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Well, lets start out by viewing some of the different parts on an upright bass. These names will help you as you review the information below and also help you get more acquainted with your bass. The basses we sell are Asian made, to get the most out of your bass we recommend a professional setup, while some of the basses we sell are 'shop adjusted' it is not the same as a professional setup. Before you purchase any bass you should check locally to see what the cost of a reasonable setup will be unless you can do it yourself.
I JUST RECEIVED MY BASS WHAT DO I DO NOW?
There are three things you should have right off the bat. One is a bass stand, if you donít have one you REALLY should invest in one. We have them at our accessories page and they are WELL worth the investment. Short of that you will need a lint cloth or T-Shirt, and a tuner or some way to tune the bass to pitch. I have found the easiest way to set up a bass is in the standing position on a stand or in the CORNER of your home, use the gigbag as a backdrop if you want to. Place the lint cloth in between the tailpiece and the bass, this will keep the tailpiece from scratching the bass while you are loosening the strings. Also be sure to check the endpin at the bottom and be sure it is pushed all the way in (they are NOT glued for a reason) and the saddle( black loop cord) is securely fastened to the endpin and in the correct position. All basses are shipped with the bridge off and generally with the strings on. You will now need to loosen each string. Each time you turn the tuning machines is about a 1/2 turn. So loosen each tuning machine 25 to 30 1/2 turns. You only need to loosen the strings up enough to flip the bridge into place.
INSTALLING THE BRIDGE
The TALLER side of the bridge goes with the E or fattest string and the SHORTER side of the bridge always goes with the G or smallest string. This obviously means the bridge can ONLY go on one way. Remember the strings only need to be loose enough to flip the bridge into place. Be sure all of the strings are in their slots at the NUT. With your left hand pull the strings out where the bridge will go and with your right hand position the bridge behind the strings and flip it into place. The bridge should be positioned at the CENTER point of the F HOLES, many F HOLES have a small notch at the center point. There is room to move the bridge slightly up or down and each way will bring the strings either closer or farther from the fingerboard depending on what type of music and style you like. I wouldnít recommend any more than a 1.5 inch variance in that position as the bridge should be as close to the internal SOUNDPOST as possible for optimum tone. Where ever you decide to put it you should leave it as moving it months down the line will result in different intonation and the notes wonít be where you expect them and you have to get used to the scaling all over again. The idea is to find that optimum point where the strings are close to the neck but not so close that they buzz. Once you are done with that itís time to tune the bass up so you can start playing it!!
TUNING UP THE BASS
Basses are tuned to E A D G. Itís important to remember that upright basses arenít like electric basses so the strings on an upright wonít be near as tight as what you would expect on an electric bass. Having said that, an easy way to remember it is if you think you are tuning to high YOU PROBABLY ARE. SLOW down and take it easy, you can damage your bass seriously if you tune to high. What I recommend is this, the strings will not even play if you are on the octave BELOW the correct one, so if you are ever unsure, always go down, you can ALWAYS go back up! Some things to keep an eye on while you are tuning is to BE SURE the BRIDGE is not slanting and remains in a straight position while you tune the strings. The looser the strings are when you tune up the more likely the bridge will slant while you are tightening the strings. Also make sure again that the ENDPIN and SADDLE are secured correctly. If you are tuning one string at a time remember that once you tune one string up and go to another the pressure will grow on the neck causing the strings to Ďdetuneí so you will need to go back several times and tune each string. Within a few days the bass, neck, and strings will settle and your bass will stay in tune with only minor adjustments to it.
WHAT IF THE SOUNDPOST BECOMES DISLODGED?
Iíve often been asked Ďwhat is that wood dowel floating around in my bass?í. Thatís what we call the SOUNDPOST and it is NOT supposed to be rolling around. Without the SOUNDPOST in place your bass is vulnerable to damage and the SOUNDPOST is key to the deep resonating tone of the bass. It is not uncommon for a SOUNDPOST to dislodge during transit of the bass. The SOUNDPOST is NOT glued in place and simply is lodged into place underneath the bridge going from the front to the back of the bass. The SOUNDPOST also has slanted ends to help it lodge into place. Putting a SOUNDPOST back into place can be an easy 10 minute job IF and I say IF you have the right tool. I would suggest checking with your local hardware store for a pair of extended tongs like you would use at a barbeque to reach into the F Holes and grab the SOUNDPOST and reposition it. Whatís important is that the tool is LONG and durable, without that itís like trying to pick up marbles with a knife, it will only cause you frustration. Preferably get TWO of these tongs so you can reach into BOTH F HOLES and easily grab the SOUNDPOST and nudge it into place. It IS common for bass owners to know and understand the SOUNDPOST and how to reposition it as this may happen at different occasions. Once youíve done it youíll feel like a master, just remember patience is a virtue.
HOW TO CARE FOR MY BASS
All parts of the bass can be cleaned with any type of wood polish such as pledge EXCEPT for the strings and the tuning machines. Any oily compounds on the strings will get in the groves and the strings will sound very dead. Steel wool is great to clean strings with, some people even boil them in water, be sure to dry them well. Use WD-40 or a thick grease on the tuning keys (the grease is great if you have salty air, it will keep them from rusting).
Basses should never be stored for long periods of time without loosening the strings, especially in moist, hot, or cold areas. Never store your bass by a heating/cooling vent, by a fire, in the sun, or any area that will cause quick fluctuations in temperature. Basses should be stored in climates that are friendly to humans (70 degrees), garages, basements and back yards are not fun for basses. If you wouldnít sleep there donít put your bass there, he or she wonít like it either! Anytime your bass is subjected to a different temperature it is wise to leave it in the gigbag for 45 minutes so the bass can adjust to the temperature. Cold strings will loosen as they get warm, especially if you are playing cold strings with warm hands, the bass will continually detune until it adjusts to the temperature...so donít push it.
REPAIRING LACQUER CRACKS:
It is NOT advisable to attempt to repair lacquer cracks and they are very hard to do and only should be done by professionals, you will usually make your bass look WORSE if you attempt it yourself. Just donít do it, seek professional help.
REPAIRING WOOD CRACKS:
Most wood cracks are fixed using wood glue and clamps, basses are put together this way so should you develop a serious crack in your bass all is not lost. Iíve seen basses in 5 pieces, neck busted in two, be glued back together, sanded a little bit and sold for over $2000, so if you like to work with woods and have some knowledge of clamping and wood glues, fixing serious cracks can be fun and get your bass back into working order. Just remember that once that glue dries you wonít be able to go back so be sure that you have aligned everything back up so when it does dry the bass will still play. Home Depot and hardware stores will have some stains and even little stain markers that you can use to cover cracks once you have glued them. You can get lacquer sprays to even up the polish also on a bass but BE CAREFUL as some lacquer sprays are crappy and if you donít know how to use them you can make things worse. We will usually just sand and buff the crack after the glue dries and leave it like that. ALWAYS read the instructions and if doubtÖ.call someone or check on the internet, there are lots of resources for wood and instrument repairing.
ENHANCING MY BASS:
There are many ways to enhance your bass. Adjustable bridges are available so you can set the string height adjustment right to your specific taste. Pickups are also a great way to enhance the tone and loudness of your bass. Many systems are available including FISHMAN and UNDERWOOD which are two of the best rated and affordable models. We carry each on our accessories page and you can order online. Having an extra set of strings is always a good thing too. You can also sand the bridge you have for string height adjustment but be sure not to sand to low, this can cause string buzzÖ..not fun.
I hope that I have been of service to you and answered some of the many questions you have about your bass. If you feel there is anything I can add to make this page even better please email me.
Sincerely, Rick LaFave