Re: Double bass string height

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Posted by Rich Laird on December 29, 2000 at 09:55:34:

In Reply to: Double bass string height posted by Frank Kielian on December 28, 2000 at 17:58:20:

: Does anyone have suggestions regarding string height? I read someshere they should be 6mm for G, 7mm for D, 8mm for A, and 9mm for E. However, this seems a little high for me!

I don't know exactly where those numbers come from but there must be something to them. My last teacher, Henry Portnoi (who was Principal Bassist of the Boston Symphony) used to assert (he had a way of asserting things rather than just saying them!) that those exact same numbers were a minimum. So, there must be some basis....I think I've heard that elsewhere, too.

But I'm inclined to agree that - at least for some styles of playing - that can seem a little high. On the other hand, I've been subjected to the brutality of things like big band and show gigs without amplification. In those kinds of venues, you need your bridge plenty high. Bluegrass players and Rockabilly players who slap a lot like their strings quite high, I've heard (never touch the stuff, myself).

The first suggestion I would make is using an adjustable bridge. Always set the height such that the adjusters are always even (if you move one a quarter-turn, or half-turn, do the exact same thing on the other one). Obviously, you need the strings high enough so they won't rattle or buzz. Of course, that's one of the things that might vary between playing venues, bowing vs. pizz, solo vs. orchestral, jazz vs. bluegrass, whatever. Then, you might want them a little higher because setting the bridge higher will give you more sound....and a more punchy sound.

I've known guys that say they would never set the bridge any higher than where they don't buzz. On a well-adjusted bass, that should put your G-string closer to 3 or 4mm as opposed to 6. But, personally, I think I would find that to be a little wimpy. I like to feel at least a little resistance from the strings...maybe it's just what I'm used to.

Whatever works, gives you the sound you want, and feels right will be better guidelines that some arbitrary numbers.

Hope that helps.

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