Double Bass setup is incredibly important, as with all string instruments set up is key to having a great sounding and playable double bass.
A bass that hasn’t been set up or has been set up badly will be much harder and more difficult to play it will also produce a poorer sound.
For someone learning the double bass, this will severely hamper progress and morale giving them an unfair start in learning to play the bass.
Our Double Bass Setup
Our double bass setups are carried out by our experienced luthier and can take many hours to complete to our uncompromisingly high standard. We carry out our setups with the type of player in mind to get the best double bass configuration to suit their playing style.
Machine Heads: Some new basses come with the machine heads already installed at the factory, and these are generally okay. However, we check them thoroughly and adjust them accordingly.
Some basses come from the factory without machine heads installed. With these basses, we select the highest quality machine heads and fit them into the pegbox.
Generally, with these basses the pegbox holes are also absent, so we have to create and ream the holes in the pegbox to suit the machine heads we are fitting.
Top Nut: The top nut is the piece of ebony that the strings pass over between the pegbox and the fingerboard. We reshape the top nut to set the correct height and string spacing.
The grooves in the top nut that the strings pass through are carefully created to fit the strings that we are fitting.
The strings should not be pinched and only 50% of the string’s diameter should be sat into the groove.
Fingerboard: We “shoot” the fingerboard to remove any high spots and to create the correct radius and relief.
Shooting the fingerboard involves using a block plane to shape the fingerboard carefully. Shooting the fingerboard is a very important part of our double bass setup.
Bridge: We fit grade ‘A’ quality bridges to our basses without exception. In the case of a fixed bridge, we reshape the feet of the bridge to fit the table (front) of the bass perfectly. We then reshape the top of the bridge to set the correct string heights at the end of the fingerboard.
We ensure that the grooves we create in the top of the bridge are just the right size for the strings that we are fitting. The strings should sit with only 50% of the string diameter into the bridge any more than this will mute the bass. We sometimes fit adjustable bridges to basses, in this case, we work the bridge as we would a fixed bridge and fit adjusters into the bridge legs. We use the same grade ‘A’ quality bridges that we use for our fixed bridges to ensure the high quality. However, we hand-fit high-quality machined aluminium adjuster wheels to ensure the best result.
Soundpost: Most new basses come with a soundpost from the factory, although some don’t. W
e always shape and fit the soundpost with the highest care to get the best tone and sound performance from the bass.
Tailpiece: We fit a nice ebony tailpiece that we fit with a high-quality steel rope tail wire.
Endpin: We fit a high-quality endpin unit to all of our basses.
Strings: We fit different types of strings depending on the type of playing that the double bass will be used for. You can view our double bass strings guide for a good indication of which strings suit the different playing styles. Different strings work better on some basses than others. We use our experience to determine which strings to fit for the best possible result on an individual basis per bass.
Surely New Basses are Setup in the Factory, right?
We often get asked, “Why don’t double basses come already set up from the factory?” The reason double basses don’t come set up from the factory is that different bass players and playing styles require different setups. With double basses being wooden instruments, it is only possible to adjust them one way, by taking wood away. Unlike, for example, a bass guitar which has machine screws for raising or lowering each string at the bridge.
Advertised Setup Descriptions Explained
There are many instruments advertised as setup and there is a world of difference between these setups, here are some of the common setup descriptions explained:
Factory setup: This is the most minimal of setups, the double bass will have had the strings fitted and tensioned. In this instance, the bass will be very poor to play. This setup is most commonly found advertised by online retailers who essentially are shifting boxes.
Bronze, Silver or Gold Setups: These double bass setups are provided by the distributor of stringed instruments. Bronze is equivalent to the factory setup as described above. Silver is described as adjusting the bridge and soundpost in addition to the Bronze setup. Gold setup includes a strings upgrade (strings at extra cost) in addition to the Silver setup. These type of setups are most commonly found advertised by online retailers and general music shops. The problem with these setups is that just adjusting the bridge alone will not result in a good setup.
Luthier Setup: This double bass setup is, in our case, is the comprehensive setup that we are renowned for. There can be variances in this setup between retailers and workshops; some will spend more time than others in setting up your double bass. It is also worth noting that in most cases double basses will be setup specifically for the genre of the player. For instance, a Jazz setup will be different from an Orchestral setup or different again for a Rockabilly setup.