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Old 05-12-2007, 07:56 PM
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Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
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Lightbulb What's in a Set-up?!

A few months ago I posted some set-up info from 'newstandard.com forum' which has been closed for some time now. Recently I had a talk with Arnold about putting up a serious Thread about Set-up which is what I am trying to do here. It seems that people are reluctant to post or ask questions over there as it is more of a listing than a Q & A Thread. I was meant to be an open discussion but lets start it over here with a new title and see what comes of it.

I have had several set-ups from Arnold in the last few years and recently one from Jeff on my Bisiach now back to him for a new FB and C Ext. Paul Biase also put a new Fingerboard, Nut and Bridge on my Martini when it first came over from Italy. All of the Basses that come back to me regardless of who does the set-up including Arnold gets re-tweaked by me personally as well. Why you may ask? Well for one, I know exactly what I want to feel in my hands which for me is impossible to explain to any Luthier before I feel and play the Bass and two, I know how to do the work having a bit of Luthier experience myself.

As far as cutting a Sound Post, planing a Fingerboard or fitting a Bridge, I don't imply at all to know as much as they do in those areas. As far as slotting or arching the top of the Bridge or the Nut, this is where it becomes Personal to me. Before I go on I must point out two things. One, if the Fingerboard is either too thin or poorly arched for your style of playing, it will be nearly impossible to get a good feel even when the Bridge is cut perfect for you. This is Peas 'n' Carrots my friends and you can't have one without the other. Second, if there is a problem with your Neck being too thick, too thin, poorly shaped or weak the Fingerboard will never feel right or be able to stay stable if the Neck itself is 'giving' under tension due to weakness.

Please understand that if the Neck has some inherent problems no 'magician' with Luthier tools in the world can perform a lasting set-up if the heart of the problem lies in the Neck. For some, this is often sad news as the Bass keeps going back or to other Luthiers maybe to get re-done when the problem is really a bad Neck.

Fixes for a Bad neck include Neck/Scroll Graft (or entire new Neck Scroll if not a valuable Pedigree eg; Juzek, Kay etc), adding Graphite Bars in the existing neck or most often, just a new Fingerboard.

Very often we hear about people buying a brand new Bass and then changing the Tail piece, Tail wire, Sound post, Bridge, Tuners, strings and set-up of course if not done several times as parts are gradually changed if not all at once. This to me makes no sense at all as these costs may 'out-value' the Bass they are on. Adding the costs and Bass purchase together may be over the value of the Bass. Spending that much or maybe a little more on a Bass that has all or at least most of these items may be a better buy in the long and short run as well.

My motto is usually to fit the parts/accessories that match the value of the Bass or at least, leave alone what is working. Nothing is worse that Tuners that don't work well. If it's on a new Chinese or Romanian Bass then maybe some Rubners will do the trick but buying Sloans would be over doing it in my book. On some of the older classic Basses I have bought (and sold) in the last few years I only replaced tuners if they didn't work or were under the 'grade' of the Bass. Examples are on my Double Bass Webpages where you can see several new sets of Tuners on the Basses. Some of the older Basses with 19th century Gears like the Prescott, Dodd, Hart and Storioni have been and will be left alone as these are fine working Gears and in keeping with the Bass. The Loveri show plates but these have been replaced already and will be seen after Jeff finishes its restoration later this year when he has the time to take the job in. I would be glad to discuss or consult any parts replacement here in the forum or in private. I think dressing the Bass up is an as-needed situation in my book. On Tail Pieces, many of my Basses have original stained wood/non-Ebony TPs on them and this is also something I will not change unless it is no longer usable. Only those Basses actually needing a new or better TP will get or have gotten one. These include my converted 5er my Mystery English Bass which has a 3-string 4/4 TP with 2 holes added (stained maple) and has a 4/4 Pecanic Cocobolo TP waiting for it. Also, I had a 3/4 carved Ebony TP which I put on the Loveri when I changed the Gears and put the old Loveri TP on the Bisiach which has a composite TP when it arrived from Italy. The Gear plates machines from the Loveri was given to a Basses with a Juzek in need of some better working Tuners. Recycle is often better than the trash if possible.

Endpins are the same for me. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! I have had several Endpin units replaced during set-ups and restorations but only when they are worn or not working well. My Bisiach had some EP unit from India and it fits and works. I cut the rod to the length and it's just fine. I was asked if I would like it replaced when the Bass was under the knife but I declined the offer because it was working just fine.

On Bridges, if warped or too low for the Bass, replace them. I have re-cut the tops of many Bridges and shimmed the feet area by the adjusters with 1/4" wood material (maple or Walnut) and this works fine. Also, I have had Adjusters added to existing Bridges but did replace the ones if recommended that it would be best for the Bass. You only want to re-work a bridge so much before it really needs to be replaced. Just the other day, I added 1/8" maple veneer to the feet of a Bridge of a new Romanian Bass that was too low. Beats making a New Bridge!

Think of some more items/areas to discuss and post it here. I am sure Arnold, Jeff and other pros in the Biz will chime in with some good advice.
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Old 04-13-2009, 03:49 PM
Richard Prowse Richard Prowse is offline
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I'm assuming that dressing a fingerboard is a fairly straightforward procedure. I want to get my bass set up at 5mm - G and 8mm - E (exactly). My bass whines a bit on the G string around D & E (imagine 5th & 7th frets) - I want every note to be clear. Is it reasonable to assume that a good luthier could achieve this?
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Old 04-13-2009, 05:10 PM
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Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
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Cool good Luthier?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Prowse View Post
I'm assuming that dressing a fingerboard is a fairly straightforward procedure. I want to get my bass set up at 5mm - G and 8mm - E (exactly). My bass whines a bit on the G string around D & E (imagine 5th & 7th frets) - I want every note to be clear. Is it reasonable to assume that a good luthier could achieve this?
Richard my friend, that is a loaded question. Some claim that their Luthier is best while other will swear the opposite. A good 'Bass' Luthier (an make sure that is his specialty) is one who not only understands all aspects of set-up in regards to playing the Bass but also one who will maintain the integrity of the instrument in doing so.

A Luthier that pleases your needs in your world would be consideder a 'good' Luthier.
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Old 04-13-2009, 09:26 PM
Richard Prowse Richard Prowse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
Richard my friend, that is a loaded question. Some claim that their Luthier is best while other will swear the opposite. A good 'Bass' Luthier (an make sure that is his specialty) is one who not only understands all aspects of set-up in regards to playing the Bass but also one who will maintain the integrity of the instrument in doing so.

A Luthier that pleases your needs in your world would be consideder a 'good' Luthier.
Ken, my friend, as usual you are wise. There are three luthiers in the greater Wellington area who will do basses, but no one specialises just in bass. There's a guy called Malcolm who, people tell me, is the best - he did a job on my plywood years ago. I've tried the other two and will ring Malcolm this time.
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Old 04-08-2010, 01:37 AM
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Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
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Lightbulb 5-8

I think the 5-8 is from the G to the E. The E being 8mm and the G being the lower side at 5mm. If you have the G/8 and the E/5 you have a left hand wrestling match. Very awkward.

I play these numbers with almost no scoop in the FB at all, almost. Under a mm the first octave and under 2mm end to end.
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