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Setting up the Double Bass

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So I've been playing the double bass for almost a year on a Stentor Student with Helicore Hybrid strings and I've still not had it set-up.

I've been quoted upwards of £150 just for the labour of a set-up and I'm struggling to convince myself it's worth it.

What are your oppinions? My bass is a bit dry, so is there anything I can do myself to improve the sound or do I really need to pay a luthier? If so, will I honestly hear and feel an improvement?

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By getting the bass set up Im assuming you mean everything from fingerboard to bridge and soundpost adjustment...you will definately feel the difference.

Most stock basses will have a standard bridge blank that is usually around a cm too high for realistic playing, that will be the first to go. (Huge difference!!)

For the fingerboard sometimes by lowering the bridge to a reasonable height the strings cause a slight rattle, easily fixed with a couple of swipes, done by the luthier of course! You probably wouldn't notice this as much as the bridge but unless your fingerboard is ebony there may be a slight change in the colour of the wood as the top layer of stain/finish is taken off. Nothing too worry about, purely cosmetic.

Sound-post adjustment. Most factory basses will have the sound post shoved in anywhere so to create an naturally amplified sound, this is usually just to save time however ends up costing you money...When I got my first bass, a Hora job from thomann, I got it set up just after delivery and I was quite an in-experienced player then so I can't comment exactly on the difference on sound! I do know that it is something that many player/luthiers take great care over and if that's the case, it must be important! No?

My advice would be to get it set up if you can afford it and if you feel that you will use the bass enough to work the money back out of it! Im sure many other guys on here will tell you the same.

Good luck!!

Dara

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I've had my bass probably under 6 months and I'm hesitating to have it set up too. It's an Antoni (second hand) which only cost £300 with stand, bag, bow etc and I reckon I could sell it on for not much less than that.. so if set-up is going to cost around £200, I think I'd rather just sell the bass on and buy an older one like [url="http://basschat.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=125183"]this[/url] (which i'm more than annoyed that I missed :))

However, as yours is a Stentor I'd be more tempted to spend a bit of money on it. I hear they are good basses so you should be able to get to a good standard with it, and a good set-up would probably increase the resale value (to someone who knows about basses, anyway) if you eventually decide to upgrade.

As for playability, I've only ever played my bass so can't comment on a good setup. When I got my bass the action was so high it was almost unplayable, but the bridge didn't look particularly good anyway so I just got my dad to have a go at carving it. He knows nothing about basses, but wood is wood, right? A quick go on the bandsaw and belt-sander, then cleaned up with sandpaper and put the notches back in with a file/saw thingy... and hey presto, lower action :) It's developed a bit more fingerboard buzz but I'm not too bothered about that since I only really play slap-a-billy anyway.

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Why not ask your teacher/ a vet DBer to have a play on it and see what they say? You don't necessarily need to get it all done too, if your fingerboard is reasonable they can leave that alone, and my action and soundpost adjustments were £60 and £40 respectively. The action obviously made a big difference to playability, as when i first got it the action was so high i could fit my hand underneath, so after the setup it felt much less like i was fighting it, and practicing/playing became much more fun.

edit: should mention my bass is a s/h gear4music job, which my teacher came to look at with me, and he immediately said it'll play great after the action's lowered. Also, lowering the action requires adjustments to both the nut and bridge, if guess if you're confident you can do it yourself, just make sure to keep the curve the same whilst you do it to keep the gap between the bottom of the string and the fingerboard the same (my apologies if i just stated the obvious).

Edited by Zach

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There's quite a lot of factors involved in a proper setup (as mentioned) but If there's nothing wrong with (for example) the fingerboard, (or it's in shouting distance on a cheapie!) the luthier'll leave it alone - hence you won't get charged for it.
If they re-use your existing bridge, you're only paying for an hour or so of labour to sort it. New bridges are dear though!
Nut adjustment takes minutes.
If the bass is ply, the soundpost adjustment won't make anything like the difference that it will on a good carved bass - as long as it's in (about) the right place at a reasonable tension, it's fine.

Upshot is that if that £150 includes fingerbaord re-shoot, bridge re-cut, nut re-cut and soundpost adjustment, you may find the bill's lower than that.

In practice, I never charge that sort of money on a cheapie bass. (I do on a good bass, as it simly takes longer) What forces the cost up on a cheapie is a stained hardwood fingerboard, as it needs re-finishing afterwards!

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Setup in Sussex -

Just found this post and as it's relevant to my question I thought I'd ask here (rather than start yet another post). 

Does anyone know where I can get my double bass setup in the Sussex area (preferably, though I'll include the south-east or south London)?  I've googled but can't find anyone who isn't the other end of the country.

 

Edited by 6feet7

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On 11/03/2011 at 22:28, al_bass_uk said:

So I've been playing the double bass for almost a year on a Stentor Student with Helicore Hybrid strings and I've still not had it set-up.

I've been quoted upwards of £150 just for the labour of a set-up and I'm struggling to convince myself it's worth it.

What are your oppinions? My bass is a bit dry, so is there anything I can do myself to improve the sound or do I really need to pay a luthier? If so, will I honestly hear and feel an improvement?

There are two or more Stentor Student basses I’ve seen online with different woods for different priced models so yours may be a cheap or more expensive model. If it’s a cheap one you may feel it better to spend on upgrading your bass and purchasing from a dealer (or shop like Chas Footes or Thwaites) who may set the bass up as part of the sale. Instead of continuous spending on my first laminated bass, after 18 months with it I purchased an old bass from an antique shop and had it ‘seen to’ by my DB luthier, setting it up and fixing splits n cracks. It has needed further work over the years, they will need it. I just wish I played it more! It was a definite improvement on sound (and looked a whole lot cooler!). Cheaper hard to play/get a sound from basses have their use in making you work that bit more to achieve sound but ultimately can be damaging if they don’t ‘play’ well, possibly causing finger, wrist or arm discomfort.

Perhaps a bass tutor or other more experienced double bassist could look over your bass and help out.

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