGKMC said:

You want to be sure the strings don't touch the fretboard between the nut and where you hold the string down or they will rattle from sympathetic vibration that travel through the string and get beyond the finger holding the note down and make the string vibrate above the neck.

this post ↑  is just about all I've been searching for.... (!!) thank you, WRGKMC, so much (* * * * * * ) for "throwing in" your additional observations !! :)

as a matter of fact, I've only realized it today that buzz comes also from the string touching the frets between your finger and the nut... which also explains why extreme low nut height (deep nuts?) is not such clever choice...
my affinity suffers exactly from this...
the guy who sold it to me must have given up, having screwed up the truss rod nut with a philips screw driver instead of a allen wrench ... (replacing it felt like an entry exam :)

pre/
I'm just registering here to leave this this thanking message :)
I'm new to adjusting instruments, I identify with bass, and have two low price category basses, a yamaha rbx and an affinity jazz, and I realized quickly that setting up a bass takes seeing the entire picture not just details... cause adjusting one part will change everything, and any bad setting might make it impossible to get it right in the end...
/pre


another piece of knowledge  that is really valuable: 

On 10/9/2009 at 10:39 PM, WRGKMC said:

My suggestion is, check the bridge and relief first. If the nut is a smigeon high so be it. If its a junks bass, then fix it.

not to mention this observation: 

On 10/9/2009 at 10:39 PM, WRGKMC said:

Most guitar players want them to play like a guitar. Any experienced bass player knows Its not gonna happen unless you dont care about a crap sound.



ANYHOW, I've learned a lot today... learned a lot here, from this post, so thank you very much...
(for a comparison, just before reading these thoughts, I was reading two chapters of "the guitar DIY bible 2015"
https://ia801902.us.archive.org/28/items/The_Guitar_DIY_Bible_2015_UK/The_Guitar_DIY_Bible_2015_UK.pdf
:) )


so, thanks a LOT!
_____________________________________________________________

I'll just leave a few tags below so google can deliver this page to even more people:
setting up a bass guitar | truss rod, action, nut height, luthier | optimal string height | string buzzing | fret buzz, good advice

Edited by j-pee
I'd like to get this DELETED -- this is a duplicate, I have no idea how this has come bout... (I was registering on the fly, perhaps that's how?)
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On 10/10/2009 at 1:50 PM, WRGKMC said:

You want to be sure the strings don't touch the fretboard between the nut and where you hold the string down or they will rattle from sympathetic vibration that travel through the string and get beyond the finger holding the note down and make the string vibrate above the neck.

this post ↑  is just about all I've been searching for.... (!!) thank you, WRGKMC, so much (* * * * * * ) for "throwing in" your additional observations !! :)

as a matter of fact, I've only realized it today that buzz comes also from the string touching the frets between your finger and the nut... which also explains why extreme low nut height (deep nuts?) is not such a clever choice... as well as why some neck relief is is necessary (if I understand it right)..
my affinity suffers exactly from this...
the guy who sold it to me must have given up, having screwed up the truss rod nut with a phillips screw driver instead of a allen wrench ... (replacing it felt like an entry exam :)

pre/
I'm just registering here to leave this this thanking message :)
I'm new to adjusting instruments, I identify with bass, and have two low price category basses, a yamaha rbx and an affinity jazz, and I realized quickly that setting up a bass takes seeing the entire picture not just details... cause adjusting one part will change everything, and any bad setting might make it impossible to get it right in the end...
/pre


another piece of knowledge  that is really valuable: 

On 10/9/2009 at 10:39 PM, WRGKMC said:

My suggestion is, check the bridge and relief first. If the nut is a smigeon high so be it. If its a junks bass, then fix it.

not to mention this observation: 

On 10/9/2009 at 10:39 PM, WRGKMC said:

Most guitar players want them to play like a guitar. Any experienced bass player knows Its not gonna happen unless you dont care about a crap sound.



