are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

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ozrider
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are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by ozrider » 09 Jul 2018, 11:20

I have found that all nut height settings on factory basses are way too high.

However, even techs are pretty conservative with adjusting the slot heights down. I have in my mind the that the lower the better for intonation, easier to play. I know there is such a thing as a zero fret, which suggests to me that nut slot heights should be as low as if they were a zero fret, but they're typically not like this. Even from the physics of it, the slot height only needs to be sufficient for the string to clear the first fret. I know that David Searle does this, he adjusted my SR5 it right down and made the bass play beautifully with a super-low action.

But why are techs I've come across more typically reluctant to adjust down? What am I missing?

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narcdor
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by narcdor » 09 Jul 2018, 11:32

Easy to take away, hard to replace. Playing it safe basically. It should be able to go very low indeed which is why a deft hand can make a difference as you have experienced.
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noplanb
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by noplanb » 09 Jul 2018, 12:10

Three is a zone when it gets low, where it starts to show up slightly uneven frets - ie certain frets start to get a gentle buzz if not played exactly. Compensate by string height raise a touch, truss-rod relief a touch, or replace nut, or make frets perfect.....
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Classic5
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by Classic5 » 09 Jul 2018, 12:31

Yes nut slots are usually higher than they should be on most production basses, and filing them down does make the bass easier to play. I did this on my Yamaha and made a real positive improvement re playability.

Keep in mind that the nut is just a replaceable part. Depending on the material, over time the effect of tuning will eventually wear them down anyway (depending on the material).
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by BazzBass » 09 Jul 2018, 12:55

how did we ever make music in the 80s without the internet teaching us about setups?
I never ever adjusted my basses from 1978 tp 1996. Never tweaked the truss rod, never adjusted the saddles, did't even know about intonation.. SO glad we also didn't have camera phones to take evidence of our out of tuneness :)
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by drbass » 09 Jul 2018, 13:52

Big fan of zero frets although there are different schools here as well:
some say the zero fret should be the same height as all the others (which makes perfect sense to me), others prefer to have the zero fret a little meatier and higher.

I just set up my fretless as well, and the ebony nut on that one (definitely not a zero-fret situation with a fretless) is slotted so that the bottom of the slots is almost level with the board.

But as has been said above: easy to remove, hard to put back in. One of my favourite luthiers stated (and I'll be honest, I don't recall where I read it) that filing the nut is one of the least enjoyable tasks - one stroke too many and you have to start again.

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ozrider
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by ozrider » 09 Jul 2018, 15:37

Ok so it is just fear factor? I just took my uke into the shop to ask the tech to file it down... so much better, was fighting that high nut action. It now intonates much better. Surely there must be a way to do this without the guess and check?

Sadly, every bass in the shop is factory set. These days for me they feel unplayable. Most bass players I imagine are playing with terrible setups.

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noplanb
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by noplanb » 09 Jul 2018, 15:41

For me, its more look, check and feel. Once I get near the target height, I'm constantly slipping the string off and on the nut to test relationship to other frets. I find feel gets me closer than measure in this case.
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Classic5
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by Classic5 » 09 Jul 2018, 16:04

I recall seeing a youtube tutorial by a well respected luthier who thought the same thing about nut hight and most factory produced basses.

His tip was to press the second fret, and look at the space between the bottom of the string and the first fret. It should have just a tiny amount of space, just barely clearing the 1st fret but not touching it.
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packrat
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by packrat » 09 Jul 2018, 16:12

You can simply measure the gap with feeler gauges. The problem is that if you want to bash the strings or not obsessively adjust action as the neck moves then you don’t want a super low cut nut and there no way back if you start there.

Unplayable is hyperbole. It’ll be more effort than you might be used to, but will still work.

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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by petersemple » 09 Jul 2018, 19:45

One trick that I have used very successfully is a half pencil. You need a sharp pencil that is cut in half lengthwise. Lay it down over the frets (with the cut face down and strings off). You will be able to leave a thin pencil mark across the nut at the height of the frets. It will curve to match the curve of the frets. If you are aiming for nut slots at fret height, that is where you are aiming. I usually will file to a bit above that line and then go by feel. I usually end up pretty close or exactly on the line though.
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ozrider
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by ozrider » 09 Jul 2018, 20:14

petersemple wrote:
09 Jul 2018, 19:45
One trick that I have used very successfully is a half pencil. You need a sharp pencil that is cut in half lengthwise. Lay it down over the frets (with the cut face down and strings off). You will be able to leave a thin pencil mark across the nut at the height of the frets. It will curve to match the curve of the frets. If you are aiming for nut slots at fret height, that is where you are aiming. I usually will file to a bit above that line and then go by feel. I usually end up pretty close or exactly on the line though.
Nice idea, thanks!

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ozrider
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by ozrider » 09 Jul 2018, 20:14

Classic5 wrote:
09 Jul 2018, 16:04
I recall seeing a youtube tutorial by a well respected luthier who thought the same thing about nut hight and most factory produced basses.

His tip was to press the second fret, and look at the space between the bottom of the string and the first fret. It should have just a tiny amount of space, just barely clearing the 1st fret but not touching it.
that's what the tech at the store was doing today with my uke... has come up a treat

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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by bassbass » 09 Jul 2018, 22:16

Yeah most factory stuff is on the high side, and with low and mid-priced stuff, the angles are also often a bit dodgy. But yeah, they have to put the guitar on the wall in a shop and have it play ok with all sorts of players. Especially all those guys that pick it up and slap the crap out of it in the key of E. :) Plus, with shipping, the action moves around a bit and it has to cope with this.

If your nut sots are too low, you don't just get open string buzz, but you can often get buzz from the length of string between the nut and the fretted note. This is due to the relief in the neck.

If you are going to file your slots, you should be sure to push the low B and E strings down on either side of the nut once they are up to pitch. This is to kink the string at the nut otherwise it will sit up higher than it should.

There's a little bit on nut slots in one of my YT vids. Skip to 9:40... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79BxNW4F6Qc
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ozrider
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Re: are nut slot hieights misunderstood?

Post by ozrider » 09 Jul 2018, 23:37

bassbass wrote:
09 Jul 2018, 22:16
Yeah most factory stuff is on the high side, and with low and mid-priced stuff, the angles are also often a bit dodgy. But yeah, they have to put the guitar on the wall in a shop and have it play ok with all sorts of players. Especially all those guys that pick it up and slap the crap out of it in the key of E. :) Plus, with shipping, the action moves around a bit and it has to cope with this.

If your nut sots are too low, you don't just get open string buzz, but you can often get buzz from the length of string between the nut and the fretted note. This is due to the relief in the neck.

If you are going to file your slots, you should be sure to push the low B and E strings down on either side of the nut once they are up to pitch. This is to kink the string at the nut otherwise it will sit up higher than it should.

There's a little bit on nut slots in one of my YT vids. Skip to 9:40... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79BxNW4F6Qc
I haven't found anyone over here that practices the dark arts of setup like you Rob! :drinkingbuddies:

Really liking your vids too!

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