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What Bruce Sexauer means by "set-up".

Virtually every String Bass I've ever acquired has been in less than optimal playing condition. Most new basses are not ready to play at all as shipped by the manufacturer. Here is a breakdown of what I do to most basses that pass through my hands.

After making sure that the bridge height is in the desired range (on a 3/4 bass, 6 1/4" high is the median "right"), the fingerboard is examined to determine straightness and any distortion or dimensional instability. A hand plane is then used to create a very even surface from the nut to the end of the fingerboard with a slight concavity to it (relief) which is 3/4 mm deep on the treble side and 2 mm deep on the bass side. Most players will find that this is a very workable relief for a low action (jazzers like 5 to 6 mm at the end of the fingerboard on the G, and 7 to 9 mm on the E) set-up. While the bridge height can simply be raised to accommodate aggressive Arco with soft strings (Orchestral players are happier with 7 to 8 mm on the G, and 9 to 11 mm on the E), the tone will be better if the relief is increased to 1 1/4 mm (G) and 3 mm (E). The plane is followed by a series of abrasives (100 to 600 grit) backed by hand made sanding blocks with the correct curvature and relief built into them.

The soundpost is removed, the fit adjusted if necessary, and it is replaced so that it fits neither too tightly or too loosely. There is much talk about placement, and opinions vary widely on the issue, but if it fits well and is not forcing the top to one end or the other of it's range of movement, that is a lot of the battle won.

Bridge work:
The Maple Bridge must be well fitted to the top of the bass to couple well and transfer the string energy, and not damage the softer spruce in the process. With the fingerboard well dressed, the bridge height controls the action up the neck. After being cut down the the desired height, the bridge must be thinned so that there is no extra mass, but still enough strength to do the job. Weight is the enemy of response, but inadequate strength degrades tone and can fail outright. Finding this elusive balance is the fine art of lutherie. On better basses, a lot of time is put into detailing the surface and edges of the bridge, generally a sign of the luthier feeling that the bass was worthy of the extra effort. I sign and date the bridge front when I work at this level.

Nut work:
The nut was removed to resurface the fingerboard, and is now refit to the neck, the slots are relocated if necessary (30 mm spacing), and then the slots are cut to just above the fingerboard, closer on the treble side, higher on the bass, and left enough clearance to avoid back slap effect, but low enough to ease playability. It's another elusive balance thing that improves with experience. 35 years for me!

Other Considerations:
By this point flaws is the smoothness of the tuning machines have been noticed and corrected if possible. The endpin has been fitted; it is usually left protruding somewhat on new basses. The tailpiece hanger has been trimmed as required. Any real flaws which might exist have been found and dealt with if possible, or the bass returned to the distributor, a rare occurrence.