ANYHOW, I've learned a lot today... learned a lot here, from this post, so thank you very much...
(for a comparison, just before reading these thoughts, I was reading two chapters of "the guitar DIY bible 2015"
https://ia801902.us.archive.org/28/items/The_Guitar_DIY_Bible_2015_UK/The_Guitar_DIY_Bible_2015_UK.pdf
:) )


so, thanks a LOT!
_____________________________________________________________

I'll just leave a few tags below so google can deliver this page to even more people:
setting up a bass guitar | truss rod, action, nut height, luthier | optimal string height | string buzzing | fret buzz, good advice

Edited by j-pee
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This video teaches you how to set nut height using the Stuart McDonalds nut height micrometer.  https://youtu.be/bFcwe2Le_R0

I picked one up a few years ago because I build allot of instruments and using a feeler gauge to measure clearance at the nut is very tough to do. I did it by eye and by feel for years but getting and exact standard you can repeat every time isn't very easy that way.  I use feeler gauges for the initial cuts and they essentially act to limit the depth so you don't file too far.  After that I string up and tune to pitch for fine tuning the depth.  I typically try and leave the height a tad high until I'm sure it needs to be lower. 

Then I'll use that micro meter to get the string heights to the correct amounts.  Problem is there aren't any real standards by any manufacturers published, just general guidelines.  I've tried tapering the height from closest on the high E then gradually higher to the low side the same way as the low strings are higher on the bridge end.  I thought I was getting real close to having a fixed formula that I liked starting at 2/1000ths on the high E then 4 on the low E.  Then I built a guitar and did one where the strings were all and equal distance from the first fret when the 3rd fret was held down and it plays like a gem.

On a bass I often leave the strings twice the height of a guitar because the string thickness and tension need it.   I do need to tweak my Hofner bass soon. I've been having issues where some of the lower notes are out of pitch compared to the open strings or the upper registers.  I can set the intonation perfectly but the low notes on the high strings is a tad flat which tells me the nut is too low and the strings aren't flexing enough and going up in pitch when depressed.  

Raising a nut is rough. If you only need a little height increase and if you're lucky enough to get it off in one piece you can clean off the old glue then put a layer of wood glue down first and let it dry, either in the slot or on the Nut itself. Once hard it acts like a shim. You can file it smooth or in my case taper the high strings up while leaving the low strings alone. You may even need to use a couple of layers of glue. Then glue it into place as normal and it should still look aesthetically good. 

The benefit are you didn't have to buy nut files or worse, try and use mini files to cut a new nut.  

The second method works but its allot tougher to get right. You remove the string from the groove, apply some crazy glue to the slot using a tooth pick then file some nut material from the top into the groove, (like sprinkles on ice cream)  as the glue hardens you want to make sure the bottom is round. You can take an old string and wax it good then press it down into the slot.  You can even leave it there till the glue dries if you want. The goal is to round out the slot not squeeze the glue out.  Once the vlue sets you can remove it and you should have a nicely rounded slot. A round slot provides better tone and prevents string buzz. Worst thing you can do is cut a flat bottom slot. They will make strings buzz like a sitar string. 

After a days hardening you can then take an old string and draw it through the groove to make it smooth so it doesn't grip the strings tuning.  Then be sure to use graphite grease in the slots or at least some Chapstick (Petroleum jelly grease) to minimize friction tuning.  Nothing worse then turning a tuner with nothing happening then have it jump way up in pitch as it pulls over a bump in a tight string slot. 

   That meter from Stu Mac is handy for measuring fret wear too.   I recently did a fret job and was having some issues getting rid of string buzz.  I know the fret board was level but I was having a hard time pinpointing the issues so I ran the meter along each fret with strings removed and watched the needle.  The 1st through 3rd frets on the high side were too high the 10 to 12th were too high on the low side and the centers of the frets above the 12th were too high which was the cause of strings fretting out when bending strings.  I simply used a fret file to take those areas down and checking with the meter as a guide and after I got the polishing done and strings back on I was able to get the string height much lower and it played like a dream. 

This is even more important on used guitars. If you have flat spots from strings you essentially have to lower every other fret to match the lowest wear mark in order to retain the kind of playability a new guitar has.  Flat worn frets are the worst for string buzz and sour notes, Having frets come to a crown and having the frets touch the strings at the top makes for precise tones, tuning and playability. 

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